Connecting to prior knowledge
Expose students to a range of visuals, articles, YouTube clips, etc. about Chinese New Year/Spring Festival and particularly the dragon dance. Celebrations take place across Australia. Try and find information on events in your local area or nearest city. When showing students both still and moving images about Chinese New Year celebrations, ask students ‘what do you notice’? This question encourages students to engage with the visual text and encourages discussion therefore developing content knowledge and vocabulary. The question differentiates by allowing students to first say what they see but ‘noticing’ allows for more complex thinking and encourages students to wonder and ask questions.
Write or record student responses. Do this as a whole class to provide a model for students to use when they are working in small groups.
Use Google maps or an atlas to look at where China is in the world. Locate northern China which is the setting for the book. Informational texts will be used later in the unit so students can build their understanding. The connection between the picture book New Year Surprise! and these informational texts allows for connection to the HASS curriculum for this year level.
Connecting to prior experience: In pairs or threes give students an A3 colour photocopy of the cover of New Year Surprise! or ask students to use their iPads to take a photo. Photograph or copy the book opened out so it shows the front and back cover. Read the short blurb on the back cover. Ask students to discuss what they notice on these pages. Students spend approximately ten minutes discussing in their groups. After discussion time, ask students to check-in with a quick share back session of their discussions. After sharing, give students the table (PDF, 162KB), photocopied to A3 size and ask them to record what they have noticed and what they are wondering.
Exploring the text in context of our community, school and ‘me’
Read New Year Surprise! to the class. At the end of the reading discuss with students what they noticed during the reading. As an example, suggest this may be something that surprised them, something they anticipated or something that made them feel a certain emotion.
Reread the book, during this reading encourage students to make ‘text to self’, ‘text to text’ and ‘text to world’ connections. These can relate to the pre-reading activities they have engaged in before listening to the story.
Depending on student needs, you may need to revisit the connecting strategy and how there are three different connections that can be made. If necessary, revisit anchor charts that have already been constructed or create new ones.
Rich assessment task
With students in their previous groups, invite them to revisit the wonderings/questions they recorded earlier. Ask students to note the questions that have been answered by reading the text. Ask students to order their remaining wonderings/questions with one being something they really want to know, two being what they want to know next and so on. The pairs, or groups of three, will need to discuss and negotiate to make their list.
Students then share with the rest of the class the wondering/question they really want to know about. Provide time for students to share in pairs two or three reasons of why they are curious about their chosen wondering.
The wonderings/questions of all the groups are then recorded via narration on an iPad or written up and displayed in the classroom. Throughout the unit refer back to these and engage the students in a discussion about which ones have been answered and which ones might not be answered and why.
(ACELY1656) (EN1-1A) (ACELY1657) (EN1-6B)
Responding to the text
Before rereading New Year Surprise! again, ask the students why they think the author called the story New Year Surprise!. Spend some time as a whole class discussing this question, focusing on active listening and encouraging them to give reasons for their ideas and building on the ideas of their peers. Now reread the book and invite students to identify the characters in the story. Have pictures of the characters ready to put up as students identify a new character.
Exploring plot, character, setting and theme
Have copies of the book for mixed ability groups of three or four to closely observe and investigate the selected pages 1–2, 3–4, 11–12, 13–14, 15–16, 17–18, 19–20 across the groups. Using pages 1–2, model the activity using the following questions:
- Who is telling the story?
- Who are the characters in the picture?
- How are the characters feeling? What tells you how they are feeling?
- How is the main character feeling? How do you know?
This serves as a model for when students work in their groups on one of the allocated double pages. Students are encouraged to use the words of the story and/or the illustrations to support their thinking. Introduce students to the gestural semiotic system and how facial expressions and body gestures convey meaning.
Explain to students that they should discuss and listen to each other before they start to write down their thoughts. Model this with the whole class using the table (PDF, 164KB). Each group then completes discussion and recording of their thinking for the page of the story. Students could also use this table as a prompt and record their thinking using an iPad. Groups then share their thinking with the class.
Discuss the illustrations and the title. How do the illustrations tell us the story? Why do you think the author chose the title New Year Surprise!?
Rich assessment task
Students discuss the facial expressions/gestures that show a character is surprised. Investigate with students other words that can mean surprise such as wonder, shock and astonishment. Put these words into a word cline to develop vocabulary. In pairs students then photograph each other making a surprised face and photograph the book characters who show surprise. Print the photos and ask pairs of students to talk about their reasoning before they categorise the photos into different levels of surprise using the word cline.
Examining text structure and organisation
Plot/story line: The story is about a young boy trying to work out which special job his father has decided to give him for the New Year celebration. In small groups, invite students to brainstorm the main events of the story and record these on post-it notes (one event per post-it note). Some students may need support here by telling them how many events there are to avoid a retelling. Students then sequence the post-it notes to create a timeline of the story. Reread the story with students checking that they have the main events in the correct order. Give students time to check their timeline of the story. Encourage students to look at the pattern of the story such as the repetition of the words ‘so that is not my special job’ and the different jobs the boy identifies before he finds out his special job right at the end of the story.
