Connecting to prior knowledge

The picture book Refugees, by David Miller, explores the notion of habitat loss from the perspective of two ducks. This text provides a platform for teachers to explore the theme of habitat loss for animals and forced migration that occurs to people.

Before beginning encourage students to find out about their local community resources. If possible invite locals who have experienced such a loss to talk to the class to introduce this topic and spark thinking and conversation. Throughout this unit, learners will develop a reading journal to log their responses and reflections about the themes that emerge from the text.

Placemat Activity

For the Placemat activity, organise students into groups of two, three or four and demonstrate to learners how to divide a large piece of paper into sections, based on the number of students in the group, with a central square or circle for the final group definition. Students should each have a clearly defined section of the ‘placemat’. Working independently, ask them to write his/her own definition of ‘what it means to be a refugee’ in their section of the placemat. Suggest students highlight key words in all definitions so that all work contributes to the group definition. Afterwards, have students share their definitions in their groups and then collectively write a definition for their group in the circle. This process will involve students exploring personal reasons for the definition they propose.

Move around and listen to conversations so you can refer back to this later in the unit. Allow time for students to share their group’s definition to the class.
(ACELY1709)   (EN3-1A)

Engaging with the Text 

Open the book so that the front and back cover images are juxtaposed. If possible, enlarge these images on the interactive whiteboard or provide a copy of the book to pairs. Provide students with some sticky notes and either independently or with a partner, ask them to write several ‘I wonder’ statements about the text on individual sticky notes. Before sending students to complete the task, model a few ‘I wonder’ statements such as ‘I wonder what the ducks have to do with refugees?’ and ‘I wonder what “rejection and violence” the ducks will face?’. Then, on a large piece of paper or wall, have the students share and display their thoughts. Conclude, by reading the story and asking students to write a personal response to the story in their reading journals. Students may wish to revisit their ‘I wonder’ statements or write a personal response to the story. Encourage students to focus on the words and imagery in their responses.
(ACELT1617)   (EN3-7C)


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

Online Research 

If books are available have students read Refugees in pairs; but if not available then read to the whole class. Following the reading, hold a class discussion about habitat loss and ask the students to share what they know about habitat loss and animal species they know of that are threatened because of that loss. Have small groups research habitat loss by exploring the WWF website. Provide an opportunity for students to explore the WWF-Australia Website to search for animals that live within their local area that may be endangered. Provide a template for students to record information about their chosen animal. This template should include the following:

  • common name
  • scientific name
  • habitat
  • threats to habitat

Include a section that allows students to record what current initiatives are in place to protect the species. Cross-curriculum links could be made to Science and Humanities and Social Sciences within this activity.
(ACELY1712)   (EN3-3A)


Rich assessment task

After students have researched their chosen animal, form groups according to the animal they chose. Working in these small groups, ask students to plan a short oral presentation to make to their peers. This should be in the form of a discussion and the audience will be other class members. Allow each group to choose how they deliver their presentation. Some students may want to create a poster or display (such as Glogster), while others might want to use digital technology such as Powerpoint or Keynote.
(ACELY1717)   (EN3-2A)

Responding to the text

Conscience Alley

Prior to this activity, briefly review the text and what has been learnt and discussed in previous lessons. Explain to students that in this lesson we are going to explore people’s intentions for destroying habitats. Conscience Alley is a process drama strategy that allows learners to explore a dilemma from looking at it with different perspectives. Begin by reading the text from the beginning, but stop when the machines approach the swamp. Choose a student to take on the role of the tractor operator. Then invite the class to take a position and form two opposing lines. One side are to think of reasons to persuade the tractor operator to progress and destroy the swamp, while the other side are to think of reasons to persuade the tractor operator to not destroy the swamp. If the situation arises where all students take the same side, the teacher can take the opposing side. The student who takes on the role of the tractor driver makes his or her way down the alley listening to the arguments from each side until they reach the end. Once at the end of the alley, the student (tractor driver) makes the decision whether or not to continue to clear the swamp land. Following this activity hold a class discussion with students about the issues surrounding habitat protection and destruction. Provide an opportunity for students to write in their reading journal about what they have learnt and now feel about habitat destruction.
(ACELY1709)   (EN3-1A)

Window By Jeanie Baker

Window by Jeannie Baker is another text that explores the effects of urbanisation. Before reading the text explain to the students how story is delivered through the author’s illustrations. Introduce students to the text and at each page, stop and have a brief discussion with the class about what they notice. To provide an opportunity for all students to speak, consider the think-pair-share strategy and then invite one or two pairs to share with the entire group. As the story progresses, discuss what is happening to the environment and what impact it is having on the animals. Following the reading ask students to write a response in their reading journal. Ask students to write what they believe to be the intent of the author and what messages or themes they took away from the book. Prompt students to consider voice, language style and register. If necessary spend some time giving examples.
(ACELT1614)   (EN3-7C)


