“We all can dance…when we find music that we love.” — Gerald
Using a puppet can help students to focus on the main character, what it is thinking, how it would move and why. To include the use of a puppet, one student is selected to play the part of the main character, Gerald, by wearing an oversized yellow t-shirt and manipulating a giraffe puppet. Be sensitive to your students and their individual needs and situations as you make this choice. Let them know you are looking for a student that feels brave enough to wear a costume and focused enough to listen carefully to the details of the text, in order to manipulate the puppet according to the story line. Call on a student to act out the part of Gerald and help them get set up to begin the story.
Teacher hint: Once you have selected a student to represent Gerald, teach them that their arm is representing the neck, and have them manipulate the puppet in the way that the narrative explains. For example, when Gerald is sad, have them bow the head and scrunch the puppet’s mouth into a frown. Side coach the student with ideas if they are struggling to follow the narrative.
Introduce the book title, author and illustrator as you show the front cover of the book. Open to the title page and take a moment to help them recall the importance of this page. Point to the picture of the warthogs laughing under the title.
Teacher: How is the illustration on the title page helping us understand the setting? How would you feel if someone was laughing at you when you are trying something new, or giving your best effort?
This is a perfect time to establish a no laughing policy as you take the class on a movement journey.
If you feel that the group might be hesitant at first, consider reading the book once through by itself, and then reading it a second time with everyone moving.
After you have read about the Jungle Dance, take a moment to give your students the opportunity to dance as if they were part of the event. Skipping and prancing are verbs to emphasize movement choices, although let them use their creativity.
Suggested Jungle Dance music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkrrZtd6aNM
Teacher: Begin and end the jungle dance with a shape that represents one of the animals you see in the illustrations. Dance as if you were part of the Jungle Dance. Use your creativity to inspire your own movements. Some words found in the text include skipping and prancing. How do these words inspire your movement? You may also create movement inspired by the animals in the story.
Encourage students to try the specific dances in the book while keeping all instruction simple and age appropriate.
See examples below:
Optional: Create a dance together! Using the action words in the story, provide an opportunity for your students to try leaping, prancing, skipping, swaying, swishing and twirling. Give them time to make their own dance. Sit in a circle and invite any willing students to share their own “Jungle Dance.” After this you can take turns learning each other’s dances.
Teachers may choose to play this music from YouTube softly in the background as they read from the page about Gerald “listening to the branches in the breeze.”
Continue reading through the story as it tells of Gerald’s attempts to take a turn dancing, and the outcome of this experience. Have the puppeteer finish with a bow as you read the last page.
Teacher: With some help and inspiration from a friendly cricket, Gerald discovers that anyone can dance. We can create our own dancing that is not a set pattern previously choreographed. This is called improvisation which means making your movement up as you go. We can create ways of dancing that are unique to us and enjoy that way of expressing our thoughts, feelings and experiences. Begin with an interesting shape and then find ways of moving that are enjoyable to you individually. Finish the dance with an interesting ending shape.
Suggested improvisation music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsR9XW4P-k8
If this is the first experience the students have had with movement you may find it helpful to give them movement ideas through the eight basic locomotor movements of human development, such as walking, running, jumping, hopping, skipping, galloping, sliding, and leaping.
Giraffes Can’t Dance is an effective story for teaching the concept that each individual is different.
Teacher: The jungle animals in this story help us remember that each person walks through this world in their own unique way. We can learn to embrace the differences of others as well as ourselves. We can choose to show understanding and respect for others and their points of view. Through this practice, we can build confidence and self-esteem.
Have a discussion about the feelings and emotions that Gerald and the other animals might have experienced throughout the story. Talk about how it feels when we fall and make mistakes, and how it feels when others make fun of us at those times. This can lead to a conversation about a growth mindset: a belief that our most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.
Suggested questions for the students to consider for comprehension, understanding, and forward connections:
This lesson can be used to meet standards in many grades and subject areas. We will highlight one grade’s standards to give an example of application.
Image 1: Lauren Evans
Images 2-5: Miriam Bowen