Connecting to prior knowledge
Before beginning teachers may like to read Information on Teaching Indigenous Content which provides background information for teachers using First Nations texts in the classroom.
Explain that this book uses a poetic form to tell the story. Ask the students what they believe the book may be about. Browse the book, stopping at pages where there are images and subheadings; Seedlings (page 1), Cinders (page 58) and Sprouts (page 96). Pause on a few pages to show the students the different text patterns such as free verse, script (page 28) and a letter (page 55). Read the blurb on the back cover.
Create a table or mind map where students can offer what they consider to be poetry. Suggestions from the students may include:
Prompt students to generate the discussion. Questions to encourage wonderings could include:
- What makes a piece of writing poetry?
- Why would an author choose to write a story in poetry instead of prose?
- What kinds of stories and characters work well in poetry?
- What does poetry do better than prose?
- What’s a reader’s job reading a story in poetry? How is it different than reading prose?
- What’s a writer’s job when they write in poetry? How is it different than writing prose?
Read Bindi, over several sessions, reading a section at a time.
After reading the book, return to the table/mind map and address the group’s ideas. This could be done through running a mythbuster-type session. ‘We thought that poetry couldn’t have a narrative structure, but what did we discover’ or ‘Our thinking was that poetry usually isn’t a whole story, but Bindi was!’
Mapping our Learning
Before commencing the learning experiences from this section (and through to the Creating section of this unit), you could create a wall in the classroom where you can map the learning sequence. This allows students to look back at the steps they took to create their writing. It acts as a suggested process for their writing and will support them in future writing events. This display can be interactive with students adding to the display by placing post-it-notes of their ideas or reflections. Student work can also be added, or linked via QR Codes. Alternatively, the mapping could be done in an online document that is shared with students.
Exploring the text in context of our community, school and ‘me’
As students read the book individually or in small groups, ask them to note any words they may not understand or have seen before. These words may be from Gundungurra language. Encourage students to infer the meaning of the words in the first instance, before looking at the glossary at the end of the book. Once they have finished reading, have students check on the pronunciation of the Gundungurra words.
Finding the heart of a character
Read the Thank You on page 127, drawing attention to this paragraph:
Bindi was written with compassion for every child who experiences the catastrophe of bushfires in Australia’s newer history, with the hope that we will tread lightly and move with care – channelling the ways of our First Nations Communities to honour Mother Earth.
Discuss whether Bindi’s external actions are in or out of sync with her internal thinking. Consider:
- What has Bindi experienced in the story? Consider the events on pages 51–52, 64–65 and 70–83.
- What does this say about her as a person?
- Who is Bindi to others? Consider the relationships explored on pages 9–11 and 19–21.
- What is important to Bindi? Consider what is shown on pages 14–18, 39–40, 44–45 and 49.
Ask students to record what is in Bindi’s heart. This can be done in a reading response book or on a piece of paper by drawing a heart and then adding ideas and evidence around the heart. Direct quotes can be added in speech bubbles. Alternatively there are a variety of online platforms that can be used to create the visual representation, including Autodesk Sketchbook, Popplet, Canva, Easelly.
We know that the end of the book is where the author wraps up the story. It is often where a message or a takeaway is offered so that the reader can find a lesson or call to action.
Reread the last verse of page 123:
Like our people now,
like our Old People gone before,
like our Mother Earth,
through it all,
we will always persevere.
Ask students to consider this verse and share their thoughts on the author’s message at this point. Questions could include:
- What are you left wondering about?
- What does the author want you to know after reading this book?
- What message resonated with you as a reader?
Rich assessment task
Considering the understandings about the character Bindi and the takeaways discussed in the previous learning sequence, ask students to consider a moment that is important and worth sharing in the story.
Ask them to consider:
- What makes a moment worth capturing?
- How can you capture this moment as a newsworthy headline?
- What is the most important information to convey?
- What background knowledge might the reader of the headline need to know?
Responding to the text
Finding the Character’s Voice
Think about the way the character Bindi speaks and feels. Can students embody the emotion and energy Bindi uses in her speech throughout the book? Prompts could include:
- How is Bindi feeling (identify the part in the book for that feeling)?
- What would Bindi sound like at that time?
- What clues do we have about how Bindi speaks, including her language choices?
- Go back and read the section of the text aloud using different voices until you find the voice that conveys the mood and the feeling for Bindi.
Ask students to read so that they match the character at that point in the book. Discuss the language choices the author has made so that students are able to find the character’s voice.
If students require additional inspiration on how to create different voices, view this clip where you can physically see the actor manipulating his mouth and body to change his voice. Students will be able to identify how changing his lips or tongue created the character.
Exploring plot, character, setting and theme
Throughout the book, Bindi tells most of the story. In doing so, we might not have the full story or be able to see all of the perspectives. Photocopy or scan in a range of pages where Bindi is the narrator and ask students to annotate the text with questions and comments.
