Connecting to prior knowledge

Duck! will engage Foundation level students with its animal and weather themes. To get students talking about these themes and talking about what they already know, introduce them to a selection of songs:

Before reading

Look at the front and back covers of the book. Guide students to pay close attention to the background images. Ask:

  • Who might the book be about? (Refer to the title as well as the picture.)
  • Are there any clues as to where the story is set?

Read the blurb on the back. Using the Rally Robin or Round Robin strategy, have students brainstorm animals and objects they might find on a farm. Begin a word wall with a farm theme.

Conduct a picture walk through the story, stopping when the horse says ‘Some are ducks and some are not’. Using the Think, Pair, Share strategy, students can discuss what they think is going to happen in the story and why the duck keeps saying ‘Duck!’
(ACELY1646)   (ENe-1A)

During reading

Read the story for enjoyment. Encourage students to join in when the duck yells ‘Duck!’

Look again at the title of the book. Does the word ‘duck’ mean something other than the bird? Where might you hear this word? Connect the sentence on the back cover: A delightfully duckish tale of farmyard disaster.  

Reread, if necessary, and focus on the illustrations. Do the students notice what’s happening in the background? What is happening with the weather? How do they know? Add some relevant weather words to your word wall.
(ACELY1784)   (ENe-1A)

After reading

Using a simple face outline template, ask students to draw their reaction to what happened at the end of the story. (You may need to explain the concept of a twist.) If appropriate, students can write a short sentence: I was…because/when…
(ACELT1783)   (ENe-10c)


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

Duck was trying to help the other farm animals. Ask students if they have ever tried to help someone and how they felt if they weren’t taken seriously or if their offer of help was rejected.

Use some of de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats to discuss ‘helping’ when you’re only little.

(WHITE HAT) Brainstorm a list of people who help us and discuss how they help:

  • at home
  • at school
  • in our community

(GREEN HAT) Draw and share all the ways you can help others when you’re only 5 or 6-years old.

(RED HAT) Use the Freeze Frames drama activity to have students show:

  • how Duck felt at different stages of the story
  • how they feel when they are able to help (or are listened to)
  • how they feel when they are not allowed to help (or not listened to)

Include in the discussion that there may be situations where it is not appropriate or safe to help.
(ACELY1650)   (ENe-4A)   (ACELT1575)   (ENe-11D)


Rich assessment task

Discuss and unpack the following sentence, or a similar one: Even though, Duck was little, he tried to help the animals by warning them of danger.

Create a class book or display, ‘Even though I am little…’, about ways children can help others. Have students draw themselves helping someone, and finish the sentence: I can help people by….

Have those who have ideas start, and then do a smaller group brainstorm for those who need support.

Finish up with a whole class discussion. Read the dedication on the last page.
(ACELY1651)   (ENe-2A)

Responding to the text

Considering Kindness

Reread the text, encouraging students to join in and drawing their attention to each animal’s response to the cry of ‘Duck!’ Ask students to listen carefully as you read each response again, and let them respond with a thumbs up or down to the question: Are the animals being kind to Duck? Invite students to share stories of when they have experienced unkindness. (Be careful to avoid ‘finger pointing’ – you may wish to recast this question if you feel it would create issues within your class.)

In pairs, students can re-enact the responses given by different animals, replacing words that feel unkind with more thoughtful ones. For example, instead of saying ‘You have funny, webbed feet…’, the cow could say ‘Ducks have webbed feet which are great for swimming…’

Invite students to share their mini-skits with the group.
(ACELT1831)   (ENe-11D)

Reflecting on the skits, ask students to contribute to a T-chart comparing unkind and kind words. Discuss why words such as ‘funny’ can seem unkind in certain contexts.

Unkind Words  Kind Words
funny, webbed feet (cow) awesome webbed feet which are perfect for swimming
(The horse) snorted. (The horse) smiled.

Return to the word wall started in the previous section and add words that describe the animals and their actions. Categorise these by identifying the kind or unkind words with a coloured sticker or symbol.
(ACELA1429)   (ENe-6B)

Visual Elements

Have students focus the expressions on the faces of the animals. Ask:

  • How does Duck’s expression change throughout the story? (concerned, upset, relieved)
  • What about the other animals? (bored, annoyed, worried, sorry)
  • Examine each page and ask what extra information does each character expression give the reader?

