Connecting to prior knowledge

Before reading

Teachers may wish to consult Magabala Books’ page on teaching Indigenous content, which provides background information about using First Nations texts in the classroom.

Before beginning this unit, listen to an Acknowledgement of Country and discuss its purpose.

Introduce The Eagle Inside to the class. Read out the title, author and illustrator.

Introduce the author and his cultural heritage, language and country (the Bundjalung nation).

Walk and talk

Place the students in groups of four. Show them the front cover of the text. Individually, the students write:

  • What type of text they think it is
  • Their prediction of its topic
  • A sentence they might expect to see in the text

Walking around the room, the students exchange their answers with as many of their peers as they can. Students then sit in their group of four and jointly construct a group prediction about the text to share with the class. This can be a time for groups to explain their conclusions. Create a wall space for the work on this text and add these predictions to the space.

Read the blurb on the back cover and invite the class to share a time when they have felt different. This could include discussing culture and language. Ask:

  • What made you feel different?
  • Where were you?
  • How did you feel? Did you enjoy the feeling?
  • Was anyone there to help you?
  • What could the author mean by “being different could also be a strength”?

(ACELY1668)   (EN1-7B)


Cover over the words of the text with sticky notes. Walk the class through the text with the words covered, and allow time for the students to explore the intricacies of the illustrator Bronwyn Bancroft’s artwork. Refer to Bronwyn Bancroft’s website for more information.

As the students are exploring the art, invite them to share some words that come to mind as they go through each page. Create a word wall for The Eagle Inside: give each student some sticky notes and ask them to write each word on a new note to add to the wall. At the end of the art-walk, invite the students to share their words and why they want them included.


  • On what page or art piece did the word come to their mind?
  • What art piece appealed to you the most? Why?

(ACELT1590)   (EN1-11D)

Read the text for enjoyment. Allow time for the students to connect the written text with the art on each page.

After reading

Revisit the co-constructed predictions from the walk and talk (above) and confirm or discuss these with the class.

Three-word summary

Re-read the text. During this reading, ask the students to think of three words that are most important in the story. The words could relate to the story’s theme or lessons, e.g. resilience, trust or belief.

In pairs, the students share and explain why they chose their words. This pair joins with another pair to discuss their word choices. This group of four then joins with another to continue the discussion. Finally, the whole class comes together to discuss the words that are the most popular, and comes to a joint consensus on the three most important words from the story.

Add these words to the Eagle Inside wall display.

(ACELY1670)   (EN1-4A)

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

Revisiting the three-word summary (above), write each word on a piece of butcher paper and place them around the room. Individually, students add words, phrases or drawings to these posters that relate to the word. For example: if one of the words is “resilience”, they might add “brave”, “get back up” or “keep trying”. Display these posters in the room.

On the first page of the text, the author Jack Manning Bancroft has written a note for the reader.

If you have ever felt alone, undervalued or doubted yourself, this book is for you. No matter what people say, you can be what you want if you are willing to believe in yourself and back it up with hard work, hard work and more hard work.

Read this note to the class and display it on a big piece of paper or interactive whiteboard. Ask students to identify words that need to be discussed, e.g. undervalued, doubted, believe, etc. Using their writing journals, invite students to record a time when they have felt alone or undervalued or had doubt in themselves. These words might need to be unpacked with the class prior to this lesson.

(ACELA1470)   (EN1-2A)

Rich assessment task

The final page of the text says: “And he knew he would never have reached the starting line if he hadn’t picked himself up, dusted off his feathers, and listened to the eagle inside.” Jimmy had taken inspiration from Eagle. He had self-doubt, but Eagle believed in him.

Referring back to their writing journals, ask the students what they did or could have done to pick themselves up and achieve their dream.

Take a look at the website for AIME, the organisation started by Jack Manning Bancroft. AIME focuses on addressing inequality, so ensure that this becomes part of the conversation. Show the students an appropriate clip for their level of understanding and discuss the role of a mentor.

  • What does a mentor do?
  • How can a mentor help someone through hard times and help them find the strength within themselves?

Invite the students to think of someone who is (or might be) a mentor in their lives. You could share a story about your own mentor: it might be your principal, colleague, parent, sibling or a close friend.

In the text, Jimmy’s mentor was Eagle. Jimmy believed that he had the heart of an eagle and drew strength from this. Who, in the students’ lives, gives them strength? Ask students to think of this person and their qualities. You may need to brainstorm typical qualities and strengths a mentor may have.

Ask the students to create an art piece depicting them and their mentor. Encourage them to write a few sentences explaining why they have chosen this person to help give them strength. Encourage the students to write a specific example of a time their mentor helped them achieve their dreams.

Finish by exploring Bronwyn Bancroft’s website and gather a variety of books written and illustrated by her for the class to explore her artwork. Discuss similarities and differences within the artwork, including the use of line, colour and dots.

(ACELA1469)   (EN1-4A)   (ACELY1667)   (EN1-6B)

Responding to the text

Text to self

Read the text to the class and pause on page two. Ask the students to share some words about how Jimmy is feeling up to this point in the text. Write the words on the board. They might include scared, alone, worried, nervous, frightened, intimidated, lonely and/or left out.

Ask the students to walk around the room. When you call out one of the words, students freeze and think of a time when they might have felt one of these emotions. Invite students to share their experiences with the group.

Continue reading the text and repeat this activity after reading the final page. Possible emotions this time might be brave, excited, proud, energised and/or happy. Invite students to share their experiences with these emotions.

In small groups, with multiple copies of the text, ask the students to find sentences or phrases in the text with which they connect. Taking turns, each student reads a phrase from the text and discusses their connection with that phrase.

In the text it says… My connection…
His heart sank, he was alone. When I went to the playground, I couldn’t find my friends. I felt alone.

(ACELY1670)   (EN1-4A)

Text to text

Have a conversation with the class about Dreaming stories, which share beliefs connected to Country and the natural world (for example, how the land and creatures came to be). These stories were typically passed down through oral storytelling rather than in written form. In Magabala Books’ teacher notes for Cooee Mittigar, author Jasmine Seymour talks about Dreaming and provides a link for further information that can help guide the discussion.

Now read Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna by Cathy Goonack. Introduce the book before reading it aloud to the class. Magabala Books’ teacher notes describe it as a “traditional Dreamtime story” of the Wunambal people, “a good introduction to non-Indigenous children about Dreamtime stories”.

Read the book, pausing so the students can see the illustrations. Discuss the similarities and differences between this story and The Eagle Inside.

In small groups or pairs, invite the students to complete a compare and contrast diagram (PDF, 84KB).

Discuss with the class the elements that can be compared, such as characters, setting, theme and message.


The Eagle Inside Similarities Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna
The main character is a honeyeater.

The setting is the Australian bush.

The eagle was the wise character in this story.

Both stories are about Australian animals.

Both stories are set in the Australian bush.

Both main characters showed bravery.

Both stories are from long ago with a message for the reader.

Both stories are morality tales.

The main character is a possum.

The setting is the Australian bush.

The possum was the hero in this story.

Text to world

Listen to the podcast Short & Curly, Season 1 Episode 4: Is it ever okay to fight back against a bully?

Before listening to the podcast, you may like to do the four corners teaching strategy to get students thinking about the topic.

(ACELY1665)   (EN1-4A)   (ACELT1591)   (EN1-7B)

Four corners

In each corner of a space, place a card with one of the following statements: strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree. Read out the topic of the podcast: “Is it ever okay to fight back against a bully?” and invite the students to move to the corner that mostly represents their point of view on the topic. Once in position, invite students to share their thoughts and feelings on this topic and why they have chosen to move to that corner.

Discuss with the class the concept of bullying. This Short & Curly episode explores the ethical issues around bullying, such as what it is, why and how it could happen, and ways to deal with bullies. Follow the guidance in the Short & Curly podcast and pause at appropriate times to discuss these concepts with the students.

Referring to The Eagle Inside, how did Jimmy deal with his bullies? Did he fight back? Did he talk to someone about it? Did Jimmy give up?

Consider an alternative ending to the story. In small groups, invite the students to come up with alternative endings and create a photographic scene of their idea. Give them time to rehearse their part and when you call out “Freeze”, the groups demonstrate that scene. Tap into the characters to find out what happened.

Afterwards, hold a class meeting about bullying. Talk to the class about the importance of active listening, appreciating that other people may have a different point of view, and showing respect to ideas that may differ from theirs. Visit The Noisy Classroom for a wide variety of teacher and student resources to help teach speaking and listening skills in the classroom.

(ACELY1665)   (EN1-4A)   (ACELT1591)   (EN1-7B)

Exploring plot, character, setting and theme

Role on the wall: inside, outside – Jimmy

On a large piece of butcher paper, draw an outline of Jimmy the honeyeater. Pin the paper on the wall and invite students to contribute to the poster. On the inside of the honeyeater, students write a word or phrase to describe Jimmy’s attitudes and feelings; on the outside, record what he looks like and what he can do. Discuss the final poster with the class.

(ACELY1670)   (EN1-4A)

Tableau and tapping

The tableau

Place students into groups of three. One student directs the other two to depict the scene on pages 7 and 8, where Cockatoo is chastising Jimmy for “bumping into him”. Once in position, they freeze. As characters, ask them to reflect on these questions:

  • Role: who are you?
  • Relationship: what do you think of the other characters? How will you show this through body language and facial expressions?
  • Focus: what are you looking at in this particular frozen moment?

Tapping in

Ask a group to set up their tableau and invite the others to be the audience. As the teacher, “tap into” the participants in the freeze frame one at a time and ask them the following questions:

  • How do you feel at this moment? Describe in one word.
  • How do you feel at this moment? Describe in one sentence.
  • Describe what your character wants in this moment in one sentence.

This can be continued for pages 13 and 14, and 21 and 22.

(ACELY1789)   (EN1-1A)

Rich assessment task


In small groups, ask students to create an anti-bullying campaign. Provide the students with a variety of possible mediums to create their presentation, such as a poster, brochure, video clip, song, advertisement, news segment or puppet show.

Success criteria

Students need to meet the following criteria when developing their campaign:

  • The campaign should be aimed at an intended audience and age level, and the content should reflect the students’ understanding of the audience.
  • Students should research how bullying can happen and target the campaign to address one or more of these common forms: physical harm, verbal abuse, exclusion or cyber bullying.
  • The campaign should provide advice on how to deal with the bullying.
  • The campaign should include a slogan to deliver the anti-bullying message.
  • The campaign should be clearly presented and the message easy to understand.
  • Students should prepare a creative presentation with the intended audience in mind.

Use the rubric (PDF, 100KB) to assess the presentations. Share the rubric with the students prior to beginning their research, so they have an understanding of the assessment criteria and score range. Teachers might also like the students to use the self-assessment rubric (PDF, 92KB) if they have worked in small groups.

Possible websites to use for research:

(ACELY1667)   (EN1-6B)   (ACELY1674)   (EN1-3A)

Examining text structure and organisation

Before beginning this next sequence, teachers should familiarise themselves with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages around Australia. Visit First Languages Australia and have a look at the wide variety of resources available there.

Have a look at the Gambay map, locating where you are from and where you are teaching. Familiarise yourself with the map, including both the European and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander names for places. Look at a few different locations on the map, and the associated content. You will notice that some locations are accompanied by video clips of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages being spoken.

Yarning circle

A yarning circle is a space for open sharing and telling of experiences, and discussing questions and wonders about the world. This yarning circle has been created to open discussions about where we come from in relation to land, language, culture, time, place and relationships. It is a space for you and the students to share some of your personal stories. It would be a good idea for you, as the teacher, to prepare your yarn before the following lesson. Use the map of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages to map your life with those six elements in mind.

As an example, I will share my yarn here.

I was born in 1982 on Warrimay (Newcastle) land in the Hunter Valley, where I lived with my two older sisters and my father and mother, who were both from Eora (Sydney). When I was 19, I moved with my friend to Woiwurrung (Melbourne) for work and a new adventure. Here I stayed for ten years, working and studying. In 2011 I moved again all the way up to Jawoyn (Katherine) country to begin a new career. I fell in love with the beauty of the landscape – rivers, swimming holes and escarpment country to the west. My work and my partner took me on another adventure to Larrakia (Darwin) land where I had my first baby girl. Now we are beginning yet another stage in our life, living on Palawa Kani (Tasmania) land, enjoying the cold weather and beautiful ancient landscapes.

Invite the students to find a place on the map that is special to them. Some students may need some support with this. Ask them to share how and why this place might be special to them. Ask them to think of one or more of the six components discussed earlier when sharing their connections with that place. If that place on the Gambay map contains a video clip, listen to the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander languages with the class.

Ask the students if they speak any language at home other than English. How do they know when to speak their home language or English? How are these languages different or similar to English? Is the alphabet the same or different?

(ACELA1461)   (EN1-1A)   (ACELA1460)   (EN1-6B)

Visual literacy

Towards the end of the story, Jimmy completes the race in record time. If possible, project the last three pages of the story onto a screen so the whole class can see the illustrations; otherwise, complete this activity in small groups so all students can view them clearly. Discuss with the students the following visual elements of these illustrations.

  • Line: how has Bronwyn Bancroft used line to show Jimmy moving through the race track?
  • Colour: what colours has Bronwyn Bancroft used in each picture and how do the differing colours help depict where Jimmy is flying?
  • Pattern: how does the use of pattern highlight where Jimmy is flying and, on the last page, what effect does the final pattern have on the ending of the story? Does the pattern help create a sense of emotion? If so, what emotion?

(ACELA1469)   (EN1-4A)

Examining grammar and vocabulary

Read the text to the class again and ask the students to focus on the language Jack Manning Bancroft uses throughout the text. Compare two pages: the page where Jimmy wakes up on the first day of school, and the page where he is flying to school. Write the sentences out and put them on the big screen. It’s useful to number the sentences for easy reference.

Text 1: When Jimmy wakes up on the first day of school
  1. Jimmy the honeyeater woke up as the sunlight touched the tips of the trees.
  2. It was a good sign, because this was his first day at flying school.
  3. After his breakfast of nectar Jimmy was off.
  4. Dipping and weaving through the forest, he wondered if there would be other honeyeaters at school.
  5. Would there be other small birds, and would they sip nectar as he did, or would they eat worms?
Text 2: When Jimmy is flying to school
  1. Suddenly the school loomed ahead of him.
  2. Birds were flying from everywhere, making so much noise that Jimmy froze.
  3. He was too scared to go on.
  4. A kookaburra swept past him and clipped his wing, sending him spinning.
  5. Jimmy felt the other birds watching as he struggled to his feet.
  6. There were kookaburras, cockatoos and lorikeets, hawks, magpies, galahs and even a great eagle.
  7. But there was not a single honeyeater.
  8. All the other birds were bigger than Jimmy.
  9. His heart sank.
  10. He was alone.

Split the class into five groups and assign each group a task:

  • Group 1 reads Text 1 to identify words that express positive or negative feelings.
  • Group 2 reads Text 2 to identify words that express positive or negative feelings.
  • Group 3 reads Text 1 to label each sentence as either “everything seems right in the world” (tick) or “something might be wrong in the world” (cross).
  • Group 4 reads Text 2 to label each sentence as either “everything seems right in the world” (tick) or “something might be wrong in the world” (cross).
  • Group 5 reads Text 2 to identify which actions have consequences.

After the group work, all groups come together to discuss what they have found.

  • Group 1 discusses Text 1’s positive feelings (sunlight touched, a good sign, dipping and weaving, birds who sip nectar) and negative feelings (birds who eat worms). It’s a deliberate strategy for the author to have the only negative feeling as the last feeling on the page. It’s designed to leave the reader hanging and build anticipation for the next page.
  • Group 2 discusses Text 2’s positive feelings (none) and negative feelings (the school loomed, birds flying everywhere, making noise, Jimmy froze, scared, kookaburra swept, wing clipped, sent spinning, other birds watching, struggling to his feet, not a single honeyeater, other birds bigger, heart sank, alone). It’s a deliberate strategy for the author to layer negative feelings to make a bad situation seem incredibly worse.
  • Group 3 discusses Text 1’s sentences as “seems right” (tick = 1, 2, 3, 4, first part of 5) or “might be wrong” (cross = second part of 5).
  • Group 4 discusses Text 2’s sentences as “seems right” (tick = none) or “might be wrong” (cross = 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 because there were so many big birds, 7, 8, 9, 10).
  • Group 5 discusses actions that have consequences. The noise in sentence 2 caused Jimmy to freeze (2) and be scared (3); wing clipped, so sent spinning (4) and struggled to find his feet (5); lots of big birds (6 & 8) and no other honeyeaters (7) so Jimmy’s heart sank (9) and he felt alone (10).

Watch this YouTube clip of Australian honeyeaters hovering and feeding. Discuss with the class the way the birds move, and revisit the word wall to help students visualise these words in action. Seeing the words written alongside a visual representation will help the students build their own bank of new vocabulary.

(ACELA1462)   (EN1-6B)

Word family investigation

Collect some action verbs and write them on individual blank cards. As the book was written in past tense, they will all end in –ed. Examples include flapped, tucked, bumped, glared.

  • Ask the students what they notice about these words.
  • What will happen if we take the -ed off the end of the words?
  • Does the meaning of the word change when we remove or add the ending –ed?

Create a set of cards (one card per student) with a base word and its morphemic word family, using inflectional endings: –ed, -ing, -s. For example:

flap flaps flapped flapping

Students walk around the class looking for the other words in their word family. Once they have found all four, ask them what they notice about their words. Can they underline the base word in each word family?

Discuss the meaningful parts of the words and talk about how the last morpheme tells us when the action is taking place: past, present or future.

Create this chart for display in the room and invite the groups to glue their cards to the appropriate columns. Take note of any misunderstandings for further follow-up. Invite students to continue to use this chart throughout the unit and add any other words they may use in their own reading or writing.

Base word s ending ed ending ing ending Other – irregular verbs








(ACELA1472)   (EN1-5A)

Rich assessment task

Noun and –ing verb poems

Discuss the role of verbs and nouns with the class. Invite the students to think of an animal they like. It could be a bird or a mammal. It is important that the students get to choose their own animal to write about.

Ask the students to list all the nouns they can think of for that animal. For example, for a magpie: beak, feathers, wings, legs, eyes, song, etc.

Then ask the students to think of verbs in present tense that might go with their animal. So for the magpie: flapping, singing, watching, bouncing, soaring, pecking, etc.

Now they get to put these nouns and verbs into a very simple but effective poem: the noun, followed by a verb with –ing added. The challenging part of this poem could be to tell a progressive story about their animal. For instance:

  • Does their poem include a setting?
  • Does their poem include a problem and a solution?
  • Does their poem describe the animal in their habitat?

Below is an example.


Leaves, rustling
Breeze, cooling
Sun, shining
Song, calling

Eyes, watching
Head, darting
Feet, jumping
Tail, twitching

Grass, crunching
Worm, wriggling
Wings, flapping
Magpie, swooping

Invite students to share their poems with the class. Teachers could also allow students to create an accompanying art piece, using the visual elements of line, colour and pattern to help depict their animal’s movements. Display these around the room.

(ACELA1472)   (EN1-5A)

Story map

Read the text to the class. Discuss with students what happens in the beginning, middle and end of the story. Create an open dialogue about the complication or problem in the story:

  • Who does it involve?
  • How is the problem solved?
  • Who helps solve the problem?

Ask the students to create a story map of the main events and characters in the story. The illustrations are a key component in this text, so invite the students to use words and illustrations to complete their story map. Share these with other class members and discuss any similarities or differences in interpretations of the story’s important elements.

(ACELT1590)    (EN1-11D)

Key word story strip

With the class, create a list of ten key words from the text. These words can be literal or implied, but should come from a sense of meaning and purpose about the text. Examples include: friendship, trust, belief.

Once the list is agreed upon, write the words on cards and give them to the students. Ask them to form groups of three or four. Each group is to create a shared story that incorporates at least half of these ten words. They can be implied in the moral of their story or be present within the text. You may need to review the structure of a narrative, having a beginning, a problem or complication, and a solution.

(ACELT1590)   (EN1-11D)

Rich assessment task

Now that Jimmy has “dusted off his feathers and listened to the eagle inside” what else can he achieve? Once he listened to the eagle inside, he was able to complete a very challenging task that he previously thought he could not achieve.

Discuss this with the class and invite them to write a sequel to The Eagle Inside, using the same characters and a similar connection to nature shown by Bronwyn Bancroft.

  • What are Jimmy and the other characters doing now?
  • Did they all return to flight school?
  • Does the Eagle ever complete the race?
  • Do Jimmy and Cockatoo become friends?

Allow students to publish their story in a variety of ways. They could:

  • create puppets and a large art piece as the scenery
  • create a digital story using Storybird
  • create a script and have their friends play different characters
  • use Word or another PC publishing tool and create their own art to accompany the writing

(ACELA1463)   (EN1-7B)   (ACELT1593)   (EN1-2A)   (ACELT1593)   (EN1-2A)