Connecting to prior knowledge
Show the students the front cover of the book. Ask them to look closely at the illustration and to share what they notice. Use prompts such as:
- Who can you see on the cover?
- What are the children doing?
- Where do you think they live? Why?
- What is in the background of the illustration.
Record their initial thoughts for future reference.
Read the title of the book to the students and ask them what they think this might mean. Elicit student understanding of what a village might be and how a village could be in the sky. Read the blurb on the back of the book and ask students if this helps with their understanding of the title.
Our village sits above the great river,
nestled in the Himalayan mountains.
This is what we do on summer days
when school is closed for holiday time,
in our village in the sky.
Check if any students can share information they have about the Himalayan mountains and then use Google Maps to confirm where the Himalayan mountains are in relation to where they live. Does this new information help you to understand why the village might be referred to as being in the sky?
Using the cover, title and blurb from the back cover ask students to infer who these children are and what they are doing.
Use think-pair-share strategy and ask students to discuss what they like to do when school is closed and it is holiday time. Make a class list of these activities. Ask students to predict if they think that the children in the text will participate in similar activities during their holidays.
Read Our Village in the Sky aloud to students. Read a second time and allow students time to examine the illustrations on the pages as the text is read aloud. Prompt your students to notice the language used and the poetry structure to tell the narrative.
Refer back to the inferences made about the children and activities. Discuss.
Exploring the text in context of our community, school and ‘me’
Ask students to think-pair-share about what they noticed about the story. Ask questions to prompt discussion such as:
- What sort of activities/games did the children in the book play?
- What did you notice about these games?
- Why do you think that the children in the book played those particular games?
With the whole class, model the use of a Venn diagram using this online tool. Compare the activities that the students in your class participate in during the holidays with the activities of the children in the book. Examine the feelings of the children portrayed in the book and those of the students in the classroom.
You may choose to use the Making connections worksheet (PDF 94KB).
With the class, make a list of the tasks completed by the children in the book. Using the Text-to-self Comparison worksheet (PDF 192KB), in small groups or pairs, have students compare how that task is completed in their family.
Have students share their ideas and promote a discussion about the similarities and differences and why students think that this is the case. Reflect back on where this story is set and the remoteness of the area.
Ask students to think about what is not in the village environment such as electricity, water and shops.
How does the absence of these utilities affect the lives of the children in this story?
Focus on the feelings of the children in the book. List as you go. Possibilities are happy, joyful, pleased and contented. Discuss the differences in the feelings identified by class members.
Rich assessment task
Suggest to your students that some things are universal. That is wherever we live we do similar things such as chores around the house and playing games when we are young.
Have students think about the tasks that they have to complete in their daily lives. This might be a job at home such as setting the table, unpacking the dishwasher or making lunch. Ask students to draw themselves completing these activities with a speech bubble explaining how they might treat it as a game.
Now ask students to draw one of the characters from Our Village in the Sky and include a speech bubble. Ask students to infer from what they have read what the character might be saying and to write this inside the speech bubble.
Ask students to show the drawing and speech bubble to a partner. Provide prompts so each student can ask the partner:
- Is there some information in the character drawing that helps you interpret the words the character is saying?
- Does the drawing and words together make the meaning of the words stronger?
- Do the words explain or help you understand what the character is feeling?
- Do you think the character drawing and speech combined help you to better understand the character?
Provide time for both students in the pair to share.
Responding to the text
Display the first double page from the book with the text covered. An interactive whiteboard would be ideal for this. Model to students how you can use descriptive language to describe the illustrations in detail.
Example: The land looks vast behind the girl in the foreground. Her brightly coloured scarf contrasts against the muted colours of the mountains in the background. The houses in the foreground might belong to different families but there are many more houses in the distance beneath the mountains. It might be a long walk to these houses. The land looks bare.
Invite students to look carefully at the colours that have been selected as well as the water colour style of illustration.
Ask students to help you describe the page.
Next select a different page from the text and again display it without text. Have students sit with an EEKK (eyes to eyes and knees to knees) partner with one student (A) having their back to the image. Ask the other student (B) to describe the image that they see using as much detail as possible. Remind them of the list created in the last activity as some of the vocabulary may help them describe the scene. Ensure student A cannot see the image. Student A should then be able to identify the selected illustration from the book.
Continue by putting students in groups with a copy of the book to look more closely at the illustrations. Pace the group discussion by pointing out different elements and then providing group discussion time.
1. Line and colour
- Suggest students think about the soft colour wash used by the illustrator.
- What impact does that have?
- Does it create a ‘mood’ in the story?
- Often the characters are in the foreground.
- Ask the groups to find examples of when the illustrator has done this and discuss the impact of that choice.
- What about the landscape? How has the illustrator created a sparse mountainous landscape.
- Remind students this is summer, the landscape would be very different in the winter months.
