The Giraffe Who Caught a Cold

poem by Sharon Dalgleish , illustrated by Christopher Nielsen

Learning intention 

I am learning to identify the effect of techniques such as the position of characters and the use of gaze, and to discuss what these elements reveal about the relationship between characters so that I can develop my skills with analysing images.  

Success criteria 

  • I can analyse an image to identify the way the characters are feeling toward each other.  
  • I can construct a sketch to communicate a scenario.  
  • I can use the placement of the characters and the direction of their gaze to communicate the relationship between the characters.  


Sketch a rectangular frame on the board. Horizontally separate the frame into thirds. Draw a star in the top section, a heart in the centre, and a flower in the bottom section. Discuss which object students’ eyes are drawn to first. Most will probably say either the star or the heart. Inform students that usually viewers are first drawn to elements in either the top or the middle third of a page. Tell them that when constructing images, illustrators will place the elements they wish the viewer’s attention to be drawn to in these positions.  

Rub out the star, heart and flower and sketch a line inside the frame. View the illustration that accompanies The Giraffe Who Caught a Cold. Inform students that they will be analysing the illustration by completing the following: 

  • Inside the frame on the board, copy the position of the giraffe in the illustration by sketching a brief outline of it. The outline should begin in the centre, near the top, and curve around through the middle and over to the right. Add dots around the shape to represent the monkeys and birds.   
  • Discuss reasons why that construction has been used, ensuring students note that the giraffe was placed in this central position to make it the illustration's focal point. Discuss the direction each of the animals in the illustration are facing, emphasising that they are all looking outwards, towards the outside of the frame. Discuss reasons for this. For example, it gives the impression the animals are scattering away from the giraffe to avoid its sneeze and that it creates the impression of movement in the image, with the animals seeming to be in motion.  
  • Discuss the impact of having the other characters in the illustration facing away from the giraffe and what this reveals about their relationship (e.g. that the birds and the monkeys are keen to avoid and to get away from the giraffe at this moment).  

Inform students that they will be experimenting with the placement of objects within a frame by completing the following:   

  • Tell students to imagine the giraffe is now trying to tell the other animals about a surprise birthday party. Discuss how this might change the dynamic between the characters, ensuring that they correctly identify that the birds and monkeys will be far keener to connect with the giraffe in this instance. Discuss which animal should be the main focus (the giraffe).  
  • Draw another rectangular frame and place the giraffe in the top and middle third of the frame, as previously, but this time with the giraffe remaining in the centre rather than spreading from the left to the right. Discuss how to place the monkeys and the birds (e.g. facing towards the giraffe, leaning close to hear about the party). Add these to the sketch. View the image and discuss whether the desired outcome has been achieved (that it appears the birds and monkeys are now keen to engage with the giraffe).  

Provide students with the following scenarios:  

  • The giraffe is being unkind to the other animals causing the birds and the monkeys to feel angry (e.g. to communicate this in an image show the giraffe in the centre, facing front on, with the other characters turned away, looking towards the ground) 
  • The monkeys are celebrating their birthday and the birds and the giraffe are throwing a party for them (e.g. to communicate this in an image show the monkeys in the centre, gazing at the other characters, while the birds and the giraffe face the monkeys, meeting their gaze) 
  • The birds are feeling upset and the monkeys and the giraffe are supporting them (to communicate this in an image show the birds in the centre, with their eyes downcast, while the monkeys and the giraffe huddle in close, with their gaze on the birds) 

For each example, discuss how the scenario might be revealed through the placement of the other animals. Sample responses have been supplied above.  

Inform students that they will be constructing illustrations to communicate the relationships in one of these scenarios. Place students in small groups. Provide them with coloured pencils and paper. Alternatively students may use digital programs such as Paint. Instruct students to select one of the scenarios. Tell students that they should use the placement of the animals and the direction of their gaze to reveal the relationship in the scenario.  

Allow time for students to complete their drawings. Once complete, display the images and conduct a gallery walk, where all students can view the work of their peers and discuss the relationships communicated through the images.