Connecting to prior knowledge 

Pearl Versus the World is a moving illustrated novella written by Sally Murphy and illustrated by Heather Potter. Using a narrative format, including both rhyme and free verse, this story is told through the eyes of a young girl who is struggling to find her place in the world. Pearl’s grandmother has dementia and Pearl doesn’t connect with the children at school. On top of all this, Pearl is struggling to find meaning in an assignment she has been given at school. This story explores elements of grief, exploration of self and the importance of finding your own place within an ever-changing world. It also carries a message that teachers need to ensure school activities connect to children’s life worlds.

To connect students’ prior knowledge and understanding of the text, it would be useful to begin by focusing on the word ‘verse’. Write this word on the board and ask small groups of students to discuss what they think the word ‘verse’ means, in small groups. Share these definitions as a whole class by writing them on the board.

Depending on the depth of the students’ definitions you may like to ask the following questions:

  • Can versing only take place during sporting events? If not, share other examples.
  • Can you verse yourself? Prompt for examples.
  • What is a written verse? Ask for examples.
  • How many meanings do you think the word verse has?
  • What do you call words that sound alike and have multiple meanings? (homonyms)

Show the students the front cover of the book Pearl Versus the World. Read the title and ask students in what context they think the word verse is used on the cover of this book.
(ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)   (ACELY1676)   (EN2-1A)


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

Read the first two pages aloud (pages seven and eight). Ask the students what the character means when she says, “I am a group of one.”

  • Is there such thing as a group of one? Discuss.
  • What other groups does Pearl say her class is made up of?

Explain to the students that they are going to find out what kinds of groups they have in their own class.

Split students into pairs and encourage them to brainstorm the different groups that are in their class. These might be ‘official’ groups such as the soccer team and ‘unofficial’ groups such as shared characteristics. Encourage them to be creative in their groupings.

On the board, draw up a table with two columns. Ask each pair to come up to the board and write one of the groups they brainstormed into column one, such as choir (official group), the group who love vegetables (unofficial groups), the group with brown eyes, etc.

Explain that data now needs to be collected. Discuss how they might find out how many class members fit into each category.

Once data is collected, ask the students to write the total number of group members into the second column.


  • How many groups do we have?
  • Could we have more than this?
  • Can you be in more than one group? How?
  • Are there any groups with only one member? Expand on the term ‘group of one’ from page eight.
  • Does this mean that this person is lonely? Why or why not?
  • What is another word we can use to describe a person in a group of one? Prompt for words such as talented, unique or individual.

Encourage students to see being in a group of one as a strength rather than a disadvantage and that being in a group of one can teach us things such as resilience and an opportunity to problem solve.
(ACELY1676)   (EN2-1A)   (ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)


Rich assessment task

Recap with the class that Pearl Versus the World is a story about a young girl called Pearl who is going through a difficult time at both home and school. She feels as if the world is against her. She feels like she is in a ‘group of one’. However, it is during this time that Pearl finds inner strength and talents in an area she never expects.

Scenario: Imagine a little boy who is very good at making paper airplanes. He is struggling to make friends at school. How might he be able to use this skill to help himself? Discuss as a class.

Ask students to fold an A4 piece of paper in half. On one half the students draw a picture and write a sentence to explain a skill, interest, talent or fact about themselves that could possibly place them in a group of one. On the other side, ask students to write an explanation of how this skill or talent might help them in the future.

On completion of this activity, sit the whole class in a circle to share their talent, skill or hobby and how it may help them in the future. Encourage classmates to give praise and positive feedback. Display work on the classroom wall.
(ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)   (ACELY1676)   (EN2-1A)

Responding to the text

Read pages seven through to thirteen of Pearl Versus the World. As a class, discuss who it is that makes up Pearl’s family. (Mum, Granny and Pearl.)

Use the Thinking Routine ‘Parts, Purpose and Complexities’ to help students build a 3D image of the term ‘family’ by identifying different layers.


Ask the following questions to promote oral circle discussion. Use a talking stick to help guide conversation, and encourage and guide children to agree and disagree respectfully.

  • What is a family? Brainstorm children’s answers and perceptions orally.
  • Who is in your family?

Also talk about other cultures who consider family to be more than the nuclear family, e.g. Indigenous people who often use the terms ‘Aunty’ and ‘Uncle’ in ways to signify elder status. Talk about families that move interstate and when away from their blood family and develop close and deep friendships with other families and often refer to someone as ‘like a sister to me’ etc. Talk about step families and half sisters and brothers, for example.


Ask the students: What is the purpose of a family? Again, encourage the students to agree and disagree respectfully, this time giving examples to back up their statements.


How can families be different? Encourage students to mind map some of the families they know.

Can families change? How? (Prompt discussion about birth of a new child or death of a grandparent.)

