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Positive and Negative Space

  • Lesson Plan Creator: Lynne Larson
  • Grades: Grade 3
  • Subjects: Language Arts
  • National/State Fine Arts Standards: Create, Perform/Present, Connect, Respond, Connect/Analyze
  • Tags: Creative Movement
  • Skills Addressed: Communication/Collaboration

Students will explore the concepts of positive and negative space in the moving space and what that means in the body.

Learning Objectives/Goals

Establishing positive and a negative space, what these look like in space and in the body, moving and in stillness. Relating to one another, working together as a team, collaboration, and the use of prepositions in exploring of the ideas.

Materials Needed

Large open space, music and a drum


State class expectations. Ask students what is positive space? It is the space our bodies or an object fills in the air/space. Ask students what is negative space? It is the empty space that surrounds any positive space in the room. Show this with one student or with a few students making shapes or with other objects in the room.


Divide the students into two large groups. Ask one group to spread out in the space and create a still/frozen shape that can be held for a bit of time. The other group will begin to explore the negative space in the shapes and space, with some music. Encourage the exploration of levels, moving (around, through, under, over, in and out) and to remember
not to touch any positive space of the still shapes. Reverse the groups. Try one more time, but this time give the exploration groups a directed movement to get from one still shape to another, for example: skip to the next still shape or roll to the next still shape, etc.


Divide students into groups of 2. Ask one person to create a still/frozen shape, the other person will make a still/frozen shape that intersects the negative space of the first person. The first person very carefully will get out of the shape without disturbing the 2nd person. The first person will take a look at the shape and create a new shape within the 2nd persons negative space. Repeat many times alternating who leaves and who stays in the shape. This can be done to some background music. Music will help to keep the talking at a minimum! This same idea can be done with 3 people or 4 people.


Create a class puzzle! Using positive or negative space or both, start with one person in the center of the space. Using a voice cue ask students to one by one come into the center and attach to the shapes there either with a negative or positive shape. Continue this until all students are in the big shape! Then select students to slowly exit one person
at a time until only the original still/frozen shape remains in the center. Try this a few times with different students in the center position.


Ask students about their understanding of positive and negative spaces, now that they have experienced this lesson. Where else do we use positive and negative space in our daily lives?

Extension to the Lesson

Try some loco-motor movements that use negative spaces, for example, weaving in and out of one another, etc.

Follow-up Resources

Look at different choreography and find examples of the use of positive and negative spaces within the pieces.


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What People are Saying

The diversity of the dancers really spoke to my students! It was great to see boys and girls dancing, and different races. The high level of engagement was so refreshing and got students excited about thecontent.
This activity was valuable because it helped students make connections between dance, rhythm, healthy lifestyles, and expression. The students were impressed by the talent of the dancers and it was motivating to them.
Opportunities for art and expression are so limited at school but so essential and valuable for all students, especially those who struggle to learn through traditional methods. My Kindergarteners have been dancing since you left!
This was so engaging. I looked around the auditorium and every student was watching. Not one person was talking or distracted
This activity is valuable to teachers and students because it gives them a creative outlet. We need movement in the classroom to engage, energize and deepen student learning.
I got great ideas on how to incorporate movement into math and science lessons.
I loved how you made movement and exercise relatable to the students. The dancers were full of energy and there was very little down time so students stayed engaged.
Our children were captivated by the performance. They listened to you and they were learning without knowing. They usually giggle when bodies are shown and talked about. But the way you presented it was so tastefully done, they now do poses and movement around the room and outside. You brokesome barriers and they took that permission and literally ran with it!