African Dance

By Patricia A. Keeler, Júlio Leitão
Illustrations by Patricia A. Keeler


  • understanding the author’s message
  • connecting personal experiences with a story
  • reading with expression, emphasizing rhythm
  • using a map and key
  • drawing conclusions and making inferences

Supportive Text Features:

  • familiar words and concepts
  • narrative sentence and text form
  • variety of sentence structures

Essential Components of Reading Instruction:

Phonics: /au/ vowel sound
Vocabulary: deserts, savannas, mountains, forests, parents, drumbeat; verb ending: “-ing”
Fluency: reread the story independently or with a partner
Comprehension: determine what is important, make connections, ask questions

High-frequency Words: people, in, made, up, the, their, look(ed), like, and, there, were, from, down, to, not, him, when, he, now, we, on, are, for, a, day, all, who, call(s), do, you, of, is, make, they, their

Getting Ready to Read

  1. Introduce the concept and vocabulary by asking open-ended questions:
    • What skills or activities do people teach their children?
    • Tell me what you know about learning a dance.
    • When you are getting ready for a play or a performance, what kinds of things do you have to do before beginning?
  2. Connect children’s past experiences with the story:
    • Call children’s attention to the title. Read: “African Dance: Drumbeat in Our Feet.” Discuss what the second part of the title might mean.
    • Ask children to use the title and picture on the cover to predict what they would expect to read about in the story.
    • Show the back cover and read the copy. Ask children to think about what the African dance might be like.
    • Have children suggest some words they might read in the book.
    • Give children the book and have them look through it. Ask them to find some hints about what happens in the story. Also call their attention to the map on the last page.
  3. Remind children of the strategies they know and can use with unfamiliar words:
    • Ask them, “What will you do if you come to a word you don’t know?”
    • Encourage children to use known sound chunks to decode unknown words, and to read on, returning to the word after completing the sentence.
    • Tell children also to think about what they know about dancing. Then encourage them to choose a word that makes sense in the sentence.
  4. Be aware of the following book and text features:
    • The book contains numerous high-frequency words and many other familiar words.
    • The story is written in narrative form.
    • The amount of text on each page and placement of text varies throughout the book.
    • The story events are sequential and real, and take place over an extended period of time.
    • Words on several pages are written in italics.
    • The illustrations support and extend the story, but most of the meaning is contained in the text.
    • A map and key are included on the last page to show the location of places mentioned in the story.

Reading the Book

  1. Set a purpose by telling children to read about a group of children who learn an African dance.

  2. Have children read the story silently. Each child should be reading at his or her own pace. After the group has read a few pages, check for understanding with simple comments such as: “What is the story about?” or “Tell me how the story begins.” Then direct children to continue reading. As they read, watch for indications of comprehension: changes in facial expressions, giggles, audible comments, rereading, turning back to a page.

  3. Look for these reading behaviors during children’s first reading:
    • Do they have a strong sight vocabulary?
    • Do they use known sound chunks to read unknown words?
    • Are they showing signs of understanding the story?
    • Are they monitoring meaning and rereading when they lose meaning?
    • Do they easily move from page to page? Are they reading fluently?
    • Are they using punctuation to gain meaning?
    • How are they dealing with the text in italic type?
    • Do they make accurate predictions?
    • Are they connecting the text to their own experiences?
    • Do they react to the text even though they are reading silently? Do they laugh? smile? frown?
  4. As children read, note what they are doing. Help them build independence by being available, but not intervening too quickly. Watch for changes in children’s facial expressions and use these as signals to ask questions such as: “What made you smile?” or “Do you need some help?” Also encourage children’s attempts by making comments such as: “I like how you are reading,” or “That was a good strategy.”

  5. Possible teaching points to address based on your observations:
    • Review how to find a known part or sound chunk in an unknown word.
    • Show children how to use analogies to move from the known to the unknown when encountering new words.
    • Review using grammar (syntax) to unlock words by considering the sentence structure or parts of speech in the sentence.
    • Model asking questions or making “I wonder . . .” statements to extend comprehension.
    • Review how to determine what is important in a story. Point out how everything in the story leads up to the performance of the dance.
    • Determine whether or not children studied the map on page 24. Explore how this information helps readers understand the background of the story.
    • Talk with children about how the author and illustrator conveyed feelings of rhythm and excitement in the story.
    • Review using punctuation marks to guide the meaning-making process.
    • Talk about the words in italic type. Point out that this type is a clue to reading the words with emphasis. Review how this helps them read parts of the story rhythmically and with expression.
    • Review the word from the story with the /au/ vowel sound: taught. Explore other words with this sound in initial and medial positions.
    • Work with the verb ending “-ing” and words that end in “e”: moving, practicing, dancing, making. Review that the final “e” is dropped when adding the ending.
    • Model how to revisit the text to find specific examples or ideas in the story. Revisit AFRICAN DANCE to make inferences about how the children feel while they were dancing.