As a follow up to this activity students should select a favourite illustration from the book and consider the techniques discussed. They can then create a water colour painting inspired by this page and what they have learned about line, space, colour and layout.
Invite students to write a few lines about their painting and what they intended to depict. This might be just one word if it is a mood they were depicting. Encourage them to think back to discussions in previous activities.
Exploring plot, character, setting and theme
Have students look through the book and compare the characters in the book with themselves (text-to-self). Together list some of the things we all do, even if they are done differently in different homes. This might include:
- washing clothes
- drying clothes
- playing games
- dish washing
- helping with young siblings
Looking at the book, what do they notice about the children’s:
- equipment such as baskets, baby carrier, etc.
Have students complete the Visible Thinking Routine where they See, Think, Wonder about a page from the book. This can initially be done as a whole class and then students can select a page from the text to work from in small groups. Ask students to record what they can see, what the illustration makes them think about and also if they have any questions or wonderings. This can be done in the form of a Y-chart.
Read Mirror by Jeanie Baker. Make text-to-text connections between this text and Our Village in the Sky as well as text to self links between both books and student’s own lives. Mirror is a complex text so you may need to move slowly and scaffold students.
- What do students notice that is the same and what is different?
- Which boy from Mirror do they most identify with and why?
- Is there anything that is the same for all of the children both in the books and themselves?
You may use the sentence starters below to prompt comments.
I am like the _________ boy in Mirror because…
I am different to the _________ boy in Mirror because…
My day is like ________ because…
I think I am like the child that __________ in Our Village in the Sky.
My family is like________.
I can see that Mirror is similar to Our Village in the Sky because…
As a class compare the families of both boys in Mirror. Have students create their own representation of their own family. This could be a drawing, a family tree, or done on an app such as Popplet. Students then write sentences that compare the similarities and differences between the three families. Think about what they do in the Summer.
Divide the class into two groups. Half with Mirror and the other half with A Village in the Sky. Ask both groups to look through the illustrations in the book assigned focusing on the children depicted in each story.
- How would the students describe the emotions of the children?
- What is the role of the illustrations in each of the books?
Have students select one of the characters from the book assigned and devise a back story for their life. They may like to give them a name, think about their family, where they live and what they enjoy doing. Encourage students to use the information contained in the book to make realistic assumptions. Students will then work in small groups to be put in the ‘Hot Seat’ where the other students ask questions about the character, and the student in the seat needs to answer as if they were the character from the book.
Rich assessment task
Have students use their own life to create a representation of a summer day in a format of their own choice. Options include:
- Students work in groups to devise a puppet show with illustrations for backgrounds depicting the settings and the characters drawn as paper cut outs that are then stuck on ice cream sticks.
- Use a puppet show app such as Puppet Pals or a video creation tool such as Adobe Spark.
- Make a book of a day in their life using Book Creator or Shadow Puppet.
Examining text structure and organisation
Ask students what text type they think the book is and encourage them to explain why they think this is the case. Prompt students to notice that the book is written like a poem. Talk about free verse and poetry forms that do not rhyme.
Read a few pages again so students can hear the carefully chosen words.
Say: Free verse is best read aloud. Read a couple of pages and ask for comments on your statement.
Ask for comments about this style of writing and why the author might have chosen it. Prompt if necessary:
- the author creates pictures with words
- how would the story be different if written in a narrative form rather than free verse?
- are there any devices used by the author you recognise?
Students may notice the layout and use of punctuation.
Read from the back page where Janeen Brian’s poems are described as ‘evocative’. Explore what that means.
Invite students to use Popplet or a similar mind mapping app or website to record their thoughts about poetry. Once completed share the ideas with the whole class. Listen for misconceptions about poetry (such as the idea that poems must rhyme) and discuss. Have some examples on hand of various forms of poetry to share with the class. Refer to the ABC Education resource for more information about poetry and the rules that apply and how they can be broken.
Re-read Our Village in the Sky asking students to focus on the poetry. What features of poetry can the students now discover? What features are visible to the students?
Individually or in small groups have students read a selection of poems and reflect on them. A recording sheet such as this could be used to help students reflect on the different poems.
|Poem Title||Features I noticed in the poem|
Examining grammar and vocabulary
Display the page in the book showing the monastery and ask students what they think the lama is? It is possible that students will have only heard of the animal (llama). Guide students through looking at the clues in the text that let them know that this is not the case.
Listen to an example of ‘the swirling sounds of lamas chanting’. Read the page again and ask for comments.
Discuss what a monastery is, whether lamas pray or chant and why the boy in Our Village in the Sky thinks that doing good for the lamas will bring him happiness? Show some images of monasteries.
Share the poem ‘The Lama’ by Odgen Nash and discuss how the humor in this poem can help you remember the two meanings for ‘lama’. Show students a picture of both a llama and a lama. Discuss similar figures in other religions to guide students to make connections.
