Connecting to prior knowledge

Before reading

The blurb for Jelly-Boy describes the story as a ‘cautionary conservation tale about protecting our oceans’. This may not be obvious to students at first; there is an opportunity to start building contextual understanding around ocean life before introducing the concept of conservation.

Look at the front cover of the book. With the class, discuss:

  • What do we know about jellyfish?
  • Why might the author have called the book Jelly-Boy and not ‘Jellyfish’?

Turn through the pages without reading the words (covering the words will encourage students to make inferences based purely on the illustrations). Identify the different types of marine life illustrated in the book. Create a chart or pictograph to represent the variety of animals observed.

Share the words ‘connection’, ‘protection’ and ‘destruction’ with students. Using Mentimeter (a tool for collectively sharing ideas in a word cloud or other graphic representation), have students brainstorm their current understanding of these words. Encourage them to write anything they think of or associate with each one.

(ACELY1680)   (EN2-4A)   (ACELA1476)   (EN2-1A)

During reading

NOTE: For the purpose of tracking page numbers, the first page of the story is considered p. 1. The main character will also be referred to as ‘Jelly-Girl’.

Read Jelly-Boy to the whole class. Create a word wall to describe the setting as you progress through the story. Draw attention to the way the illustrator, Christopher Nielsen, changes the colours along the way.

Map read-aloud points with sticky notes to create deliberate stopping points for discussion or reflection. Look for opportunities to model how to make inferences and ask questions as a way of developing comprehension.

Stopping points may include:

p. 4 Jelly-Girl thought that Jelly-Boy was a good listener. I wonder why?
p. 7 The jelly family felt that Jelly-Boy was not one of them. Why did they feel this way?

When did you realise that Jelly-Boy was not a jellyfish?

pp. 26–27 Jelly-Girl realised that her family was brave and strong. How is this different to Jelly-Boy being brave and strong (pp. 3–4)?

After reading

Introduce the author, Nicole Godwin, and her beliefs about the environment, animal rights and social justice. Download the poster from her website and display it for the class. Discuss the following:

  • The purpose of the text – what is Godwin trying to achieve with this poster?
  • The context of the text – where would you find this poster?
  • The impact of language choices:
    • ‘Be’ in the title
    • Using ‘Australians’ as a general group of people
    • Use of graduating time (from minute to hour to day)
    • The exclamation mark
    • ‘Staggering’ as an adjective
    • Emotional words (‘overwhelm’, ‘harm’)
    • Use of ‘thanks’
    • The green circle:
      • Use of ‘you’
      • Use of capital letters for Coles and Woolworths
    • The effects of visual grammar:
      • Layout
      • Facial expressions and body language
      • How does the layout create a journey for the reader? Which reading path do you use?
    • How could this text be more impactful?

NOTE: The poster refers to a soft plastics recycling scheme that is no longer in operation; if you wish to explore this idea, you could refer to RecycleSmart instead.

Return to the words ‘connection’, ‘protection’ and ‘destruction’. Together review the ideas from the class brainstorm. Define or explore any other vocabulary from the book that is not widely understood. Possibilities include:

loomed (p. 13) hesitate (p. 14) veer (p. 14) intact (p. 17)
beckoning (p. 18) insistent (p. 18) resisted (p. 22) whisked (p. 22)
tentacle (p. 25) farewell (p. 29) convenient (p. 30)

Working in groups of three or four, students are to use the ideas from the class brainstorm (and their own research) to write definitions for ‘connection’, ‘protection’ and ‘destruction’. These can be displayed in the classroom for future reference.

(ACELY1676)   (EN2-6B)

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

Use of soft plastics in our world

Soft plastics are common in our everyday lives, more so than in the past. So what are they and where do we use them?

Model a brainstorm for the class, demonstrating how to list all the soft plastics from your last grocery shop OR that are currently in your house. This could be a list that you make on the whiteboard, on poster board, or on butcher’s paper.

As students make connections to these items, they can start to create their own list of soft plastics in their homes and lives. Alternatively, you could survey students and staff to investigate the amount of soft plastics being used in daily school life.

(ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)

Rich assessment task

Soft plastics warrior

Soft plastics are destructive and dangerous to Australia’s oceans. Re-read Jelly-Boy and ask students to investigate ONE of the following questions:

  • How do we use soft plastics while conserving the ocean?
  • If we are not going to use soft plastics, what are the alternatives?

Once students have chosen and researched their question, they will design a poster campaign for your school (or a designated area within the school) that highlights the issue and a possible solution. This will allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the impact of plastic pollution on our oceans.

(ACELA1478)   (EN2-8B)

Responding to the text

Jigsaw cooperative learning

Explain to students that they will be working in different styles of cooperative groups. Number each child a ‘one’, ‘two’ or ‘three’ and direct them to group up accordingly (i.e. all the ‘ones’ together). These are now the ‘expert’ groups. Each group will read a different Nicole Godwin book, searching for clues that will help them explore the themes and characters. The books are:

  1. Billie, illustrated by Demelsa Haughton
  2. Ella, illustrated by Demelsa Haughton
  3. Jelly-Boy

Each expert group will read their assigned text, then discuss what they notice about the themes and characters (i.e. actions, features, emotions). Students should consider the following:

  • What do we notice about the characters? How do they look? What do they say and do?
  • What emotions does this text create as we read? Do we have any connections to this text?
  • What are the features of the theme in this text? How is it communicated to us as readers (e.g. illustrations, text)?

Once the expert groups have finished discussing their texts, model thinking aloud:

  • How will I put these ideas into my own words?
  • Are my words helping others to understand more about the text?

Students will now take the learnings and reflections from their discussion to a new ‘home’ group. These should be made up of at least ONE person from each expert group so that all three books are represented equally. Encourage students to share the thinking from their original discussion. This should highlight the similarities and differences between the three texts.

Students can then reflect individually on how their experience and learning was changed by listening in their home group. A structure like ‘I used to think … now I think …’ may be helpful to guide the reflections and support comprehension. A template has been provided (PDF, 75KB).

(ACELY1676)   (EN2-6B)   (ACELA1476)   (EN2-1A)

Exploring plot, character, setting and theme

Now consider the following discussion questions with students:

  • What is the meaning of the title ‘Jelly-Boy’?
  • What messages is Godwin giving us?
  • Who is the intended audience?

Godwin’s books Billie and Ella have similar themes to Jelly-Boy, telling entertaining stories with engaging characters about animals and ocean conservation. Read both Billie and Ella to the class, then invite students to compare the messages of these stories with Jelly-Boy. Start with a think-pair-share, building up to sharing with the whole class. Record the main points from this discussion in a Venn diagram.

(ACELT1594)   (EN2-10C)


Personification is a literary device that gives human characteristics to non-human things (e.g. an object). In Jelly-Boy, personification is used in both Godwin’s text and Nielsen’s illustrations.

Have students think of and search for other texts in which the main characters are personified. Examples include:

Return to Jelly-Boy and have students consider the words, language and images that Godwin and Nielsen use to personify Jelly-Boy, Jelly-Girl and the ocean. You can record their thinking in a table like this:

Jelly-Boy Jelly-Girl The ocean
Human characteristic


e.g. has eyes and a mouth e.g. smiles, feels love
Evidence from the text p. 10 – can take

p. 18 – can beckon

p. 22 – can whisk

Evidence from the illustrations


(ACELT1600)   (EN2-7B)   (ACELA1483)   (EN2-8B)

Creation of a character

As a class, explore how Nielsen took an everyday item (a plastic bag) and turned it into a character. Observe the illustrations and discuss how Nielsen represents Jelly-Boy.

  • How did Nielsen create Jelly-Boy’s character?
  • What features did he include?
  • How does Nielsen’s style differ from other illustrators (e.g. Scott Magoon, Spoon)?

(ACELT1791)   (EN2-2A)

Rich assessment task

The use of personification makes Godwin’s characters relatable and facilitates an emotional connection with the reader. This is what she strives for with her books.