Discuss the concept of illustrations providing extra information and detail to a story. What information can we infer about how Duck and the other animals are feeling at different points in the story, e.g. at the beginning, midway and at the end?

Have students draw each character face. Using speech or thought bubbles, ask students to write what they think the animals would be saying or thinking. Encourage the use of the written text to inform these inferences.
(ACELA1786)   (ENe-8B)


Exploring character and theme

Discuss the idea of theme in the context of children’s literature.

Use think, pair, share to discuss what Duck does/wants in the story and why. Collate student responses and guide students towards determining a theme for the story. You may wish to use a chart as shown below:

Title Character Wants / Actions Why? (theme)
Duck! Duck warn the other animals worried they’ll get hurt; they’re his friends
doesn’t want to get squashed, runs away scared he’ll be hurt

Use a similar process to discuss other characters in the story.

Read or watch a selection of stories with similar themes. Titles may include:

Continue to compare and contrast selected characters from other texts. Also discuss any similarities and differences in the themes.
(ACELT1783)   (ENe-10c)


Rich assessment task

Read or watch The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace.

Referring back to Duck! and other texts examined, discuss the concept of kindness both as it’s represented in the texts and other examples witnessed by students during their daily lives.

Use the Kindness Quilt template, or your own design and invite students to work individually or in small groups to create a class kindness quilt.
(ACELT1580)   (ENe-10c)

Examining text structure and organisation

Pattern and Repetition

Draw student attention to the repetition and building pattern in the response of the animals each time Duck yells ‘Duck!’:

You are a duck. I am a [horse]. You are…and I am…

You are a duck and he is a [horse] and I am a [cow]. You have…and I have…

Teach students a variation of the I have, who has? card game:

  • Distribute copied pictures from the story (or pictures showing animal characteristics).
  • Model the sentence pattern: I am a [duck] / You are a [duck] and I am a [cow] / You are a [duck], he is a [cow] and I am a …
  • Ensure students can see each others’ pictures, and take it in turns to build the sentences as shown.

As students become more confident, they can vary the patterns, modelling their responses on the text, or adding different elements such as personality traits.
(ACELT1785)   (ENe-10C)

Examining the structure of a narrative

Discuss and name the four key components of a narrative – characters, setting, problem and resolution.

Using a Retelling Glove, guide the class to identify the setting, main characters, problem and solution/ending in Duck! Note that the last finger is for the student to identify their favourite part of the story.

Provide materials for students to make their own retelling ‘gloves’ (hand template, simple images to help recall the components, e.g. simple faces for characters, house for setting, question mark/knot/storm cloud for problem, sunshine/clapping hands for resolution, heart for favourite part). Students may then use their gloves to retell Duck! (or any other stories used during this unit) to a buddy class, to parents or as a recording for online portfolios.
(ACELT1578)   (ENe-8B)


Examining grammar and vocabulary


Meg McKinley uses some interesting vocabulary in this text. This activity works best with half of the class at a time with the teacher leading the session. Each student in the smaller group has one small post-it note. As the teacher reads the story again, each student identifies one interesting vocabulary word they would like to discuss. Students practise saying the word.

Place the post-it note on the word and scribe the student’s suggestions about what the word means within the context of the sentence. Possible words include:

  • swishing, cud, wallowing, sheeping, snout, scoffed, absolutely, snorted, waddly, noble, ridiculous, webbed, cloven hooves, poky, etc.

Bring the whole class together and ask the children to discuss their interesting word, noting the words that were common across the two groups and the student’s suggestions for what the words mean.
(ACELA1437)   (ENe-6B)

Ending Punctuation

Discuss with students how punctuation can help us when we’re reading aloud. Enlarge the text on pages 5 and 6 and guide students to identify the different punctuation they notice. Focus on the exclamation and question marks.

Watch the YouTube clip about exclamation and question marks. Note that the video uses the term ‘period’ instead of full stop.

Show students the following text from Duck!

  • Duck! (as yelled by Duck)
  • “Duck?” The horse snorted.

