This unit of work was created in partnership with The Garret and accompanies their interview with Andy and Jill Griffiths. Please click here to access the Interview, Bibliography, Show notes and Transcript, and Author profile.
The following activities and tasks presume knowledge of at least two Andy Griffiths texts, perhaps from student experience in primary school, or as a result of undertaking reading of any two Griffiths texts for this unit. The focus is on the craft of writing for children, and the unit culminates in an assessment task that includes both receptive and productive mode responses.
The unit may be provided as an extension activity or a project-based unit for a small group or individuals. It could also be undertaken by the whole class if necessary.
Getting to know the author including:
- personal experiences
Both Andy and Jill Griffiths named books, a magazine and comedy that appealed to them as children and teenagers. These are listed below. Students should work in groups to research six of the titles, in order to complete the matrix provided (PDF, 72KB) noting how these texts are similar to or different from any of the Andy Griffiths texts they know. The purpose is to understand the literary and comedic influences that have shaped the Andy Griffiths books and the work of Jill Griffiths as editor.
- Edwards William Coles – Funny Picture Book
- The works of Dr Seuss
- Mad Magazine
- Norman Lindsay – The Magic Pudding
- May Gibbs – Snuggle Pot and Cuddle Pie
- All of Enid Blyton (and Andy’s favourite was The Magic Faraway Tree)
- Astrid Lingren – Pippi Longstocking
- Tove Jansson – Fin Family Moomintroll series
- Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland
- Norman Hunter – Professor Branestawm
- The Young Ones (BBC series)
- Monty Python Skit (BBC series)
The writers’ journey, including:
- themes, issues and motivations.
Listen to the interview from 8:13 to 18:33. As you do so, make a list in dot points, or draw a map of the progress Andy Griffiths has made from his early days entertaining friends, through to the publication of his first book, Just Tricking. This was the first of his books and was edited by his now-wife, Jill Griffiths.
Follow up your dot points or map with a paragraph describing and commenting on Griffiths’ motivation, and how he developed themes and refined his texts leading up to the release of Just Tricking.
The writer’s craft, including:
- point of view (POV).
Andy Griffith writes in the first-person point of view (POV) with himself as the main character, and as he explains in The Garret interview, this is unusual but allowed him more creative licence and fun.
This extract from the opening of Just Tricking! Illustrates Griffith’s point of view:
If I can convince Mum and Dad that I’m dead not only will I have pulled off one of the greatest practical jokes of the century, but I’ll get off going to school for the rest of the year. Maybe even for the rest of my life. (Just Tricking, p. 1)
The same piece has been rewritten below in the third-person POV, where the narrative is told from an unseen narrator’s perspective, and it becomes harder to suspend disbelief:
If Andy could convince his mum and dad that he was dead not only would he pull off one of the greatest practical jokes of the century, but he might get off going to school for the rest of the year. Maybe even for the rest of his life.
The following exchange occurs in the interview (26:22–27:16) and focuses on the fact that Andy Griffiths, Jill Griffiths and Terry Denton are all characters in the book. Take note of how they describe whether they are true to life or not, and how Denton’s character is constructed through squiggles and the randomness of illustrations.
Andy: …when Terry started illustrating the ‘Just’ books, I said ‘don’t just do illustrations of what’s happening in the books, that’s kind of pretty obvious. Just go around the edges, and be the character, as if he is decorating his schoolbook.’
Nic: Yes, and in the ‘Just’ books you see that all of the way through.
Andy: Random squiggles. That served two things. It gave the books, it made them look utterly unique.
(… more chatter…)
Nic: But I was going to ask you, is Jill as organised and as pedantic as she appears in the books? And at the same, time, are you as sooky as you appear?
Andy and Jill: [Laughter]
Andy: Both are exaggerations, but both have a core of truth.
Working with one or two other class members write the first 300 words of a story in which you all play characters. These characters should be ‘exaggerations’ with a core of truth. Share your texts with other groups and individuals, and discuss whether this approach appeals to you or hinders your creativity. Why is that?
Trying it out for yourself, including:
- reflecting on your own experiences of writing
- understanding the immediate and broader contexts of your own and others’ work.
In this activity, students will reflect on the literary or media influences of their childhood that shaped their current tastes in selecting what to read or view, or how their tastes and choices are now different and have evolved.
They will prepare an overview in dot points, and create a two to three-minute podcast, addressing these questions from an imaginary interviewer:
- What tastes in reading and viewing did you have as a child?
- Can you explain how these tastes continue to influence you, or if they have changed? Why is that?
- In what ways have your personal, social and cultural contexts shaped your interests, including your reading interests?
This article, ‘The 5 Best Podcast Apps for Android and iPhone’, by Lisa Eadicicco
(Time, February 20, 2018) may be useful for this task. Share your podcast with at least two other members of your class and then create a group response to the same question before feeding back into a whole-class discussion.
Culminating rich assessment task
This is an opportunity for students to draw on their learning in previous activities to produce a text for others to enjoy. The created text can be on one of the following:
- Students will create the opening 300–500 words of an Andy Griffiths-style short story or novel, establishing the setting, protagonist and direction of the story while employing Griffiths-style language and humour. There is the option, but not necessity, of including drawings similar to those used in his publications.
- Students will choose a scene of approximately 300–500 words from any Andy Griffiths story and rewrite it in a formal literary style for adults.
- Students will create a performance piece of between two and three minutes’ duration for the class, based on a scene or short extract from any of Andy Griffiths’ books. This may be:
- the dramatic performance of a scene
- a stand-up routine based on a scene
- a choral reading (or reader’s theatre)
- a parent arguing that Griffiths titles should be either removed from every school library because they are inappropriate, or arguing that there should be more Griffiths books available to more students.
- Students will write the beginning of an adventure story (300-500 words) and include themselves and two other friends or family members as characters in the book. They will also illustrate with Terry Denton-style scribbles, but if they are not confident in achieving that, they may work with a collaborator, just as Andy and Jill work with Terry Denton.
Part B: Review and link to the interview
Students will draw on their knowledge of the interview (using either the audio or transcript from The Garret) to produce a writer’s statement (300 to 500 words), including:
- a brief analysis of Griffiths’ style, with at least two quotations from the inteview that have influenced the choice and style of language, performance or comedic style they have experimented with in their own text.
- the purpose of any literary devices they may have used (for example, metaphors, puns, irony and so on)
- a final statement evaluating the strengths or otherwise of the text they created in Part A, and how well it aligned with what they learnt from Andy and Jill Griffiths in The Garret interview.