Connecting to prior knowledge

Developing students’ background knowledge beginning with the story setting

Introduce students to the area and people of North East Arnhem Land by:

  • highlighting it on a map of Australia
  • showing pictures that depict aspects of the natural environment, people and lifestyle
  • viewing aspects of the video clip, Arnhem Insight (Behind the news)
  • reading Our Birds by Siena Stubbs (published by Magabala Books)
  • viewing the pictures in Welcome to my Country (Burarrwanga, Wright, Suchet-Pearson & Lloyd, 2013)

Students may have some prior knowledge to bring to the discussion if they have read Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo by Alison Lester.

Some points to be emphasised and developed include:

  • North-East Arnhem land is located in the Northern Territory
  • Landscape features red earth, corkscrew palms, stringy barks, speargrass
  • North East Arnhem land is home to the Yolngu people
  • The Yolngu people have lived in the area for at least 50,000 years
  • Clans are the basis of Yolngu social organisation; moieties – the Dhuwaha
  • The Yolngu live a unique lifestyle with a strong cultural focus; they have many different ceremonies
  • The role of ceremony in Aboriginal culture
  • The importance of the sea turtle and sea turtle egg for many coastal communities
  • The Yolngu’s relationship to land and water                                                                    

(ACELA1487)   (EN2-6B)

Useful online references are:


Exploring the text in context of our community, school and ‘me’

Developing students’ background knowledge: The Djambarrpuyngu language

Clever Crow is presented in two languages – English and Djambarrpuyngu. 

  • Ask students about the language/s they speak and those of parents, grandparents and friends or people in the community they know. Create a list.
  • Have students work in pairs to research and find three important facts about Indigenous Australian languages. Share and discuss findings in larger groups.
  • Read aloud the introduction of the book Clever Crow, ‘The Language of this Story’.
  • Create a board display that comprises pictures and words for some key elements of Clever Crow. Write the word labels written in both English and Djambarrpuyngu.























  • The book, Clever Crow, provides a glossary of words and phrases in English and Djambarrpuyngu.
  • At the end of the book there is information about the pronunciation of the sounds in Djambarrpuyngu language.
  • The website, Yolngu Sea Country, provides demonstrations of the pronunciation for many of these words.

(ACELA1487)   (EN2-6B)

Developing students’ background knowledge

Discuss: Are crows really clever?

Display a range of children’s picture books (or pictures of their front covers) that depict crows as being clever; examples include:

  • Clive the Clever Crow by Sandra Novello (published by XLIBRIS)
  • Clever Crow by Pam Holden and Samer Hatam (published by Flying Start Books)
  • Laghu the Clever Crow by Bhavit Mehta (published by Saadhak books)
  • Clever Crow by Cynthia DeFelice (published by Atheneum)

Read the Aesop’s fable, The Crow and the Pitcher, which is about a thirsty and innovative crow. Alternatively use an animated version available online. This story provides a good lead in to considering  the question, ‘Are crows clever?’

Have students work in groups of three to discuss and agree on an answer to the question, ‘Are crows really clever?’ You might first provide the children with some time to research crows and gather evidence that will help them to better consider the question.

  • Have each group present their answer to the question, ‘Are crows clever?’ and their reasons or facts supporting their answer.
  • If available, read extracts from, Birds Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies and Jays by Candace Savage (published by Graystone Books). Alternatively this YouTube clip could be viewed.

(ACELA1488)   (EN2-1A)

Preparing to read: Using the front cover to consider story possibilities

 Show the students the front cover of the book, Clever Crow. 

  • Identify the scene and the different items that comprise the scene (crow, kangaroos, land, egg).
  • Students share what they observe about the visual features on the cover illustration in relation to colour, shape, distance and angle of shot, animals or items foregrounded and those in the background.
  • Use observations of the illustration and the title to determine the story’s setting, likely main character, other characters including those not shown in the cover illustration, items and possible story events.
  • Discuss in pairs and then share to class in regards to the possible role of the egg in the story.
  • Answer the question: Why is the text entitled, Clever Crow?


Rich assessment task

Have the students work in groups of three to create a poster or a glogster featuring information about some or all of the following topics.

  • the location and language of the story
  • the story’s author and illustrator
  • the Yolngu people
  • the role of ceremony in Aboriginal culture
  • the significance of the turtle and turtle egg to Indigenous Australian people of North East Arnhem land.
  • the intelligence of crows
  • the story’s title and the front cover illustrations with links to their predictions about the story.

