Connecting to prior knowledge
- Share the cover of the limited edition version of Storm Boy and other stories by Colin Thiele. If possible look at the covers of other editions of this book to compare and discuss the different images used over time. Remove and unfold the dust cover of Storm Boy and have students examine the images that have been used. Use an IWB to project the blurb and highlight and discuss key words and phrases such as sanctuary and never really die. Have students predict what the story might be about in note form in their reading portfolio/journal or on a class online Padlet.
- Inform students that the novel celebrated its 50th anniversary recently and was published in 1966, the same year the Coorong National Park was established. What was life like in the 1960s? Access resources such as My Place for Teachers; Skwirk; ABC Archives. Allocate students into small groups to research and list facts in their reading journal/portfolio or online Padlet about family life; science and technology; and politics and history at the time. As a class view a short film from the NFSA Film Archives Life in Australia series. Choose a town or city of interest to your students and have them add to the research notes.
- Identify that this narrative includes information about Aboriginal people. Talk about the purpose of ‘Acknowledgement of Country’. Discuss the content words in an ‘Acknowledgement of Country’, especially the notion of being a custodian. Pull up an Indigenous Country map. Talk about the fauna and flora features of the Indigenous nation of the school community, students’ places of birth or arrival in Australia. Talk about how to pronounce Indigenous names and why sometimes the same name can be spelt in different ways. Talk about the importance of using a capital letter for the word Indigenous.
- If possible connect to previous class history studies, or explore as a class the section from My Place, about abolishing the White Australia Policy and rights of Indigenous Australians in the 1960s and discuss what life was like for Indigenous Australians at that time.
Exploring the text in context of our community, school and ‘me’
Write the names of the setting on the board or IWB and have students locate The Murray River, Goolwa and the Coorong on a map. Use Google Earth on an IWB to view the Coorong and its position in relation to Goolwa. You can use the flight simulator mode to ‘fly’ along the Murray River to Goolwa. Have students discuss why Goolwa is referred to as the ‘mouth of the Murray’ and the Coorong as the ‘lungs of the Murray’. What do they imagine the environment of the Coorong to be like? Use the internet to research facts about the Coorong such as who are the traditional owners and their connection to the site, and, the environmental value of the area. Have students work in small groups to compare and contrast this environment to the students’ local community using a Venn Diagram or if they have access to iPads, the iBrainstorm App.
Rich assessment task
Drawing on the knowledge that has developed from the previous activities, ask students to write a few paragraphs predicting what the story will be about in their reading portfolio/journal. Students should consider their examination of the dust cover and the significance of any images used, their knowledge of the environment where the story is set, and also their interpretation of what life was like at the time the story was published.
Responding to the text
- The first reading of Storm Boy to students should be for enjoyment. Ask students to share their initial individual reactions and thoughts in their reading portfolio/journal. Use a graphic organiser or digital tool and have them work in small groups to brainstorm and list the themes they identified. This reflection can be revisited and added to throughout the unit.
- Arrange students in groups to debate (or use a conscience alley drama technique) the topic: Storm Boy is receiving a better education living at the Coorong rather than attending school.
- Language dialects have a social, cultural and historical context. Earlier published versions of this story did contain what is today considered an offensive, racial word. List the vocabulary associated with the Indigenous character, Fingerbone Bill (The Aboriginal, jolly black face, p. 72). Reread passages that relate to this character (p. 72 presenting the character as very knowledgable, p. 73 caring for environment). Has the author presented this character in a stereotypical way for that period of time? Or a realistic, positive way? (You might like to extend the discussion regarding labels and language by partial viewing and careful cueing of the the first 3.15 minutes of You Can’t Ask That (PG Clip) around the terms Aborigine, Aboriginal and Indigenous.
Exploring plot, character, setting and theme
Ask students to focus on the setting of the story. Is the setting important or integral to the storyline? How would this story ‘work’ if placed in a different environment, such as your students’ own local area? Give examples of contrasting environments and have them discuss in small groups. The setting of the story is in such a distinctive environment it tends to take on a character role. Discuss how the setting actually acts as an antagonist in the story.
The author chooses to open the story with a paragraph describing the setting using rich visual imagery. Display on an IWB the text: Storm Boy lived on land between the Coorong and the sea, as this is essentially the first paragraph. Lead a discussion around what the reader would sense from this (see, hear, feel, taste, smell). Reread to students the original opening paragraph and ask them to identify what they sense from this text. A closer examination of language features of this text is suggested in the Examining Literature Section. Students choose one of these phrases and make a visual representation (pen and ink, water colour, pencil; or digitally using apps/tools to create sketches or collages) of the image that has been created for them as a reader through the use of sensory language (e.g. wild strip; endless slam; cold, wet underbelly; sweeping in; pitch down in a terrible ruin; tumble and thunder; whips the sand; darts and writhes; snakes of salt).
Rich assessment task
After a subsequent reading of the text have students plan a book trailer in their reading journal/portfolio. Have students discuss with partners the theme and mood they intend to create. Provide students with a book trailer template (or if using iMovie Trailers use these specific ones aligned to theme design) to list the language features including words and phrases they will use and identify a range of images they could use. Students use digital technologies available (see resources) to create a short one-minute book trailer.
