Connecting to prior knowledge
Begin your exploration of Fog a Dox by Bruce Pascoe by exploring the cover. Allow an open response and if prompting is necessary, draw attention to the artwork on the cover, the techniques used in the background and the colour of the fox. Encourage some discussion around the title of the book in relation to the image of the fox. Then go to the back cover where there is another image of the fox and read the blurb. Several themes for the book are introduced here. Discuss the purpose of the blurb and how well these three sentences fulfil that purpose in terms of enticing the reader. Students might like to discuss this after checking some blurbs on a few other texts in the class library.
Provide some time for students to work in groups to do some research with the purpose of reporting back to the group.
- One group of students can research Bruce Pascoe beginning with the short bio in the back of the book.
- One group can find out about the other books authored by Bruce Pascoe.
Students can read the book independently, however, as this is a fast moving engaging tale, if time allows it is recommended the book is read aloud in one or two sessions (maximum three). The book is written in third person, is in past tense and is sometimes ‘poetic’. The narrative is gripping making it a perfect read aloud experience for older students.
If you choose to read aloud but have limited time, try to read to page 49 in the first reading. For the next reading to page 58 and then the remainder of the book. Do not ask questions or quiz the students. Read, close the book and move to the next lesson. Allow students to take in the narrative and personally reflect on what they have heard before coming together again the next week. It is likely you will overhear students talking about the book, what they have heard and what they are thinking about in their own time.
(ACELT1613) (EN3-8D) (ACELY1709) (EN3-1A)
Exploring the text in context of our community, school and ‘me’
There are many aspects of this book that individual students might connect to personally across the themes of friendship, loneliness, prejudice, Indigenous perspective and nature. In groups of four or five invite students to talk about their personal reaction to this book and about anything that resonated with them. Conclude by inviting students to share their thoughts with the whole class.
Then in the same groups ask students to give a personal response to the following prompts.
- ‘Albert cuts down trees, not because he doesn’t like trees or even wants to, it is his job’.
- Albert knew some words from his grandfather’s mother’s Maap language. He thought a few words were better than none.
- Maria’s mother wrung her hands and Maria knew that the wringing would ‘squeeze tears’ from her mother’s eyes.
- Dave wanted the company of a living creature, someone he could talk to.
- ‘But people can’t abide anything different and many can’t relax until the difference is destroyed.’ (p. 45).
Rich assessment task
Ask students to write a personal reaction to the text. This should not be a retelling but a response to the whole text or an event or character in the text and personal reflections coming from that. Given the wide-ranging possibilities, this task will be assessed on the connections being made, depth of understanding and clarity of the writing. While this is personal writing, ensure students understand it will be read and assessed by the teacher.
Responding to the text
Ask if any students are willing to share the personal reflections prepared for the assessment task. If so select three or four to be read to the whole class to reinforce how each reader (listener) has a personal response.
Provide copies of the text and in small groups ask students to discuss the following quotes and statements from the text. Groups can use popplet to organise their ideas.
- Page 27: ‘Brim looked up at Albert and sniffed the awful scent of fox and ducked her head down to nuzzle her pups to check that they had not been harmed by the dreadful presence of foxes. How many foxes? Lotsa foxes. She was too annoyed to count them, there was lotsa foxes and she didn’t care for them one bit.’
- Page 30: ‘If Albert thought it was all right for a bitch to suckle a fox, lotsa foxes, then it must be all right.’
- Page 36: ‘Some people could find enemies anywhere. All Albert saw were living creatures, little animals of innocence.’
- Albert is worried that Fog will be disliked because he is a fox. Engage in a discussion about stereotypes and prejudice.
Exploring plot, character, setting and theme
This seemingly simple narrative provides opportunities for a range of responses that might be quite personal. The characters are diverse and each is quite complex, alone, and their paths cross throughout the text. Begin by having small groups explore each character by reading the text and extracting key vocabulary, quotes and events that the author uses to create these characters before doing a group character description. Ask students to explain how the author’s language choices influence their personal response to that character.
|Your group’s conclusion about this character
|Talks to animals
Strong connection to the land
Rich assessment task
Working independently, ask students to explore the character of Dave in a similar way to the last activity. Remind them that the reader first meets Dave when Albert recalled him getting one of Brim’s pups and then later when he visited bringing a collar for Fog. Finally Dave was key in the rescue of Albert.
Students independently collect information from the text before writing a paragraph in their own words describing and summing up the character Dave.
|Quotes that reveal aspects of Dave’s character
Assess the planning sheet (above) and the final paragraph. Look for connections the students make to the author’s craft and how the words, actions, events and relationships create the character.
(ACELT1615) (EN3-5B) (ACELY1801) (EN3-3A)
Examining text structure and organisation
Fog a Dox is a narrative. Check your students are familiar with the structure of a narrative and revise if necessary. This novel is organised into seven chapters. Draw the students’ attention to the small pencil drawing and the title at the beginning of each chapter.
- Chapter 1. Lyrebirds
- Chapter 2. Choughs
- Chapter 3. Dogs and Doxes
- Chapter 4. Birthdays
- Chapter 5. Spinebills
- Chapter 6. Bush nurse
- Chapter 7. The River
Working with a copy of the text, ask small groups to think about the structure chosen by the author. Ask each small group to select a chapter to:
- Explain the illustration and the connection to the content of the chapter.
- Explain the chapter heading and the connection to the content of the chapter.
There are two main stories within this text that come together; Albert’s story and Maria’s story. These intersect towards the end at the bush hospital. Discuss how the author crafted this moment and the effect on the reader.
While Fog A Dox is a narrative, it contains some factual information. Have students examine how the author incorporates factual information.
Use page 25 where some information is given about the chough bird and page 103 as an example where Albert gives some information about the stingless bush bee. Share opinions and findings with the whole class.
