Connecting to prior knowledge

Before Reading

Read the blurb on the back of the book to the students. Briefly discuss what it might mean when it says:

This is a story about new ways of speaking, new ways of living, new ways of being.

Record responses as this will be revisited later in the unit.

Ask students to predict what this book might be about and record the responses to return to later. Lead and prompt the discussion, making sure students include that Cartwheel has just moved to a new country. Discuss how she might feel moving to a new place. Ask:

  • How would you feel if you moved to a new environment?
  • Have they or someone in the class ever moved house/country/school? Perhaps they know a friend or family member who has just moved to Australia, changed schools or started a new job.

Ask the children to talk in groups of three about an experience of moving they have had or that of someone they might know.

Guiding questions:

  • What was new/different about their new environment?
  • What did/might they do if they couldn’t speak English/the language spoken in this new place?
  • Did they have anything that made them feel at home or comfortable or what might make them feel comfortable?
  • How did/might they make their first friends?

(ACELY1669)   (EN1-4A)

Connecting to own experiences

Note: The teacher should read the text before beginning and decide which activities will be appropriate for the group of students you are working with. If you have students who have recently arrived in Australia you should select the activities that will best support the student in your class.

Read the story to the students. Return to the predictions made earlier and have a quick discussion.

Consider having a class discussion about the personal experiences of the children depending on your group.

Have they ever felt left out/alone/scared before or have they been the person who made someone feel welcome?

Get students to complete the following sentence starters individually, then share with a partner before asking for volunteers to share with the class.

  • I feel alone/scared when…
  • When I saw someone who needed help I…

(ACELT1587)   (ACPPS019)   (EN1-11D)


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

Imagery of the blanket

Re-read My Two Blankets. Have a class discussion about the meaning of ‘wrapping myself in a blanket of my own words and sounds’. Children can mime wrapping themselves in a blanket and thinking about how it makes them feel. Acknowledge that when we wrap a blanket around ourselves we feel warm and safe and the author is using this image to create meaning. Put the children into groups of four and ask them to think about why Cartwheel felt safe and happy when she heard her own language and familiar sounds.

Guiding questions:

  • Why do you think she felt safe when she heard her own language and remembered familiar sounds?
  • What makes you feel safe and happy?

(ACELY1670)   (EN1-4A)

Our class blanket

Bring in a blanket and on the blanket put items from your childhood that made you feel safe and happy. Identify and explain these. Are there other things that the children have from their own childhood experience that they find comforting? It might be a scrap of a former quilt or blanket. It might be a special teddy or other stuffed animal. Have a class discussion about what these are and why they are special. Lead a discussion about words and sounds, people and places that make us feel safe at school.

Hand out coloured post-it notes to each child. Ask them to think of a word, song or sound that makes them feel safe at school. For example, a particular song or nursery rhyme often sung together, Miss D’s guitar, birds outside the window, a teacher in the playground, etc. The children write or draw their idea on their post-it note to create a class quilt.
(ACELT1587)   (EN1-11D)


Rich assessment task

Re-read the story to the children. Bring out your blanket (from previous lesson). Ask the children to do a think-pair-share about what would make up their blanket.

Guiding questions:

  • What things make you feel safe?
  • What is special about that object?
  • Why do those things make you feel safe and happy?

The children create their own blanket using the My Blanket Worksheet (PDF, 259KB) or a large poster sized sheet to demonstrate their understanding of the imagery of the blanket in the story.
(ACELT1587)   (EN1-11D)

Responding to the text

Identifying feelings

Prepare six copies of the book with the words covered using paper/post-it notes.

As a class brainstorm how Cartwheel was feeling at various points throughout the story. Record the words the children offer. The list may include words like:

alone safe warm silly
scared  glad sad lonely

Put the children into groups of four or five and give them a copy of the book, their own set of ‘Feeling Words’ and some blue tack. Taking turns at both roles, ask two students to sculpt Cartwheel to identify how Cartwheel is feeling in each part of the story and identify any new feelings they have observed.

Group 1: pages 1 and 2

Group 2: pages 7 and 8

Group 3: pages 9 and 10

Group 4: pages 15 and 16

Group 5: pages 19 and 20

Group 6: pages 23 and 24

Ask each group to share their observations about Cartwheel’s feelings in their part of the story. Together discuss the final page. Embody the different feelings at different points in the story. Each child can draw Cartwheel at one of the points in the story. Then, around the drawing, they can list what feelings Cartwheel is experiencing at that particular point. Use the feeling words to create a word wall and then create a word cline to help generate more specific vocabulary choices.
(ACELA1470)   (EN1-7B)   (ACPPS020)

Emotional responses

Read the story to the students, asking them to identify parts that made them, the reader, feel happy, sad, excited, nervous, pleased, frightened or worried. Ask the students to use think-pair-share to discuss how different parts of the story made them feel. Join pairs together to make groups of four. Have each group choose one of the feelings discussed and use freeze frames or improvisation to represent the different parts in the story that made them feel that way. Choose groups to share with the class. Photograph the students in the freeze frames and print photos to add to the word wall next to the associated feelings. Additional lessons may focus on the children matching the photos with the associated emotions.
(ACELT1589)   (EN1-4A)   (ACPPS020)


If appropriate you may want to talk about the differences between feelings and emotions, brainstorming examples of each. Following the discussion of Cartwheel’s feelings (above), discuss how the students know that she felt that way. Discuss the need to find evidence in the book when we form an opinion about something. For example, on page three, we might infer Cartwheel feels scared and even nervous which we can infer from illustration and the repeated use of the word ‘strange’. In small groups ask the students to play detectives. Provide a copy of the book, an Evidence table (PDF, 102KB) and magnifying glasses. The students identify what feeling was being portrayed and what evidence they can find to support their thinking.
(ACELY1670)   (EN1-4A)

Rich assessment task

Remind the students about how they acted out their feelings in different parts of the story. Ask the students to think-pair-share about what they felt about different parts of the story. Discuss using comparative language like saddest, more, most, kindest, etc. Ask the children to choose two or three events to write about their feelings, offering the following sentence starters for those who need support.