Exploring plot, character, setting and theme

Connecting to the Ducks

Throughout the text David Miller positions the reader to feel empathy towards the ducks in the story. The language in use and the themes of the story both contribute towards readers’ feeling empathy for the ducks. At page 10, after the ducks have fled from the swamp, each double-spread page depicts the ducks’ journey and the problems they encounter along the way. Choose several of these pages for the students to analyse in greater detail. Split the class into small groups so that each group has a double-page spread from the story to view. Ask the groups to look closely at the language and illustrations to identify what the author may have done to evoke a sense of empathy from the reader.

Draw attention to words such as frighteninghomelesscruel. Provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their thinking by allowing them to annotate the text by underlining words and circling parts of the illustrations. Have each group share back with the entire class. Emphasise that readers bring their own experiences to a text (social and cultural), therefore we often can have different responses and opinions about a text.
(ACELT1613)   (EN3-8D)

Connecting Beyond the Ducks

Refugees explores the notion of ducks being forced to leave their home. The text also provides a platform for students to engage in discussion about people who are forced to leave their homes and countries as refugees. Introduce the students to the story Flight By Nadia Wheatley or alternatively watch a clip on YouTube that follows the journey of a young Syrian girl to Greece.

After viewing the video and/or text, ask students to identify the similarities between the content of Refugees and the resource that was read/viewed. Remind students what a Venn diagram is and model comparing the texts. After modelling, have learners complete the task independently or with a peer.

Conclude by having small groups of students do some research to understand more about refugees particularly in Australia. Refer back to the beginning of the unit where local resources were identified and encourage students to read other books on the topic and prepare to report back.
(ACELT1614)   (EN3-7C)


Rich assessment task

Have students reflect on what they have learnt by engaging with a 3-2-1 reflection.

Students write:

  • 3 things that they have learnt,
  • 2 connections they made or that surprised them,
  • 1 question they have.

Provide some time for sharing in small groups.
(ACELT1613)   (EN3-8D)   (ACELT1614)   (EN3-7C)

Examining text structure and organisation


Throughout the text David Miller uses the figurative language device of onomatopoeia. Explain onomatopoeia to the class and give examples from the text, such as:

  • grumbling machines
  • buzzing insects

Before this lesson, collect some picture books with examples of onomatopoeia. Create an anchor chart with the class that explains onomatopoeia and provide examples from the text. For example:

One day, huge rumbling, grumbling machines crawled, scraping and gouging, towards the swamp.

Discuss how words are used, in particular modality and how this opens up degrees of possibility.

Following this, have groups read the books you collected and identify some more examples. Have groups share their ideas with the group and then display these in the classroom along with the anchor chart.
(ACELT1615)   (EN3-6B)

Visual Literacy

David Miller is well known for the paper construction and collages he uses to illustrate his books. Show students the pages within Refugees where the ducks encounter the hidden hunters. Before analysing the images on these pages briefly discuss visual elements such as colour, placement, framing and angles. Provide students with a few minutes to sit and analyse the visual information in the text and make notes in their reading journal. Break the class into small groups and have students share their notes on how the illustrator used colour, placement of the hunters and the ducks and other aspects of the image. Still in small groups, now have the groups collaboratively design an image to reflect the themes within the text. Have half of the class design an image that depicts a frightened animal fleeing its home or being threatened, while the other half of the class creates an image that depicts an animal feeling safe in its habitat. Share and display these images in the classroom.
(ACELT1618)   (EN3-7C)


Examining grammar and vocabulary

Effective Adjectives

In the previous tasks, students have explored the themes of the text. For this task they will continue to explore the themes, however they will focus on the language choices used by the author to connect with the reader. Open to the page where the ducks are sleeping in the fairground. Read the text on the page to students omitting the adjective ‘silent’. Reread the passage, and this time include the word ‘silent’. Ask students to pair-share the difference they experience when the word ‘silent’ is used to describe the fairground. What do they visualise and what effect does this word have on them as the reader? Ask students to describe what a fairground is like when it is busy, and then have them describe a fairground that is closed. Emphasise how the author has selected adjectives throughout the text for a similar purpose. Provide students with copies of the text to identify, either independently or in small groups, adjectives used in the same way.
(ACELT1615)   (EN3-6B)   (ACELA1523)   (EN3-6B)


Rich assessment task

Revisit the page with the fairground and have students use the text on this page as a model to write a similar sentence to experiment with the use of adjectives. Have students innovate on the text at a word level by changing the location of where the ducks are sleeping (e.g. carpark, playground, classroom, cafe, etc.) and then have them choose an adjective that describes that place. Provide an opportunity for students to illustrate their phrase with chosen media (collage, drawing, etc.). Before beginning, co-construct a checklist to provide guidance on how to be successful with this task.