Share the picture book, Family Forest by Kim Kane. Alternatively, watch the reading on YouTube. Take some time during the reading of  this book to discuss the vocabulary and meaning of each of the pages. Provide the opportunity for student to respond to the text orally making meaningful links to their own lives.

Task: Using the Thinking Routine, I used to think…but now I think…, ask students to find a partner and complete the two statements relating to the question, ‘What is a family?’ This routine helps students to reflect on their thinking about the topic of families and explore how and why their thinking may have changed.
(ACELA1476)   (EN2-1A)   (ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)


Exploring plot, character, setting and theme

Note: Teachers should consider the appropriateness of these questions and activities based on knowledge of the students in their class. Students should have the option to choose not to participate in the discussion or be a contributing participant to all questions. If you are concerned about any students in your group, you could use a structure such as Circle Time where students can pass on a question but still be a participant.

Continue reading pages fourteen through to twenty-nine of Pearl Versus the World.


  • Pearl is having a difficult time. The world with which she is familiar is starting to change. Ask the question: “With what is Pearl is struggling?”
  • Have you ever experienced a difficult time in your life? Share this with a friend.
  • How did you get through it? Can you use one word to describe what you did? For example, did you use your humour to help you see the lighter side of life?
  • During this part of the book, characters rely on different strengths to help them through. Read page fourteen again. Ask: ‘What is it that Pearl’s mum is doing on this page to help herself? (Prompt for, ‘Reading a book’). Focus on the sentence, ‘Shut in the world of her novel.’ What does this mean?
  • Read pages sixteen and seventeen. Ask: What is it that Pearl is doing on these pages? Prompt for, ‘Using her imagination’.
  • Read page twenty seven again. Ask: What is it that Pearl is using to help her get through this difficult scenario? (Prompt for humour, as she falls down laughing)

Explain to the students that everybody is different and that we all handle situations differently. We do this by using our character traits. Explain that there are many different character traits. This teacher resource might be useful.

We saw some of these character traits in the characters in Pearl Versus the World. Each person has different character traits some of these traits appear more often in our personalities than others. This is what makes us unique. In this lesson you will be looking specifically at eight of these strengths.

Write the following words up on the board:

  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Bravery
  • Grit
  • Honesty
  • Zest
  • Kindness
  • Gratitude

Read through each of the words and explain to the children that you would like to see what they already know about these traits. You might create some word webs or a visual representation to explore the concepts.

Teachers should explore this prior to doing this with the class as some terms could require explanations (e.g. colloquialisms, etc).


Place students into groups of four and ask them to come up with their own definitions of each of the traits. Write these onto large pieces of paper and display them around the room. Allow children time to look at and discuss each definition. An alternative activity to this would be to ask the students to research the definitions online or by using a dictionary.
(ACELA1476)   (EN2-1A)

As a class, decide on a collaborative definition of each character trait and display. Teacher guidance may be required here. You can use these definitions as a reference.

  • Creativity – Thinking of new and interesting ways to think about and do things, including but not limited to artistic achievements.
  • Curiosity – Taking an interest, exploring, discovering, and finding topics fascinating for their own sake.
  • Bravery – Not backing down from a challenge, threat or pain, doing the right thing even when it’s unpopular to do so.
  • Grit – Continuing on a course of action despite setbacks and obstacles.
  • Honesty – Acting in a way that is genuine and sincere and taking responsibility for your actions.
  • Zest – Living life as an adventure and approaching life with energy and excitement
  • Kindness – Helping and caring for others.
  • Gratitude – Being thankful for the good things in life and saying thanks.


Break the class into eight groups and assign one trait to each group. Explain that they will will be creating a poster using only visual images to represent the character trait they have been given. This Thinking Routine is called, Colour, Symbol, Image. The students are asked to distill the essence of the character trait by choosing a colour to represent it, a symbol that encapsulates it’s meaning and an image that may provide an example of when or how you would use it.

Model this using the trait of forgiveness (not on their list). You may choose light blue as it is cool and light just like the action of forgiving, a dove representing peace and an image of two people hugging in an act of forgiveness.

Allow the students time to create a poster of the trait they were assigned.

After displaying and discussing the finished posters, finish reading the text Pearl Versus the World. Discuss as a class the character strengths they think Pearl may have used to help her through her difficult time. Prompt children to give examples from the text.
(ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)   (ACELA1476)   (EN2-1A)


Rich assessment task

Our character strengths can be used to help ourselves through difficult situations. However, they can also be used to help others. You can use your strengths to be an everyday superhero!

Watch the video on every day superheroes here.

Introduce the assessment task to students.

Provide each child with a superhero template or create your own.

Ask the students to choose the top three character traits that they think best represent who they are. The students then write these onto their superhero template’s cape.

Underneath the picture, ask the students to write a paragraph explaining how they would use their specific character traits to make the world a better place.