Have students consider the characters and themes from each of Goodwin’s texts:

Billie adventure; friends helping friends; messaging around whaling and ocean pollution
Ella freedom, happiness and love; messaging around animal captivity
Jelly-Boy love, bravery, family; messaging around ocean conservation


Which story elicits the strongest emotional connection for you? Why?

Students can present their response in written, oral or digital form. The goal is for them to demonstrate their personal connections to their chosen text, and highlight how it has impacted them as a reader. Students should refer to and explain the emotional connection they felt with the particular character or text.

(ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)

Examining text structure and organisation

Visual literacy

Illustrators make numerous decisions when creating images for a text. Place students in groups with copies of Jelly-Boy and invite them to examine Christopher Nielsen’s illustrations. Ask:

  • What do you notice right away when you look at the images?
  • What might have been left out of the images?

Jelly-Boy provides many opportunities to explore imagery using principles of visual literacy. Meaning is made when we consider all the elements of a given image and ask:

  • What is happening?
  • How do we interact with or relate to the image(s)?
  • How does the design or layout build meaning?

Have students remain in their groups (or form new ones) and look at the first image in the book (p. 1). Jelly-Girl is front and centre, basking in a beam of light. Ask the groups to reflect on what part of the image grabs their attention first. Encourage discussion so that each student has a chance to contribute their observations while their peers listen. They can then record their group’s responses on sticky notes or a large sheet of paper and share them in a whole class discussion.

Students will now explore the concept of salience, or how the reader’s eye is drawn to what is most important in an image. Ask the groups to consider the following features:

  • use of colour
  • placement of different elements (size, positioning)
  • facial expression

How do these features affect how the reader feels about the image/character AND what is happening?

(ACELA1483)   (EN2-8B)

What’s in a resolution?

Review the structure of a narrative, consisting of an orientation, series of events (with complication), and resolution. Remind students that details about characters and events can be found in both language AND illustrations.

Compare Jelly-Boy to Adam Wallace and Andrew Plant’s picture book, Spark. Both texts touch on natural and man-made disasters, and both share a narrative structure. In Spark, the fire gets a friend that it trusts and has fun with, until the friend takes things too far and they cannot stop or control what they are doing. The story resolves when the two friends work together to put a stop to what is happening. In Jelly-Boy, Jelly-Girl finds a love interest. They drift together, exploring and having fun, until things go too far and Jelly-Girl finds herself on the brink of disaster. This story resolves when the jelly family displays its own bravery.

Students can draw up a narrative story planner and compare Jelly-Boy to other texts with similar themes. The following template uses Spark as an example:

Jelly-Boy Spark
Orientation Jelly-Girl meets Jelly-Boy.

They become friends and begin their adventure.

Spark and the wind become friends.

They start to play.

Complication Things become dangerous.

Jelly-Boy goes where other jellies cannot.

Spark and the wind begin to move too fast.

Things get out of control.

Resolution The jelly family is brave.

They save Jelly-Girl.

Spark and the wind have to stop.

They save everything by working together.

(ACELT1594)   (EN2-10C)

Examining grammar and vocabulary

A smack of jellyfish

Collective nouns refer to groups of people or things. Some collective nouns (e.g. a smack of jellyfish) are not commonly seen in everyday vocabulary. They can provide humorous ideas for writing, especially when used incorrectly to create imagery (e.g. ‘a board of babies’ suggests a meeting room full of babies in suits having serious discussions).

Challenge students to identify the correct collective nouns for as many different animals as they can. The internet will prove useful, but you should encourage them to crosscheck their findings. 101 Collective Nouns by Jennifer Cossins is another entertaining and enlightening source of information. Examples include:

  • A tribe of kiwis
  • A flock of sheep
  • A clutch of chickens
  • A caravan of camels
  • A cackle of hyenas
  • A parliament of owls
  • A bloat of hippopotamuses
  • A family of rosellas
  • A murder of crows

Once students have researched nine or more collective nouns, they can form small groups and create their own bingo grids or card sets. They can then use these to test their peers’ knowledge of collective nouns.

