Connecting to prior knowledge

Share an interactive Australian Indigenous country map with the students such as the one found on the AIATSIS website. Ask the students to locate the Indigenous country of the land on which the school is located. If the school is located at the intersection of multiple countries, this discussion will need to extend to all the recognised custodians.

As the content of this unit focuses on Aboriginal knowledges and understandings, share an Acknowledgement of Country. Ask the students to share what they know about the Indigenous history of the land on which the school is located. Using a collaborative digital display, ask students to post their contributions. As this is Year 4, help them to make connections between the contributions, creating groups and subgroups of thought. Some collaborative digital displays suitable for students include mindomoSimpleMind, Mindjet Maps and Mindly.

Draw a table withe five columns, using the headings below, to record the flora and fauna in the student’s local community. This activity can be undertaken as a whole class effort, with small groups working on sections of the bigger table. Students can contribute their own knowledge and photographs, and the internet can be used for more advanced searches. Help the students to navigate the web if searching for images by using the ‘image’ link on the google search function. The book Fauna: Australia’s Most Curious Creatures by Tania McCartney would also be a good resource to support this experience. 

  • Column 1: common use name
  • Column 2: botanical name of these flora and fauna
  • Column 3: visual, either photograph captured by a child or through an internet search
  • Column 4: identify as Indigenous or introduced species
  • Column 5: seasonal cycle notes (e.g. breeding, migration, flowering, dormant, etc.)
    (ACELA1496)   (EN2-10C)   (ACELA1793)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELY1697)   (EN2-10C)


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

Show the students the cover of Cooee Mittigar. Ask them to note any prominent features of the cover and open a discussion about what might be inside the pages of this book.

Guide students to notice and provide some initial thoughts about the following:

  • The black cockatoos. Refer to the notes on Black Cockatoo by Carl Merrison for some background on this particular bird.
  • The word ‘cooee’. Cooee – a calling sound of the Gaawii whip bird, and copied by humans to identify one’s location or attract attention. It is used to say ‘hello’. Practise calling cooee to one another, best in a location for an echo. Note it is an Aboriginal word that is used in Australian English.
  • Invite suggestions about the words ‘mittigar’ and ‘darug’ as these may not be familiar. Some initial searching will reveal mittigar is the name of a reserve west of Sydney and a word from an Indigenous language. A quick whole class search shows Darug are Aboriginal people from Western Sydney. Read the notes about Darug country in the back of the book.

Now draw attention to the visual elements on the front and back covers. Guide students to notice the decorative dot-like detail on the wings of the black cockatoo and the veins of the leaves. What might this mean to you as a reader?

Point out the raised texture of the title. Again what does that make you think?

Read the blurb on the back of the book. Students will now know that Cooee Mittagar is an invitation meaning ‘come here my friend’. Discuss the whole blurb on the back and the impact of the warm invitation to read the book.

Discuss who is the audience for this text and what is the connection to them, their school and their community. The intended audience is students.

Ask the students to identify the author and illustrator. Confirm the author and illustrator and read the information provided on both at the back of the book.
(ACELA1487)   (EN2-1A)   (ACELA1496)   (EN2-10C)


Rich assessment task

This rich assessment task is formative assessment by the teacher, noting the student’s engagement, contributions and preparedness to explore how language works in its multimodal forms. Share the book, engaging in teacher-led class discussion connecting back to the previous discussion. As you proceed note the involvement of individual students.

Double-page spread #1 – It is a Welcome to Country. Inviting all to join our Darug Country (Mudjin). The illustration depicts a person superimposed on Darug country and the river. The image symbolises the Darug connection to the land. It depicts the Darug as being a part of the land and the land being a part of the Darug. Discuss the symbolism, including the circles, lines and ‘U’ shape. In some Aboriginal art work, the u-shape symbolises a person, the concentric circles symbolise a waterhole or campsite, the oblong symbolises a coolamon (carrying vessel), the small straight stroke symbolises a shield or an adult. Aboriginal art often records significant information such as to indicate a sacred site, the location of a waterhole or campsite, where to find animals (for food) or the location of Dreaming stories.