Conclude by displaying the work around the classroom and have students go on a silent gallery walk. While students are quietly observing the work of their peers ask them to think about the feelings and thoughts that each person’s work provokes. Bring the group back together and ask individuals to identify what work connected with them and why. Explain how when we read a text, we can connect differently as we all have different lived experiences. Have students write responses to the selected work in their reading journal.
(ACELT1615)   (EN3-6B)

Plight of Refugees

Before beginning think about your students and the appropriateness of the activities suggested. You may need to consider adapting some of the suggestions. If there are refugees in the community consider how you will engage their voice and their experiences. It might be appropriate for student refugees to compose text based on their own experiences.

Using iPads or computers have learners watch a clip that takes the viewer on the journey of a refugee who has just fled from their home. After a personal reflection in their journals, create a list as a class of all the challenges that this person faced, discussing each one. Following this, have students engage with another video that follows the experiences of 3 children who have fled from their homes. Prepare your class for the content of the video as some students may find it confronting. This video takes students on virtual reality tour (use VR goggles if you have access to them for this activity). Afterwards, have students independently reflect on the challenges faced by these children in their reading journal. Bring the class together and compile a list of challenges that refugees may face when fleeing their homes. This list will be used to help guide learners when creating their own text in the subsequent activities.
(ACELT1613)   (EN3-8D)

Exploring Narrative and Purpose

Begin by asking: Is Refugees a narrative? Remind them the social purpose of a narrative is to entertain. Discuss genre and genre purpose with students. Explore the use of rhetorical devices, images, surprise techniques, juxtaposition, modal verbs and modal auxiliaries (see the content descriptor elaboration for guidance).

Explore the idea that Refugees may not be a narrative, but a blended text type.

Refer back to Refugees and break down the main events in the text into a storyboard framework for students to use when creating their own texts. Have students create a storyboard that narrates the plight of a refugee by modelling and sharing the writing process with learners. Refer to the challenges that were identified in the previous task to encourage learners to use these when planning their story. After observing a model, provide students with a storyboard template to plan the events of their narrative.
(ACELY1714)   (EN3-2A)

Constructing Narratives

Using the text as a model, look at how David Miller begins the narrative with the purpose of encouraging students to innovate on his writing. Miller’s work is most powerful because of the written text and visual text integration. Ensure this is a part of the discussion. Ensure students bring a metalanguage to this discussion. The constructed text should also be a written and/or visual text. Introduce some software programs for creating digital collages (such as Animoto) and ensure there is focus on the power of the visual text as well.

At each stage throughout the construction of the narrative, use Refugees to help guide and promote the students’ writing. While writing, encourage students to refer back to previous tasks where they analysed language devices such as onomatopoeia and adjectives. Some students may require more assistance throughout this process whereas others may not. Depending on your students you may wish to provide more opportunities for teacher modelling and slow the process down.

It is at this point, where you might want to hold writing conferences with students to guide their writing and provide feedback.
(ACELT1800)   (EN3-2A)

Editing Narratives

Prior to the lesson, use the storyboard that was created as a class to write a short narrative. Include some grammatical, structural and spelling mistakes in this narrative. Using your prepared narrative, model to students how to self-edit. Next provide an opportunity for students to review their work and make editorial changes. During this time have discussions with individuals about their narratives to provide feedback. Once students have made their own changes allow them to share their writing with a peer to receive constructive feedback. Following these discussions, provide the opportunity for students to make some changes in response to the feedback.
(ACELY1715)   (EN3-2A)


Rich assessment task

Reflecting on our learning journey.

The completion of the narrative will provide teachers with a rich work sample to assess, but further to this provide an opportunity for students to assess their own work using a jointly constructed rubric. Invite students to make a final entry in their reading journal explaining their perceptions and attitudes towards the narrative they wrote and what they have learnt throughout the process.

Possible assessment points to include in rubric:

  • Student uses complex sentences in a variety of ways to elaborate, extend and explain ideas.
  • Student uses verbs, elaborated tenses and a range of adverb groups/phrases to expand and sharpen ideas.
  • Student experiments with text structures and language features by using imagery, sentence variation, metaphor and word choice.
  • Student creates a narrative including evaluative language to express shades of meaning, feeling and opinion.

(ACELT1613)   (EN3-8D)