Read the book to students whilst they have small whiteboards. Alternatively if you have multiple copies have students work in small groups with their own copy of the book. As you (or they) are reading ask students to record any other unfamiliar vocabulary that they encounter. Transfer new vocabulary to the vocabulary worksheet (PDF 96KB) and complete the rest of the table. This could be completed individually or in small groups. Conclude with a group discussion about any words that were tricky and then display on the wall of the classroom to revisit.
Model an example before the task.
|Word||What I think it means||Clues from the text||Actual meaning|
|garment||perhaps some type of clothing||it can be washed. It says ‘robes and other garments…’||an item of clothing|
|skink||animal of some kind||it scuttled past, darted towards rocks for warmth||a type of lizard|
Now focus on the language in the text. On an interactive whiteboard, display the page of the book showing the girl washing her brother’s trousers. Have students highlight all of the words that add detail to the text.
She smears soap
and squeezes each part –
legs, waist, pockets
all rubbed, rubbed, rubbed
with fingers and fists
back and forth
like kneading dough
Next she turns the trousers
rubs again until satisfied,
then turns them the right way
Is this a hard job? Which words make you think that?
Does she like this chore? What makes you think that?
Could students substitute other words (verbs) that would be as effective?
Talk about the author’s choice of vocabulary, helping students see it is specific and detailed and leads the reader to understand and infer beyond the words. Conclude by reading again, prompting students to look carefully at the illustration while listening to the words.
Rich assessment task
Show students images of students travelling to school. As a class select the journey of the girl on the zipline and construct a simple sentence.
The girl is moving on the zipline.
Using the last activity, demonstrate to students how to add adjectives, verbs and adverbs to the sentence to make it more engaging and powerful.
The small girl is whizzing quickly along the thick cable as the tall trees fly below her. Zip, whiz, zoom!
Unpack the sentence looking for adverbs and adjectives.
Have students select an image to use to write their own super sentence describing what they can see. Remind them what you are looking for in the sentence. Have students edit their sentence with a partner to see if the sentence can be improved.
Examine the sentences as a class and jointly devise a set of criteria for a successful describing sentence.
Now present students with images of the children from the book. This time invite students to write a sentence or two that describes in detail what is taking place. Use the criteria that was developed in the activity above and have students self- and peer-assess their writing. Give students the opportunity to edit and improve their sentences.
Before beginning remind them to use the example above as a model.
Use adjectives and adverbs to add detail for the reader (class mate).
Re-read Our Village in the Sky. Ask students to remind you what style this book is written in (free verse). Read a selection of other poems in free verse to the students. Tadpoles in the Torrens is a good resource. You may want to read a variety of styles of poetry to help students understand free verse. Ask students to think about the language that poets use when they are writing so that they create images with their words. Ask students about the forms of poetry that they know. There are various overviews of the different styles of poetry that may be useful.
Read students some simple Haiku poems, explain the structure of this style of poetry and explain that they are usually written about nature. Have students brainstorm words about the setting of Our Village in the Sky. If needed show students some photographs of the landscape of the Himalayas. Introduce this template and work through the steps as a shared writing activity, encouraging participation.
To help students record their words and the number of syllables that each word contains, teach students the trick of holding their hand under their chin whilst saying a word. The number of times your jaw and hand drops is the number of syllables that a word contains. Once students have suitable words you can then experiment as a class group with writing a class Haiku poem.
Now give students the option of working in pairs to create their own haiku. This can be related to any aspect of the book. Do a walk through of the book suggesting ideas such as playing games or washing day. Provide the same template to help students record their words and the number of syllables that each word contains. Remind students of the trick of holding their hand under their chin whilst saying a word. Once they have their words they can then experiment with writing their own Haiku poem.
Share the poems in groups of four prompting the group members to check the structure and syllables together.
Optional: You may like to offer students an opportunity to use the same content in a different poetry format (below) and then think about how the structure impacts on the topic choice.
Read the text on the page that shows the boy hanging from the orange flagpole. Brainstorm with students what they think their hands and feet can do. Encourage students to experiment with a wide range of vocabulary. A thesaurus may be useful for expanding students’ range of adjectives. Use this interactive site to model how to create a diamond poem about either hands or feet. Have students use their words to create a diamond poem using the template if required. More able students may be able to start their poem about hands and end it about feet.
(ACELA1463) (EN1-8B) (ACELY1672) (EN1-12E)
Rich assessment task
Explore life in the Himalayas for children. This website is a good starting point. You may want to identify other resources. Choose one aspect such as climate and weather (and link to the earlier video) or explore the different topics.
Have students work in pairs to brainstorm some ideas about the topic. Then in pairs write a poem on the subject in free verse. Read a double page from Our Village in the Sky to remind students of the need to utilise a rich vocabulary, adjectives and noun groups. Revise the three types of nouns: common, proper and pronouns. Build it up: Expanding noun groups might be a good activity prior to students writing if students need to revise noun groups. See the More Resources tab below for a reference.