The students should present their posters / glogsters using a combination of written prose, pictures or photographs, key phrases or quotes, tables, maps and charts. Before beginning discuss audience and purpose.
(ACELY1697)   (EN2-3A)

Responding to the text

What do you think?

Encourage students to think about and share their responses to the story of Clever Crow by using open-ended prompting questions such as:

  • What did you notice in the text?
  • How did the text make you feel?
  • What does this text remind you of in your own life? Jot down responses as students may like to return to this question after several readings of the book.

Encourage students to think about and share their responses to specific events or occurrences in the story. These might include:

  • The kookaburra laughing when he saw the crow with the turtle egg.
  • The old man (who had been fishing) giving the turtle egg to the people at the ceremony.

Encourage students to consider the point of view of the crow and the mother in relation to the beginning of the text when the crow steals the egg from the basket. To assist students to understand and identify point of view, you might have them take on the role of each character (the mother, the crow) one at a time and retell the event from their perspectives.

Keep in mind cultural considerations when interpreting a text. Remind the class that students all interpret a text in different ways. Yolngu people consider beginnings and endings important. There is a different way to think about time and to be present in the moment.
(ACELT1603)   (EN2-11D)

Initiating event and consequence (cause and effect)

Assist the students to identify events in the text that initiated or caused other events. For example:

  • The crow couldn’t find any food in the trees and grass.
  • The crow squawked, ‘hey, hey, hey!’ when the kookaburra laughed.
  • The wallaby hopped over to the sandbank to rest in the shade.

Have students work in pairs to discuss each of the above initiating events and:

  • determine the consequences; that is, the events of the story that they caused or lead to
  • come up with alternative consequences to the initiating events; that is, what could conceivably have happened but didn’t
  • explain how each of the alternative consequences would lead to changes to the outcome of the story.


Initiating event   Consequence   Alternative consequences  (could have happened but didn’t) Effect on story plot 
The crow squawked, ‘hey, hey, hey!’ when the kookaburra laughed. The egg fell out of his beak into the pouch of a wallaby.
  1. The egg fell out of the crow’s beak and shattered on the hard earth.
  2. The egg fell out of the crow’s beak but the crow managed to swoop down and catch it before it reached the wallaby’s pouch.
  3. The kookaburra snatched the beak just as the crow opened his mouth to squawk, ‘heh, hey, hey!’
  • If the egg fell out of the crow’s beak and shattered to the earth then the rest of the story would be that…
  • If the crow caught the egg after it fell from his mouth (it didn’t fall into the wallaby’s pouch) then the rest of the story would be that…
  • If the kookaburra snatched the egg from the crow’s beak then the rest of the story would be that…

(ACELY1692)   (EN2-4A)

Changing the Outcome

Have the students create and orally tell a new version of the story whereby a new consequence to one of the initiating events is incorporated thus altering the plot and eventual outcome. For example, in a new version of the story, the initiating event of the crow squawking might lead to the egg being taken by the kookaburra (rather than it falling into the wallaby’s pouch as it does in the original story). The students tell the story as it might continue should this consequence be incorporated.
(ACELT1607)   (EN2-10C)


Exploring plot, character, setting and theme

Beyond the Story Line: Examining Values and Beliefs

Introduce students to the ideas of:

  • sustainability;
  • respect for environment and;
  • interconnectedness of people and the natural environment.

Conduct a brainstorm of each of these topics whereby students share their current understandings as to what each means? Record the ideas.

Further develop students’ understanding of the topics by showing three short video clips:

Provide each group of four students with a copy of Clever Crow and invite them to consider how the characters, setting, plot and the visuals in general communicate beliefs in relation to sustainability; respect for the environment, and; the interconnectedness of people, animals and land.
(ACELY1692)   (EN2-4A)


Ensuring the planet’s natural resources are not used up and the environment is not damaged.


Appreciating nature / the natural environment; doing things that help to look after the environment e.g. recycling, replanting and not littering.


People, animals and land are connected, they are not separate but are one whole. And so people should live in harmony with the natural world – care for it and respect it.

the story characters  
the story setting  
the story plot / events  
the book’s visuals 


Rich assessment task

Story map 

Have the students identify the setting of the story and then examine the illustrations to determine and note the specific features of the setting and any changes that occur to the setting as the story unfolds. Prompt students to:

  • consider the setting in terms of six stages of the story – (1) the crow looking for food (2) the crow, kookaburra and kangaroo stealing / getting the egg (3) the man in the canoe with the egg (5) the ceremony (6) the crow stealing the egg from the woman.
  • do simple sketches on a long sheet of paper that is divided into six sections to show the bush setting – its main layers (water, land, sky), other elements (trees, hills, grass, sun) and changes to other elements across the duration of a story
  • make notes about colour, line, shape

Provide the students with a long sheet of paper or cardboard and have the students depict the story setting using a combination of mediums (painting, drawing, collage, printing); for instance:

  • use one medium (e.g. paint) to depict the layers (river, land, sky)
  • use another medium (e.g. collage) to depict the sun
  • use a third medium (e.g. printing) to depict other objects of nature (trees, grass, hills)

*The first two pages of the book where the crow is searching for food, are in black and white. Students might also depict the beginning of their settings in black and white. 

Have the students write key words and phrases and draw pictures to summarise each of the six main events of the story (as outlined above) and attach them in order to the setting they previously created.

Story Ideology: You might also review the ideas of sustainability, respect for the environment and interconnectedness and have students create symbols for each and attach them in relevant positions across the length of their setting in relation to their representation in story events.

Provide an opportunity for students to explore symbolic representations in Aboriginal stories. Discuss cultural appropriation and how symbols are significant to the people and community themselves, so the creation of the symbols should be significant to the student and not replicated.
(ACELY1697)   (EN2-3A)

Examining text structure and organisation

Book Illustrations and Visual Codes 

Choose one double-page spread of the book (for example, pages 5–6) and have the students examine the artwork in relation to the features such as the use of visual codes and how they affect meaning, particularly in relation to their influence on the viewer’s emotional response.

  • Have the students work in pairs to examine the focus illustration and identify the features – characters, aspects of setting, objects or items, the event being portrayed
  • Assist the students to analyse the artwork (the double-page illustration) in terms of the artist’s use of visual codes; for example:
    • Colour: Use of primary and secondary colour, the intensity of colour saturation, colour tone, degree of transparency vs opaqueness
    • Texture: Degree of realism in terms of how an object would feel
    • Line: Type and features; e.g. direction, movement, thickness
    • Shape and symbols: Used to represent items, degree of likeness to item being represented
    • Focus: Hard or soft, detail easily identified or less obvious
    • Distance of Shot: Close up medium or long distance
    • Angle of shot: Scene viewed from a high angle or low angle (looking up) or no angle

An examination of the artwork might take place over time so that one or two visual codes are dealt with at a time and, in each case, the students are assisted to develop familiarity with and understanding of each code, learn to identify the use of the codes in illustrations and develop ability to determine how their use affects the viewer’s response to the event or a character and the understanding about the story being constructed.

Some useful teacher references are:

Element  Representation in focus Illustration

(for example in illustration shown on pages 5–6)

Characters                        crow
young men
Setting  outdoors, in nature
fire for cooking
turtle egg
Event A ceremony was occurring (young men dancing, mother preparing turtle egg)

(ACELA1496)  (EN2-8B)

The real thing 

  1. Show the students photographs of North East Arnhem Land that depict scenes similar to those in the book’s illustrations – natural bush setting, sky and land, trees and native animals, ceremony dance, land and water/river, cooking on an outdoor fire.
  2. Have the students compare the photographs with the book’s illustrations and consider the similarities and the way in which certain aspects of the photographs are represented in the illustrations.
  3. Draw the student’s attention to patterns in the landscape and how such patterns are depicted in the illustrations.


Examining grammar and vocabulary

What did he say?

Introduction – The story is written from the third person point of view. The narrator objectively describes what the characters do and what happens to them. Additionally, the text contains some use of direct speech. The use of direct speech serves to emotionally involve the reader with these characters to provoke feelings such as empathy, affection, fascination or even dislike. The direct speech used in the story is:

  • The crow looked at the big turtle egg and cried, ‘Yummy, food for me!’
  • ‘Hey, hey, hey!’ squawked the crow in surprise, and the egg fell out of his beak…
  • ‘It’s a big turtle egg!’ he cried. ‘I’ll give this to somebody.’
  • ‘I found this big egg,’ said the old man, and he gave it to the mother.

Using some of the following activities teach students about direct speech and about the punctuation that is used to record direct speech in writing.

