Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Giraffes Can't Dance

Giraffes Can't Dance
Author: Giles Andreae
Illustrator: Guy Parker- Rees
Ages: 5-11


Giraffes Can’t Dance is about a giraffe named Gerald who thinks his elongated body is holding him back from dancing with his other animal friends. Gerald is able to stretch his neck high up to various trees and eat, but he finds that when he moves his body in other ways his weak knees give out on him. The annual jungle dance  has finally arrived and Gerald feels ashamed of himself as he watches all of his jungle friends prance about with one another. When Gerald builds up the confidence and walks out onto the dance floor, he unfortunately is greeted with laughter and mean comments. He leaves the dance embarrassed and alone, until he meets a cricket who brightens his mood by inferring that everyone “dances to their own beat”. Gerald finds his beat and soon becomes the star of the dance.

Element 1:
Gerald’s self-esteem is challenged when he realizes that he is incapable of doing something that all of his friends do wonderfully. This book is a good representation of element one, because throughout the story Gerald learns to be accepting of himself and gains a ton of pride after his perseverance pays off. Giraffes Can’t Dance does a great job at portraying qualities of individuality, uniqueness, and self-confidence; which is a big part of self-love and knowledge and should be modeled for every child in a positive way. 

A good way to incorporate this book into a daily lesson would be to read the book aloud to the class and afterwards have a discussion on individuality. During the discussion the students can be asked what they think the theme of the story is. The topic of uniqueness can also be brought up during the discussion, reminding the students that everyone dances, walks, talks, eats, and lives differently; and that is what makes us all special and different from one another. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, would be another great topic to touch upon (just like Gerald who at first was not a good dancer, but he was tall enough to reach things that others couldn’t). A hands-on activity that can be done after the discussion would be to have the students draw a shape of whatever they wanted (an outline of themselves, a football, soccer ball, star, etc.) and fill the shape with words or drawings that make them who they are. What are they proud of about themselves? What makes them different from one another? Once they are finished they can choose to share their projects with their peers.

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