Allow students time to colour and decorate their creations before sharing and displaying on the classroom wall with the title, ‘EVERYDAY SUPERHEROES’.
(ACELA1476)   (EN2-1A)   (ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)   (ACELT1791)   (EN2-2A)

Examining text structure and organisation

In Pearl Versus the World Miss Bruff wants Pearl to write poems that rhyme.

Ask the class what it means for words to rhyme. (A rhyme is when two words sound the same when spoken.)

Watch YouTube clip on rhyme by Sesame Street.

Read the passage from page 39 of Pearl Versus the World and write this passage on to the classroom whiteboard.

A cat

A rat

A bat

All rhyme – 

Why fancy that!

But life is not

All hats and cats

And sometimes rhyme 

Just leaves me flat.

Ask students to identify which words rhyme in the above passage. Reinforce what it means for words to rhyme.

Provide students with some magazines. Students work in pairs to discuss and cut out pictures of items that rhyme and place them in their books.

Share workbooks as a class and verbally discuss any other rhyming words that may go with each picture.
(ACELA1478)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELT1600)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELT1791)   (EN2-2A)

Activity Two: Structure of a Limerick

On page eleven of Pearl Versus the World, Pearl experiments with rhyme through the use of a limerick.

Provide time for students to explore limericks and ‘discover’ the pattern (a limerick is a humorous five-line poem with a rhyme scheme a a b b a).

Write the limerick from page eleven onto the board for students to see.

There was a young lady called Pearl

Who was not a rhyming type of girl.

She said, “I’ve no time

For poems that rhyme”

Which made her poor teacher go hurl.

Ask the students to read the limerick out loud. Ask them if they can hear a pattern.

This is also an opportunity to talk about phonemes and graphemes and how in the English language different graphemes can make the same phoneme and the same graphemes don’t necessarily make the same phonemes. Maybe a whole lesson just on this concept if time allows.

Explain the a a b b a pattern using the poem above, by labeling each line.

The first, second and fifth lines rhyme with each other and have the same number of syllables, typically 8 or 9.

The third and fourth lines rhyme with each other and have the same number of syllables, typically 5 or 6.

Limericks often start with the line, ‘There once was a…’ or ‘There was a…’

Display this page (limericks for children) on the interactive whiteboard or print out poems for children to view.

Invite children to read each limerick aloud and discuss the limerick pattern as a class.

Ask students to pair up and verbally create a limerick about each other using the structure displayed.

Share these limericks as a class.
(ACELA1478)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELT1600)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELT1791)   (EN2-2A)


Examining grammar and vocabulary

During this text, the author uses many different literary tools to make her writing interesting. These can also be used to enhance poetry.


Read the students page eleven from the book Pearl Verses the World. 

How does the author explain what the sound of the bell is like?

Prompt for the use of the words, ‘brrrinning’ and ‘rrringing’.

Ask if anyone knows what these ‘sounds’ are called.

Explain the term onomatopoeia. It is when a word mimics the sound of an object such as ‘moo’ for a cow or ‘sizzle’ for steak cooking.

Provide the students with a blank piece of paper and ask them to write as many onomatopoeias as they can in one minute.

Share and compare.

Display a list of onomatopoeias (you may want to use the link) and ask pairs of students to discuss what each sound may be mimicking.


Share page 22 from the book Pearl Verses the World. Ask students if they recognise any words beginning with the same letter. Prompt for trucks, trains, transport – horses, hyenas and house – black books, bad boys, brave boys and brawny boys.

Ask students if they know what this is called.

Explain the term alliteration, which is a group of words that start with the same sound. Tongue twisters use alliteration. For example: ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.’

Students write a tongue twister using the first letter from their first name and share with peers.
(ACELA1478)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELT1600)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELT1791)   (EN2-2A)


Rich assessment task

Today, says Miss Bruff

You must write 

About someone you know.

Remember those rhymes!

(Page 37 of Pearl Verses the World)

The assessment task requires students to write a rhyme about someone they know using the structure of a limerick and either one or both explicitly taught literary tools (alliteration or onomatopoeia).

Place students into groups of four. Give each group a blank piece of paper. Tell them they are going to have a class quiz to revise the work they have been doing on rhyme and literary tools.

Question One: What is it that makes two words rhyme? (When two words sound the same when spoken).