Double-page spread #2 – Begins by inviting the reader to follow the Black Swan Mulgo along one Darug songline. As Mulgo walks, she talks and sings while using her clap sticks.

Double-page spread #3 – Starting with the creation, Darug Dreaming was (past), has (present) and will be (future) sung into the Songlines of Naru (Country) by its creation people and storytellers (Yellamundie) and animals and lands. It also demonstrates the connection between land, language and Darug identity. Makes references to the past (the long, long ago), the present (the now) and the future (the forever). The background visual is of the Emu Dreaming.

Double-page spread #4 – The songline begins when the days are getting longer and warmer. The wombats, feather tail gliders, and flowering plants are coming to life. The children might know the names of the red flowers (bottle brush & waratah).

Double-page spread #5 – When the eastern Rosellas nest in the log hollows and the long-necked turtles slowly come out into the sun, it’s getting warmer.

Double-page spread #6 – Then the hot, rain and lightning comes. It is warming still. What season could they be referring to? What cues tell you which season it? Late spring or summer. The illustration depicts bats coming out at dusk to roost.

Double-page spread #7 – Watch out for the reptiles! Why? Because they move into the open, under the sun and some of these reptiles are venomous (snakes). How might Aboriginal people know that a dangerous animal is nearby or an animal that is a food source is close by? They track the foot prints in the sand. Why do snakes and goannas move into the sun? They are ectothermic and need sunlight and warmth to heat up.

Double-page spread #8 – In the hot (yuruka) and dry (burara) the Elders say not to hunt the kangaroo (buru). Why do you think that is? The kangaroo are not breeding, they are conserving energy, hiding in the shade from the summer sun. The grasses are lean and dry, so there is not much feed.

Double-page spread #9 – When the yellowtail black cockatoo and the golden orb spider are out, and it starts getting foggy, we are heading to a new season. What season is that? It’s Autumn.

Double-page spread #10 – Emu Dreaming and time for the emu to nest. Note the illustration depicting the dark space between the stars. There is also an image of an emu carved into the rock showing the emu eggs in the nest. When we see the emu constellation (more correctly the dark space within the Milky Way) in the night sky, we know it’s time for the emu to lay her eggs in a nest.

Double-page spread #11 – Talks of the Hawkesbury River where Biaimi’s Son spreads yam seeds. When they are flowering, the yams are ready to harvest. What are yams? A starchy vegetable, like a potato. Where are they? They grow under the soil. What are they for? They are an edible and popular food for the Darug peoples and many other groups. The illustration on these pages, depicts a path/track from the bottom of the left-hand side to the top of the right-hand side, possibly left by Biaimi’s Son.

Double-page spread #12 – As the wattle blooms, the eels start moving downstream. The illustration depicts the eels migrating with what looks like the outline of a large fish. Ask the students what they think this is? It looks like a spirit creature of some sort. The eels will travel 4000km to the Coral Sea near Vanuatu to breed and then travel back again.

Double-page spread #13 – When the light dew falls and the winds blow from the east, it’s time for the fire stick farming (also called cultural burning). Fire stick farming helps to ‘clean up country’, rejuvenate the undergrowth and spread the seeds and makes hunting easier. What time of the year/season is it? Darug people are not respected for their knowledge on caring for country today. Perhaps this knowledge can help with our current situation of severe drought and bushfires.

Double-page spread #14 – Dingu (dingo) babies start to arrive with their whole family. The illustration shows other animals too. What are kangaroos and emus doing at this time?

Double-page spread #15 – Frost is coming so the echidna mum is on the move and father follows. He helps with the nest. Check out the claw marks in the sand. This is a signal that the echidnas are around.

Double-page spread #16 – When the frost comes and the grass trees bloom, it is time to make spears from the grasstrees.

Double-page spread #17 – When the westerlies blow in, the Darug get ready for the flowering plants and collecting eggs. The birds are also attracted to the flowers. The illustration represents the spirit and the songline.

Double-page spread #18 – When the Brolgas dance, it is time for the ceremony and mob to gather and celebrate the time of plenty (see the fish). What season do you think it is? What do the circles represent? They represent meeting places.

