Connecting to prior knowledge

Before Reading

In a whole class group, look at the front and back cover of Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley. Focus students’ attention on the body language of the two characters on the front cover and read the blurb on the back to encourage ideas from the group. Some students may be familiar with Aaron Blabey’s books and use that prior knowledge to predict. Have students do think-pair-share-compare about their predictions. As students make predictions, record the ideas to refer back to.

Finish up by discussing what friendship means to the students: Who are their friends? Why are they friends? What makes a good friend?

Record the ideas to return to later in the unit.

Read Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley aloud.

Begin by asking the students what they are wondering about after hearing the story. Do a quick think-pair-share with each student beginning, ‘I am wondering about . . .’ Share some wonders.

Re-visit the class predictions about the book. Now ask the students: what do you think the theme of the book is?

Character Development Through Illustrations

Re-read the book stopping at each page so the students can look closely at the illustrations. As students explore the illustrations, discuss how they help develop a deeper understanding of the two characters.

  • What kind of people are Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley?
  • How are they the same? How are they different?
  • Ask what the students infer from the illustrations?

Point out that some of the pictures are in black and white and discuss why.

Brainstorm words to describe each character.

After the brainstorm, collaboratively create a venn diagram about the two characters looking for similarities and differences. Display the chart to refer back to and add to if students discover more character traits as you continue with the activities.
(ACELT1581)   (EN1-11D)


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

Character Development Through Language

Look at the verbs that are used to describe each character. For example:

  • Pearl Barley – ‘talk, talk, talk’, ‘solve mysteries’, ‘run amok’, ‘dances up a storm’.
  • Charlie Parsley – ‘be safe and sound’, ‘sit and think’.

What kind of imagery do these words evoke? Discuss the volume and pace of each character’s descriptions and why these words might have been chosen by the author.

In pairs students can select one of the illustrations as a guide to sculpt each other as Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley. Make a circle of Pearl Barley sculptures and study them. How are they depicted. Repeat with sculptures of Charlie Parsley. Students can then draw the character they have just depicted and list the key characteristics.

The theme of the book is friendship, so discuss why the author might have chosen to create two opposite characters to demonstrate friendship, instead of two characters who are friends because of their common interests and likes.

Model creating a list of verbs or verb groups about yourself.

Then have each student create a list of verbs or verb groups about themselves.

How do they compare to Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley? Who are they most/least like or are they a combination of both?

Ask students to complete the About Me chart shown below. Encourage students to refer to the book and charts you have been creating.

Pearl Barley  Charlie Parsley  Me 
Pearl likes to run amok Charlie likes to sit and think I like to read
Pearl likes to . . . Charlies likes to . . . I like to . . .

Prompt with:

  • What sport do you like? What sport might Pearl and Charlie like?
  • What might be the favourite subject at school for Pearl and Charlie? And yourself?
  • What books/TV shows do you like?
  • What dislikes might you have?

(ACELT1581)   (EN1-11D)


Rich assessment task

Review the discussion and activities, brainstorm about the characters and character descriptions. Then ask students to individually complete the Friendship Chart (PDF, 125KB) recording their ideas about what friendship looks like, sounds like and feels like?
(ACELT1582)   (EN1-11D)

Responding to the text

Sharing Feelings and Thoughts About the Characters

Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley are two completely opposite people.

Return to the brainstorm for each character and add any new words. The words can be from the text or inferred in the text and illustrations. Record the words and then draw attention to pairs of words that are antonyms. Form small groups so students can discuss how a friendship like this can work. Give each group some post-its to record any new words that might be added to the lists describing the characters. Display the lists on a word wall so they are available later when students are writing.

Key Questions

Move the discussion from description of characteristics to feelings.

  • How do you think Charlie Parsley feels when Pearl Barley is being very loud and active? Runs amok?
  • How do you think Pearl Barley feels when Charlie Parsley is being quiet and still? Is sitting and thinking?
  • Do you think they like these things about each other ALL the time?

Have students choose one of the characters and write and draw about why they think they could be good friends with them.

  • Who will they choose?
  • What would they do together and why would they like each other?

Role Play

Do a quick re-read of the book.

In pairs ask students to do a short role play of Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley having a conversation. How do they react to one another?

Then do a role play when they complement one another, highlighting how they are a good ‘fit’.
(ACELT1582)   (EN1-11D)


Exploring plot, character, setting and theme

Comparison With Sunday Chutney by Aaron Blabey

Before Reading

Discuss any similarities between the covers of both Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley and that of Sunday Chutney. Look at the illustration style and the unusual names.

Make some predictions about the kind of person that Sunday Chutney might be based on the clues on the front cover. Predict what the story is about.

After Reading

Re-visit the class predictions about the book and discuss what they think the theme of this book is.

Explore why the words and pictures in Sunday Chutney do not always match. Is she lying or is she trying to cover up how she really feels? Why would she do this?


How are these two books the same? How are they different? How does the character Sunday Chutney compare with Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley? Have students do a quick pair-share of their ideas.

Friendship is a common theme between these books. Talk about how the theme of friendship is developed in each book.

Have students decide which is their favourite character and give reasons why. Give students five minutes to write down their ideas.