Setting: Before engaging with this section ask students to bring in photos of their houses or collect photos from your local area. Look back at the map of China to see where the story is set and discuss what weather we might expect. Also include some of the pictures of Chinese villages used in the pre-reading activities completed earlier in the unit. In mixed ability groups, students compare pictures of the Chinese village in the story with photos of their local area using a Venn diagram. Scaffold students to realise that some pictures are from a fiction text (with the social purpose to entertain) and some pictures are from a non-fiction text (with the social purpose to inform).
If possible, have multiple copies of the book so each group has a copy or use an interactive white board. Ask students to identify some of the facts they have learned about a northern Chinese village from the words and illustrations of the story.
Illustrations: Collect some images of Chinese visual art. Look at some of the images in the back of the book. This book is part of an Asian collection in the National Library of Australia. The National Gallery also holds a collection of Chinese art. After exploring some examples, organise students in mixed ability groups to compare these with Di Wu’s illustrations in New Year Surprise!. Choose one or two other illustrators/artists and have students compare the illustrations with Di Wu’s illustrations. Students then investigate colour and line as a starting point to learn the visual semiotic system.
Prompt with questions and comments such as:
- What colours are used? How are the colours used?
- Notice the position of the characters on the pages and the double-page spreads.
- Talk about what you see in the foreground and the background.
Students could later use some of this knowledge in their own art works including the art works for the final assessment task of the unit. By this time some of the students will have noticed the cat that appears on the end papers and in all the pictures set inside the house.
- What do they notice?
- What questions/wonders do they have?
- Did they notice cats in the other pictures about China they examined earlier in the unit?
Investigate with students the importance of cats as a symbol of luck. You might like to start with this short, informational video.
Examining grammar and vocabulary
Identifying the saying verbs/processes: Draw attention to verb groups/processes (What is happening?), and noun groups/participants (Who or what is taking part?). Particularly focus on the action verbs and saying verbs.
Reread New Year Surprise! and ask students to listen for saying verbs. Record the responses of the students. Choose some picture books that demonstrate a range of saying verbs. In pairs, the students become ‘word detectives’ and hunt for the saying verbs. Students share back the saying verbs they find. Add these contributions to the list and display these in the classroom so students can access them when writing.
Investigating the ‘ing’ suffix: Using multiple copies of the book and students in mixed ability groups, students find sentences that contain the verb group/process with the ‘ing’ suffix. Use the following example and add those discovered by the groups.
We’ve been sweeping and cleaning and dusting and shining everything in our house.
Finish up with each group constructing their own sentence.
The word dumpling is used in the book which can be used as a teaching point. Look at the letter pattern ‘ing’. Dumpling is a participant/noun. Other learning activities could be to investigate the origins of the word dumpling, was it originally a verb?
Rich assessment task
Discuss with the class how the author and illustrator created the main character using words and pictures. Read the book pausing on each page and invite ideas from the group.
Provide a character outline. Ask students what they know about the young boy. Write their responses inside the character outline. Ask students what questions they have about the character and write these on the outside of the character outline. Using the knowledge they have about the young boy ask students to think about how the young boy might feel while he is leading the dragon dance. Students share their thoughts in whole class discussion.
Now ask students to use the character outline (inside and outside), the book, both the words and pictures and the informational texts shared at the beginning of the unit, to inform their thinking. Individually or in pairs students write and/or draw or record on an iPad their version of how the boy felt leading the dragon dance.
Pre-assessment learning experience
Discuss with students the following questions:
- Why do you think Christopher Cheng wrote this story?
- Why do you think Di Wu illustrated the story the way he did?
Record student responses.
At the end of the book, Christopher Cheng has included information about his reasons for writing the book, the setting and festivals in China. Read this to the class explaining that this book is in the Asia Collection of the National Library of Australia. Take a moment to talk about why this is important.
Read about the setting and festivals in China (back of the book) stopping to note any questions individual students may have. Prompt to ensure the students understand that the Spring Festival (the topic of this book) is one of the author’s favourite festivals. Discuss with students that the Spring Festival happens every year.
Di Wu has also written a paragraph on where, why and how he painted the pictures for the book. The illustrator explains he returned to China to do the illustrations for this book painting on rice paper and using traditional Chinese brushes and the colours of traditional Chinese painting.
Thinking about what the author and illustrator have said, ask students if they can think of events in their lives that happen every year. This is where the multicultural nature of your classroom can be explored. Display the different occasions that happen in the lives of the children in your class and include other occasions from cultures not represented in the class. Students then focus on how they feel waiting for the event to happen in their lives. Discuss what connections they can make with the young boy in New Year Surprise!.
Rich assessment task
Students use the understandings they have gained throughout this unit to complete the following:
- Write and/or illustrate an imaginative narrative about someone their age waiting for something that is a surprise. Encourage students to use the structure of New Year Surprise!, where the character guesses incorrectly the first few times before the surprise is finally revealed.
- Before students begin, revisit narrative structure, reminding students of the key elements previously taught. Use New Year Surprise! as an example.
- You might use a scaffold for any students not yet able to use the structure or form a group and provide teacher support.
For this learning task students could use a storyboard to map out their story before writing and/or drawing their text. Demonstrate the process before beginning. Students could also use an iPad to complete this task using Book Creator if familiar with the application. Encourage students to use the information gathered throughout the unit and displayed on the walls of the classroom.