Connecting to prior knowledge

  • Discuss the cover of the book. Make predictions about the story, the characters, setting and plot.
      • What is the main colour on the cover? How does green make you feel? Why do you think the book’s designer and illustrator chose to use green?
      • Where do you think this story will happen? What evidence can you find to support your prediction?
      • If this is a book about a garden, what might happen in the story?
      • What things do you do with your friends in gardens?
  • Assist students to make connections with the text by discussing the following questions:
      • Have you ever created or cared for a garden? (text-to-self)
      • What do you know about gardening? Why do people build and care for gardens? (text-to-world)
      • What other stories do you know that involve gardens? (text-to-text)
  • Conduct a picture walk through the book
      • Ask the students to focus their attention on the things they see (e.g. seeds, shovel, umbrellas, watering cans, ladder, birds) and the actions that can be seen (e.g. reading, swinging, watering, digging, climbing)
  • Brainstorm a list of items that would be needed to build a garden
  • Explain to the students that seasons play a part in the growth of gardens. Construct a retrieval chart listing the characteristics of Australia’s four seasons with emphasis on plant growth, outdoor activities and clothing. Refer to other texts that provide examples of this e.g. Big Rain Coming.
    (ACELT1575)   (ACELA1437)   (ENe-1A)


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

Generate questions to ask the school’s groundskeepers. Nominate students to ask the questions in an informal interview with the staff member. Later, discuss and record the findings on a wall chart or in a class book.
(ACELY1784)   (ENe-6B)


Rich assessment task

Explore the gardens in the school. Students record their observations (in words or drawings) on a retrieval chart with five headings: Feel, See, Smell, Touch, Hear. Students may use cameras to take photos for later discussion and use in class.
(ACELA1437)   (ENe-1A)

Responding to the text

  • Create an X Chart (4 quadrants) describing what it would feel like, look like, sound like and smell like in Isabella’s garden. This could be completed as a class or individual activity depending on the students’ knowledge of X Charts.
  • Discuss students’ preferences for the different season and activities. Ask students to elaborate by providing reasons for their preferences.
    (ACELT1783)   (ENe-1A)


Exploring plot, character, setting and theme

Discuss the pages listed which focus on character, setting and theme.

End Papers

  • List the activities that can be seen happening in the garden. What else could you do in a garden like Isabella’s?

Title Page

  • Discuss the concept of flower-giving and what it might mean. What emotions could be attributed to the giver of the flowers and the receiver of the flowers?

Pages 3–4

  • There is very little emotion shown on the faces of the characters on this double page. Discuss how emotion is instead demonstrated through the gestures of the characters.

Pages 5–6

  • What season is this illustration showing? How can we tell?

Pages 7–12

  • How is the author telling the story? What do you notice about each new page?

Pages 13–14

  • How do we know that time has passed?

Pages 15–16

  • Why do you think the mantis hopes that winter will never come?

Pages 17–18

  • What do you think Isabella is thinking and feeling?

Pages 19–20

  • What would this season be?

Pages 21–22

  • What messages does the author and illustrator want us to think about? How does the end of the story make you feel? How do you think Isabella is feeling?
    (ACELT1783)   (ENe-10C)


Rich assessment task

Students construct a 3D mind map of the story using materials that represent each cumulative item in the story e.g. soil, seeds, water (for rain), cotton wool (for clouds), picture of the sun, scarf (for winter), picture of Jack Frost etc. Cardboard arrows can also be provided to show relationships between objects. Observe the students’ abilities to make connections and use new vocabulary while describing the mind map. Draw further conclusions about their learning through questioning. For example:

  • Why have you put these objects next to each other?
  • Is there another way that you could arrange the items?
    (ACELY1650)   (ENe-10C)