After the First Reading

  1. Have children confirm their predictions with what they actually read about in the story.

  2. Connect the story to children’s experiences with dancing.

  3. Discuss the importance of the drumbeat. Review the title and back cover copy and explore how the drumbeat tells the dancers’ feet what to do.

  4. Point out the words specific to dancing and brainstorm other words the author might have used in the story.

  5. Introduce and explain the words “heritage” and “tradition.” Elicit children’s ideas about how these words apply to the story in AFRICAN DANCE.

Second Reading

  1. Have children reread the book silently or to a partner.

  2. This is a time for assessment. While they are reading, watch what children do and what they use from the teaching time. Alternatively, you might take a running record on one child as an assessment of the child’s reading behavior.

Cross-Curricular Activities

Art: Have children make their own drums out of coffee cans, cylindrical oatmeal boxes, or plastic deli containers. Supply different materials (plastic wrap, paper, foil, etc.) for covering the opening so a variety of different sounding drums will be created. Secure the coverings and let children decorate their drums with markers or other materials.

Music: Use a drum to model a drumbeat. Have children repeat your beat on their own drums. Try fast, slow, rhythmic, and patterned beats. Give children straws or small sticks with which to tap their drums, and compare the sounds to tapping the drums with their hands. Create a drumbeat to which children can dance.

Divide children into two groups, one to read aloud the parts of the story that describe the dance, and one to perform the dance. Have a few of the narrators tap out the drumbeat while the others read. Then have the groups switch roles so everyone has a chance both to read and dance.

Science: Give children a variety of objects on which to drum. Ask them to listen to the sounds and describe what they hear. Elicit children’s ideas about why the sounds are different from each other. List the reasons children suggest and encourage them to draw some conclusions based on their list.

Math: Have children look at the front cover of the book and ask them to tell how many feet are dancing. Watch to see if they count by twos. If necessary, review counting by twos. Then have children go through the book and count by twos the number of dancing feet on each page. If you wish, the results may be recorded as a line graph.

Social Studies: Look at the map of Africa on page 24. Call children’s attention to the key and how it helps readers identify the different landforms. Then look at a physical map of the world. Have children find Africa, the United States, and part of the U.S. where they live. Let children compare the landforms near their homes with the landforms in Africa.

Writing: Write a group story about a classroom tradition children would like to pass on to next year’s class. Children may also wish to illustrate their story.

Guided Reading with

Guided Reading™: J        EDL/DRA: 18        Intervention: 18
24 pages, 251 words, plus Map

Level J is the benchmark for the beginning of the second grade. Children at this level are becoming fluent readers. All of the directions given for the introduction, first reading, and second reading of the English edition can be used with the Spanish edition of the book. The focus of the teacher’s support should be on building confidence, fluency, and comprehension. This is a time for growing independence. To read the book successfully, children need the same kinds of support as their English-speaking classmates. Second language learners often benefit from acting out new words, seeing pictures, and talking about them using concrete examples.

The Spanish edition has many familiar words. The story is written in narrative style. If children do not know some of the words, present them with synonyms to help deepen their comprehension of the new words and the story. You may also use real objects to support their learning of new vocabulary.

Help children find a way to read the text with rhythm and expression, especially the parts that describe the children in the story dancing.

The book language used may differ from children’s oral language. Comparing any differences will help children read and understand the story. Also help children understand that we often speak differently than we write, and that both ways of using language are important.


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About This Title

Guided Reading:




Interest Level:

Grades 2 - 2

Reading Level:

Grades 2 - 2


Comparing/Classifying/Measuring, Nonfiction, Five Senses / Body Parts, Counting Money/Everyday Math, Classroom Activities, Sports, Identity/Self Esteem/Confidence, Holidays/Traditions, Friendship, Dance, Cultural Diversity, Childhood Experiences and Memories, African/African American Interest, Beginning Concepts, Art, Persistence/Grit, Realistic Fiction, Self Control/Self Regulation, Pride


Early Fluent Dual Language, Bebop Nonfiction Grades PreK-2, Bebop Realistic Fiction Collection Grades PreK-2, Dual Language Levels J-M Collection, Early Fluent English, African American Collection English 6PK, English Guided Reading Level J, Multicultural Collection 13, Multicultural Collection 14, Multicultural Collection 15, Multicultural Collection 16, Reading Recovery Bebop Books collection, Bebop English Fiction

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