Resources Details

Mapping Circular Movements

This is a lesson on describing and mapping circular movement, to teach students about position and motion in the physical world. Students participate as a group in an American Indian round dance, learning how motion changes their positions in the circle. They observe, describe, and map the paths taken by the moving dancers. Visual arts and music education are part of the lesson activity, and students build communication skills through a team assignment of describing dance movements.

Key Concepts

Physical Science, Position & Motion, Paths & Maps


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1 - 50 minute class period




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Physical Science

Resource Type

Extended Lesson Plan





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American Indians have many different dances with different meanings. The Blackfeet of Montana participate in the Fast Grass Dance, the Slow Grass Dance, the Round or Circle Dance, the Owl Dance, the Jingle Dance, and Sneak-Up Dance and the Slow War Dance. The specific dance determines the clothing worn by the dancer. The Round Dance is a social dance and all people may join in the dancing. In the summer months, most tribes celebrate by dancing together during pow-pows and dance competitions.


The purpose of this activity is to give students a basic understanding of movement and position of physical things. Students will use both words and a map drawing to describe a path that traces circular motion. A traditional American Indian round dance illustrates circular movement and changes in position, engaging students in group activity and discussions of their own movements over time.


Carol Bird
Cultural Consultant - Blackfeet

My name is Carol Bird and I am an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe. I have lived on the reservation in Browning, Montana for 52 years. In the past 28 years I have been working in the field of education on the reservation. The past 15 years I have worked as a pre-school teacher at the Blackfeet Head Start Program. I shall graduate in December 2002 from Montana State University with a Bachelor of Science degree.


  • Round Dance - a dance in which the dancers are arranged in or move about in a circle or ring
  • Blackfeet - a North American tribe of Indians of Algonquian stock.

Learner Outcomes

  • Recognize that things move in different ways and follow different paths.
  • Understand that paths and certain maps can show movement over time.
  • Explain to others, both verbally and graphically, a path taken during movement.
  • Realize that it often is easier to describe a path by drawing a map, than it is verbally.

Content Standards

  • Physical Science Content Standard B: Properties of objects and materials


  • Large area for dancing
  • Cassette player or computer to play music
  • Round Dance Music Play Sound
  • Drawing pencils
  • Sheets of 8x10-inch paper (two per student)
  • Optional class collage: Magazine/newspaper pictures of objects that can move in ways other than straight lines
  • Poster board and glue

Lesson Procedures

  • Have a class discussion about things that do and do not move in a straight line, and ask students to list objects that do not travel in a straight line.
  • Do the Round Dance activity:
    • In a large open area, form a circle with everyone holding hands.
    • One student acts as the leader and starts the dance, moving to the left.
    • To dance, the left foot lifts and moves to the left, then the right foot slides left until it reaches the left foot.

    • Round Dance Feet
      Click Here to See Video.
    • The leader then leads all dancers in raising their hands, still holding each other's hands.
    • The dancers then come together in the center of the circle, then back out to reform a large circle.
    • The leader can lead the group in the reverse direction, to the right.
    • If the area is not large enough for all dancers to form a circle, the students can form a long line instead and move the line around like a spiral.
    • Divide students into pairs and ask them to take turns trying to describe to their partner how they moved during the Round Dance.
    • Reunite the class and discuss how effective they were at describing the motion of the dance to their partners. Discuss alternate ways to describe the motion, such as mapping the path taken by the dancers.
    • Have students each draw a path of the dance. The drawing probably will look like a circle. Discuss with students how the path of the dance changes over time.
    • Repeat the Round Dance, with the teacher stopping the music every 5 seconds. Instruct students to look where they are standing every time the music stops.
    • Return to the group discussion, with students devising a way to map a path made over time by a moving object. This may be as simple as drawing a small circle every time the dancer stopped and drawing an arrow when they were moving.
    • Give each student a sheet of paper and have each redraw his or her path during the dance, to include some way of indicating moving and stationary positions.
    • Optional activity: Make a class collage from pictures of objects that do not travel in a straight path.


    • It is not always easy to describe to someone a specific path or route.
    • Things move in many different ways, such as straight lines, zigzags, and curves.


    • Participation in group activity and discussion
    • Drawings of dance paths


    • Ask your parents or teacher to see street maps of where you live and go to school.
    • Think about the different kinds of paths you see where you live (e.g., paths through playgrounds, animal trails through fields or parks, store maps in malls).
    • Watch which path your parents follow when they drive to the store.