Connecting to prior knowledge
Organise students into pairs and ask each pair to share a picture book that highlights friendship (for example, Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley (Blabey); Lost and Found (Jeffers); Amy and Louis (Gleeson and Blackwood); Henry and Amy (King); Herman and Rosie (Gordon). Pairs can then complete the sentence, ‘A good friend . . . ’. Create a list of ideal friendship qualities on the whiteboard, discuss how we respect our friend’s differences, then ask students to independently create a poster that illustrates the most important qualities of a good friend. Display posters in the classroom so they can be referred to later in the unit.
Ask students to brainstorm the meaning of the word ‘ability’, then ask each student to list five personal abilities and share these with a small group. Create a class tally to record similarities and differences between abilities. Prompt students to reflect how a person’s range of abilities is unique to them and will likely be different to other people’s.
Ask students to define ‘disability’ then jointly read the definition on page four of the Child Friendly UN Disability Convention. View the Don’t Dis My Ability What’s Hot and What’s Not guide to disability and discuss why the organisation felt it was important to develop this poster. Finish the learning sequence by carrying out the first activity from lesson two of the Everyone Everyday program, which aims to highlight the importance of inclusive attitudes in society towards people with disabilities.
Introduce the idea of prejudice by showing students the Remove Labels this Ramadan video, which illustrates how people have a tendency to label each other before knowing and understanding them. After viewing, facilitate a class discussion about the issue of prejudice, with a focus on prejudice surrounding disability, and unpack the meaning of the word ‘discrimination’.
In groups of four to five, students can represent each of the five concepts in the freeze frame: friendship, difference, disability, discrimination (or prejudice) and respect. These group images can be recorded and returned to later for further discussion.
Exploring the text in context of our community, school and ‘me’
Support students to explore the historical, social and cultural contexts of the text through a jigsaw activity. Create five expert groups to explore different aspects of Australian life in the 1960s including: leisure activities (for example music, toys and games), technology and transport, political events (focusing on women’s rights, 1967 referendum on Indigenous rights and protests against conscription in the Vietnam war), working life (including school, working hours and types of jobs) and home life (for example food, family roles and discipline).
Support each group to research and write notes about their assigned area of expertise (some suitable materials are suggested under the resources tab). Next re-group students into new groups containing one expert from each aspect of life in the 1960s, taking turns to share their knowledge and insight. Finish the activity with a whole class venn diagram comparing life in the 1960s to life today.
Introduce the vocabulary ‘equality’ and ask students to explain its meaning. Introduce the term ‘equity’ and ask students to suggest how they think it differs from equality (the EdTrust cartoon illustrates the difference between the two). Show students the Human Rights ‘Let Me Win’ video, the 2012 Channel 4 Paralympic Games video and the 2016 Paralympics video, providing time for response and reflection after each viewing. In small groups, ask students to brainstorm all the different ways in which sports were modified to provide equitable access for people with disabilities. As a class, watch the last part of the 2016 Paralympics video (from 2:13mins ‘No, you can’t’) then ask students to list all the ways in which they saw children with disabilities being equitably supported to participate in all aspects of their lives. Finish the discussion by asking students to suggest ways in which they have seen teachers promote equity in the classroom and in the playground.
Rich assessment task
Before reading, set students a text prediction activity that gradually reveals layers of information, prompting them to continually revise their predictions. Print out individual copies of the text prediction sheet (PDF, 96KB) and begin by telling students the title of the text without showing the cover. Ask them to complete the first row of the prediction sheet, ensuring they also refer to the evidence they used for their prediction (think about who ‘I’ is and reflect on the use of ‘the’ not ‘a’ for the racecourse and the use of an exclamation mark).
Next, show students the cover and ask them to complete the next layer of prediction, again asking them to explain their thinking and point to the evidence.
Responding to the text
Depending on students’ reading abilities, either read aloud a selection of key passages from the text (PDF, 104KB) or task students to read them in small groups. After reading, use the suggestions on the key passages sheet to lead students through a range of drama activities to support them to to infer meaning, explore key themes and unpack characters’ dilemmas.
