Connecting to prior knowledge

Consider having the Museum in a Box experience at the school before starting this unit of work as part of your strategic immersion and to build the fields of knowledge for your students. There are four Indigenous Australian boxes that cover a range of topics both contemporary and historic. The Museum in a Box experience is open to all schools as an outreach program of the Australian Museum.

As a whole-class experience look at the front and back cover of Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna. Focus students’ attention on the characters and the way they look on the front cover. What do we already know about possums and echidnas? What do they look like or feel like? Read the back cover and the information on the first and last pages to provide a context for the story. Use the interactive map to show where the Wunambal people come from in the remote Mitchell Plateau region in the Kimberley. Use the interactive language map to identify where this story has originated from.

Ask students if they have heard of Dreamtime stories. Explain that Aboriginal people refer to the time that existed before now, and during which everything was created, as the Dreaming. Dreamtime stories are a part of the oral traditions, and are one aspect of a very complex spiritual belief system – the Dreaming. Dreamtime stories are being written down so that we can learn more about these traditions and stories. Read the story. Complete a See Think Wonder (PDF, 118KB) class chart to record ideas and wonderings.

Have a range of other Dreamtime stories in the class library for students to familiarise themselves with this form or writing. Suggestions include:

  • The Cowboy Frog by Hilton Laurel. The Cowboy Frog is not a Dreaming Story but a story written by a child in the vein of a traditional Dreaming story.
  • My Lost Mob by Venetia Tyson is in the vein of a traditional story
  • Tjrany Roughtail by Gracie Greene, Joe Tramacchi and Lucille Gill. These are good examples of traditional Dreaming stories.
  • Other traditional stories include Dick Roughsey books, such as The Rainbow Serpent (click on link to access Reading Australia teacher resource).
    (ACELT1575)   (ENe-11D)

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

Discovery Walk

Go on a discovery walk in the school grounds or local area. Prior to the walk, download the Welcome to Country app (ios only). This app uses GPS tracking to identify the land you are on with a local Elder doing the Welcome to Country specific to your region. Share this with students on an iPad, or on multiple iPads. Explain that the land they are on may be different to the land where the story of Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna came from. While on the walk, students are encouraged to observe tracks, objects, animal homes, sounds, and smells. Photos can be taken as a memory aid. On your return to the classroom, share observations in a whole-class discussion. Photos can be shown on the interactive whiteboard. Create a list of these suggestions.
(ACELA1426)   (ENe-1A)

Re-read Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna. Ask students to be reading detectives and look for items, objects, characters, scenery in the book – just as they did on the discovery walk. Create a list of their observations. Model how a word can be represented visually, e.g. sun or tree. Design images for the items in their list. Explain that these pictures will be drawn onto large stones to make story stones that will help us remember and retell the story. You may wish to create two stones for Echidna and Scaly-tailed Possum, one to represent each character at the start of the story and one after the great spirit, Wandjina has passed the punishment to the animals.

Using the list of items they observed on the discovery walk discuss how they are now going to design symbols or pictorial representations to make story stones that depict what was seen on the walk. Divide class into groups with each group designing a symbol or creating a picture for each item, e.g. tree, ant hill, bird footprints, etc. Students retell the discovery walk experience using the story stones.
(ACELT1580)   (ENe-10C)


Rich assessment task

You will need a sand tray with props such as trees and watering hole to represent the setting. Ask students to retell the story of Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna using the crafted story stones for the book for support. Use the rubric (PDF, 110KB) to assess their understandings.
(ACELT1578)   (ENe-8B)

Responding to the text

Identifying the Organisational Framework

Re-read Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna. Discuss how the events are linked and must happen in order to make sense. Re-read the story out of order. Ask students if the story makes sense. Explain that Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna go on a journey in the book and that the story only makes sense when the series of events is kept in order. Go through the story again and using post-it notes write down each event, one per post-it note. You could also add key visuals to support the reading of the post-it notes for emergent readers. Place the mixed up post-it notes on a whiteboard in a random manner. Read the post-it notes to the children and place them in the correct order in a linear fashion. Refer back to the book as needed. Once the post-it notes are in the correct order, ask students what labels we could give to the different sections, e.g. ‘The scene is set here. This is where the story starts. We call it the orientation,’ and ‘These are all the actions or events that are leading up to the problem.’ Continue to extend the discussion through strategic questioning and suggestions until the organisational framework is identified (orientation, series of events, complication/problem, resolution/solving the problem, coda). Circle the post-it notes that are linked to each organisational framework as a visual reminder of the story. See the More Resources tab at the bottom of this page for more information on the organisational framework of narratives when writing to entertain.
(ACELT1578)   (ENe-8B)

