Monday, November 29, 2010

Festival of Dancing Lights

Thanksgiving is gone and the winter holidays are right around the corner - literally.  Chanukah starts this Wednesday night and lasts for 8 days.  Here are a few Chanukah movement activities you might like to try  with your students and children to bring the festival of lights to life!

A fun exploration of Chanukah
The story of Mama mouse and her little children discovering the tastes and sightsof Chanukah in the book Hanukkah Mice by Ronne Randall  is an easy introduction to different ways families celebrate this holiday.  I love reading this book to my classes.  After we read the book we explore some of the themes through movement.

Melting Candles Slowly Burning Bright
The mice are looking for the Chanukah lights and at the end of the book they find all the candles burning bright. Pick one child to be the first Chanukah candle.  Ask the child to stand nice and tall as you "light" her.  Ask your student to dance bright and glow in her spot and then slowly melt down to the floor.  Next, this child should pick a student to be the second Chanukah candle.  "Light" them both and watch as they dance and glow in their spot and slowly melt to the ground.  Repeat this until all eight candles are burning bright.   (This is a great activity to focus on moving slowly because melting candles take their time!)

Information about the candles:
There are 8 candles along with the Shamas, or helper candle.  This candle is usually placed in the middle of the menorah and lights all the other candles ( which would be the teacher in this activity).  The 8 candles represent the 8 nights of Chanukah.  On the first night you light one candle with the Shamas, on the second night 2, etc.  Each night you light the newest candle first.  The candles are put in the menorah from right to left.

Whirling Dreidels Quickly Spin 
What is the opposite of a melting candle?  A dancing dreidel spinning fast as can be!  If you don't have a dreidel you can pick one up in most pharmacies or grocery stores for very little.  It is a spinning top.  And you spin it to win chocolate coins.  I don't teach the game to the students even though it is a lot of fun.  What we focus on is the action of the dreidel.  It spins uncontrollably and then stops.  Completely the opposite of the candles in the menorah.  It is very hard to spin and then stop.  It takes great muscle control and concentration.

Spin the dreidel for the children.  Ask them what they see.  Have a child demonstrate .  Focus the classes attention on the start and stop of the activity.  At first have them start and stop to the sound of a tambourine or your voice.  Ask them how it feels to spin like a dreidel.  How is it different then moving like a melting candle?

Candles and Dreidels Dancing together
Put on some music. (Klezmier music for this is fun!)  Have the children dance around anyway they like.  Then yell out candle or dreidel and see if they can put the slow melty feeling in their bodies or the fast spinning energy of the dreidel.  Remember, they can choose to put the energy into their entire body or maybe just one body part.  Can one body part be a candle while the other is dreidel?  Which do they like to do better ( slowly melting or spinning fast) and why?  You might learn a lot about your students/children by what the choose and why!

Have fun exploring some fun ideas about Chanukah with the children in your life!



  1. I teach at the Jewish Community Center and this is so so perfect! Thank you so much for the great ideas! :) I will try them out tomorrow!