Animals Move Fast & Slow

Using musical tempo, children will explore different speeds of animals.

Lesson Objective

Children will explore musical tempo as it relates to fast and slow animal movements, and they will participate in movement activities matching musical tempo.


What You'll Need

  • Large floor space
  • Drum
  • Music selections (see Lesson Tips)
  • Audio device for playing music
  • Masking tape – 1 roll

What To Do

Note: Before beginning the lesson, place a line of tape at opposite ends of the dance space.

  1. Review the important rules of dance lessons (see Lesson Tips).
  2. Play some music, and perform the steps of the Warm-Up (see Lesson Tips).
  3. Have the children sit in a circle. Explain the word “tempo” (see Vocabulary).
  4. Play some music with a slow tempo, and have the children imagine one of the animals that they have been learning about. Ask them which animal would move slowly, like the music.
  5. Repeat using music with a fast tempo.
  6. Tell the children that they will be exploring musical tempo as they move to different speeds of music and then they will be moving at the speed of an animal that matches the speed of the music.
  7. Using the drum, begin to play an even beat—slow at first, then medium, then fast—while naming the tempo speeds (see Vocabulary).
  8. Beat the drum in a slow tempo, and have the children pat their thighs or march in place while keeping time to the beat.
  9. Speed up the tempo, and have the children follow the faster beat. Discuss the different tempos (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  10. Have the children line up on the same side of the tape lines. Tell them that they will be moving at speeds that match the different tempos to the other line, and then they will freeze on the tape line.
  11. Have a child name a slow-moving animal, such as a turtle. Tell the children to move at the speed of that animal to the other tape line while keeping to the beat of the drum.
  12. Play the drum at a slow tempo as children move. Remind children to stay in their own self-space.
  13. Repeat the activity with animals that move at a medium tempo, such as a fox or a dog; then, repeat the activity with animals that move at a fast tempo, such as a gazelle or a deer.
  14. Play some music, and perform the steps of the Cool Down (see Lesson Tips).

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Describe the difference in the various tempos of the drum beat.
  • Explain how your movement changed with the change in tempo.
  • Tell me which animal was the fastest/slowest moving to get to the other side. 

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Use music that alternates between a fast and a slow tempo, such as music from the album, Western East by Eric Chapelle. Play the music, and have children identify where there is a fast and a slow tempo. Have the children stand, and instruct them to move through the dancing space when the music begins. Remind them to listen for the changing tempo and to change their movement to match the tempo.
  • Play a game of Duck, Duck, Goose with the children. Have them move around the circle as different animals move—such as hopping like frogs, galloping like horses, or crawling like crabs.
  • Have the children clap the beat of different music tempos. Time the music, and count the number of beats there are in 10 seconds. Compare the number of beats for a slow tempo with the number of beats for a fast tempo.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children describe the difference in the various tempos of the drum beat?
  • Could children explain their movement as “faster” with the faster tempo and “slower” with the slower tempo?
  • Could children name faster and slower moving animals?


Did You Know?

Tempo is the speed of a piece of music. Tempo can be fast or slow, or it can be in-between. The speed of a piece of music can change as the music progresses. How a piece of music sounds and feels can be different and depends on the pace or speed of the music—the tempo.

Animals move in many different ways, depending on where they live and how they are built. Animals can crawl, hop, walk, run, swim, fly, leap, and a number of other manner of movements. Animals that have shorter legs usually move more slowly than animals with longer legs.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • tempo – the speed that a musical piece is played.
  • drum – a round container with a flat top and bottom, sometimes used for playing music.
  • beat – a regular sound that a drum makes in music.
  • fast tempo – a pace of music that moves with a high speed.
  • medium tempo – a pace of music that moves with a middle speed—not fast and not slow.
  • slow tempo – a pace of music that does not move fast.

Lesson Tips

  • Musical selections can be found online. Search for Introduction/Royal March of the Lion from Carnivale of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens [Warm-Up], Le Cygne from Carnivale of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens [Cool-Down]
  • Important rules of dance lessons:
    • Listen to the teacher; wait to move, and stop movement when the teacher tells you.
    • Keep your body safe while moving.
    • Stay in your own self-space.
  • Steps of the Warm-Up:
    • Breathing – Take several deep breaths in and out slowly. 
      Example: Butterflies or Birds – your “wings” rise as you breathe in and lower when you exhale.
    • Touch – Using gentle energy, tap/tickle your skin all over the body (arms, shoulders, belly, legs, etc.).
      Then, using stronger energy, squeeze all over your body to wake up your skin and senses. 
      Example: Hickory Dickory Dock – using the rhyme, make the hands mimic a mouse running, skittering, tiptoeing, and so forth, up the body.
    • Get Moving – Do several movements that will get the blood flowing. 
      Example: Cat/Cow Yoga Stretches – from hands and knees position, arch the back then curl the spine. 
      Example: Starfish – start by hugging knees and making the body into a ball, then stretch into a big “X” shape on the ground like a starfish. Repeat three times. Move the starfish arms any way as the legs stay still. Repeat, moving the legs as the arms stay still. Pretend to have a line down the middle of the starfish; move only one arm and one leg; repeat on the other side. From the starfish “X” position, see if children can reach arms and legs up to the sky and touch fingertip to opposite toes. Starfish slowly come up to the surface (standing position), turning and turning, then stop and turn in the other direction.
  • You could also search online for pictures of animals that move at different speeds. Use the pictures as cues when you change the tempo of the music.


  • Drum City by Thea Guidone
  • Fast, Faster, Fastest: Animals That Move at Great Speeds by Michael Dahl
  • Nature’s Slowest Animals by Frankie Stout
  • Fast and Slow: An Animal Opposites Book by Lisa Bullard

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS