Pre-reading activities can sometimes make or break a unit: it allows the teacher to direct their students to elements in the text that are most likely to engage and connect with students’ lives. Further to this, it positions the text in relation to the English curriculum and connected texts, emphasising the significance of intertextuality.

Please note that this is the intention of Activity 1. This also demands that teachers know the students in their classrooms, and are sensitive to their strengths, vulnerabilities and social connections.

Activity 1: Pre-reading: Memories of early friendships  

Teacher models responses to some of the following topics before asking students the same. It is suggested that teachers use photographs, home videos or artefacts to enrich their memories.

Consider the following:

  • memories of early friendships
  • qualities or activities that marked those friendships
  • challenges or memories of early fights or friendship break-ups
  • qualities you admire in friends
  • tensions that can threaten friendships.

Share your memories with a partner or the class.
(ACELA1551)   (EN5-5C)

Activity 2: Vocabulary building

The focus of this next activity is the on-going development of students vocabulary. The ability to write in a concise manner is becoming increasingly important and a broad vocabulary is essential.

For this purpose a quiz has been designed using Quizlet, a free online tool that allows teachers to create a range of quizzes tailored to meet specific needs of students.

In this instance a quiz, based around the theme of friendship, has been made for your students and can be accessed here. Students do not need to sign in to complete the quiz, Friendship vocabulary for Fox study. However, to create your own or tailor the quiz according to the needs of your students, you will need to set a free account and log in.
(ACELA1561)   (EN5-1A)

Activity 3: Constructions and analysis of friendship through pop culture texts or social media

Students may select one of the following and report back to a group or the class. This activity paves the way for the theme of friendship and analysis of Fox (Wild & Brooks, 2000), and provides an opportunity to practice their vocabulary list in context.

  • Research a film, song, video clip or novel about friendship and prepare to show the trailer or cover, or listen to/view part of the text selected. What aspects of friendship are represented in your selected text, and why might this matter to the intended audience?


  • Research and describe an aspect of friendship on social media. For example, how are friendships built, consolidated or threatened via interactions on Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or other social media of your choice.

(NB: The group discussion should focus on the nature of friendships quite broadly, rather than on individual relationships in order to protect privacy and vulnerabilities.)
(ACELT1635)   (ACELA1560)   (EN5-7D)   (EN5-1A)

Note on providing access to the text: 

For this unit, and to comply with copyright regulations, you will need to provide multiple copies of the text, either through purchase or borrowing from school/local libraries and friends. It is recommended that there are no more than two students per hard copy because of the demands of close analysis.

Activity 4: Class reading and initial response to Fox

Step 1: Depending on your class, you may choose to read the text aloud to begin with and then allow students to read and explore in pairs or individually.
Step 2: Close the book and without referencing or looking for answers in the book, respond to the following:

  • Which character is most memorable, or which is the character you most sympathise with? Provide a justification for your choice.
  • Record any particular words or lines that you can recall.
  • Does this book, or the characters, remind you of any other texts? If so, what is that text and what is the connection?
  • Describe the landscape in detail.
  • What did you notice about the typeface/font and/or illustrations, and what might be their significance?
  • Why might some people regard this as a picture book for adults rather than young people?
    (ACELT1636)   (ACELY1744)   (EN5-4B)   (EN5-2A)


Synthesising task

Activity 5 
Step 1: Based on your findings above, discuss the following question with your partner or in a group:
In what ways does this picture book represent or pick up on any one of the friendship themes you identified in Activity 1: Memories of early friendships?
Step 2: Return to the picture book and discuss one page or a moment in the narrative such as a piece of dialogue to illustrate the theme or point you discussed in Step 1.
Step 3: Write a 150 word commentary on the theme of friendship in Fox. Include close reference to the picture book.
(ACELT1635)   (ACELY1743)   (EN5-7D)   (EN5-2A)

The following activities are designed to refamiliarise students with the picture book as a literary multimodal text.

Activity 6: Multimodality and the picture book

Consider the following video as a familiarisation for yourself regarding the vital place of multimodality within contemporary literacy education and curriculum. Jon Callow is an Australian expert in the field and this provides a useful snapshot of issues and analytic tools regarding diverse texts, including picture books such as Fox. View here.

The resources below are designed for student familiarisation with multimodality, and they may choose from their preferred mode to develop their understanding in the area: either video, podcast or pdf. The texts are by Shaun Tan, a prominent Australian author and illustrator, and have been chosen because they are engaging and relevant.

  • PDF Essay: Words and Pictures: An intimate Distance (2010)
  • Podcast: Words and Pictures: An intimate Distance (2010) (15 minutes)
  • Video interview: What are the steps in the process of creating a picture book? (2.5 minutes)

Activity 7: Introduction to the metalanguage of visual analysis (Quizlet)

Just as students need to build their vocabulary to talk about themes such as friendship, they also need to develop the metalanguage of analysis they will need across the English curriculum into the senior years. In the case of this unit on Fox, it is the metalanguage to describe the multimodality of a picture book that is most vital. A quizlet has been designed for you to use with your class. It can be accessed here.
(ACELY1745)   (EN5-1A)

Activity 8: Synthesising task: Deconstructing the visual and literary elements. 

Step 1: The teacher, in discussion with the students, is to model the process of deconstructing the literary and visual elements of a double-page spread. For your convenience a template with detailed analysis and suggested commentary is available here (PDF, 141KB). Please note that this analysis and commentary is written from our perspective and can modified and changed according to your own views. The pages in focus are the 13th and 14th pages from the beginning of the story (i.e. Dog on left page, Fox on right-hand page).

Fox pp22-23

Step 2: Now, pass over responsibility for deconstruction of page 12 to the class as a group. This will include teacher-guidance in preparation for independent analysis in Activity 9.

Page 12 is suggested because of the power of the image and the more obvious visual elements of the text and literary elements of the prose. The blank template for student use can be located and downloaded here (PDF, 117KB).
(ACELA1551)   (ACELA1552)   (ACELA1553)   (ACELA1556)   (ACELA1560)   (ACELA1561)   (ACELT1635)  (ACELT1772)   (ACELY1742)   (ACELY1743)   (ACELY1744)   (ACELY1745)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-1A)   (EN5-7D)   (EN5-6C)

Since it was published in 2000, Fox has won many Australian and international awards, and been translated into other languages, suggesting that the Australian setting and story has universal themes and appeal.

It is interesting to note the intersection of indigenous and non-indigenous animals, and the damage that Magpie and Dog have endured as a result of the bush, climate or disease. Only the Fox, the more recently introduced species, seems unscathed, and it is this that allows him to take advantage of Dog and Magpie. However, this is just one interpretation of the story that may not resonate with others who see it as a story of friendship and betrayal.

Some may read the story as an uplifting one, where Magpie learns her lesson and returns to the comfort of her relationship with Dog. Others may mourn the dependence of Magpie on others to ensure her survival, and her loss of independence. This may be especially so for those whose reading focuses on gender, and who see the female bird as being at the mercy of the two male characters. On the other hand, is Magpie too easily seduced into abandoning Dog, and in the final page, is she entitled to expect that Dog will be happy to see her again?

Whether or not teachers accept, raise or discuss such readings with classes will depend on how they read the text, what they want to cover in this unit, and on what they know about the students in their class. Like all good literature, this picture book offers multiple layers and will make various appeals and suggestions to diverse readers.

Activity 9: The significance of Fox in the wider world

Step 1: Analysis of Fox and its significance in Australia and the wider world

In groups, students will be allocated or select one single or double page, and use the same template as used by the teacher in Activity 8. It is recommended that time limits are set and the process moves quickly to maintain engagement and interest.

Step 2: In order to now read and evaluate the text, students report back in class so that all students have a sense of the picture book in its entirety. This is best done in page order. Each group should address the following dot points that have relevance to the page/spread they have studied. Students can be directed to use the vocab they have learnt in the two Quizlets (friendship and visual literacy):

  • Plot
  • Character
  • Themes
  • Visual elements
  • Language/literary elements
  • Distinctly Australian perspectives, visual elements or themes
  • Universal perspectives, visual elements or themes

At this stage, all students should have a close understanding of the visual/literary/language elements of the text.
(ACELA1551)   (ACELA1552)   (ACELA1553)   (ACELA1556)   (ACELA1560)   (ACELA1561)   (ACELT1635)  (ACELT1772)   (ACELY1742)   (ACELY1743)   (ACELY1744)   (ACELY1745)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-1A)   (EN5-7D)   (EN5-6C)

Activity 10: Foxes as universal symbols

Foxes have featured in literature around the world and across cultures and history. Further details can be found here for those interested.