In addition to building comprehension, these drama pedagogies will also operate as a useful ‘hook’ to build student interest prior to Literature Circles (see the More Resources tab below for explanations of each of the drama pedagogies suggested). Alernatively the strategies can form part of the literature circle activities.
Support students to further respond to and explore these key passages in the text by creating a literature circles structure, either using roles familiar to students or by introducing comprehension strategies. If students are not familiar with either the structure or the roles, scaffold understanding by using a small group to model a literature circle using roles based on the six comprehension strategies and a simple, familiar text. Once students are comfortable with the structure and roles, print each group a copy of the Literature Circles sheet (PDF, 356KB) for students to use to record their ideas based on the comprehension strategies. Support students to organise and assign roles within their circle, then assign different literature circles a key passage from the key passages sheet (PDF, 104KB). Provide students with time to independently read the passage and use the appropriate stimulus (PDF, 104KB) to record their ideas based on their role/comprehension strategy. Students should then share their responses with the whole group in order to generate debate and discussion, refining their written ideas as the discussion unfolds.
Exploring plot, character, setting and theme
Read aloud the first two pages of the text (up to ‘Mike and Terry O’Day owned…’ ) then read again slowly, asking students to visualise Appington Hill and draw it as the description unfolds. After drawing, provide students with a copy of the passage (either on the IWB or as a photocopy). Ask students to annotate their drawing with quotes from the text which informed the development of their image.
Support students to identify and highlight the prepositional and adverbial phrases in the text, then read the text aloud, without these phrases. Ask students to explain why the author used these phrases. The answer is to add detail to the description, to help the reader to visualise the setting in greater detail and engage the reader in the text.
The character of Andy is revealed through his own speech and thoughts, but also through others’ viewpoints. How does the author describe Andy’s intellectual disability?
Assign pairs or small groups of students one of the following characters: Andy’s mum, the old man who ‘sold’ him the racecourse, Joe, Mike, Terry, Bert Hammond, the woman selling the chips at the racecourse, a greyhound owner, one of the men in overalls who clean up the racecourse and one of the members of the committee. Brainstorm in small groups questions for each of these charters and decide on the most important ones. Hotseat the selected characters.
Ask groups to find passages in the text where their character interacts with Andy, write down relevant quotes then discuss and record what they think each quote reveals about their character’s opinion of Andy. As a whole class, discuss ways in which these different viewpoints come together to build up a complex character.
After reading, support students to identify some of the main ideas in the text (these are key points of action in the story). For each key point, support students to extract a corresponding theme by discussing what message they think the author was trying to convey with this point. Once a list of key themes has been developed, remind students of the the work they did at the beginning of the unit related to friendship and disability. Ask them to discuss why they think the author wanted to address these themes within the context of 1960s Australia.
Rich assessment task
Organise students into small groups and ask them to select one of the key passages from the text (for students who require support, this could be a familiar passage they studied in a literature circle). Explain the two parts of the assessment.
Part 1: In small groups create a reader’s theatre performance
Part 2: Text analysis presentation. This should explain the main ideas and key themes in their passage, what is revealed about some of the key characters in the text and a justification of why they think their passage is an important part of the narrative.
Examining text structure and organisation
The text is organised into 12 chapters. Assign each chapter to a pair or small group of students and ask them to record:
- the title,
- a response to the title explaining what they think the title means,
- a summary of what happens in the chapter in no more than three sentences,
- an explanation why they think the author used that title for the chapter.
Come together as a class and map the chapters onto a plot graph, with ‘time’ on the x-axis and ‘tension’ on the y-axis. With reference to the chapter titles, discuss how the author gradually builds tension until you expect that Andy is going to be disappointed, then ‘twists’ the resolution to provide a happy ending to the narrative.
The author cleverly uses sentence structure and vocabulary to present the experiences of a person with intellectual disabilities. In partners, ask students to find examples of Andy’s dialogue and discuss how and why it seems different to that of other characters’ dialogue. Write down an example on the board.
Example from page 37 ‘That’s all I got, only two dollars,’ he muttered. ‘I got to get another one yet.’