Examining grammar and vocabulary
This text is rich in vocabulary and figurative language used so effectively that often a few words can transport the reader through this text.
In three groups have students engage in word searches. Ask all groups to note the page numbers of the words they find in preparation for the next activity.
- Group 1: Search for words that might be more commonly used in the bush or considered slang. Use an audio dictionary or App to learn how to pronounce the words, e.g. Cambridge Dictionary.
- Group 2: Search for poetic devices such as similes, personification and examples of imagery.
- Group 3: Search for words that are unfamiliar.
Use an audio dictionary or App to learn how to pronounce the words, e.g. Cambridge Dictionary.
As the groups search for words, they can briefly discuss the words and the context in which they are found as they record them.
|Group 1 Slang
|Group 2 Poetic Devices
|Group 3 Unfamiliar vocabulary
|hard yakka (p. 35)
|Personification: The wind shrieked at them, biting at their faces and hands (p. 79)
|convivial (p. 18)
|blighter (p. 41)
|Simile: beak like a pair of tin snips (p. 14)
|awry (p. 49)
|crook (p. 75)
|Imagery: Their fat, pink tummies fit to burst (p. 32)
|delirium (p. 71)
|bloke (p. 13)
|Simile: He lolled like a dead sheep (p. 73)
|abysmal (p. 79)
|gunna (p. 100)
|Simile: Loomed like a dark shroud (p. 67)
|voracious (p. 9)
Do a whole class share, allowing each group to select some examples from their lists that demonstrate how vocabulary choices and figurative language can express shades of meaning. Then back in their groups, have students work through their lists recording the meaning for the word or phrase. First step is to return to the text using the recorded page numbers to check the context where the word of phrase has been used.
|How it is used in the text
|refers to Albert’s wood splitting
|refers to a man Albert feels sorry for
|a person regarded with pity
To conclude, remind the students that Albert learned some words from the Maap language from his grandfather. Conclude by asking students to work in small groups to make a list of Maap words occurring in the text.
mirrigan for dog (p. 14)
yarren for the shrike thrush (p. 111)
Rich assessment task
1. Show the students a short video about Indigenous world views:
In this 8-minute video, Louise Alexander introduces Uncle Ernie Grant’s Framework for an Indigenous Perspective. This framework has six elements: Land, Language, Culture, Time, Place and Relationships.
2. Ask students to review the text and the lists again and identify words and phrases that make links to the six elements of an Indigenous Perspective. For example, aspects of Indigenous culture can be found throughout the text, particularly with the references to the characters’ respect and love of the land and nature. Have student find these references and think about how these references occur.
Provide some examples and ask students to identify their connection with an Indigenous Perspective using Uncle Ernie Grant’s framework:
- Page 12: ‘”Beautiful little boors”, the old man murmured, unconsciously using the Maap word for babies.’
- Page 97: ‘The re-browed fire tail which Albert called towered in his grandfather’s language.’
- Page 110: ‘That’s our spirit bird. When we see him everything’s all right.’ (Wedge-tailed eagle)
- page 111: ‘Yarren we call that one. He’s a good bird. Lovely to have around the camp. He is a good friend of our people.’
Friendship and love are strong themes in this book. These themes are presented in a number of ways between the various characters, sometimes in unexpected ways.
As a whole class brainstorm the characters connected by the theme of friendship or love.
This may include the list below and other examples found in the text.
- Albert and his love for the bush and country.
- Albert and the reciprocal love between him and Brim.
- Brim and her love for her pups.
- Maria and her mother.
- Friendship between Albert and Dave.
Together look at the brainstormed lists to map the friendship/love connections using the text. Use the IWB or mind mapping software.
For example: The developing friendship/respect between Dave and Colin. ‘Mate, thought Colin, a mate of me uncle’s, mate enough to carry ninety kilograms in the dark. That’s a decent sort of mate.’ (p. 104).
Repeat this task thinking about another theme in the book, prejudice. Prejudice is embedded throughout the text as various characters deal with not always being accepted. For example Albert knew people would not accept him having a fox as a pet so called Fog a dox. Finally on page 107 Albert admits to Maria that Fog is a fox. ‘We call him a dox so that people won’t kill him, but he’s a fox and one day he’ll go’.
Another example is how Dave protects himself by not disclosing his last name. ‘You didn’t get far in the bush world of cattlemen and splitters with a name like Lovelock. Especially if you weren’t a slap-on-the-back sort of mate, a few-quick-beers-before-the-missus-finds-out sort of fellow. No, that sort of bloke would laugh in the face of a man called Lovelock. (pp. 38–39)
- Page 36: Some saw Brim as the enemy because she had dingo in her.
- Page 45: Some accused Fog of stealing chickens and ducklings even though they had never seen her.
- Page 89: Maria and Nora Foran talk about teasing.
During the introduction of Fog a Dox the students engaged in a brief discussion about the blurb. At that point comments were made before the narrative had been read. Revisit the blurb and invite comments on the effectiveness of the three sentences in the blurb. It could be argued the final sentence encapsulates the book, ‘A gentle tale of courage, acceptance and respect, Fog A Dox shows the strength of true friendship.’
In small groups ask students to discuss this and their opinions on how well this sentence describes Fog A Dox. Finally students are to individually provide an argument supporting the final sentence as it is, or provide an alternative sentence.
Rich assessment task
In small groups students plan and create a powerpoint or glogster on friendship inspired by the various characters and their friendships in the text. Allow them to represent friendships with words, images or both. Some might like to form a group and do freeze frames representing friendship. These can be photographed and woven into the presentation.
Assess the collaborative and decision-making strategies in the group to create and execute the plan.
Guidelines for the finished product: