Connecting to prior knowledge

Before Reading

Display and read the blurb from the back cover.

Angela Throgmorton lives alone and likes it that way.
One day she finds an unusual bundle on her doorstep – Old Tom has arrived.
Her life will never be the same.
And nor will yours!

Work through each line with the students, discussing questions to connect to their prior knowledge and encourage predictions about the story. For example:

  • Do you know anyone who lives alone?
  • Why do you think some people like to live alone?
  • What do you think is in the bundle? Do you know any other stories where a bundle was left on someone’s door-step? What was in it?
  • Who/what do you think Old Tom is?
  • Why do you think Angela’s life will never be the same?
  • Why do they say on the back cover, ‘your life will never be the same?’

During reading

Read the text aloud, showing the illustrations. This is perhaps best done over a number of ‘Read Aloud’ sessions. Stop at a key point and ask students to turn to a partner and predict what will happen next and why they think so. For example:

  • When Old Tom has to go and Angela has the house to herself, what do you think Angela will do?
  • When Old Tom is in town, what places do you think he will see?
  • When Angela sees the newsflash, what do you think she will do?

Read on to check and then stop again to see whose predictions were correct or close.
(ACELY1669)   (EN1-4A)


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

Comparing settings in the story with my world 

Display double page showing Old Tom leaving (Text: It was a bold move, but Angela thought it for the best.) and ask students to identify the setting/kind of place Angela lives and what details in the picture reveal this. Using think-pair-share, have students identify what is similar to and different from their neighbourhood/community. Have each group record their findings in a T-chart.

With students, develop a list of places Old Tom went and the things he saw in town. Discuss and record which of these can be found in their community and/or they have been to or seen. Students could work in pairs to draw a place Old Tom went in town and a comparative place in their own community.
(ACELT1587)   (EN1-11D)


Rich assessment task

Have students draw a picture of a place where Old Tom could go if he came to their community (preferably a different kind of place to those in the story). In their picture they should try to show who he might meet and what he could do there. In small groups, students then show their picture and, referring to it, orally name and describe the place and what Old Tom could do there.

Responding to the text

In whole-class shared reading, small group guided reading or individual reading, have students read either or both Old Tom at the Beach and Old Tom Goes to Mars.

Discuss character and settings in different Old Tom stories


Model the identification of vocabulary that shows the town setting of Old Tom and create a word wall of ‘town’ words. In small groups, have students identify words that show that the beach setting of Old Tom at the Beach and/or the rocket/outer space setting of Old Tom Goes to Mars and build word walls of ‘beach’ and/or ‘rocket/space’ words. Students could draw one of the settings and add the words they had identified.

Events and reactions to them

Locate statements of characters’ feelings and the events they are linked to. Provide students with feelings and event cards (PDF, 97KB) from Old Tom and have them work in pairs to match the feeling with the linked event. This activity could be repeated with feelings and events from other Old Tom stories.

Create a word wall of ‘feeling words’ beginning with vocabulary in Old Tom and adding to it with students’ contributions to a brainstorm. Continue to add to the word wall as new vocabulary is identified in other Old Tom stories or other books read.

Group words into good vs bad feelings. Ideally, words should be movable so they can be grouped according to synonyms or categorised by types of emotion (PDF, 124KB), or even grammatical type, such as adjectives or verbs.
(ACELT1591)   (EN1-7B)

Readers’ feelings about events 

Model identifying favourite parts in different stories and recording your reactions/preferences in a table using note form or drawings.

Focus on comparative language: more, most; funny, funnier, funniest; sad, sadder, saddest; good, better, best.

Links could be made to spelling.
(ACELA1472)   (EN1-5A)

Add scaffolding sentence starters to the ‘feelings’ word wall. For example:

  • I liked/didn’t like it when…
  • I felt (sad, happy, worried, annoyed) when…
  • I thought it was (funny, funnier, funniest, silly, embarrassing, exciting) when…
  • My favourite part was…
  • I like it better/more/most/best of all because…

Have students complete a table comparing their feelings about two or three events from each story.


Rich assessment task

Response: Comparing opinions about settings and events in different stories

  • Examine the written response: Comparing Literary Text work samples in the Satisfactory portfolio and Above satisfactory portfolio.
  • Deconstruct models with students, annotating texts to show what information is included, how it is organised and what kind of language is used, focusing particularly on language that expresses opinion and provides reasons.
  • Model recording feelings about settings in the stories and using this to give an oral/written response.
  • Using your recording of your reactions to events, jointly construct an oral/written response.
  • Have students present their response to a small group. Each group can then report on, or discuss, similarities and differences in opinions.
    (ACELT1589)   (EN1-4A)

Examining text structure and organisation

What do words and pictures tell us about characters?

Have class brainstorm ‘What we know about Angela’. For example, ‘She cares about Old Tom: she is kind.’ Explain that authors and illustrators use words and pictures to tell us about characters. They show:

  • who the character is and what they look like
  • what the character does
  • how the character feels
  • what the character says.

Model playing detective to find out about Angela using the first few pages of the book and record the information. Jointly construct the next few pages then have students work in small groups to continue, assigning part of the book to each group. Have the whole class come back together for group reports, adding each group’s information to the class record.
(ACELA1469)   (EN1-4A)

Examining grammar and vocabulary

Understanding simple connections between ideas in a compound sentence 

Explain simple and compound sentences (PDF, 121KB) to students, highlighting verb group (process) and conjunctions to assist.

Place two hoops on the floor, one labelled Simple sentences and one Compound sentences. In pairs, give students two sentences from Old Tom (PDF, 130KB) to decide which hoop each belongs in. As whole class have pairs place sentences in the hoop, one reading the sentence and the other explaining why it is a simple or compound sentence.

In small groups, give students three compound sentences from Old Tom (PDF, 130KB) (each with a different conjunction). Demonstrate identifying the conjunction and cutting it from the sentence. Show that the parts that were connected are each simple sentences on their own, but can be connected with a conjunction. Ask students to identify and cut the conjunction from their sentences. Links could be made to sentence punctuation.

Discuss the different connections made by the coordinating (linking) conjunctions. That is:

  • and connects two similar ideas
  • but connects two different ideas
  • so connects ideas, telling us that one thing happened because of the other.

Have groups swap their cut-up sentences and recreate compound sentences, selecting the best conjunction to connect the ideas. Provide students with a set of two or three related simple sentences from Old Tom (PDF, 130KB) and ask them to create a compound sentence by choosing the appropriate conjunction (and, but or so).
(ACELA1467)   (EN1-9B)


Rich assessment task

Connecting what the words and pictures tell us about the characters

Have students:

  • choose three words to describe Old Tom
  • find and record evidence from the book that shows this
  • use evidence to write at least one simple and one compound sentence. For example: Old Tom is messy. He makes a big mess in the bath and he always carries an old fishbone. Old Tom tries to be good but he is naughty sometimes. He ate the pet fish. Old Tom was lazy. He didn’t want to help with the dishes so he pretended to be sick.
    (ACELY1670)   (EN1-4A)

Character Description – Cinquain Poem

Provide students with several cinquain poems. Have students work in small groups to read and discuss poems, looking for any patterns: what is similar about the poems? Go to the resources page for information on cinquains.\

As a class build up a list of features, for example:

  • five lines
  • don’t rhyme
  • three action/doing words (verbs) in the middle.

Introduce the term cinquain and make explicit any patterns that students have not identified. Annotate one of the model cinquains and have students work in pairs to annotate another.

Model developing a retrieval chart around a character from a story well-known to the children, such as Goldilocks. For example:

Naming (noun)  Describers (adjectives) Actions (‘ing’ verbs) 3 or 4 words about Naming (noun)
Girl lost, curious, nosy, hungry, tired eating, sitting, breaking, sleeping in the bears house
made herself at home

Model using the information in the retrieval chart to create a character cinquain poem. Jointly construct a retrieval chart with information about Angela and Old Tom.
(ACELT1593)   (EN1-2A)


Rich assessment task

Have students use retrieval charts to create their own cinquain poem which depicts the character of either Angela or Old Tom. Students can then illustrate and present their poem using applications such as PowerPoint, Keynote or Prezzi.