  1. Provide the students with pictures of speech bubbles attached to different characters. Have them locate the examples of direct speech and write it in the speech bubble of the relevant character. In doing so, the emphasis is on identifying and extracting the exact words of a character and distinguishing them from the words of the narrator.
  2. Extend the previous activity by having students orally create a response to one of the characters whose talk has been written in a speech bubble.
  3. Read the text to the students by substituting the indirect speech for direct speech:
    • The crow looked at the big turtle egg and he cried out that it was yummy and for him.
    • The crow squawked in surprise and the egg fell out of his beak.
    • He lifted it into his canoe and cried out that it was a big turtle egg and that he would give it to someone.
    • The old man told the women that he had found the big egg.
  4. Discuss the difference in the way the two forms (direct and indirect) are used for recording the speech and the difference to the reader’s emotional response to the characters talking.
  5. Have the students work in pairs to examine examples of direct speech in the text to determine the features and rules of the punctuation. Students should make notes and then combine with another pair to compare what they have determined about the features and rules of the punctuation. Allow time to discuss and make adjustments. Afterwards, bring the class together and assist them to create a poster that depicts a set of rules for punctuating direct speech in writing.

(ACELA1492)   (EN2-8B)

What’s in a Sentence?

Part A
  • Revise/check students understanding of a complete sentence (has a subject and a verb and is a complete thought).
  • Choose some sentences from Clever Crow and have students strip them down to subject and verb.
    • Prompt – Who or what did something? (subject) What did they do? (verb)
  • Discuss the other parts of each sentence with the students and support students to identify the additional information they provide in relation to the noun or the verb.
Once there was a very hungry crow. There was a crow.
He searched in the trees and in the grass but he couldn’t find any food. He searched. He couldn’t find food.
Then he saw some people at a ceremony. He saw. (people.)
He stole the egg from the basket and [he] flew into a tree where a kookaburra was resting. He stole. (the egg.) He flew (into a tree.)
The kookaburra laughed when he saw the turtle egg. The kookaburra laughed. He saw the turtle egg.
The wallaby hopped over to the sandbank to rest in the shade. The wallaby hopped.
Part B

Clever Crow comprises just fifteen sentences. It uses a range of sentence lengths and types (simple, compound, complex) throughout.

  • Assist students to determine the sentence length variations in Clever Crow by having them create a column graph that depicts the length of each of the sentences.
  • Have the students categorise the sentences according to whether they are simple, compound or complex and to use the categorised sentences to explain features of each sentence type.
  • Read examples of shorter and longer sentences and have students consider the different purposes for the use of sentence length variation in a narrative; for example:
    • to make the story interesting for the reader (the consistent use of same length sentences sounds monotonous/uninteresting)
    • to impact the mood of the story (several short sentences in a row can create a fast paced mood and a sense of urgency whereas longer sentences can serve to create a slow calm relaxed mood).
    • to impact the message – shorter sentences can grab the reader’s attention and longer sentences are necessary to provide precise detail.
  • Have the students consider the sentences lengths and their relation to story mood and pace at which the plot moves.

(ACELT1605)   (EN2-10C)   (ACELA1493)   (EN2-9B)   (ACELA1491)   (EN2-4A)


Rich assessment task

Divide students into small groups and allocate a double-page spread from the book to each group.

Invite the groups to create a short online interactive presentation that serves to describe or explain the features of the visuals and the language of their allocated double-page spread and to provide an explanation in terms of how the visual and linguistic features serve story comprehension.

Some suggested apps for this project are:

(ACELY1697)   (EN2-3A)

Point of view and perspective 

As previously highlighted, the text is written from the third person point of view whereby the narrator objectively describes what the characters do and what happens to them. Have the students write the story from the point of view of one of the characters; for instance, the kookaburra. Success with this task requires that the sequence is implemented via small steps with each providing an important scaffold. The following steps might be implemented:

  • Put the students in groups of three. Provide them with a copy of the text to read aloud in their groups so as to become familiar with the story and the third person point of view from which it is told.
  • Ask the students about who is telling the story and the features that indicate this; for example:
    • it is told from the perspective of an ‘outsider looking in’ (no one that is actually involved in the story)
    • it uses pronouns such as ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, ‘they’ (third person) rather than ‘I’ or ‘me’ (first person) or ‘you’, ‘yours’ (second person).
    • it presents a broad perspective (author is all-knowing)

Using modelled writing, rewrite the first section of the text in first person point of view (from the crow’s perspective). Ensure the original text can be viewed by the students and that the students can easily observe the rewriting taking place. Verbalise the thinking involved and highlight changes made to the language.

Repeat the process but this time write in first person from the mother’s perspective and have the students assist with the changes to the language used.