(ACELY1714) (ACELY1717) (EN3-2A)
Examining text structure and organisation
- Gather a range of contemporary texts from the library (e.g. texts by Morris Gleitzman, Fiona Wood, Michael Gerard Bauer) and read the opening few paragraphs of each to compare and contrast with Storm Boy. Identify the narrative point of view of those texts to the omniscient POV used in Storm Boy. Discuss the choices made by Colin Thiele when he wrote Storm Boy. Why do they think the author has chosen this format? Was this representative of narratives from this time? How would changing the POV used change the story?
- Storm Boy is presented in a traditional chronological order. Give small groups of students a copy of the text to reread and use post-it notes to record key scenes in the storyline. For a deeper analysis, students could colour code scenes to further explore where the author has used narration or action and dialogue to change the rhythm and pace of the storyline. Students then discuss and place these scenes in the relevant element of the narrative (e.g. exposition, rising tension, climax, falling action, resolution). Encourage students to identify the headings or story structure using the plot development metalanguage. Students can create a visual plot line on paper using a suitable graphic organiser or using an online digital tool or App to explore the narrative structure.
- View a clip from the movie Storm Boy (1976) through NFSA Australia Screen to compare original story to the interpretation in this multimedia text. For example, compare the scene on page 78 when Storm Boy finds the pelican chicks with clip 1. Use a Venn diagram to help students visualise the discussion. Use a technique such as think-pair-share to discuss the similarities and differences between the original text and the movie. Are the characters portrayed how the students imagined them? How did we meet the character Fingerbone Bill in the book, compared to the movie? If you can access a copy of the entire movie you could use the plot line from the previous activity to compare the narrative structure to this multimedia text.
Examining grammar and vocabulary
- Examine how language constructs the character Fingerbone Bill. Have students divide a page in half in their reading journal/portfolio and label one column ‘character traits’. List as many character traits as they can. They then share the list with their peers and reflect, and add additional ideas to their journal/portfolio after this discussion in the second column.
- List the character traits identified by the students on the IWB and discuss with students their response to this character.
- Display the text which introduces the reader to Fingerbone Bill (pages 72 and 73) and highlight the vocabulary and phrases the author has used that have helped us to construct this view.
- Give pairs of students copies of the text and have them find other vocabulary choices that the author has used to construct the character of Fingerbone Bill.
- Provide a copy of the opening paragraph to students (paper or pdf). Have students use different coloured highlighters (or highlighting tools on annotation apps) to identify the enhanced noun groups, verb groups, adverbial phrases. Share these as a class and create a word wall for descriptive and figurative language (wild strip; endless slam; cold, wet underbelly; sweeping in; pitch down in a terrible ruin; tumble and thunder; whips the sand; darts and writhes; snakes of salt).
Rich assessment task
Choose a passage of text (e.g. the scene when they are saving the tugboat on page 92) and provide students with a copy. Have them examine the text and record in their reading journal/portfolio or online Padlet what feeling or meaning they constructed as a reader from this passage. Students should identify how the author has created this by identifying specific vocabulary choices, evaluative language, verb and adverbial groups and phrases that the author has used to support their argument.
(ACELT1617) (EN3-7C) (ACELA1523) (ACELA1525) (EN3-6B)
- Make a selection of text for use in a Reader’s Theatre activity. Place students in small groups of four and provide a copy of the text (e.g. p. 88 ‘It was the year of the great storms…’ to p. 92 ‘But the struggle to save the men on the tug boat was only just beginning’). Allocate the roles of narrator, Storm Boy, Hide-Away Jack and Fingerbone Bill. Students read through the text and highlight their role. Have groups collaboratively create a still image of a significant scene from this passage for the class. Narrator can be the director and unfreeze a character for a few moments of improvisation or thought tracking. If time allows, students could script their roles, rehearse and then have each group perform to the class their script. Lead a class discussion on aspects of performance such as voice volume, tone, pitch and pace.
- Reread the opening paragraph of the text and recall the previous activity where students examined the sensory language used to create the setting of the story. Choose an environment familiar to the students, such as the playground and as a whole class brainstorm vocabulary and phrases that could be used to create the atmosphere of the playground without naming it. Model and jointly construct a text that introduces the setting of a noisy playground using sharp verbs, adverb groups/phrases to enhance the text.
- Choose an environment (e.g. bushfires) and have students independently create the opening paragraph of a narrative to set the scene. They should use a range of rich language features including verbs and adverbial phrases to sharpen the visual imagery for the reader. Recall the activities they have completed on sensory language and have them experiment with word choices to create a text that incorporates more than one of the senses. Students could use images and narrate their text, adding additional features such as music to further enhance.
Rich assessment task
Reread as a class the passage where Mr Percival helps save the men on the boat (p. 88–95). Tell students they are going to rewrite this scene from the point of view of Mr Percival. First undertake drama activities such as role walks or role plays to tap into the character; retellings or versions; and still images for students to first share their story orally. These activities should help them include detail and characterisation into their writing. They should plan their text and carefully consider the language features that they will use to construct the character of Mr Percival. After they have drafted and edited their work, provide a range of publishing options including written or a recorded oral presentation, or a combination of both using digital storytelling software (see More Resources below).
(ACELY1714) (EN3-2A) (ACELY1717) (EN3-2A)