Double-page spread #19 – Now it is Mulgo time and the songline begins again. See the visual of the songline. Black swan will rest and nest and prepare for a new family if cygnets.

Double-page spread #20 – Western Sydney/Darug country is our mother, father, sister, brother, our aunties, uncles and kin, our Elders. The illustration depicts several different family groups along the Hawkesbury River. They come together in the large circle/meeting place in the middle. There is a songline woven through the illustration as well that references the past (were strong), present (are strong) and future (remain strong).

Double-page spread #21 – Tread softly on our lands asks people to respect country. References to dreaming in the past (was here), present (is here) and future (will be forever), so asking people to respect country. The knowledge was shared for thousands of years. It was passed orally from one generation to the next. This knowledge is a gift to anyone walking with Darug.
(ACELA1487)   (EN2-1A)   (ACELA1496)   (EN2-10C)

Responding to the text

Set an at-home activity where the students connect with their grandparents or an elderly person in their community who has lived most of their life in Australia, or someone from another English speaking country. This may not be possible for all students but for those it is ask students to interview their special person and collect a list of five to ten words that have either:

  • changed over time (e.g. ‘chap’ used in older times but ‘man’ used now, ‘walkman’ used to be a very popular way to listen to music, but the word has become obsolete as the item is no longer in common use), or
  • words that are not used in Australia (e.g. ‘pushchair’ used in UK but ‘pram’ used in Australia, ‘wee’ used in NZ but ‘little’ used in Australia).

To set the students up for this activity, discuss how to conduct an interview and how to record the main topic of the responses from their special person.

Students bring their list of words to a whole class discussion. The focus is on language variation and change. Language varies across places and across time.

On the information page at the back of the book, the following text appears:

‘All languages, whether passed down in spoken or written form, change from one generation to the next as speakers revitalise their mother tongues. The Darug language we use in Cooee Mittigar has been carefully considered. Some Darug people may use alternative names for animals, plants or Country to those we have used in this book’.

Discuss the importance of respecting language variation and change. It’s not so much that one way is correct and other ways are wrong. It’s more important to think about what version of language belongs to which context and how the social interactions within that context will influence the way the language is used.
(ACELA1487)   (EN2-1A)   (ACELA1488)   (EN2-1A)   (ACELT1602)   (EN2-9B)   (ACELY1686)   (EN2-7B)


Rich Assessment Task

Double-page spread #22 lists the Darug language used in this book. Each word is listed in three ways: bold, italics and light font. Ask the students to hypothesise the difference.

  • Bold – spelling used in this book
  • Italics – phonetic representation with a space used as a syllable break (instead of the usual / symbol)
  • Light font – word meaning in standard Australian English.

Discuss how it’s not unusual to see Aboriginal words spelt differently in different context. For example, an internet search shows multiple spellings as Darug, Dharug, Dharruk, Dharrook, Darrook, Dharung. Discuss how oral languages were re-interpreted with different spelling and that spelling was a European tradition and not always consistent.

When discussing the standard Australian English, guide the students towards an understanding that difference is not deficit. Avoid referring to standard Australian English as ‘normal’. All dialects of English, including Aboriginal English, are robust, sophisticated and mature languages.

Split the students into smaller groups and ask each group to find five points of interest on the double-page spread #22. Some examples might include:

  • babana – ba/ban/na – the ‘n’ sound carries across both syllables
  • djuramin – jura/min – the ‘j’ sound is made by the letters ‘dj’ (called digraph)
  • garad – kar/ratt – the ‘k’ sound is made by the ‘g’ letter and the ‘t’ sound is made by the ‘d’ letter
  • gurbuny – kur/pu/nya – the ‘k’ sound is made by the ‘g’ letter, the ‘p’ sound is made by the ‘b’ letter
  • bootboot – bud/bud – represents the sound of a beating heart
  • gwarra – g/worra – represents the sound of wind
  • wumbat – wum/bat – very close to standard Australian English, evidence of an Aboriginal word adopted into standard Australian English
  • buru – boo/roo – very close to standard Australian English, evidence of an Aboriginal word adopted into standard Australian English
  • dingu – din/goo – very close to standard Australian English, evidence of an Aboriginal word adopted into standard Australian English
  • warada – wara/da – very close to standard Australian English, evidence of an Aboriginal word adopted into standard Australian English

