Tall & Short Animals

Children will explore the movement of tall and short animals.

Lesson Objective

Children will use movement to demonstrate that tall and short animals move on different levels.


What You'll Need

  • Large floor space
  • Limbo bar
  • Music selections (see Lesson Tips)
  • Audio device for playing music
  • Chart paper and marker

What To Do

Note: This lesson is best taught following the lesson, Chameleons in the Zoo, found on this website.

  1. Review some of the animals from The Mixed Up Chameleon by Eric Carle. Have the children compare the differences between tall and short animals such as the giraffe and the turtle or the polar bear and the fox.
  2. Explain that the term “level” describes how close to the ground something moves—for instance, a short animal like the turtle moves at a low level, a medium-sized animal like the fox moves at a middle level, and a tall animal like the giraffe moves at a high level.
  3. Have children give examples of animals that move at low, middle, and high levels. Chart their responses.
  4. Tell the children that they will be moving on different levels, just like animals that move at different levels.
  5. Review the important rules of dance lessons (see Lesson Tips).
  6. Play a music selection, and perform the steps of the Warm-Up (see Lesson Tips).
  7. Ask children to name a short animal that moves at a low level, and have them create a limbo line. Play some music such as the song Limbo Rock or music from Dora the Explorer.
  8. Hold the limbo bar, and have the children move under the limbo bar like a low-level animal—for example, slither like a chameleon, crawl like a turtle, or move sideways like a crab.
  9. Have the children name a tall animal (like a deer), and demonstrate how the animal moves at a high level. For instance, a deer leaps through the air at a high level.
  10. Demonstrate how to leap on one foot by extending the other leg out in front of your body as you reach the arms overhead to represent antlers. Have the children practice a few times.
  11. Play music such as Caribbean Leaps (album by Eric Chappelle), and have the children leap over the limbo bar.
  12. Allow the children to suggest a few more examples.
  13. Discuss the difference in the movement between the low-, middle-, and high-level animals.
  14. Play some calming music, and perform the steps of the Cool-Down (see Lesson Tips).

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Explain the difference between a turtle and a giraffe.
  • Describe how a turtle moves. Describe how a giraffe moves.
  • Tell me some animals that move at a low, middle, and high level.
  • Describe the difference between moving at a low level and moving at a high level.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Explain that birds can both walk and fly. Form a circle, with the children and teachers facing one another. Play music as you lead the class in practicing moving like birds: Balance on a tree branch by standing on one foot. Fly with arms up and down, moving around the circle in the same direction. Swoop down low by bending at the waist with heads looking down. Imitate birds landing on their bellies in the birdbath by having the children lay on their bellies while flapping their arms and legs. 
  • Repeat the above sequence using scarves. Divide the class into two groups, and have the groups perform for one another. Each performing child will need one scarf for each hand.
  • Make a list of items in the classroom that are on different levels—low, middle, and high.  

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children explain the differences between a turtle and a giraffe?
  • Could children describe the movement of a turtle or a giraffe?
  • Could children name animals that move at low, middle, and high levels?
  • Could children explain the difference between moving at a low level and moving at a high level?


Did You Know?

Animals move differently because they belong to different species. Some animals have no legs, like a worm; others have hundreds of legs, like a millipede. Animals that are closer to the ground usually move by crawling. These low-level animals include worms, insects, chameleons, and turtles. Mid-level animals, such as a fox or a dog, usually move on four legs. High-level animals sometimes have long legs—examples include a giraffe or a gazelle. Some animals can move in more than one way. A bird can hop on its legs at a low level or fly using its wings at a high level.

Movement is a motivational form of nonverbal communication. When children participate in movement activities, they are able to express their emotions and imaginations differently than they do with verbal communication. Movement allows children to develop social awareness as they become aware of their own space and the space of others. Exploring movement helps children gain confidence because they are solving problems as they are moving. 

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • level – position in height.
  • low – close to the ground; not high.
  • middle – halfway from each end; halfway from the ground to the sky.
  • high – a great distance from the ground.
  • limbo bar – a horizontal pole that is lowered after each dancer passes under it.  
  • leap – to jump in the air across a distance.

Lesson Tips

  • Musical selections can be found online. Search for Introduction/Royal March of the Lion from Carnivale of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens [Warm-Up], Limbo Rock,  (song from Dora the Explorer music) [What To Do], Caribbean Leaps by Eric Chappelle [What To Do], Voliere from Carnivale of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens [Explore, Extend, and Integrate], Le Cygne from Carnivale of the Animals Camille Saint-Saens [Cool-Down]
  • Important rules of dance lessons:
    • Listen to the teacher; wait to move, and stop movement when the teacher tells you.
    • Keep your body safe while moving.
    • Stay in your own self-space.
  • Steps of the Warm-Up:
    • Breathing – Take several deep breaths in and out slowly. Example: Butterflies or Birds – your “wings” (arms) rise as you breathe in and lower when you exhale.
    • Touch – Using gentle energy, tap/tickle your skin all over the body (arms, shoulders, belly, legs, etc.). Then, using stronger energy, squeeze all over your body to wake up your skin and senses. 
      Example: Hickory Dickory Dock – using the rhyme, make the hands mimic a mouse running, skittering, tiptoeing, and so forth, up the body.
    • Get Moving – Do several movements that will get the blood flowing. 
      Example: Cat/Cow Yoga Stretches – from hands and knees position, arch the back then curl the spine. 
      Example: Starfish – start by hugging knees and making the body into a ball, then stretch into a big “X” shape on the ground like a starfish. Repeat three times. Move the starfish arms any way as the legs stay still. Repeat, moving the legs as the arms stay still. Pretend to have a line down the middle of the starfish; move only one arm and one leg; repeat on the other side. From the starfish “X” position, see if children can reach arms and legs up to the sky and touch fingertip to opposite toes. Starfish slowly come up to the surface (standing position), turning and turning, then stop and turn in the other direction.


  • Who Lives in the Rainforest? By Mary Reid and Susan Canizares
  • Grassland Mammals by Elaine Landau
  • Birds by Kevin Henkes
  • How Animals Move by Pamela Dell

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed.

Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS