Connecting to prior knowledge
Display the following words on cards: ‘lonely’, ‘alone’ and ‘hope’. Discuss the meaning of the three words with your students.
Use the think-pair-share routine to scaffold a discussion. Ask students:
- Have you ever felt lonely? What did it feel like?
- Is being alone different to being lonely?
- What does it mean to have hope? When do people need hope?
Introducing the book
Show students the front cover of the book. Use the following prompts to lead a discussion, pausing briefly to show the back cover (with the blurb covered) partway through.
- What do you notice?
- Who do you think is the person on the cover?
- What do you notice about her body position?
- How do you think she is feeling?
- What do you know about walls? What do they usually do?
- What do you notice about the colours the illustrator has used? How do they make you feel?
Have students complete an individual see-think-wonder exploring just the front cover. They will use different coloured post-it notes or coloured squares to write what they see, what they think and what they wonder. Provide time for students to share their responses in small groups of three. These can then be displayed on a class wall with the title ‘Making Predictions’.
Exploring the text in context of our community, school and ‘me’
Show students the following video about being unique. Ask them to consider what makes them unique and special.
Give each student a blank A4 sheet and ask them to create an illustration that captures what is unique about them. On lined paper they can write a few sentences that express what it is that makes them special. These images could then be photographed/scanned and turned into a class video, with each student narrating their own work. Alternatively, you could make a digital book using Book Creator, or a hardcopy book that becomes part of the class library. These could be shared with families and the wider school community. This is also a chance to model some digital technology skills for creating digital projects, which students will do later in the unit.
Exploring the uniqueness of our own community
Exploring uniqueness provides an opportunity to discover and celebrate diversity within your own school community.
Conduct a class brainstorm and document students’ responses to the following questions:
- What makes our community unique?
- Who is part of our learning community?
- Who is part of our wider community?
- What cultures and celebrations make our community special?
This wider context provides scope to link to the HASS curriculum that explores celebrations.
Ask students how we can take care of the people in our community to make sure they feel included, cared for and hopeful. This may be a good opportunity for community outreach; for example, writing letters to residents in an aged care facility or inviting student buddies for a class lunch.
Rich assessment task
Continue exploring the concept of individuality, the beauty of our uniqueness and the diversity this creates.
Introduce students to the ‘I am’ poem and explore the example together.
Model writing your own poem by following the prompts for each line. Talk about the punctuation, including a capital letter at the beginning of each line but no commas or full stops.
Students will then write their own ‘I am’ poem that captures who they are as a unique individual.
Responding to the text
Read Suri’s Wall aloud to students, allowing them to see the pictures. Stop once you reach the line where the guard speaks to Suri. Do not show this page at all to begin with.
Ask students what they think the children will find out. Before they respond, allow them to silently observe the illustrations shown up until this point.
There is a distinct contrast between the monotone colours of the children’s world and the brightly coloured world Suri describes over the wall. Encourage students to engage in a discussion with each other, using the metalanguage for a visual text (e.g. shot size, camera angle, layout).
- The first two spreads are full shots that show the environment, and low angle shots that hint at Suri’s power (the first page has the most power, the second page has a reduction in power).
- The next two spreads are full shots that show the environment, with the angle shifting higher and higher. Suri is gradually being put in a position of less power.
- In the next spread, Suri and Eva are holding hands. This is a full shot, but it’s also an extreme wide shot to show the monotony of the environment. The overhead shot emphasises the height of the cliff and allows us to look down on the two characters; we can see the emotion on Eva’s face, but not on Suri’s. The viewing position is slanted to create a sense of disorientation, which increases the tension. We’re not sure what’s going to happen next.
- In contrast, the two full colour spreads (the golden bridge and the boat) are full shots and low angle, hinting at the power of the participants.
Use the thinking routine ‘What makes you say that?’ to encourage students to explain and justify what they think is really going on, looking for visual clues in the text to support their ideas. This could include things like:
- Boarded up windows
- Deteriorating buildings
- Use of muted colours
- No living flora or fauna
- No adults (except the guard)
At the completion of the story, lead a discussion by asking some of the following questions:
- Do you think that Suri lied?
- Is it ever okay to lie?
- What do you think was really happening over the wall?
- Why do you think the children might be behind the wall?
- Was Suri helping the other children? How?
- Where do you think this story might be taking place? What makes you say that?
- Do you think what Suri did was right? Why/why not?
- Do you like books like this? Why/why not?
Exploring plot, character, setting and theme
Once students have read and explored Suri’s Wall a few times, have them work in groups of three to decide on three big ideas or themes explored in the text. Have each group write their final decisions on post-it notes. Come back together and create a graph showing the big ideas or themes that students have identified. Choose the three most commonly-identified themes and ask students to draw connections back to the text. They could place their ideas in thought bubbles that could then be arranged around the theme.
