Building field knowledge

The following three lessons should be undertaken before reading the text. Activities designed to build field knowledge and explore the context of the text are combined in each lesson. For example, lessons with the same number such as Lesson 1 in ‘Building field knowledge; and Lesson 1 in ‘Exploring the context of the text’ are meant to be implemented in the same session.

Lesson 1

Part 1: In small groups, students share  personal experiences relating to knowledge of zoos in general and, in particular, Taronga Zoo. A spokesperson summarises and presents their group’s prior knowledge to the class.
Part 2: View images of Taronga, particularly its location on the Harbour looking across to the city centre, and make predictions about the content of a novel with this title.
(ACELT1613)   (EN3-1A)   (EN3-7C)   (EN3-8D)

Lesson 2

Part 1: Read the Author’s Note regarding Taronga Zoo. Introduce students to William Blake’s poem, The Tyger.

Lesson 3

The epigraph in the text is: ‘You love the things you kill,’ Heriot said, ‘but you never regret killing them. I’ve noticed that always about you people, how you love your prey. There’s some wisdom there.’ – Randolph Stow, To the Islands. Prepare students to make a connection between this quote, the tiger symbol and recurrent themes throughout the narrative. Discuss the language of the quotation, particularly the effect achieved by arrogant tone demonstrated by ‘you people’ and ‘some wisdom’ and the fact that the character is talking about Indigenous Australians.

Exploring the context of the text

Lesson 1

Part 3: View these images of four different covers for the novel. Analyse the covers, applying visual literacy metalanguage – Demand/Offer; Salience; Power; Background/Foreground/Middle focus; Modality.

Part 4: Make adjustments to predictions based on response to the cover illustrations.
   (EN3-3A)   (EN3-7C)

Lesson 2

Part 2: Read the poem The Tyger by William Blake and discuss what is meant by ‘thy fearful symmetry’. Discuss dictionary meanings and how flexibility is required when applying meaning in a given context.

Part 3: Analyse each stanza, discussing word meanings and symbolism. Lead students to an understanding that in this poem the tiger is a symbol of all that is good and evil in the world, where beauty and terror both exist.

Part 4: In small groups, students memorise The Tyger and perform it as a multi-voice poetry presentation using the vocal skills of pitch, pause, emphasis, tone, volume and clarity.
(ACELT1611)   (ACELT1614)   (ACELY1710)   (ACELY1713)   (EN3-1A)   (EN3-3A)


Rich assessment tasks (formative and summative)


  1. Engagement in and contribution to group and class discussions.
  2. Group performance of The Tyger using vocal skills to make the meaning clear.

(ACELY1709)   (ACELY1710)   (ACELY1816)   (EN3-1A)


Students write a 500 word reflection describing how  their predictions regarding the novel have now changed. The criteria could be:

  • Sound: Predicted that it would be about a zoo; that it would be a bit scary and there would be fighting/war; that it would feature a tiger.
  • High: Predicted that it would be also about how the world can be both beautiful and ugly at the same time.
  • Outstanding: Predicted also that it might involve a conflict between Indigenous and white perspectives.

(ACELY1708)   (EN3-7C)

Achievement Standard

  • Students make presentations and contribute actively to class and group discussions, using a variety of strategies for effect.

Responding to the text

Conduct a whole class discussion on the importance of trust. In small groups students identify examples from the text to support why they think the concept of trust is important to Ben. Groups share their findings. Following the reading of Chapter 6, first model, then, using guided writing, convert the dialogue of Ben, Chaz,  and Trev in the text to a play script employing the features and conventions of a play script. In groups students rehearse and perform the script for another group.
(ACELY1713)   (ACELY1714)   (EN3-7C)


Exploring plot character, setting and theme

  • Identify the theme of trust versus betrayal. Begin recording examples of references to betrayal of trust. Continue adding to the list as further chapters are read. Identify and record quotes from the text that demonstrate evidence of this.
  • Identify the theme of human versus animal. Find and begin to record examples of the use of zoomorphism. Instead of giving human qualities to an inanimate object or animal the author gives animal qualities to humans. Continue adding to the list as further chapters are read. Identify and record quotes from the text that demonstrate zoomorphism.
  • Identify the first reference to the theme of fear versus attraction at the end of Chapter 2 and connect with study of The Tyger in Lesson 2. Identify and record quotes from the text.
  • Prepare students for Literature Circle groups by setting Literature Circle Roles for the whole class to perform each lesson:
    • Role #1 – Summariser: Summarise the events in Chapter 3. Write a short summary and then reduce the summary to five key points using no more than five words per point.
    • Role #2 – Travel chaser: Display a map of New South Wales on the wall and map Ben’s journey from out West, over the mountains, through the suburbs, over the Harbour Bridge and to Taronga Zoo. Research and view images of Bells Line of Road in NSW using Google maps. Describe the environment through which Ben is travelling in Chapter 4.
    • Role #3  – Theme detective: Add to human versus animal and trust versus betrayal theme notes and quotes.
    • Role #4 – Vocabulary enricher/figurative language finder: See the section called ‘Examining grammar and vocabulary’ in the ‘Examining’ component of this unit for direction for this role.
    • Role #5 – Discussion director: Create four interesting, thought-provoking questions about the narrative up to this point. Write your own answers to the questions. Answer a question set by the teacher, e.g. What does Ben say to himself in Chapter 4 that foretells the dog’s death in Chapter 5?
  • Direct students to focus on Kelleher’s descriptions of the zoo setting through locating them on a map of Taronga Zoo. For example, refer to Chapter 7 and Ben’s ‘run’ when he is pushed through the hole in the fence – this ‘run’ could be mapped. Return to the map in subsequent chapters to locate the settings of main events, e.g. Ellie’s accommodation, Molly’s address to the Taronga residents, attacks on the wall and the location of the animal cages. Homework for Chapter 7 could be to read the chapter and prepare a response based on the Literature Circle Roles. These responses should then be shared with the class.
  • Identify and record six significant moments  in Chapter 8 in the excerpt where Ben is trying to cage the tigers for the first time.
  • Swap the Literature Circle Roles while reading chapter 9 (for example swap Travel director for Connector and investigate why Ben likens Taronga to the garden of Eden). Homework is to read the chapter and prepare a response based on the allocated role. Responses will then be shared with the class.
  • In Chapter 10 compare and contrast the way Ellie and Ben handle the tigers. Compare Ben’s confrontations with Raja with Pi and Richard Parker in the film The Life of Pi (the flying fish scene and the training the tiger scene).
  • Read chapters 11–13. How does Ben’s relationship with Raja begin to change throughout these chapters? Review notes and quotes about zoomorphism.
  • Using animal masks, introduce character development in Drama, moving from mostly animal to mostly human with minimal but noticeable animal characteristics. Choose one animal trait that could be adapted with only slight modification to a human character e.g. sharp head/neck movements of a bird.
  • In Chapter 14 examine how Ellie’s past relationship with her dad makes her stand out from all the other characters ‘people who don’t have much of a past probably don’t have much of a future either’.
  •  Read Chapters 15–17. Ask students how Ben’s relationship with Raja continues to change through these chapters. How is the conflict between Raja and Ben finally resolved? A good quote from Chapter 16 is ‘”No,” she cut in. And then more loudly, her voice shrill with defiance, “No! They didn’t leave us any other choice! They never have done! Never, since the first ships sailed into that harbour down there. Just this once, though, we’ve answered them. We’ve rescued something from the mess they left us”‘.
  •  Read and discuss The Rabbits by John Marsden. Compare the message of this text with Ellie’s views about non-Indigenous people?
  •  Re-read the poem The Tyger by William Blake. Using descriptions from the text, especially in Chapter 17, compare and contrast Blake’s tiger in the poem and Raja as he is described by Victor Kelleher. Ask students for a prediction as to how they think the story will continue after Chapter 17.

(ACELY1713)   (ACELY1709)   (ACELT1618)   (ACELY1708)   (ACELT1613)   (ACELT1614)   (EN3-1A)   (EN3-3A)   (EN3-7C)   (EN3-8D)

Rich assessment tasks (formative and summative)

Formative/peer assessment

Students form groups of five, allocating one of the above Literature Circle Roles to each group. Students share/present their role response to the group. The other students in the group evaluate each contribution and, if necessary, add/discuss their own ideas to each response. One exemplar for each role is examined by the class to identify significant features of a good response.
(ACELY1713)   (EN3-1A)   (EN3-3A)   (EN3-8D)

Summative assessment

Essay question: Does the way the Ben feels about himself influence the way the Raja feels about Ben?

Students will use the essay scaffold below to structure a persuasive text, using evidence from the text to support their views.

Scaffolding an essay:

  • Paragraph 1 – Introduction: General statement about how Ben’s character changes from the beginning to the end of the story and how the tiger’s attitude towards Ben changes also.
  • Paragraph 2: Briefly describe how Ben feels about himself when he first learns about Raja’s existence in Chapters 1–5. How does Ben feel about Raja? Include a supporting quote from the text.
  • Paragraph 3: Summarise the encounters that Ben has with Raja from Chapter 6 to Chapter 10. Describe the conflict that exists between them. Describe how you think Ben feels about the choices and decisions he is making at this time. Include a supporting quote from the text.
  • Paragraph 4: Describe how their relationship begins to change in Chapters 11 and 12. In what way has Ben changed? Include a supporting quote from the text.
  • Paragraph 5: Suggest reasons why Raja’s attitude towards Ben begins to change after his face gets burnt in Chapter 12. How does Ben change from Chapter 12 to 15? Include a supporting quote from the text.
  • Paragraph 6: Describe how changes in Ben’s attitude and behaviour bring about a change in Raja’s behaviour in Chapters 16 and 17. Include a supporting quote from the text.
  • Paragraph 7 – Conclusion: Briefly summarise how changes in Raja reflect changes in Ben.

(ACELY1713)   (EN3-3A)

Achievement Standard

Receptive modes (listening, reading and viewing)

  • Students understand how the use of text structures can achieve particular effects.
  • Students analyse and explain how language features, images and vocabulary are used by different authors to represent ideas, characters and events.
  • Students select and use evidence from a text to explain their response to it.
  • Students listen to discussions, clarifying content and challenging others’ ideas.