When discussing the difference between sounds and written representations, encourage students to start with the ‘sound’ and then observe the different letter combinations that represent that sound. Standard Australian English also works in this way, where one sound can be written with different letter combinations.
(ACELA1487)  (EN2-1A)   (ACELY1686)   (EN2-7B)   (ACELA1828)   (EN2-5A)   (ACELA1779)   (EN2-5A)   (ACELY1688)   (EN2-10C)

Examining text structure and organisation of biographies

Turn to the biography page at the back of the book that was read aloud earlier to confirm the writer and illustrator. Confirm two biographies have been presented, one each for Jasmine Seymour (author) and Leanne Mulgo Watson (artist). Split the students into small working groups. Give each group a copy of the two biographies. Ask students to read each paragraph and think of a subheading for that paragraph. The students need to confirm that the subheading represents all the ideas that are contained within the paragraph. For example, the first paragraph of Jasmine Seymour’s biography could be given the subheading of ‘Heritage’ and the second paragraph could be given the subheading of ‘Past and Present’.

Once each small group has completed their subheading suggestions for both biographies, join two groups together and ask them to discuss their suggestions. The groups may want to amend their subheadings as a result of these discussions. Now discuss as a whole class. The purpose of the discussion is to reveal how the author has structured the biographies and kept to a specific topic in each paragraph.

Return to the two biographies. Ask the students to re-read and circle all the pronouns and map (connect) their point of reference. When authors use pronoun references, the reader has to map the point of reference to comprehend the author’s intention. Understanding how texts are made cohesive through pronoun references is an important skill for reading comprehension and to increase student awareness and understanding of how writers use pronoun references.

  • Jasmine Paragraph 1 – ‘She is a descendant…’ references to Jasmine
  • Jasmine Paragraph 1 – ‘…after their arrival’ references the colonists
  • Jasmine Paragraph 2 – ‘She is a primary school teacher…’ references Jasmine
  • Leanne Paragraph 1 – ‘She is a mother…’ references Leanne
  • Leanne Paragraph 4 – ‘…her work on the Darug…’ references Leanne’s work
  • Leanne Paragraph 4 – ‘…evolved into this book’ references Cooee Mittigar
  • Leanne Paragraph 5 – ‘They hope…’ references Jasmine and Leanne

(ACELA1491)   (EN2-9B)   (ACELY1692)   (EN2-4A)


Examining grammar and vocabulary

Explore the Aboriginal language Darug words and the grammatical function of each as it is used within the context of the book. Split the class into smaller groups and ask each group to select one double-page spread. Children collect the Darug words on their double-page spread and complete the five columns of the grammatical analysis table.

  • The first column lists the Darug word.
  • The second column is to copy the clause to show the Darug word in context. By Year 4, students can bring their knowledge of clauses from ACELA1481 (Year 3). When the clause is not the whole sentence, use an ellipses (…) to indicate that some of the sentence has been left out.
  • The third column can be copied from the book.
  • The fourth column is to list the word classes such as noun, proper noun, adjective or verb.
  • The fifth column identifies the function (job) of the word. This column will probably generate the most discussion as it’s hard work to put into words the function (job) of a word.

Here is an example of the grammatical analysis of the Darug words from double-page spread #1.

Darug word

Copy the clause and bold the Darug word

Word meaning

Word class

Function of the word

Warami Warami mittigar. Hello noun Name of greeting
mittigar Warami mittigar. Friend noun Name of a person
Darug We welcome you to Darug country. Name of a place Noun (proper noun) Name of a place
Cooee Cooee mittigar Come here Verb Providing an instruction
Daruga …join our Daruga mudjin. Of the Darug people Adjective Describes the family
mudjin …join our Daruga mudjin. family noun Name of group of people who are related
budyeri Let’s make some budyeri dreaming. good adjective Describes the dreaming as good dreaming

After each group has completed their table, groups who chose the same double-page spread can come together to compare their analysis and continue the discussion.