Tell them they will be writing a short persuasive text to persuade the class they have made a good choice. Before beginning revisit the main features of a persuasive text and remind students they can refer to the words brainstormed earlier.
(ACELT1584)   (EN1-7B)


Rich Assessment task

In small groups ask students to pick one of the characters from either book and create a PMI (Plus/Minus/Interesting) chart about what it would be like to be his/her friend.

Share and compare ideas with the class.

For example, Pearl Barley:

Plus Minus  Interesting 
She creates lots of fun games and activities She is very loud all the time She is always pretending she is someone else

(ACELT1582)   (EN1-11D)

Examining text structure and organisation

Text Structure

Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley does not tell a story in the traditional sense with a beginning, middle and end. Instead it is more of a ‘compare and contrast’ style that comes together at the end explaining why they complement one another.

Key Questions to explore the text

How does the author describe the personality of each character?

Think about the words and the illustrations depicting:

  • what the characters do,
  • how the characters act,
  • how the characters interact with others,
  • how do the characters think and feel.

Divide an A3 piece of paper in half and have the students do a collage on each side, one of Pearl Barley and one of Charlie Parsley. The collage should represent the kind of person that the character is.

Before beginning have small groups of students look carefully at the illustrations in the book noting the stance, colour, size, expression and perspective of each of the characters for inspiration for their artwork. Provide a variety of materials, different types of paper, small objects etc. for them to choose from.

Pearl Barley’s picture should be vibrant, show movement and her face should be highly animated, while Charlie Parsley’s picture should be in blues and greys and he should be still with a wistful expression.

Surround each character with words that best describe them, inferring and using words from the text or word wall.
(ACELT1584)   (EN1-7B)


Examining grammar and vocabulary

Complex Sentences

In a complex sentence there is a clause expressing one idea or message and another clause (or clauses) elaborating on the message in some way. The clauses are linked by a subordinating conjunction.

In Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley the first half of the book follows a pattern: ‘While Pearl Barley . . ., Charlie Parsley . . .’, with ‘while’ being the conjunction. It offers the author a chance to highlight the differences between the two characters with Pearl Barley being shown as the dominant personality.

In the second half of the book the complex sentences are structured in a different way for a different effect. The author uses the subordinating conjunction ‘when’ and alternates the character each time to emphasise the ways in which they complement one another: ‘When Pearl Barley . . ., Charlie Parsley . . .’

Explore how these two different conjunctions create two different kinds of sentences and create some together as shared writing. Experiment by creating some sentences together using both of these techniques.


While Year 1 likes to make a racket . . . Mrs Smith (teacher’s name) like peace and quiet.

When Year 1 feels tired . . . Mrs Smith tells them they have had a great day learning.
(ACELA1448)   (EN1-4A)


Rich assessment task

Ask students to create a double entry journal (PDF, 92KB) about someone in their family. Explain that family members like brothers, sisters and cousins are often friends too. Alternatively they can choose a classmate but keep a check this is done carefully.

On one side have the students create their own complex sentences using the same structure about themselves and the family member chosen that highlights their differences.

For example, ‘While I like to play tennis, my brother likes to read books.’

Now have the students create some other complex sentences about their family members using this second structure to highlight how they complement one another to put on the other side.

For example, ‘When my cousin is feeling sad, I take her out for a walk.’

Read a selection of other picture books that are based on friendship, such as The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister, Franklin’s New Friend by Paulette Bourgeois or Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge and Hunwick’s Egg by Mem Fox (see More Resources for further examples). Explore the different ways in which the characters show their friendship, share their friendship and find friendship. Begin as a whole class then move to groups of 4–5. Allocate one of the books to each group. Have each group discuss what each character gains from being a friend and from having a friend in the book allocated.

Following this discussion, have students look through magazines to find and cut out pictures that they think represent friendship. Create a class collage and brainstorm all the words that they think are associated with the pictures to make a new word wall. Because there are so many different elements of friendship, discuss the range of pictures collected. Is there something that they all have in common? Do all friendships look the same?

Have the students reflect on what it means to be a good friend, why they think they are a good friend and write down adjectives about themselves, thinking about the qualities others would appreciate in them. Take photos of each of the students and print these out and put each photo in the middle of a large piece of paper. Have classmates write down positive adjectives to describe other members of class, then compare the self-reflection and peer contributions.

  • Are they similar to each other?
  • Did anything pleasantly surprise anyone?
  • Do their peers see something they don’t?

Put these on display for students and parents to celebrate the wonderful qualities within the classroom.

Have students create a self portrait on KidPix and, using their own adjective brainstorms from the above activity, students can create a descriptive piece of writing about themselves as a friend. Collate these pages and make into a class book to enjoy.
(ACELY1661)   (EN1-2A)


Rich assessment task

As a class re-visit the work about what friendship looks like, sounds like and feels like. Encourage students to add their new understandings to this piece of work and discuss their changes.

Using the iPad app iMovie have the students create a movie trailer in small groups that captures their understanding of the essence of friendship.

Prepare by showing some examples of friendship movies. Such as Friendship Soup or What is a Friend?

Students will need assistance with the planning, filming and editing, but it is an easy program to negotiate. It provides the music and frames, and students/teachers only need to upload the footage they want to use and change the captions.
(ACELY1664)   (EN1-3A)