Model this process first. It could look like:
|10 words/phrases from the text that reflect this theme||1. warmth
4. cuddled up
5. heart ached
6. holding her hand
7. heart beat
|Other evidence||In Suri’s Wall we learn the importance of having friends and feeling included. To begin with, the other children leave Suri out and this makes her feel really sad and alone. When Suri starts telling stories the children realise that she is special, and they spend more time with her and make her feel like part of something bigger.|
Where in the world?
Choose a series of pages that students can examine in order to describe the story’s setting. Begin by looking at pages related to the castle. Explore the use of colour and how this adds to the mood and emotion in these scenes. Also explore the illustrator’s use of different angles, and ask students why they think he chose to do this. Move on to the imagination scenes and compare their colours and liveliness to the castle scenes. Why do students think the illustrator has been so deliberate with his choices between the two?
Create an anchor chart with the following headings and use it to explore different scenes. Below is an example.
|Scene||What we notice about the setting||Illustrator choices||What this makes us feel|
|Suri sitting alone by the bed||It is inside a castle.
The building is old.
There are open rooftops.
It is just wood and bricks.
The children don’t have any toys.
The room is big and spacious, but empty.
|All of the colours are similar.
Suri is sitting by herself.
There is not much light.
You can see shadows.
|We feel sad for Suri.
The room feels like it would be cold.
Suri’s feet would be cold on the floor.
It makes me feel heartbroken for the children because they are alone without parents.
Pick another scene that contrasts this mood. Discuss with students how the imagination scenes create a really different mood to the real-life scenes. How? Why?
Students could work in groups to respond to one of the scenes using this handout (PDF, 85KB).
Rich assessment task
Begin this activity with a mindfulness exercise from Smiling Mind. Explain that mindfulness is a strategy we can use to look after our hearts and minds. A useful example would be keeping a diary, which allows the writer to reflect on their feelings and emotions. Suri was going through a tough time in the book; perhaps keeping a journal might have helped her. The task for students now is to take on Suri’s character and write a diary entry in her voice.
Throughout the story, we see Suri change as she becomes more accepted by the other children. This provides an opportunity for students to explore her perspective and make some inferences about how she might feel at various stages. As a class, create a timeline of key moments when we see Suri’s character change. You could then collectively decide on the most significant moments, and use these as the basis for diary entries exploring Suri’s thoughts and feelings.
Some suggested moments for this activity:
- As Suri walks along the wall, scraping her hand against it.
- After we see Suri being excluded during play and at night.
- The day she realises she can see over the wall and her emotions change.
- When Eva takes Suri’s hand and she describes what is over the wall for the first time.
- When more children come to listen to Suri talk about what is over the wall.
- After the dinner the children share together.
- When Eva snuggles up in bed with Suri.
- The moment Suri decides to keep telling the children stories, even though the guard tells her they will find out the truth.
This task can be carried out over several days, and selected samples can be used for more formal assessment.
Show students some of the ways that Matt Ottley’s illustrations came together for Suri’s Wall. There is no need to go into detail about their construction or the deeper layers explored (unless your students are ready for this type of analysis); simply allow them to see the process that goes into illustrating a book like Suri’s Wall.
Explore these three modalities in relation to the images in Suri’s Wall:
- body language
- facial expression
Take time to explore each element, using a think aloud strategy to model how students can unpack illustrator choices.
Choose a few pages that will allow you to explore and discuss the text’s visual features with students:
- What do you notice about the image?
- Why are so many of the images full wide shots?
- Why don’t we see any extreme close-up shots?
- What does that tell you about the meaning?
- How does it make you feel about the characters?
- How are each of the characters feeling?
- Why did the author/illustrator want to portray the characters in this way?
My favourite image
Suri’s Wall is beautifully illustrated and rich with meaning. Students will now zoom in on their favourite image to learn how to use descriptive language.
Choose an image from the book and model how to describe the scene using descriptive phrases and words. Students will then use their own description wheel (PDF, 135KB) to describe their favourite image, and write a small passage that incorporates the language they have identified.
Finally, have students answer the following question. This could be recorded on Seesaw, delivered orally or completed as a written response (depending on abilities and access to technology).
- Why is this your favourite image? Use as much detail as you can to explain what you like about it. For example:
- Is it the colour, the art, a particular element of the image?
- Is it the way the author has used description?
- Is it the way the image connects to the story?
Encourage students to use the metalanguage of shot size, camera angle and layout.
Examining grammar and vocabulary
Throughout the text, the line ‘Oh, it’s beautiful, let me tell you all about it’ is repeated. Discuss this authorial choice with students and ask how it makes them feel as readers.
- How does it make you feel to be told a story?
- How would it make the children in Suri’s Wall feel when they heard (or knew that they were going to hear) wonderful stories about what was happening on the other side of the wall?
- Why is it important that these children feel comforted by stories?