Wall Story

Group students into heterogeneous small groups of three or four children and give each group an event from the previous activity. Ask them to create the scene representing the event from their post-it note. When these scenes are completed it will be a wall story of Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna. Large representations of events focus early readers on the meaning of words and illustrations. Once the wall story is completed invite each group to read their part of the story.
(ACELT1785)   (ENe-10C)


Exploring plot, character, setting and theme

Modelled Reading Experience

Engage in a modelled reading session with the aim of introducing the reading strategy for creating images (Click here, download the Reading Resource Book and find the ‘Reading Strategy: Creating Images’ section). Place post-it notes on the pages of Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna where you can model how you have used this reading strategy to aid in your understanding of the story. A strategy demonstration plan (PDF, 119KB) can assist you to clarify your thoughts for the session. Efficient readers use all of their senses to continually create images as they read. These images are often based on prior experiences and allow readers to draw conclusions, make predictions, interpret information and remember the details of the story. Create a living chart that articulates how and why we use this strategy. You could use a table (PDF, 112KB) like this:

  When we are creating images, we:
Look at the:       Think about the:
This helps us to:


Creating Images Guided Practice Experiences

After the reading session complete a class chart (PDF, 95KB) identifying the different senses used when creating images about Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna. Students can complete individual charts, adding to the experiences already shared.

Select an unknown book, such as Goanna Jumps High by Urandangi State School, to engage in the Picture That (PDF, 93KB) experience. Provide students with a grid to draw on or simply fold a piece of paper into eighths. Explain that you are going to read the story without sharing any of the images they would normally use for clues. Instead they will be drawing what they imagine to be happening in the story using their senses as they create images. This experience could also be done by selecting a Dreamtime story from YouTube and allowing the students to listen to the story but not watch the film footage.
(ACELY1650)   (ENe-4A)


Rich assessment task

Provide a range of books you have enjoyed in whole-class reading experiences and that the children are familiar with or able to read. Using post-it notes ask the students to mark the pages where they use a sense to create an image. The post-it notes could have images already drawn onto them (such as an eye, hand, nose, mouth or an ear) to speed up the connections and ensure focus is maintained. Ask each student to select one and pair-share one of their connections from the book. Use a checklist (PDF, 146KB) to assess understandings observed.
(ACELY1650)   (ENe-4A)

Examining text structure and organisation

Re-read Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna. Use the post-it notes from the earlier experience to sort into a table (PDF, 97KB) with setting, characters, problem and action (solution). Write additional post-it notes as they suggest new information related to setting, characters, problem and actions. You can use a table to do this or draw labels on a whiteboard.

Sorting Framework
Setting Characters Events Problem Action (Solution)






Using this information model, show students how to craft a story map using labels and visuals, choose a few key events but not all. Ask students to craft their own story map based on Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna. Story maps help students to comprehend text and identify the explicit and pertinent information in the story.
(ACELT1578)   (ENe-8B)

Peer Assessment

Using the information from the Sorting Framework Experience (PDF, 97KB), design a checklist with students that they can use to assess a peer’s work. Ask students to discuss the features of their completed story maps with a partner by comparing the decisions they made for each of the categories.
(ACELY1646)   (ENe-1A)

Rating Scales

Re-read Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna. Discuss the three characters and their dispositions. Spend a few minutes discussing ‘dispositions’ as a useful word to describe someone’s character. Using a Rating Scales table (PDF, 99KB), clarify how each character is viewed by the audience with evidence from the text. This can be done as a discussion or by completing a table such as this:

Who was the…? Character’s Name I know this because…

Trait Walk

Ask students to stand in two lines. Decide on a character that you, as the teacher, will act as. Students are asked to then call out traits related to that character, e.g. happy, brave, scared, fearless, etc. as you walk between the lines. Once students are comfortable with the process and understand that the traits being called out are about the character and not the person acting as that character, have a student act as a different character and repeat the process.
(ACELT1783)   (ENe-10C)


Examining grammar and vocabulary

Developing Word Awareness

Write out a sentence from the book, e.g. ‘So today, Echidna doesn’t climb trees.’ Read through the sentence with the students. Give each child at least ten counters and a plastic bowl. Ask students to drop a counter into the bowl as they hear each word. Count up the words in the sentence and in their bowls. Repeat this activity with different sentences. A rich discussion point is whether ‘Scaly-tailed’ is one word or counts as two.
(ACELA1435)   (ENe-9B)

Physical Sentence Construction

Help students understand the concept of a sentence along with the function of words and punctuation. Write out a sentence from the book on A3 sheets of paper e.g. ‘Along came Echidna who climbed up and stole all the nuts from Scaly-tailed Possum.’ Read this sentence through with the class and then ask for 15 students to each hold a word or punctuation. Ask for help in reconstructing the sentence paying close attention to the words with capital letters, indicating their place in the sentence or a proper noun and the punctuation that signals the end of the sentence. If students require greater support, play a game of ‘What comes next?’ where you offer the possible words and they give you a thumbs up or down depending on whether it makes sense or not.
(ACELA1432)   (ENe-9B)

Synonyms in Sentences

While the explicit teaching of synonyms occurs in later bands of development, this experience allows children to play with language choice. Use the A3 cards to identify words that could be changed (not the name of characters) but still maintain the meaning of the sentence. Brainstorm possible ideas, e.g. climbed could change to scampered, crawled, got up, walked, etc. Sometimes one word might be changed for two words or vice versa. Discuss the power of words and how authors choose their words carefully. Complete a word cline (PDF, 103KB) where the brainstormed words are ranked as being more powerful or less powerful than the original word. Students can complete this experience with a partner and with teacher annotations to ensure that their ideas are not limited by their ability to spell the word. What other word might the author Cathy Goonack use?
(ACELA1434)   (ENe-9B)


Rich assessment task


Students display their understanding when they interpret texts through creative mediums such as dramatisation. Ask pairs of students to act out two versions of the A3 sentence – ‘So today, Echidna doesn’t climb trees.’ One is the original sentence and the other is the sentence they enhanced by choosing different language to increase or decrease its impact from their word cline work. Explain that there should be a difference between their two scenes and that the audience should be able to recognise the differences. Students’ level of understanding can be determined through observation.
(ACELA1786)   (ENe-8B)

Creating Literature

Circle Story

Provide a simple introduction to the ‘message stick’. The students can pass the stick as they tell their part of the story. Sitting in a circle, begin by retelling the story of Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna. ‘Pass’ the story onto the child next to you asking them to tell the next part of the known story. Continue until all the events have been shared. If students need prompts to remember key events refer back to the sorting framework, wall story or enlarged copies of pages from the book. Discuss the place and role of story in Indigenous culture. Watch a Dreaming story or an episode of the Dreaming online. Discuss how watching and hearing this story is different to when a book is read to them. Refer back to the way we create images in our mind to aid our comprehension of the story. Re-read Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna. After reading through the story, ask students what sounds and special effects could be used to engage more of our senses when acting out this story. Suggestions may include using silk material for the sky to replicate the texture in the illustrations or using tapping sticks to extenuate the movement of animals.
(ACELT1783)   (ENe-10C)

Story Stone Retelling

Students create their own story stones to retell Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna. Since students have had many opportunities to do this, they should be very familiar with the storyline and the language chosen by Cathy Goonack. Search the ABC Splash website for a video that represents the language spoken by the Indigenous people of your land. Alternatively there are many apps available specific to Indigenous languages in the App Store, including Barngarla, Gamilaraay, Miriwoong, Mutti Mutti, Nari Nari,PitjantjatjaraWajarri, Wiradjuri, Wonnarua, Yawuru Ngan-ga, Yitha Yitha, Yugambeh and Yuwaalaraay. Allow children to learn some of the keywords modelled by the children and adults in the video so that they can incorporate them into their retelling of the story. If words are introduced and students require further information to understand or translate them, use the First Voices Keyboard App to do so. Involving Indigenous community members to support children in this learning experience is valued.
(ACELA1426)   (ENe-1A)


Rich assessment task

Students will retell Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna in a small heterogeneous group, recording this on Book Creator. Students will take on the following roles:

  • narrator of agreed retell
  • actor/stage hand – moves story stones
  • prop master – moves props (materials, tress, etc.)
  • sound effects – creates sounds using musical instruments or props

The teacher can film the performances or have a buddy class of senior students help out. After the performances have been created, share with the class. Students assess themselves using a capacity matrix (PDF, 123KB).
(ACELY1647)   (ENe-1A)   (ACELY1654)   (ENe-3A)