Do it Your Way
by Janice Ross
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider our unique talents and creative abilities.
Preparation and materials
- Have available the story Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae (Orchard, 2014), to read out from and display.
1. Have any of you read the book Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae?
Show the children the copy of the book, if you have it.
In this book, we are told that the animals of the world liked nothing more than to come together and have a great jungle boogie! The koalas would do a karate dance, the hedgehogs would hiphop and so on.
If you have the book, show examples of the dances the different animals do or involve those who have read it in answering by asking, for example, ‘What dance did the warthogs do?
Now there was a poor old giraffe called Gerald who had a big problem with these events.
As you know, giraffes have rather long legs, which can be a bit difficult to control! Gerald was teased for being clumsy and not being able to dance like the other animals. On these occasions he would slink away despondently.
A friendly cricket observed him doing this and knew how he felt. He said, in effect, ‘You can dance Gerald. All you need is a different song to dance to and to be willing to give it a go . . . in other words, to dance yourway.’
With that, the kindly cricket took out his violin and began to play. Gerald found himself swaying and swishing, then his legs started to shuffle and twist. Before he knew it, he was dancing the most amazing dance. All the warthogs and the koalas and hedgehogs stopped dancing and watched, wide-eyed.
So you see, Gerald could dance. His dancing wasn’t perhaps the same kind of dance as anyone else’s – after all, remember the size of his legs! – but it was his dance and he enjoyed it so much.
2. Here is another story.
There was once a man called Caedmon, who worked as a cowherd, looking after the animals that belonged to the monastery at Whitby.
He loved being outside, working with the animals, and he enjoyed the beauty of the nature all around him.
In those days, there was no television or radio and many of the farm workers couldn’t read, so evenings were spent around the fire singing. The men would take it in turns to play the harp, make up songs and recite poems, but Caedmon found this terrifying. He would watch the harp make its way round the circle until it got near him and then he would quietly slip away before it reached him.
Suggest that perhaps some children may have felt like that in circle time.
The others would laugh and tease, saying, ‘He has disappeared again. Of course he can’t sing a note.’
The story goes that, on one of the nights when Caedmon slipped away to sleep in the cowshed, he had a dream. In the dream a voice said to him:
‘Caedmon, sing something for me.’
‘I can’t sing’, he replied.
‘You shall sing, Caedmon. Sing to me about the beginnings of the world, sing to me about creation.’
Now, Caedmon loved to listen to the monks tell the story of when God created the beautiful world. He would think of that story often when he was out on the hills with the cows. So, in his dream, Caedmon, in a trembling voice, sang about the creation of the world, which he had learned from the monks.
In the morning, Caedmon awoke. Imagine his surprise to find that he could remember the dream and every bit of the song and could actually sing it again.
On hearing about this, the Abbess, who was the head of the monastery, asked if he could sing this dream and song of creation for her. Caedmon was a little nervous, as you can imagine, but he stood before her and, verse after verse, he sang of the trees, the sea, the animals and the beauty of creation. He also sang all this in a most beautiful, pure voice. The Abbess was stunned. She said, ‘You have a special gift from God, Caedmon. You must be allowed to use this.’
The Abbess instructed the monks to relieve him of his cow herding duties and teach him Bible stories so that he could turn them into verses to sing. So, Caedmon became a monk and, after his dream, wrote beautiful poetry, which the monks used to worship God.
So, it seems that Caedmon could sing after all. His songs weren’t perhaps the same kinds of songs that the others sang, but they were part of his kind of singing and he enjoyed it very much.
Time for reflection
Have you ever felt, like Gerald or Caedmon, embarrassed, anxious and wishing the ground would open up and swallow you, just because you couldn’t do things in the same way that others did?
What inspiration can you take from these stories?
Thank you that you love variety.
You made us all look different, you gave us all different talents and creative abilities.
Help us to understand that we will be at our happiest when we learn to love and accept ourselves.
‘All things bright and beautiful’ (Come and Praise, 3)