Prompts could include:
- What is Bindi aware of?
- What is Bindi not aware of?
- What is Bindi missing in this part of the story?
- What is Bindi’s blind spot?
- How does this affect the story?
- Why do these blind spots matter?
Character on the Wall
Draw an outline on a large piece of paper to represent Bindi and place it on a wall in the learning environment. Then ask students to record their advice for or the insights they have about Bindi on post-it-notes that can be stuck onto the outline. Once all the post-it-notes are placed on the outline, group them into themes and then draw a mark around the matched notes. Label this section. Labels could include ‘finding your voice’ or ‘sharing your art’…but there will be many more ideas!
To think beyond the surface of a story and identify the deeper meaning, it is helpful to consider questions that address the concepts of fairness, power, perspectives and issues. Formulating questions relating to this allows students to go deep!
Prompts could include:
- Is the story fair? Do the characters experience fairness?
- What are the visible and invisible power relationships in the story?
- Who has the power? Who doesn’t?
- Why does power matter?
- Whose voice is heard and who is silenced?
- Whose perspective is presented and/or absent?
- Whose perspective did I hear?
- What are the issues?
- What is the root of the issue?
- Who am I upset with in this story?
- What have I learned from reading this book?
Students can record their questions in their reading response book as a visual representation (for example as a tree or even a table with the limbs or legs labelled with the concepts) or using an online tool such as Coggle or Sketchboard. Students should be encouraged to craft questions that address the concepts of fairness, power, perspectives and issues.
Rich assessment task
Revisit the end of the story (page 109), where Bindi is reflecting on the Elders discussing traditional back burning. Discuss with the students what this involves. Watch the clip about Indigenous fire practitioners or this clip about cultural burning. Ask students to ‘lift lines’ from the clip/s explaining the way the Indigenous fire practitioners work with the land and the beliefs they hold and how cultural burning protects the bush land. You may need to watch the clips more than once so the lines can be recorded. Students can also add their own words and thinking to create a short free verse poem. Encourage them to rearrange the lines and play with the best structure of their free verse poem.
Examining text structure and organisation
Generate possible goals for poetry writing with the class. Ideas could include:
- using the details of experiences from multiple perspectives to evoke emotions in others
- expressing ourselves as writers to share a viewpoint
- create understanding or a call for action about an issue
- to entertain.
Discuss the strategies authors use to position or influence the reader. What has the author done to ensure students connect with Bindi and what her friends, family, community and the environment are experiencing? Record responses and wonderings.
Reread Bindi and this time ask students to identify examples of literary devices that are found in the book. Examples include:
|Page 3: We live on the hill, up a steep driveway, in a yellow house, backing onto bushland, at number 19;
Page 49: A heavy grey looms over the footy field.
|Page 6: There’s a change in the wind;
Page 20: When I take my paintbrush for a walk on my bedroom wall;
Page 44: The ball sailed straight past the goalie;
Page 61: Mother Nature does things haphazardly.
|Page 9: Mum/Rosie is warm butter sliding down toast, she melts people with her kindness, leaves them feeling fuller;
Page 70: Worry is a butterfly in my stomach with giant wings.
|Page 34: Dad taught us these tracks and we know ‘em like the back of our hands;
Page 39: sheets blew like leaves;
Page 44: threw around hugs and high 5s like confetti!
|Page 7: Afternoons made for. . . ,
Page 8: Afternoons built for . . . ;
Page 69: This is not a drill.
|Page 5: Same bell, older than time
Page 39: Weather updates, feathers and leaves;
|Page 41: squash,
Page 42: Woooshhhh!,
Page 44: BAM;
Page 74: THUMP THUMP THUMP
|Page 46: sneaky and weekly;
Encourage students to review their draft and see if they can enhance their writing through the use of a literary device.
More information about literary devices can be found in First Steps Writing Resource Book pages 142–148 (see the More Resources tab at the bottom of this unit).
Examining grammar and vocabulary
Omitting and Editing Words
Reread some of the verses in Bindi, focusing on the author’s ability to convey information and emotion in a few words. The description of Bindi’s family is a great example of this (page 9). Co-construct how these paragraphs could be extended to include ‘filler’ language. Compare the two examples, noting strengths of each. Students then revisit their drafted poem, looking for words that are not needed.
Carefully chosen words can help you create a poem that sounds like the experience you are trying to portray. Short words with sharp consonants cause the reader to stop-and-go in an uneven rhythm. Words such as cut, bash, stop, kick, bite, hit, jump, fly, kiss almost sound like what they mean. By using short words, the reader will experience excitement, fear, anger, joy, or anything that might make their heart beat a bit quicker. Longer words with soft sounds cause the reader to slow down, such as ashy faces, should, nature, compassion and catastrophe. These should be used when you want to show pause, tension, laziness, rest.
