April 3, 2014

Giraffes Can't Dance

Title: Giraffes Can’t Dance
Giles Andrae (Author)
Guy Parker-Rees (Illustrator)

Comprehension Strategy: Making Connections                     
Art Modality: Drama, Creative Movement

Meet Gerald, the humble and inspiring giraffe in Giraffes Can’t Dance, written by Giles Andrae and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees. Gerald is tall and slim and a really bad dancer. Other animals show up at the Jungle Dance to skip and prance. In fact, the warthogs waltz, the rhinos rock and roll, the lions dance a tango, the chimps do a cha-cha and the baboons even spin a Scottish reel. Feeling useless and lonely, Gerald leaves the dance. Just in time, a cricket gives him a wonderful piece of advice: “...sometimes when you’re different you just need a different song.”  Gerald finds his boogie, and his dance is like a dream. The moral of the story? “We all can dance...when we find music that we love.”

Giraffes Can’t Dance

We know that good readers ask questions before, during and after a story. With this lesson, good readers will be guided to making connections before, during and after a story.

Begin by asking, “Have you ever tried to do something and you didn’t think you were very good at it?” The story I tell my kids is actually about dancing. When I took my movement class during my Integrated Arts program, I was very nervous. I didn’t think I’d be able learn the steps fast enough and I already knew I wasn’t very coordinated.

Read aloud Giraffes Can’t Dance. There is also an animated version you can enjoy: http://vimeo.com/33829782. 

After the read aloud, use these ideas to practice making connections through movement.
Travel through the story from Gerald’s perspective:

How does it feel to be tall and slim? Stretch your neck to eat the leaves.

Try to run around, but buckle at the knees. What are your feelings when you fall?

Slowly walk onto the dance floor. Freeze. How does your body look when you feel useless?

Creep away. How do you move when you are sad and lonely?

Find your own space where you can look up at the moon. 

Shuffle your hooves in circles on the ground. Gently sway from the neck. Swish your tail.

Throw your arms out sideways! Leap into the air!

Twirl and finish with a bow.

Just for fun, try out some dance movements inspired by the other animals. Your students’ will probably not be familiar with this dance lingo, so be sure to use the illustrations to increase their understanding of the new vocabulary.

Waltz like the warthogs.
Rock and roll like the rhinos.
Get a partner and do a bold and elegant tango like the lions.
Do a cha-cha like the chimps.

Now for making connections after the story. Again, I tell my kids that in my class, I learned to enjoy moving in my own way—even if it was a little bit fun and funky. When we acted out this story, guess who played the part of Gerald? (I’m not sharing pictures of this part!) Ask, “What special skills or talents do you have? What is something you didn’t think you were good at but you now you have fun doing it anyway?”

Need more Gerald?
Visit Deep Space Sparkle for a step-by-step art lesson.

I jumped for joy when I recently found this new Gerald book…


  1. Great post, Jayne. I've been wanting to get my hands on a copy of the Giraffes Can't Dance counting book, too. It looks really fun!

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