Bring all the groups together as a whole class and in a teacher-led class discussion to consider how the use of Aboriginal words for nouns, proper nouns, adjectives and verbs enriched the meaning of the text. Make a connection to authorial choice and discuss why Jasmine Seymour would mix Aboriginal and standard English words.
(ACELA1488)   (EN2-1A)   (ACELA1493)   (EN2-9B)   (ACELA1498)   (EN2-9B)   (ACELY1688)   (EN2-10C)   (ACELT1604)   (EN2-9B)


Rich assessment task

Display double-page spread #3 and ask students to re-read the text. Ask them to identify phrases that indicate the surrounding ‘circumstances’ (refer to ACELA1451 from Year 1). If circumstances are new for this class, the teacher can prompt by asking for the group of words (phase) that provide information about ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘with whom’. For example, in double-page spread #3, the following phrases were located:

  • on Nura
  • through the minak and darraburra
  • with me
  • through the times of yanada, yiluk and birrong
  • in the long, long ago
  • in the now and forever
  • into the songlines of Nura
  • by its creation people, yallamundie, yibban-da, animals and lands

Ask the students to identify the grammatical pattern in these phrases. Points of discussion may include:

  • all of these phrases begin with a preposition (see Australian Curriculum glossary), so these are called prepositional phrases
  • many of these phrases use the word ‘the’ (which starts a noun group)
  • no verbs used (which is a point of difference between a phrase and a clause).

Go through the phrases and classify them as types of circumstances, such as those that tell ‘where’ (place), ‘when’ (time), ‘how’ (manner), ‘why’ (cause) and ‘with whom’ (accompaniment).

  • on Nura – ‘on’ is preposition, circumstance of place as tells where
  • through the minak and darraburra – ‘through’ is preposition, circumstance of place as tells where
  • with me – ‘with’ is preposition, circumstance of accompaniment as tells with whom
  • through the times of yanada, yiluk and birrong – ‘through’ is preposition, circumstance of time as tells when
  • in the long, long ago – ‘in’ is preposition, circumstance of time as tells when
  • in the now and forever – ‘in’ is preposition, circumstance of time as tells when
  • into the songlines of Nura – ‘into’ is preposition, circumstance of place as tells where
  • by its creation people, yallamundie, yibban-da, animals and lands – ‘by’ is preposition, circumstance of manner as tells how

Discussion should centre on how some prepositions can do a few functions (jobs) such as ‘through’ and ‘in’ which both can tell about place and time.

Distribute some other double-page spreads to small groups of students and ask them to undertake the same process for locating and classifying the prepositional phrases. Discuss how authors use prepositional phrases to provide circumstantial details for the reader. The communication is enhanced because the reader is given more information.
(ACELA1493)   (EN2-9B)   (ACELA1495)   (EN2-9B)   (ACELT1604)   (EN2-9B)   (ACELY1688)   (EN2-10C)



The activities listed are in preparation for the assessment task. Working in small groups, the students will create a multimodal digital information text about one specific flora, fauna or event in Cooee Mittigar. All of the following topics can be searched in Kpedia and Kimages and facts and images can be freely used under Attribution-ShareAlike license, unless stated otherwise. Some of the websites will come from outside of New South Wales. This is because these flora, fauna and events are more widespread than New South Wales.

