iPads in PE: So You Think You Can Dance

Over the last few weeks I have been teaching an iPad-charged dance unit in my elementary Physical Education classes. The unit went really well, so I thought it would be cool to share it with all of you.

Things you should know.

First of all, I’m lucky enough to have access to multiple iPads (seven in total) for my elementary school classes. Also, my gym is equipped with a decent WiFi signal so my students are able to access the Internet (although not always as consistently as I’d hope for).

When it comes to apps, I prefer using fewer apps and picking those that, with a little thinking outside of the box, will be able to handle a variety of tasks.

What apps do you use in your gym?

The only apps I used for this unit were Dropbox and the iPad’s built-in Music and Camera apps. I created a Dropbox account for my school which is linked to each iPad.

What did the students have to do?

Students were to break off into groups of 4-6 people. I allowed students to pick their own groups so that they could work with people who they felt comfortable with (not everyone is overly enthusiastic about dance). Once they had their groups, students were to take an iPad and review the So You Think You Can Dance Instructions PDF which I added to Dropbox (which made getting the PDF onto all of the iPads that much simpler). In the PDF, students could read their instructions and view their evaluation criteria. Also, each dance style had a blurb describing the style, as well as clickable links to So You Think You Can Dance YouTube videos (make sure these videos can be viewed on mobile), and options for songs that could be found in the Music app. Students were to research each style using the PDF, YouTube, and Google. Once they had done so, each group had to select which style they wanted to dance to.

Using the Music and Camera apps, students could begin creating their choreography based on the style of dance they had selected. Each choreography had to last between 30 and 90 seconds. To avoid having students waste time deciding which song they wanted to dance to, and to prevent having students who are part of dance schools just select songs they already dance to, I only provided one song for each dance style. This also made things easier in the gym since most groups selected the same dance style (Hip Hop), so I could play the song over the gym’s speakers (the iPad’s speakers aren’t made for large, noisy rooms). As students began to put their choreography together, they would use the camera app to record themselves and then watch the video to look for areas of improvement. I never told them to do this, they did it on their own.

Once a group’s choreography was ready, they would call me over and I would record it onto their iPad. Once they were satisfied with the video (they had two takes to get it right), I would then upload it to Dropbox. Remember that these choreographies were only 30-90 seconds long, so the upload time wasn’t too bad.

After all the choreographies had been uploaded to Dropbox, each team received a So You Think You Can Dance Judge’s Card (a peer evaluation sheet that allowed them to give each team’s choreography a score out of 5 for each evaluation criteria) and was asked to fill it out by watching the other groups’ videos (they also had to evaluate their own video).

Do you teach dance in your PE classes? Let us know!

What did the students think?

I get goosebumps thinking of how well this unit turned out. I have no dancing experience but really didn’t want to exclude dance from my curriculum because of that. Giving students access to the Internet and allowing them to record their choreographies with the iPad’s camera allowed my classes to produce amazing work. Not only that, but it was by far the most engaged I have seen my students, both boys and girls, throughout the school year. Out of my 48 cycle three students, 40 of them would come every lunch period to practice their routines. Some even worked hours and hours on their choreography at home so that they could come to school and teach it to their group.

What’s next?

When I teach this unit again, I would love to have the students fill out an online peer evaluation form. Google Docs is blocked in my school board (don’t even get me started on that), but hopefully I will be able to access it by next year.

Andy Vasily (@andyvasily), a teacher working at an international school in China, wrote a great blog post on a flat classroom project he organized with another teacher in New Zealand. I think this iPad SYTYCD unit would be great for that kind of set up: have my students record their choreographies, share them online, be evaluated by students from another part of the world, and vice-versa.

Also, Jill Morin (@JillMorin), a teacher working within my board, suggested working with classroom teachers on the research aspect of this unit. For example, students could research a dance style and then make a presentation on it as part of their oral communication mark.

What adaptations would you make to this unit? Is it something you would be interested in trying in your school? Let me know in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter.

Thanks for reading!


Joey Feith is the founder of He currently teaches elementary physical education at St. George’s School of Montreal in Quebec, Canada.

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