Foxes have come to represent a range of qualities and characteristics: cunning, deceit, resilience, mystery, daring and so on. Teachers may wish to develop the concept of the fox as a universal symbol and for that purposes a range of texts are provided here for classes to explore what qualities and characteristics are highlighted within each and patterns that may emerge. In what ways do such portrayals of the fox intersect with or disrupt the representation of Fox in Wild’s 2000 picture book at the heart of this unit.

Step 1: Consider a range of texts featuring foxes, such as the following, or others that teachers or students may access through home or libraries. Identify something within the text, such as an image, voice, text etc. that lead you to accept a particular view or understanding of the fox.

This exercise enables students to build a range of intertextual links by comparing a range of texts, and identifying the commonalities, and the departures.

Step 2: Students should connect two of the the texts they have considered (the picture book, Fox, may be one of those texts). However, students may also prefer to choose two texts that portray foxes that are independent of this list and the picture book.

Step 3: Based on their learning from Activity 8 and 9 above, students are asked to write a 200 word discussion, outlining key connections they found between their two chosen texts, making explicit connections to language and images using the metalanguage of visual and literary analysis. They should provide full referencing for the text they provide, including URLs where appropriate.
(ACELA1551)   (ACELA1552)   (ACELA1553)   (ACELA1556)   (ACELA1560)   (ACELA1561)   (ACELT1635)   (ACELT1772)   (ACELY1742)   (ACELY1743)   (ACELY1744)   (ACELY1745)    (EN5-5C)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-1A)   (EN5-7D)   (EN5-6C)


Receptive Assessment Task

PechaKucha Presentations
This task takes up a new style of PowerPoint presentation, PechaKucha with its focus on being concise and running to a strict time limit. PechaKucha is a global movement designed for group audiences and resources are provided below. Please note that for the purposes of year 9, and the task at hand, that the time frame has been considerably reduced from the usual format. While the general presentation is 6 and a half minutes, student presentation are reduced and will run for a little over two minutes (nine slides running 15 seconds each). Please note that these presentations are pre-timed ensuring that the speaker must keep up with the pace of the slides.

PechaKucha Resources

The PechaKuchas designed by the students will focus on the skills of analysis developed across this unit and will require that they draw upon the two Quizlet lists to ensure succinct, accurate discussion.

It is vital that students view one or two PechaKuchas so that they understand the task at hand as well as the Assessment Rubric which details the assessment criteria and can be found here (PDF, 120KB).

The focus of their analysis will be an Australian picture book selected because it has visual and/or thematic intertextual links with Fox (see recommendations below). This capacity to identify connections between texts becomes increasingly important as the students move into and across the senior years of English.

Working in groups, students will select one of the recommended texts or another that you provide, and work through each of the dot points below, selecting those most appropriate as the basis for their presentation:

  • Visual elements
  • Font
  • Figurative language (similes, metaphors etc.)
  • Symbolism
  • Character (development, desires, challenges)
  • Thematic connections
  • Narrative development
  • Australian and universal content/themes
  • Intertextual connections with Wild and Brook’s Fox.

The following Australian picture books are recommended for this activity. However, other texts can be substituted. You could also consult with the resource teacher at your site and various websites such as the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) for recommendations. Additional resources for each of these recommended texts such as videos, reviews, digital recordings and teachers guides are located in the More digital resources section of this unit located at the bottom of this page.

  • The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan (2000)
  • The Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (2013)
  • The Island by John Heffernan and Peter Sheehan (2005)
  • John Brown Rose and the Midnight Cat by Jenny Wagner and Ron Brooks (1980)
  • The Very Best of Friends by Margaret Wild and Julie Vivas (2004)
  • Fox and Fine Feathers by Narelle Oliver (2010)

(ACELA1553)   (ACELA1560)   (ACELA1561)   (ACELT1635) (ACELT1772)   (ACELT1773) (ACELY1742)   (ACELY1744)  (ACELY1745) (ACELY1746)   (ACELY1748)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-1A)   (EN5-7D)   (EN5-6C)

Productive Assessment Task

A Picture Book Mash-Up

Before commencing this task, students will need to understand the concept of mash-up. They are likely to be very familiar with the term through musical mash-ups and viral videos such as Scary Mary (Mary Poppins as horror) and Batman Begins (Batman Begins as a comedy).

Google defines a mash-up as ‘a mixture or fusion of disparate elements’. For example, the mash-ups above are created through the reorganisation and editing of film footage with alternative music and titles. Wikipedia also provides further information across a diverse range of mash-ups incorporating music, film, television web applications and so on.

The mash-up concept is the basis of this productive assessment task, where students will combine elements of one of the picture books they have studied, with one or more other elements from other texts. They may choose to use only still elements, such as illustrations and print text, or could take the concept further by combining the illustration of a picture book with a voice over and music from other sources.

The degree of technical difficulty will be determined by student skills and encouragement to develop new skills. Of greatest significance, is the student’s capacity to demonstrate how they can disrupt or alter the intended purpose, and possibly audience, of the original text. This may be, for some students, depending on their choice of texts to mashup, most effectively done by transposing the print text of a picture book to an alternative picture book.

Because of time constraints, in this instance students are not required to produce an entire picture book or narrative. Rather, they will compose the opening sequence of two double spreads (or four pages) of a picture book. If students decide that they would like to present this as a video, it should the equivalent of four still images.
In addition to the mash-up they will provide a commentary on the process and desired outcome of their mash-up within the template/assessment rubric provided here (PDF, 124KB). They should use appropriate metalanguage and demonstrate their understanding of visual literacy and the literary language explored in this unit.

The scope of the activity:
Students will transform the meaning and tone of the text using the following steps. They:

  1. must select one double-page spread, or two distinct pages from one or two picture books, as the basis of their next text or mash-up (eg: pages 6 and 7 from Fox OR page 2 and 16 from Fox OR page 7 from Fox with Page 3 from The Island)
  2. must innovate on the print text either by meddling with it, or imposing new text from somewhere else. It may be another picture book or a news article or lyrics from a song
  3. must represent the opening sequence of a picture, establishing character, place and potential plot
  4. may choose to create a soundtrack drawing on other sources and present as a PowerPoint, film or Photostory
  5. may choose to apply photographic filters (such as Snapseed or Instagram) to innovate on and to create a pop-up version
  6. may negotiate alternative modes with the teacher.

In this task you will create the introduction to a new narrative based on two double page spreads (or four full pages) from one of the listed picture books from the previous activity and pasted below, with the addition of Fox:

  • The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan (2000)
  • The Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (2013)
  • The Island by John Heffernan and Peter Sheehan (2005)
  • John Brown Rose and the Midnight Cat by Jenny Wagner and Ron Brooks (1980)
  • The Very Best of Friends by Margaret Wild and Julie Vivas (2004)
  • Fox and Fine Feathers by Narelle Oliver (2010)

Drawing on your understanding of the visual elements of the two pages you select, you will now create the beginning of a narrative (two-page spread or two individual pages)

The narrative will:

  • be between 25 and 35 words per page (i.e. between 50 and 70 words in total)
  • establish either/and setting, theme, characters or plot
  • be presented in paper or digital form with attention to the composition of those pages (i.e. the relationship and layout of text and image)
  • take into account the various literary elements you have been examining and incorporate at least three you are able to discuss.
  • be the product of close and strategic editing, akin to the work of writers of picture books (as conveyed in Alison Lester on video discussing Magic Beach)

For each dot point above you are required to provide a brief justification and comment on the construction of your narrative. The pro forma you will complete doubles as the assessment rubric, available here (PDF, 124KB).
(ACELT1637)   (ACELT1773)   (ACELT1638)   (ACELY1745)   (ACELY1746)   (ACELY1747)   (EN5-4B)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-1A)   (EN5-2A)