  • I liked/didn’t like it when…
  • My favourite part was…
  • I felt ______ when…
  • I thought it was _________ when…

(ACELA1470)   (EN1-7B)

Examining text structure and organisation

Text structure

Revise the structure of a narrative. Identify that narratives typically have an orientation, problem/complication and resolution. Re-read My Two Blankets to the students. Put the students into groups of 3, allocate a part of the story (orientation, complication or resolution) to each group and ask them to find a space around the room to discuss and create a freeze frame scene from the part of the story allocated. They can then move to improvising each part of the story. Ask different groups of children to show their freeze frames or improvisations of the story for the class. Students can draw their own story map paying close attention to representing the orientation, complication and resolution.
(ACELA1463)   (EN1-7B)

Comparing two texts

Explain to the students they will be looking for similarities and differences between My Two Blankets and First Grade Stinks by Mary Ann Rodman. Ask them to focus on the plot, characters and emotions when watching both video clips. Ask the students to think-pair-share about the similarities between the two stories. Then draw a large venn diagram on the whiteboard or interactive whiteboard and record some of the responses from the pairs. Possible responses might include, the children in both books are new to their environment, the children in both books appear to be upset and uncomfortable and both main characters end up growing to like their new environments. Write these ideas in the overlapping section of the Venn Diagram. Then ask the children to think-pair-share about the differences between the two stories. Write these in the outer edges of each circle. The children then individually complete the Similarities and Differences (PDF,  261KB) Venn Diagram to include their own ideas.
(ACELY1665)   (EN1-4A)

Figurative language

Discuss what it means when the author writes on page six, ‘When I went out, it was like standing under a waterfall of strange sounds’. Identify this language as a simile which helps us to form a picture of what is happening by relating it to another experience. Watch a minute of ‘Large waterfall sounds‘. Put the children into groups of four and give them each a piece of A3 paper. Ask the students to brainstorm words they think of as they imagine standing underneath a waterfall – loud, wet, painful, unpleasant, uncomfortable, etc. What might they hear, see, feel? Encourage students to share ideas with the class.
(ACELA1463)   (EN1-7B)


Rich assessment task

Introduce the Oral Story Retell Rubric (PDF, 110KB) to the students and identify how they can successfully retell a story using it. Collect objects from the classroom and outside environment, for example, leaves, sticks, flowers, lego, etc. Model using these to create the characters and settings from the story.

Revisit the structure of narrative; orientation, complication and resolution. Use the objects you collected to retell the story in your own words – including the orientation, complication and resolution. Ask the children to listen carefully to identify these elements while you read the story. Put the children into groups of three and take them outside to find their own objects to retell the story. Give children time to create their characters and settings and practise retelling the story in their own words. Allow each group a chance to perform their version of the story in front of the class. Use the Oral Story Retell Rubric (PDF, 110KB) to assess each group on the elements of their story.
(ACELY1671)   (EN1-2A)

Different point of view

Revisit the blurb on the back of the book briefly discussed in the first session.

This is a story about new ways of speaking, new ways of living, new ways of being.

Can we add any more ideas to our first thoughts about these words?

Have students write a short narrative from the perspective of the girl that Cartwheel met in My Two Blankets. Have students think about what the girl might see, hear, feel and smell. Discuss as a class before writing. Link to the previous discussion. Guiding questions:

  • What did she think when she first saw Cartwheel?
  • What was the girl thinking when she approached Cartwheel the first time? On subsequent occasions?
  • How did she teach Cartwheel new words?

Model a simple scaffold with an orientation, complication and resolution. For example, Once upon a time there was a girl called Jessica (create a name for the character) who enjoyed going to the park. One day while she was playing on her own in the park she saw a girl with her Auntie who looked nervous and shy. Jessica waved at the girl, hoping they could play together.

Individually the students write their narratives. The first draft writing could be read aloud in groups of three to four and commented upon by the group. Choose a couple to share with the whole class.
(ACELT1593)   (EN1-2A)

Story map

Ask the students to think about their own stories that include someone coming to a new place, perhaps moving to a new country, school, job, starting a new hobby or sport, etc. Have the students think carefully about the setting, characters, problem and resolution. Students plan their ideas on a Story Map (PDF, 301KB). At the conclusion of the lesson, have students orally retell their story to a partner or the class.
(ACELY1671)   (EN1-2A)

Role play

Put students into groups of four or five. Each student shares the story map created last session, then the group chooses one story map for the group to role play. If time permits, allow students to create props to support their storytelling. Allow time for students to rehearse their story and then use an iPad to film their performance. Gain feedback from the children after watching each performance.

  • What did they do well?
  • What could they try next time?

(ACELY1674)   (EN1-3A)


Rich assessment task

Using the story map created above, students can now independently write their own narrative about a person coming to a new place. Once the first draft is complete, organise pairs to swap their work with and do some Peer Editing (PDF, 134KB) to assess and give feedback. Over several lessons, students can redraft and then illustrate their narrative and type up and publish their books to share with the class before displaying in the school or class library. Alternatively the narratives could be created and published using Storybird.
(ACELY1671)   (EN1-2A)