Examining text structure and organisation

Taronga is divided into three parts: The Calling, The Trial, and The Answer. Ask students why they think the author structured the story and named the parts in this way? Each part is further divided into chapters. During your reading suggest suitable titles for each of the chapters.
   (EN3-3A)   (EN3-5B)   (EN3-6B)   (EN3-7C)

Examining grammar and vocabulary

  • Information for Role #4 Vocabulary enricher/figurative language finder in the earlier activity: Use a dictionary to find the meanings of unfamiliar words found chapters 4 and 5. Make sure that the meaning corresponds to the way the word is being used in the text.

(ACELA1523)   (ACELA1525)   (EN3-6B)

  • Modelled writing based on an extract from Chapter 15 of Taronga by Victor Kelleher. This version of modelled writing acknowledges and draws on aspects of Accelerated Literacy Pedagogy, formally known as Scaffolding Literacy, developed by Brian Gray and Wendy Cowey. The extract: ‘As usual Ben left the restaurant at a run, but this time he didn’t hurry straight down to the tiger cages. When he had gone only a short distance he stopped and, in the failing light of early evening, doubled back to the restaurant where he crept silently along the back wall and turned off the power. That done, he made his way quickly to what had once been known as the rainfall aviary, a tall, airy, modern structure close to the upper ponds. Unlatching the end door, he pulled it open and breathed in the warm dusty smell of herbivorous animals. He could see little of the interior, but he could hear a steady munching and the rustle of hooved feet on the straw-strewn ground. “Come,” he Called softly, “come.”‘
  • Students read this extract silently and orally, as well as listening to others, until they are very familiar with the flow of the words.
  • Students now revise the grammatical parts of a sentence, especially noun and verb groups, adverbial groups and conjunctions. Students devise their own visual code that they will use to identify these bits of meaning. Colour has been used in this example (PDF, 97KB) as it is easy to model using Smart Board technology.
  • Begin to identify the meaning groups starting first with the verb in each sentence. Identify the word/s with the verb group code. Then identify the noun group by asking the question who or what? E.g. in the first sentence: Who or what left? Then ask: Ben left what? Ask: When did Ben leave the restaurant? Ask: How did Ben leave the restaurant? Continue until all groups have been identified (see the vertical worksheet (PDF, 122KB) for easy identification).
  • When the whole text has been highlighted read it again, this time identifying each piece of meaning as its grammatical form. E.g. When? As usual. Who? Ben. Action verb? Left. What? The restaurant. How? At a run.
  •  Repeat in reverse. That is, saying the words or word groups before naming the grammatical group. E.g. As usual  When. Ben Noun/who. Repeat using the vertical worksheet (PDF, 122KB).
  • Discuss the author’s choice of verbs. Note that there are no relating or thinking verbs in this extract and only saying verb at the very end. Discuss why the author has used only action verbs throughout this piece of text. Which other grammatical choice has he made and what effect does this have on the writing? What would have been the effect of including a lot of thinking or relating verbs? Discuss the role of the adverbials in establishing the setting. Encourage students to visualise the setting and events.
  • Now the students are ready to begin joint construction of their own piece of writing. Display the the vertical worksheet (PDF, 122KB) on the IWB and record a variety of their ideas in each ‘My words’ box as well as highlighting the one selected for the group construction. These can be re-used later as suggestions for when they do their own individual version of the text.
  • Before they can begin, as a group, they will need to decide who the story will be about and give that character a name. They then need to decide where he/she is, what time of day it is, what situation he/she was in. Again record at least six suggestions before voting on the one to be used in the class writing.
Who? Where? When? What is happening?
Ben At the zoo. At twilight. He is secretly going to release all the animals.

(ACELY1714)   (ACELT1618)   (ACELT1800)   (EN3-3A)   (EN3-5B)   (EN3-6B)   (EN3-7C)

Examining visual and multimodal features

After reading the book, discuss why a particular cover was selected for the edition. Considering the covers of other editions, students decide which cover most accurately reflects the true nature of the story. Students justify their choice with reference to the novel.
(ACELY1708)   (EN3-3A)


Rich assessment tasks (formative and summative)


Consider the names of the three parts of the book. What is the significance of the the author’s choice of: The Calling,The Trial, and The Answer?


Students will draw on whole class modelled writing experience to use the grammar scaffold when innovating on the text extracted from Chapter 15. Students will make their own language choices within the boundaries and limitations of the writing scaffold, taking careful note of and striving for accuracy in both punctuation and spelling
(ACELY1714)   (ACELT1618)   (ACELT1800)   (EN3-3A)    (EN3-5B)   (EN3-6B)   (EN3-7C)

Achievement Standard

Productive modes (speaking, writing and creating)

  • Students create detailed texts elaborating on key ideas for a variety of purposes and audiences.
  • Students demonstrate understanding of grammar, make considered choices from an expanding vocabulary.
  • Use accurate spelling and punctuation for clarity and make and explain editorial choices.