Examining text structure and organisation

  • Discuss the use of direct gaze to invite the reader into the story as an observer as shown on Pages 1 and 2. Direct gaze involves the characters seeming to look straight out to the reader.
  • Discuss the choice to change the background colours on the pages detailing the mantis and the birds. Why might the illustrator have made these choices?
  • Compare the narrative structure of the book to a non-fiction text outlining the life cycle of a plant. Discuss the structures and purposes of both text types.
  • Little expression is shown on the faces of the characters but is instead shown through gestures. Experiment with different ways to show emotion through the body e.g. How would we show that it is a rainy/windy/hot/cold day? Photograph and label for further discussion.
    (ACELT1578)   (ACELY1646)   (ENe-10C)   (ENe-11D)


Examining grammar and vocabulary

Share a further reading of the book with the following prompts around the grammar and vocabulary in the book:

  • Pages 3 and 4: The author writes about “the clouds that cry rain”. Discuss the use of this term to describe something that is a scientific phenomenon. Why might the author have chosen to describe rain in this way?
  • The author uses alliteration in places ( . . . soaked the seeds that slept in the soil. . . ). Discuss the effect of this on the way the text sounds when read aloud. Create sentences using alliteration based on examples from the text.
  • The text contains examples of irregular past tense verbs that could be discussed and placed on the word wall e.g. sleep/slept, sing/sang, weep/wept, seek/sought.
    (ACELA1437)   (ENe-6B)


Rich assessment task

Students construct a story map, showing the sequence of events and including the main character from the story. Observations of learning will focus on the students’ abilities to sequence the ideas from the story, provide details to any events identified and the ability to answer questions about the characters’ actions and feelings at different places detailed in the text. Ask students to share their story maps in small groups in order to have students ask and answer questions to clarify understandings.
(ACELT1578)    (ENe-10C)

Freeze Frames

  • Allocate a double page spread to small groups of students (4-5).
  • Allow groups to discuss their pages including what is happening, why it is happening and how the characters would be feeling at this point in the story.
  • Groups are to plan and create a Freeze Frame demonstrating what happened immediately after what is shown on their page.
  • They are also to consider what their character is thinking and/or feeling at that exact moment.
  • Groups create their Freeze Frame which is photographed and printed onto paper.
  • Students write (with assistance if needed) on a thought bubble which is placed on the photograph showing the thoughts/feelings of their character.

Sketch-to-Stretch (visualising)

  • Fold a piece of A3 paper into four segments.
  • Ask students to visualise the story of Isabella’s Garden from the beginning to the end. You may like to turn the lights down, ask students to close their eyes, and play sounds associated with gardening while they do this.
  • The students then have five minutes to draw (and label if appropriate) four different events or happenings in the story (one per square of paper) that they consider important. Encourage students to consider the visualisations that they had and include as much detail as possible.
  • With a partner, the students describe the events taking place in their drawings.

Puppet Play

  • Construct simple paper and paddle-pop puppets for the characters and items in the book (e.g. Isabella, bird, tree, flowers).
  • Make a simple puppet theatre and the text Isabella’s Garden available to the students.
  • Prompt the retelling of the story using the puppets.
  • Allow students to record their performances for later self-assessment.
  • Alternatively students could use PuppetPals.
    (ACELT1580)   (ENe-8B)


Rich assessment task


  • Divide students into seven groups and ask them to brainstorm questions they’d like to ask Isabella, her friend, the mantis, a bird, a tree, a flower, Jack Frost. Seven students choose to take on the role of Isabella, a friend, the mantis, a bird, a tree, a flower or Jack Frost.
  • Sitting on the ‘Hot Seat’ they answer questions in role, detailing their understanding of the story. Recordings can be made for later consideration, or for students to then complete self or peer assessment based on their ability to stay in role and answer in a way that is relevant to the text. Other students can also choose to have a turn.
  • Questions could include:
      • Tell us what happened to you in Isabella’s garden.
      • How did you feel? Did your feelings change throughout the story?
      • What made you happy/sad/worried/scared?
      • What event did you like the most and why?
      • What happened to you after the story ended?
        (ACELT1580)   (ENe-8B)