  • Physical location and life cycle of the bottle brush plant (Callistemon) (double-page spread #4).
  • The flora and fauna emblems of each state and territory in Australia (double-page spread #4 shows the State flora symbol for NSW, the waratah).
  • Why the feather tail glider is a protected species (double-page spread #4).
  • Physical characteristics, habitat and life cycle of the eastern rosella (double-page spread #5).
  • Physical characteristics, habitat and life cycle of the long-necked turtle (chelodina longi collis) (double-page spread #5).
  • Why reptiles need sunlight and warmth to survive (double-page spread #7).
  • Physical characteristics, habitat and life cycle of the golden orb spider (double-page spread #9).
  • Physical characteristics, habitat and life cycle of emus (double-page spread #10).
  • The location and length of the Hawkesbury River and how humans interact with the Hawkesbury River (double-page spread #11).
  • Migration of the long-finned eel, travels 4000 km out to the Coral Sea near Vanuatu to breed (double-page spread #12).
  • The process of and benefits of fire stick farming (double-page spread #13).
  • Origins of the dingo (double-page spread #14)
  • Physical characteristics, habitat and life cycle of echidnas (double-page spread #15).
  • How to make a spear out of a grasstree (double-page spread #16)
  • Physical characteristics, habitat and life cycle of sulphur-crested cockatoo (double-page spread # 17).
  • Physical location and life cycle of the red flowering gum (corymbia ficifolia) (double-page spread #17).
  • Physical characteristics, habitat and life cycle of the brolga (double-page spread #18).
  • Physical characteristics, habitat and life cycle of the black swan (double-page spread # 19).

The task is for each pair to create a two-minute photostory to educate an audience of their peers with factual information about the flora, fauna or event. Microsoft Photo Story is a user-friendly free app that allows students to create a narrated visual story including background music, transitions and pan and zoom effects.

Each student should also add a single slide bio about themselves, using an explicit paragraph structure that includes subheadings:

  • Paragraph 1: Name and place of birth (if born in Australia) or place of arrival (if immigrated from overseas), including the Indigenous name (refer to interactive map used at start of the unit)
  • Paragraph 2: History of time at the current school, including the Indigenous name of the country on which the school is located (refer to interactive map used at the start of the unit)
  • Paragraph 3: Commentary about themselves as writer and producer of texts.

Students will need to be scaffolded through the following activities over a number of separate lessons.

Finding Content & Photos
  • Identifying keywords that can be used to search the internet for the required information
  • Refining keywords to narrow the internet search for the required information
  • Analysing why one set of search terms yielded more appropriate results than another set of search terms (e.g. including ‘for kids’ helps, or clicking on ‘images’ if sourcing photos for the photostory)
  • Making strategic choices about which websites to access and which websites to dismiss (based on appropriateness for age and skill level, scroll past the ‘ads’ shown in a grey box if using Kiddle)
Technical Knowledge and Skills
  • Saving photos from the internet to a file on desktop for their photostory
  • How to reference photos from the internet that are used in the photostory
  • Typing the text and inserting pictures into the photostory
  • How to prepare and save audio narration to add to photostory
  • Sourcing, and preparing background music to add to the photostory
  • Exporting the completed photostory file for shared viewing
Design Knowledge and Skills 
  • Watching some photostories to identify the features of effective narration (e.g. tone, pace, pitch, volume, clarity and coherence)
  • Watching some photostories to identify the features of effective visuals (clarity, focus, transitions)

Some example photostories are listed in the More Resources tab located at the bottom of this page. These photostories vary in terms of their appeal and this makes an excellent point of discussion as the children create the criteria for an effective photostory.


Rich assessment task

Assessing the writing knowledge and skills

  • Information text that matches the purpose (to inform) and audience (audience of their peers)
  • Deciding on flow and coherence, including title page, and effective use of subheadings and pronoun references within the information text
  • Using prepositional phrases in the information text to provide the listener with more information about when, where, why, how and with whom
  • Bringing in their knowledge of Darug language (double-page spread #22)
  • Writing their own three-paragraph biography, paying attention to the purpose of each paragraph and pronoun references
  • Sourcing information about Indigenous country names from the interactive Indigenous country map to add to their biography.

(ACELA1488)   (EN2-1A)   (ACELA1493)   (EN2-9B)   (ACELA1495)   (EN2-9B)   (ACELA1496)   (EN2-10C)   (ACELA1498)   (EN2-9B)   (ACELA1779)   (EN2-5A)   (ACELA1793)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELA1828)   (EN2-5A)   (ACELY1688)   (EN2-10C)   (ACELY1689)   (EN2-2A)   (ACELY1690)   (EN2-2A)   (ACELY1694)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELY1697)   (EN2-10C)