(ACELA1484)   (EN2-9B)

Rich assessment task

The gift of words

Jelly-Boy has been written with carefully chosen words to tell a story about family, danger and ocean conservation.

To write poetry, one must also carefully select words to capture an intended meaning.

Introduce the concept of a haiku, if students are not already familiar. A haiku is a type of Japanese poem consisting of three lines, each with a specific number of syllables:

First line Five syllables
Second line Seven syllables
Third line Five syllables

Students are to compose a haiku that explores ONE of the following topics:

  • family
  • danger and destruction
  • ocean conservation

Encourage them to make considered and careful word choices. If students need extra scaffolding, you could provide additional instructions for each line. For example:

First line Tells where
Second line Tells what
Third line Tells when

The completed haikus can be presented in written form OR recorded using a platform like Flip.

(ACELY1682)   (EN2-2A)

Text innovation

Jelly-Boy is written from Jelly-Girl’s point of view. Ask students what might happen if, instead, the story was told from Jelly-Boy’s perspective.

  • What would change?
  • What would stay the same?
  • Would it still be able to share a message about ocean conservation?

Now explore what might happen if the story had an alternate ending, in which the jelly family did not come to save Jelly-Girl. Ask again:

  • What would change?
  • What would stay the same?

Model how to write an alternate ending OR how to change the narrator. Students can work in pairs to construct their own narrative with a different ending or narrator. When they have finished, they can present their stories to the class orally OR using a platform like StoryJumper.

(ACELT1601)   (EN2-2A)

Debate it!

Give students the following statement:

We can’t live without soft plastics … right?

As a class, brainstorm arguments for and against this statement. Encourage students to think-pair-share as part of the discussion.

Now create a line between two points in the classroom. Tell students that one end is for those who agree with the statement ‘we can’t live without soft plastics’, and the other end is for those who disagree. Encourage them to stand at either end and discuss their reasoning with the people around them. Students on both sides can then share their arguments with the rest of the class. Encourage them to change sides if they feel persuaded to do so.


  • Did you change your mind? If so, what helped you make up your mind?
  • Did you maintain your original opinion? What might make you change your mind?

Invite students to record their fully developed argument(s) in writing, focusing on language choice and reasoning.

(ACELY1677)   (EN2-6B)

What did you say?

There is only a small amount of dialogue in Jelly-Boy (see p. 7). This makes it a good example of a text that does not require large amounts of dialogue to effectively portray characters. There are also many effective texts that use primarily or only dialogue to tell a story, such as Oi Frog! by Kes Gray (illustrated by Jim Field) or I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen.

Re-read Jelly-Boy as a class. Take students through the book slowly, stopping on each page to consider how dialogue could be added without changing the meaning of the story. Ask students to make suggestions and write these on sticky notes so you can attach them to the relevant pages. This could be done in small groups with copies of the book. You could even assign a different character to each group and have those students create dialogue for their character (e.g. Jelly-Girl, Jelly-Boy, the jelly family, other sea creatures in the background).

Each group can then share their version of the story with added dialogue. Students could give feedback on each other’s work in the form of two medals and a mission, highlighting two areas of success or achievement and one goal for future writing.

(ACELY1676)   (EN2-6B)

Rich assessment task

Create a quirky tale for a serious issue

Throughout this unit students have reflected on issues of sustainability and conservation. As a class, review the narrative structure and discuss how Nicole Godwin wrote a quirky tale about a serious issue.

  • How did the characters add to the quirky tale?
  • How do we know it is about a serious issue?
  • What clues were given in the words and the illustrations?

Ask students to think-pair-share on the following topic:

What other serious issues could you write a quirky tale about?

Record their ideas on sticky notes or a whiteboard that everyone can see.

Now ask students to write their own quirky tale about a serious issue, using ideas from the class brainstorm OR an idea of their own. Encourage them to use a graphic organiser or planner to assist with drafting, writing and editing their stories.

Work together to decide on the criteria for effective writing before beginning this task.

(ACELY1682)   (EN2-2A)