The book (third person point of view) Rewritten in first person point of view (from the crow’s perspective) Rewritten in first person point of view (from the mother’s perspective)
Once there was a very hungry crow. I am a crow and once I was very hungry. Once there was a very hungry crow.
He searched in the trees and in the grass but he couldn’t find any food. I searched in the trees and in the grass but I couldn’t find any food. He searched in the trees and in the grass but he couldn’t find any food.
Then he saw some people at a ceremony. The young men were dancing, and their mother was making a fire to cook a turtle egg. Then I saw some people at a ceremony. The young men were dancing and someone else was making a fire to cook a turtle egg. Then he saw my sons at a ceremony. They were dancing, and I was making a fire to cook a turtle egg.

Have the students finish rewriting the story in first person from the crow’s perspective. Provide a sheet with the original story written in the first column and space in a second column for the new version to be written.
(ACELT1603)   (EN2-11D)   (ACELY1688)   (EN2-1A)

Readers’ Theatre

Put the students in groups of eight and have the students take on roles, rehearse and then perform Clever Crow using readers’ theatre. The roles might be:

  • 3 students tell the story (divide it up so each student has a different section to read)
  • 1 student reads the direct speech of the kookaburra
  • 1 student reads the direct speech of the old man
  • 1 student reads the direct speech of the crow
  • 2 students could be allocated to sound effects using musical instruments or voice percussion

Discuss and demonstrate important aspects of reading fluency.

Discuss the characters, the events and the mood of the story and have the students consider how they might use their voice to portray these.

Provide the students with time to practise and develop good phrasing and prosody and other aspects of fluent reading and to experiment with use of voice to put across story meaning.

Work with the students to experiment with other elements of presentation such as:

  • seating/positioning
  • actions, gesture and facial expression
  • sound effects
  • the introduction
  • junction (pausing for impact)
  • stress (saying words or lines louder or softer)

(ACELY1689)   (EN2-6B)

A Newspaper Report: Crow steals important egg

Have the students use the events and characters of Clever Crow to create a newspaper report. The steps involved might be:

  • Set up the scenario where the main event of the story (the crow stealing the ceremonial egg) actually occurred and needs to be written up as an article in the local newspaper. Explain the incident as a crow steals an important egg and almost ruins a special celebration.
  • Nominate students to take on the role of some of the characters who were involved in or who witnessed the incident (mother, kangaroo, kookaburra, old man).

Devise questions that might be asked of these characters in a media interview for the purpose of gathering more information about the incident for the article.

Role play the interview: some students become reporters and ask questions of the other students who are playing characters.

Examine a newspaper article to determine features; for example:

  • Headline: short and snappy, sounds interesting, attracts the readers interest, what the story is about
  • Byline (who wrote the article)
  • Introduction (summarises the main idea – who, what, when, where)
  • Body (provides more detail about the event, especially in relation to how and why, might include a quote from someone involved)
  • Conclusion (summary of what happened)
  • Photograph and caption
  • Written in third person/past tense
  • Use of powerful verbs and emotive language
  • Events told in chronological order

Provide students with a template that provides prompts in regard to the organisational framework and language features of a newspaper report and have them use this to plan and write their draft. The final copy might be written in columns and  a picture and caption included.
(ACELY1688)   (EN2-1A)   (ACELA1490)   (EN2-8B)


Rich assessment task

Creating a Book Trailer

Have the students work in pairs or small groups and use a movie making program (for example, Windows Movie Maker or iMovies) to create a book trailer for the book, Clever Crow.

A book trailer is a multi-modal interpretation of the themes of a book. It uses a mix of images, symbols, text, voice over, music and sound and like movie trailers, serves to promote the book.

View examples of book trailers (refer to Multimodal texts: Book trailers and Slimekids) and discuss purpose and key features.

Discuss the themes and story line of Clever Crow with the students and the idea of promoting the book via a 30-second book trailer to a broad audience.

  • Consider what type of pictures, symbols, words/phrases and music they might use to represent the storyline and themes in the book trailer they create.
  • Create a storyboard of a book trailer idea for Clever Crow.
  • Locate visuals that might be used to tell the story of the book.
  • Place pictures on the movie maker timeline and set the time duration for each picture.
  • Add text on one or more pictures.
  • Add music.
  • Be mindful of copyright. Have students use public domain music or create their own.

Useful resources for book trailers are:

(ACELY1690)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELY1697)   (EN2-3A)