Question Two: Give an example of two rhyming words. (Individual answers)

Question Three: Explain the structure of a limerick.  (Students explain the a a b b a pattern and use of syllables)

Question Four: What is an onomatopoeia? (When a word mimics the sound of an object)

Question Five: What is an onomatopoeia to explain a bath filling up? (Individual answers)

Question Six: What is alliteration? (A group of words that start with the same sound)

Question Seven: Give your group a name using alliteration. Eg: Queen Quizmasters. (Individual answers)

Question Eight: Read the following to the students:

There was a young man called Jim

Who liked to eat from the bin

He’d munch and he’d crunch

From morning til lunch

‘Til his face wore a mighty great grin

Ask groups to identify/check the limerick pattern. (Clap out syllables)

Ask if they recognise any literary tools. (onomatopoeia – munch and crunch, alliteration – great grin)

Direct students to the individual assessment task. Explain that they are to use the limerick structure and one or two of the taught literary devices to write a ‘poem’ about someone they know who is an everyday hero. It might be the crossing supervisor or the librarian or someone’s granny who comes in for parent help, etc.
(ACELT1600)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELA1478)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELT1791)   (EN2-2A)

Creating Literature

Pearl finally finds the courage to write a poem.

Read page 70 from Pearl Verses the World. 

My granny

Was someone

Who loved

And laughed

And sang

And cared

And cried

And sighed

And shared.

She loved life

She loved Mum

And she loved me.

She wasn’t here 

For long enough

But I am glad

That she 

Was here

At all.

Every poem that is written has an audience and a purpose.


  • Who is Pearl’s audience?
  • What is the purpose of her poem?

Ask the class:

  • Do you think Pearl wrote a good poem?
  • Why or why not? Discuss.

Read page seventy-seven of Pearl Verses the World where Miss Bruff states that,

Sometimes a poem

Needs no rhyme

To be just right.

Sometimes a poem

Just is.

Ask, the question:

  • What do you think Miss Bruff means by this?

Explain that this type of poetry is called Free Verse Poetry. Free Verse Poetry can be difficult as there are not really any rules. This means the writer must work very hard to create a piece of work that is beautiful and meaningful by choosing just the right words at the right time. Alliteration and onomatopoeias can help with this.

Share some poems with the class or use this example by Ken Nesbitt.

Thrill Ride

Up. Up.
Click, click.
Wind blows
sharp in my ears.
My heart jumps. Skips.
It’s up. It’s up higher.

It’s up, up the highest.
Hands grasp at the clouds.

Then a forever pause. Still. Waiting.

Finally. Whoosh!
Steep drop


  • Who is Ken’s audience?
  • What is the purpose of this poem?

Click here for some specific examples of free verse poetry.
(ACELY1678)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELY1682)   (EN2-2A)


Pair the students up and ask them to stand back to back.

Explain to them that they are going to verbally present an impromptu free verse poem about their breakfast that morning. The purpose of this poem is to use short sentences, single words, alliteration and onomatopoeias to paint a picture in their partner’s mind.

Start this lesson with the students identifying the five purposes of a poem. When the five purposes are identified, ask the students to write the five purposes on an image of their hand. They can take their image of their hand with them when the present their impromptu poem. This provides a reference point if they are stuck.

Before beginning explain the rules to the students:

  • Every poem has a purpose. The purpose of this poem is to make their partner hungry.
  • Every poem has an audience. Remind them that they are speaking to a peer.
  • In this instance the poem will only be approximately ten lines long.

After completing the task ask students if anyone would like to share their poem. What was difficult about the task? What did they enjoy?

Complete the task again, reinforcing the rules, however, this time their audience is a toddler.

Discuss how the change in audience affected the vocabulary used.

This time ask the students to change their audience back to their peer. The purpose of the poem this time however, is to put the listener off their food and make them feel sick.

After completion, discuss with students how the change in purpose affected their poetry.


Label three buckets/hats with the words:

  • Purpose
  • Audience
  • Theme

In each of these buckets place some cards with suggestions. For example:

  • Purpose – Scared, Laughter, Sadness, Hunger, Fear, etc.
  • Audience – Baby, Adult, Elderly Person, Teenager, etc.
  • Setting – Beach, Theme Park, Bedtime, Shopping, etc.

Ask students to take a card from each hat and to write their purpose, audience and setting into their writing books.

Explain to the students that they are going to have a go at writing a free verse poem using the prompt cards they pulled out.

Allow students time to complete these. Share and discuss.

Repeat this activity as many times as you feel the students need to become comfortable and familiar with the idea of free verse poetry.
(ACELY1678)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELY1682)   (EN2-2A)


Rich assessment task

Provide each student with a lined work book.

Remind students that Pearl used free verse poetry to express her feelings about her Granny passing away. Poetry is a good way to express how we are feeling in any given situation. You can be happy, sad, excited or nervous, to list a few.

Explain to the students that over the next week, you would like them to write five free verse poems. These poems can be in relation to any topic and feeling relevant to them during the week. For example, they may have a great soccer training session and want to write a free verse poem about their coach. It is important though that they write the intended audience and purpose of the poem underneath each one.

Encourage students to respond to a range of emotions and audiences during their writing period. Remind them also of the importance of using tools such as alliteration and onomatopoeia.
(ACELY1678)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELY1682)   (EN2-2A)   (ACELT1596)   (EN2-11D)