Take Away Teaching Ideas #25

Giraffe Problems

By Jory John

RECONNECT is a word that I have used a lot this year! By implementing my webinars, I have been able to reconnect and collaborate with so many colleagues. It has been an opportunity to share my current thinking and insights with educators in Australia and beyond!

The author of this edition is one person I was so excited to reconnect with. Deb David is a passionate educator who loves all things about learning. She works as a part of an amazing team at St Albans’ Primary School. Meeting up with Deb again has been a bonus!

Thanks, Deb, for introducing me to another new book and creating these ideas for us all.

Edward the giraffe can’t understand why his neck is as long and bendy and, well, ridiculous as it is. No other animal has a neck this absurd. He’s tried disguising it, dressing it up, strategically hiding it behind bushes–honestly, anything you can think of, he’s tried. Just when Edward has exhausted his neck-hiding options and is about to throw in the towel, a turtle swoops in (well, ambles in, very slowly) and helps him understand that his neck has a purpose, and looks excellent in a bow tie.





You can view the story below:


Watch Michele Obama reads it aloud:



Our readers can:


Predict: Before reading make a prediction of what this book could be about. What could a giraffe problem be? Justify your prediction using your prior knowledge and clues from the book. After reading, revisit your predictions.

Compare and contrast: Use a Venn diagram to show the similarities and differences between Edward and Cyrus. You can easily make a Venn diagram by overlapping two paper plates.

Make Connections: Make a connection to yourself from the book. When has a friend helped to cheer you up or when did you cheer a friend up? How did it make you feel?

Investigate words: glorious, accomplished, delectable… create a word splash of interesting words used in the book. Write the words on cards and sort them. Set the challenge to try and use one new word every day when talking to their classmates. Add the words to your classroom interactive word wall.

Explore the author’s purpose: An author always writes with a purpose. What do you think Jory John’s purpose is? Is there a lesson we can learn from Edward and Cyrus?

Infer: We are never told where this story is taking place. Where do you think it is? Justify for answers using clues from the text.

Search for synonyms: gander, stare, glimpse and gaze are words Jory John uses instead of the word “look.” What other words could we use instead of look? What is the difference between glimpse and gaze, or gaze and stare? Why would the author choose those words over look? Write the words on cards and order them from glimpse to stare discussing the subtle differences/shades of meaning between the words.

Make a text to text connection: Read Jory John’s Penguin Problems. How are the two books the same? How are they different?



Research: What do you know about the animals in this book? What would you like to know? Let’s use websites and books to discover some facts!

Engage writers by:

Text innovation: Draw your own giraffe neck (use page two as inspiration). How would you describe your neck? It’s too wiggly, too bendy, too curly, too straight, too zany.

Factual writing: Write a description about the appearance of a giraffe. What interesting words would you use to describe its neck, its patterns, the way it moves?

Text Innovation: Edward’s problem is his neck is too long, Cyrus’ neck is too short. What type of problems would other animals have? Think, pair, share to generate ideas and students create their own narrative.

Personal Writing: Edward’s mother said he should be proud of his neck. What does it mean to be proud? What are you proud of?

Persuasive Writing: Would you rather have a long neck or a short neck? If you had a long neck for the day what would you do? How would you persuade others to have a long or short neck?

Exploring word choice: Cyrus describes a banana as ‘delectable.’ Using the 5 senses, what other words can we use to describe a banana. Don’t forget to use the book to see other words Cyrus uses.

Small moments: Revisit Cyrus telling Edwards about his week long, banana dilemma. Have you experienced a time you had to wait or a time when they had to persist with a problem?

Procedural writing: At the end of the story Cyrus and Edward wear a bow tie. Write instructions to their friend the zebra on how to tie a bow tie.


This book is a great springboard to launch into mathematics investigations:

Measurement: How long is Edward’s neck? What can we use to measure it? Provide students a picture of Edwards neck and record how long it is using a range of informal/formal units. Don’t forget to estimate before you measure! Extra challenge: compare it to your neck. What is the difference in length?

Using a tie, identify, measure and record the length of objects. What did you find out? How will you share your thinking?

Patterns: Edwards tries to dress up his long neck. Design a patterned scarf, tie or bow tie for Edward’s long neck. As a class, create a tally of the different patterns used – stripes, shapes, colours. Don’t forget to make a bow tie for Cyrus too!

Cyrus the turtle has an attractive shell. What shapes can you see? What patterns can you make using the shapes? How will you share the patterns and your thinking?

Positional language: Edwards wants to hide his neck. Where could he hide? Behind a tree, in a ditch… The mathematicians create their own Edward and hide it in different parts of the classroom. Photograph to make a class book. The mathematicians write about Edward’s location.

Classifying: List all the animals that appear in the book. How could we classify them? How can you represent this data? As a tally, graph, table?

Problem Solving: There are 12 animals featured in the book. How many legs might there be all together? Show your thinking in pictures, numbers, and words.

Time: Edward wants to ‘hide until the sun sets.’ When does the sun set? How long does Edward want to hide for? What other phrases can we use to describe the length of time?

Ordering: Research the heights of different animals. Order them from shortest to tallest. Discuss all the vocabulary we can use to describe height. This could be a good opportunity to discuss why we say the giraffe has a long neck instead of a tall neck.

Number: Edward has a bundle of scarves. Collect a bundle of materials. How many is in your bundle? How will you share your total and your thinking?


Enjoy and stay connected,


Andrea Hillbrick