Discuss why the same word is followed by different punctuation? Accept all responses and, if needed, guide students to the purpose of each sentence and how the author wants us to read the words. Practise reading sentences using expression guided by the ending punctuation.

Print and laminate a series of cards with question marks, exclamation marks and full stops. Glue these individually to paddle pop sticks. Tell students you are going on a punctuation hunt. As you move around the classroom and school, students should be on the lookout for punctuation marks. When they see a particular mark, they should hold up the corresponding stick. Practise saying the sentence, if appropriate, using the correct expression.

Alternatives include keeping a tally of punctuation marks, using a specific gesture or pose for each mark or, if the noise isn’t an issue, having students call out the name of the mark when they see it. Invite students to photograph the punctuation symbols around the school and add the images to their punctuation wall.
(ACELY1649)   (4Ne-4A)   (ACELA1432)   (ENe-9B)


Look again at the title of the book, Duck! Ask what ‘duck’ means in the context of the story. Some students may identify the double meaning of ‘duck’. If not, guide them in this direction. Explain that words with the same spelling but two or more meanings are called homonyms.

Create some flashcards which contain sets of homonyms to share and discuss with students.

Using the flashcards as prompts, introduce students to the Coffeepot Game. In this oral game, students will not only practise differentiating homonyms, but will also reinforce the concept of a question.
(ACELA1437)   (ENe-6B)


Rich assessment task

Divide Duck! up into sections (enough for each student, or pair of students, in the class). Students will paint or draw their section of the story, and write key words, or a short sentence describing and retelling the section they have illustrated.

As a class, sequence the pictures for a classroom display. Film the students as they orally retell their section of the story.
(ACELY1650)   (ENe-4A)

Story Pyramid

Review the words collected on the word wall you’ve been adding to in previous sections. Work together to categorise these words under the following headings:

  • animal names
  • weather words
  • words to describe animal features
  • words to describe the setting
  • action words (or those related to the events)

Ask students if they would like to add additional words.

Using a story pyramid template, model how to add words from the word wall to create a poem about the events in Duck! You may wish to modify categories or allow extra words if needed. Have students, either individually or in small cooperative groups, create their own story pyramids, either using Duck as the main character of the pyramid, or one of the other animals.
(ACELY1651)   (ENe-2A)

Innovating on the Text – Confusing Conversations

Refer back to the discussion in the previous section on homonyms and how they can create confusion. Remind the students that when the duck called ‘Duck!’ he meant to watch out, but the other animals thought he was saying they were ducks.

Ask students to imagine what sort of confusion could be created with some of the other homonyms explored. Model the construction of some confusing conversations between people, for example:

  • Fly!
  • I can’t fly, I don’t have wings.
  • No! There’s a fly in your soup.

Provide two students with a pair of homonyms each and ask them to come up with their own confusing conversation. Students can then perform these conversations for the rest of the group.
(ACELT1831)   (ENe-11D)

Hot Seating

Show students the double page spread on pages 28–29 (or any other double page featuring all characters). Start this activity with a game of Guess Who I am with students volunteering to act as one of the characters, or objects in the picture, by using gesture, facial expression or a short sentence to represent their chosen character.

Discuss with students the types of questions they might ask the characters. Remind students of the question words they can use and give some examples to start them off:

  • Cow, how did you feel when you got called a duck?
  • Pig, what is your favourite thing about living on the farm?
  • Horse, who is your best friend on the farm?
  • Sheep, why didn’t you pay attention to Duck?

Introduce the concept of hot seating by explaining to students that some of them will be the animals from the story and others will be journalists, investigators, family members, etc. who want to find out what ‘really’ happened on that day. Rotate the students through the roles. You may wish to record all or part of the session and play it back to students for comments, or to assist them with the final activity.
(ACELY1784)   (ENe-1A)


Rich assessment task

Using the ideas gained from the ‘hot seating’ activity, students will tell the story from one character’s point of view. Provide students with a simple Beginning, Middle, End story map template where they can plan their story with illustrations and simple sentences. Have students work with older buddies, or in small groups, to use a story-making app, such as Puppet Pals or Book Creator, to create a digital version of their retelling.
(ACELY1654)   (ENe-3A)