Support students to identify abbreviations, deviations of grammar use and choices of simple vocabulary. Ask students to imagine how they might have said a sentence or how their grandparents, for example, might have said the sentence. For example, a grandparent might say, ‘That is all I have, a measly two dollars,’ he muttered, ‘It is essential that I find another one.’ Discuss how the author’s choice of language helps the reader to understand and sympathise/empathise with the character of Andy, and reflect how the book would be different if this perspective was not included.
(ACELY1801) (EN3-5B) (ACELA1501) (EN3-1A)
Examining grammar and vocabulary
The author uses rich descriptive language to convey the setting of inner-west Sydney and its racecourse in the 1960s. Find examples of these passages in the text (e.g. pages 25–26, 29, 43 or 62) and analyse their sentence structure, paying close attention to clusters of noun groups used by the author to build description. Support students to colour code key descriptive sentences by identifying and highlighting the noun and verb in different colours, then identifying and colour-coding the descriptive features that surround each, including adjectives, adverbs, and adjectival and adverbial phrases.
Explain to students that society and the language that people use changes over time, and that texts often act like a snapshot to capture words and ideas from the past. Organise students into pairs and assign each one of the 12 chapters in order to skim and scan the text to find examples of vocabulary that they think seems out-dated (e.g. attendant, juke-box, old chap, frocks, broaches, high-school set) or vocabulary that is specific to the racecourse (e.g. gig, bookmakers, grandstand, turnstiles, forelegs). Discuss how groups of people, either due to a specialist interest (e.g. racing) or their historical or cultural background, might use different language and that this use of language helps to define their identity as part of group.
Rich assessment task
The author uses a range of descriptive and figurative language techniques to compare and contrast the racecourse when it is ‘alive’ at night (pp. 26–27) to when it is ‘dead’ during the day (pp. 29–31). Ask students to divide a page of their English or reading journal in half.
Students should record examples of descriptive and figurative language in each column then highlight examples of descriptive language in one colour (e.g. specific verbs, adverbs, adjectives and prepositional phrases) and figurative language in another colour (including similes and metaphors, alliteration and personification). After analysing the grammatical features of the text, ask students to represent these through a visual collage and then write a paragraph to explain how the author has used language to make the racecourse seem alive at one point, and dead at another.
(ACELY1711) (EN3-3A) (ACELT1617) (EN3-7C)
Half way down page 174 are the lines ‘His dream-castle was tottering. It would crash.’ Read these lines aloud to students, asking:
- Why did the author choose to write these lines?
- How do these lines attempt to mislead the reader at the resolution of the story?
Work collaboratively to brainstorm all the different ways Andy’s dream could be destroyed, and also all the ways it could be saved. Challenge students to choose one of these ideas and re-write the ending. Provide support by modelling a plan for an alternative ending, outlining the setting, characters involved, key events and the ending’s overall tone (e.g. dreary, upbeat, philosophical). Remind students to use descriptive language and dialogue where applicable.
Choose some appropriate in-depth articles describing key events in people’s lives. These articles may be sourced from Sunday newspapers or magazines. Either read to students or read independently. Point out that many of these articles are actually persuasive texts, where the authors choose a specific viewpoint, use evaluative language and shape a carefully selected narrative of the event around an introduction and conclusion which reinforces their point of view. Ask students to decide whether or not they thought that the people from Andy’s town did the right thing by helping him believe he owned the racecourse. Based on their opinion, ask students to write a newspaper article either celebrating or condemning the town’s actions. The article should include an introduction, brief recount of the narrative and conclusion, and should include descriptive and evaluative language to engage and persuade their reader.
(ACELY1714) (EN3-2A) (ACELA1525) (EN3-6B)
Rich assessment task
Refer back to the activity that examined the author’s use of descriptive and figurative language to describe the racecourse at night and during the day. Remind students that with some imagination, language and image can be used to make everyday settings seem magical. To inspire students, you may wish to view the picture books from the wordless trilogy Journey, Quest and Return by Aaron Becker. Ask students to suggest some familiar settings that they could ‘bring to life’ though language and image (e.g. the classroom, the playground, their bedroom). Ask students to first close their eyes and imagine their transformed setting, then draw a picture of it. After drawing, label the picture using descriptive and figurative language. Students should use the labelled image to create a paragraph to describe their magical or enlivened setting.