"Giraffes Can't Dance" is a children's picture book written by award-winning author Giles Andreae. The book, which is written at a second-grade reading level but aimed at children ages 5 through 7, teaches young children about bullying, the differing gifts people have, and the importance of friendship and helping others.
Language Arts Activities
"Giraffes Can't Dance" is a rhyming story, so it lends itself well to a lesson on rhyming words. As you read the story aloud, ask the students to listen for words that rhyme and then list those words on a large piece of paper or on a dry-erase board. Brainstorm other words that rhyme with those you've got on the paper, so that you end up with word families. Younger students might brainstorm words that start with the letter "g" -- just like Gerald the giraffe. Or, read poems about giraffes and then ask the older students to write a poem about a giraffe or about another jungle animal.
Work on the skill of retelling a story by creating giraffe hats and then retelling the story from Gerald's point of view. Or, work in groups to create posters that advertise the jungle dance. Older students might want to create brochures. Teachers of younger students can discuss that giraffes are tall and that most other animals are shorter. Then, have the students color pictures of short and tall animals. Alternatively, find pictures of animals in magazines, cut them out and sort them according to height.
Social Skills Activities
Ask the students to share how they feel when they don't think they can do something well, or when someone calls them names. Tell them that everybody feels discouraged at times -- just like Gerald did. Remind them that it's important to try new things and that everybody is special in different ways. Talk about how it helps if you have someone to encourage you, just as the cricket encouraged the giraffe. Then, brainstorm ways that they can encourage others, with words and actions. Act out some of their ideas via role-play.
The giraffe uses his specific bodily features to create a dance that is all his own. Talk about what giraffes look like and how their long necks help them reach their food. Discuss other animals in the jungle and why their specialized features help them survive, such as a monkey's long tail. Then, ask the students to discuss how their own features help them live, such as how their thumbs enable them to hold things and to be able to manipulate objects well so they can eat or make things, for example. Have them work in groups to make posters of jungle animals, showing each jungle animal's distinctive features.
Young children tend to be kinesthetic learners, but even those who aren't will benefit from whole-body movement. Gather the students into a circle and invite them to come up with other animal dances. Ask them how an elephant might dance, or a penguin might dance. Encourage them to create dances based on the natural movement of that animal. Or, hold your own "Jungle Dance" and have each student come up with their own, unique dancing style. Incorporate a quick lesson on adjectives by asking the students to follow your directions as they dance, and then say words like "slow," "fast" and "silly" to direct their dancing.
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