Continue the theme of connection and community by creating a shared piece of writing with a repeated line, in the style of a rhyme. This is a good opportunity to review rhymes and introduce the idea of a rhyming pattern (a simple couplet might work well).
Allow students to explore possible rhyming sounds while you write (e.g. on a whiteboard). Then have them work in small groups to illustrate the finished piece. Encourage them to consider camera angle and shot size while planning their visual accompaniment. Upon completion, each group will photograph or scan their picture, insert it into PowerPoint and use the narrator function to record themselves reading the new text.
Here is an example of what you might produce.
Our Learning Community
We learn together side by side
Take care of each other, along for the ride
Using kind words and connecting with friends
When there are problems we all make amends
Our class is unique, filled with you and with me
What a special group of people we are in Year 3
You help when I’m learning to throw and to catch
I help when you’re not sure how to spell ‘match’
We sing, we dance and we play all day long
And we know it’s in learning to sometimes be wrong
Our class is unique, filled with you and with me
What a special group of people we are in Year 3
Tell students that alliteration is another form of repetition in which you repeat an initial phoneme.
As a class, watch this video on alliteration. Pause at various stages so that students can read with you, practising fluent reading.
Identify examples of alliteration in Suri’s Wall:
- ‘silent and still’
- ‘rivers running through rolling hills’
- ‘huge harbour’
Have students write their own sentences using alliteration. You could use one of Suri’s imagined scenes (e.g. the town, the forest, the circus) as a prompt so students can build their sentences based on what they see.
Have students independently edit their own sentences and then publish them on a strip of card. Display these together.
Rich assessment task
This task allows students to demonstrate their developing understandings of inference and how illustrations add layers of meaning to a text.
Pick an image from the text that shows Suri sitting by herself. This could be the one where the other children are playing in the courtyard, or the one where they are snuggled up in their beds without her. Display your chosen image for students and distribute this handout (PDF, 90KB).
Have students write down what Suri would be thinking and feeling in this moment. They can also explore the illustrator choices in this scene, as modelled to them previously. When students have completed the handout, they can discuss what they discovered in pairs.
In Suri’s Wall there are two double-page spreads where the author has not used any text. Either of these can be used as the basis for some sensory writing, in which students will explore all their senses to produce a descriptive piece.
Begin by revisiting some of the pages with text and ask students what they notice about Lucy Estela’s writing. How does she help the reader to feel like they are really ‘there’? Are there examples of her using descriptive or sensory writing?
Provide students with this senses chart (PDF, 87KB) so they can write down the senses they experience (or imagine experiencing) when looking at the stimulus pages. It would be nice to do this outside if possible, particularly if focusing on the forest scene.
Once students have finished planning, they can turn their notes into a passage of sensory writing using complete sentences. Guide them to edit their work independently and pro forma. The finished pieces could be published and displayed alongside the stimulus image for others to read.
Planning: before, during, after
Students are going to find their own narrative in the pages of Suri’s Wall. Using the forest scene as inspiration, each student will create a before-during-after chart about what might have happened before this scene; what might be happening in the scene; and what might happen after this scene. This will become the basis of their own narrative.
The narrative does not need to include the same characters or storyline as Suri’s Wall; instead, students should be encouraged to create a brand new narrative. Once they have completed their before-during-after brainstorm, come back together to review narrative structure, then ask them to begin their own stories. Remind students what they have learnt about descriptive language and language features. Try not to labour on the structure; rather, encourage students to write for the joy of story. Pause regularly to share and encourage students to swap their drafts with one another. This helps to build a community of writers who learn from each other about what good writing looks and sounds like.
Students will use their narrative to create a storyboard with six key illustrations. Encourage them to use a colour theme that adds to the mood in their writing.
Publishing: digital story
Students can use iPads or computers to convert their storyboard to digital images. Alternatively, if they would prefer to use non-digital illustrations, they can photograph their storyboard instead. Using iMovie, Book Creator or another tool, students can then turn their narrative into a digital story featuring their own illustrations, voice recording and music to add to the mood.
Rich assessment task
‘Oh, it’s beautiful, let me tell you all about it…’
Students will create their own illustration and description of a place that they find beautiful. It would be great to use watercolours to mimic the beautiful images in Suri’s Wall. Students could first plan their image using pencil, the same way that Matt Ottley did, then fill them in with watercolours. Engaging your art teacher in this task, if practicable, could be highly valuable.
Using their knowledge of descriptive writing, students will describe their illustrated scene as though they were seeing it over Suri’s wall. They could use a new description wheel (PDF, 135KB) to brainstorm some vocabulary before they start writing. Once students have a first draft, they will do some independent editing, and then seek and apply feedback before creating their final copy.
If students have access to devices, they could photograph their artwork and record themselves reading their description to share with their families. Otherwise, they can practise reading aloud and recite their written pieces for the rest of the class.