In the book there are two calls for action that are italicised for effect:
- we should let nature take its course (page 61)
- she should begin to fly in the coming days (page 94).
Explain that authors use modality to achieve specific purposes in their writing. Modality lies on a continuum, or a scale, and we usually describe modality in terms of whether it is high or low. We choose different degrees of modality depending on how we want to relate to the listener/reader and how we want to portray our own level of commitment to an idea or action. For example, we would use low modality if we wanted to encourage interaction by being gentle and tentative and we use high modality when we want to express a high degree of certainty. Discuss why the author chose a verb with medium modality in these instances.
Students should then review their draft and see if they are content with the modality of any verbs they have in their writing.
Reading the grammar of a poem
A line in a free verse poem can be a sentence or as short as a single word. The author of Bindi puts great care into crafting each line to the ideal length to express a thought or a feeling. Through highlighting the pauses at the end of lines, students can consider the purpose behind them. Read aloud several stanzas of Bindi to highlight this by adhering to the following aspects:
- breathing at the end of lines, not in the middle of them
- taking short pauses at the line break when a sentence in one line is continued in the next
- taking longer pauses at the line break when the two lines have separate thoughts.
Have students read their own poetry, following these aspects as well. Prior to doing this they could annotate their poem with prompts (e.g. short pause or long pause) or highlighting where the pauses are before reading to a small group of peers. Students can also video record their reading and then sit with a peer to critique their performance.
Ask students to identify the sentence types within their poetry, focusing on simple, compound and complex. For some writers they might also identify fragments. This could be done through highlighting sentence types in different colours or circling sentences. Discuss what types of sentences occur more often in their poetry and if this is the same for all students and why, as authors, they have chosen to use this sentence type.
Rich assessment task
Discuss the images Dub Leffler has used throughout Bindi. These images connect to the theme and are deliberately placed at key places within the book.
Revisit the free verse poems students crafted for the previous Rich Assessment Task and ask students to reread their poem. What image is created from their poetry? What picture best symbolises the emotion on the page?
Provide a range of materials and mediums to allow students to create the image. Students will also need to include their drafted writing example with the created image.
Moments and Memories
Students select a strong feeling, such as excitement, joy, fear, anger, and then match it to a moment in time or memory they hold. Prompt students to start with one strong emotion and then list all the times they have experienced this emotion. Remind students of the safe environment they are in, and support them to record examples that do not adversely affect anyone else in the class. Encourage students to record as many examples as possible for each strong emotion.
Thinking back to the learning experience Finding the Character’s Voice (in the Examining section) ask students to imagine the voice that they would use as they recall the memory. Look for connections between a student’s experiences and those within the book. Discuss how emotions can be experienced in different ways by different people.
Stream of Consciousness
Ask students to consider a time when they experienced a powerful emotion. This memory or moment in time will be used to craft their own free verse poem. Remind students that this poetry will be shared with their peers so they should consider if they are willing to allow others to hear this part of their story.
Model to the class how you would craft a stream of consciousness on a specific memory. Ensure you use think alouds to unpack your thinking as you craft your writing. Provide time for the students to engage in writing their stream of consciousness. At the completion of this experience, ensure students have time to read over their notes and clarify or complete any fragmented thoughts.
Ascertain prior knowledge about slam poetry and discuss what students believe this style of poetry to be. Discuss the key aspects of this text form, including:
- writing about a topic you are passionate about
- ensure your audience know what they can do to support your call for social action/change
- using your knowledge of free verse poetry to guide you
- there is a performance element to slam poetry so ensure this is part of your writing process.
There are several clips that students can view, along with websites that provide information on slam poetry competitions. There are books (and a clip) to support you in guiding students’ understanding of this approach.
After viewing or reading a range of slam poetry examples discuss whether the authors were sharing opinions and feelings as a personal recount or if it was presented as an objective factual recount. Slam poetry can be either. Encourage students to identify the language used in the poetry, particularly when opinions, interpretations, points of view, emotions and judgement of the writer or speaker are used.
There are many clips that focus on the aspects of performance including:
- ‘Where I’m From’ – use of voice
- ‘”Poetic Devices” rap by Testament’ – expression
- ‘Can we auto-correct humanity?’ – voice, expression and clarity
Rich assessment task
Telling your Story
Students then craft their own free verse poetry to be performed as slam poetry and then record it as a podcast. Refer back to the Mapping our Learning display (from the Responding section) that has been created and added to throughout the lesson sequences. Walk through the different experiences students have engaged in and remind them that this display is there to support them as they craft their poetry. Highlight the steps the students will go through and share this clip (which is a reminder of the process and slam poetry in itself!).
This Rich Assessment task may take several sessions with opportunities for reflection through peer to peer and student to teacher discussions. Share the rubric (PDF, 111KB) with students so that they are aware of how their work will be assessed.
(ACELY1710) (EN3-1A) (ACELY1816) (EN3-1A)