Focus of the unit

    • The study of myth to explain a natural phenomenon.
    • Ethical treatment of animals.
    • Storytelling enhanced through images.


Building field knowledge

    • The Great Bear is a myth. Myths are stories, involving events that are improbable, to explain how and why the world is, particularly natural and social phenomena. Many cultures have used myths over many thousands of years to explain the science of the creation of Earth and space. Many myths also have a moral message, often with humans or animals being banished from the natural world as punishment for their moral failings.
    • Read a range of myths/legends that explain the world from different cultures including Aboriginal Dreamtime stories and Greek Mythology. Try to include some about stars/constellations that we see in the Southern Hemisphere. Examples include:
    • Record the information about the various myths and legends the class reads/views as per the table below. Depending on the students this can be done as whole class or in small groups.
Title Author Phenomenon explained Moral message (if any)
    • View the Dancing Bears video clip. This clip shows – not too graphically – bears being caught, trained and used as performing bears. It is a promotional clip for freeing the bears.
    • Undertake this next activity using the See, Think and Wonder principle. Chose one scene from video and pause it. This can be done individually, or in groups of 3–4, or as a whole class. The first time you use See, Think, Wonder, it may need to be modelled in a whole class situation. Give some silent time for students just to look closely at the image. Then ask the following three questions:
    1. What do you see?
    2. What does it make you think?
    3. What do you wonder?
    • Collate the responses on the board, asking one by one, students or groups, to sayone thing they have observed. After six or so replies, ask if anybody has something different to add. Responses at first maybe lacking deep thinking – if this is the case model the ways of seeing, thinking and wondering by adding some of your thinking to the collation.
    • Following the discussions show this video clip from the WSPA which is very positive about the work that is being done to free the bears.
    • Students see that the dancing bears are badly treated so they will perform for human enjoyment, and for their owners to earn a living. The WSPA video clip demonstrates the need to give the keepers of bears other options for earning their living which is an important factor in many countries.

(ACELY1675)   (ACELY1676)   (ACELT1594)   (ACELY1687)   (ACELT1602)   (EN2-8B)   (EN2-10C)

Assessment: from Achievement Standards

Can Year 3 students

    • Compare different authors’ treatment of similar themes and text patterns in myths from different cultures and times?
    • Participate in collaborative discussions, building on and connecting ideas and opinions expressed by others?

Can Year 4 students

    • Compare different authors’ treatment of similar themes and text patterns, for example comparing myths and legends from different cultures and quest novels by different authors?
    • Present ideas and opinions at levels of formality appropriate to the context and audience?

Exploring the context of the text

    • What is the Great Bear? It is a constellation only seen in the Northern Hemisphere.
    • Look at the end papers (front and back) of the book The Great Bear – introduce the term Zodiac symbols.
      Note: If your edition of The Great Bear does not include these end papers, refer to these sites for images of the Northern Stellar Hemisphere and Southern Stellar Hemisphere.
    • Zodiac = circle of animals and Ursa Major (the Great Bear) is at the back.
    • Study of the stars dates back to Babylon where people used the night sky to follow and predict weather patterns and seasons within a year, mainly for agricultural reasons. Stars, planets and the Sun have always held interest and intrigue, both scientifically and astrologically.
    • Link the ancient studies of the stars and students’ lives by listing symbols students recognise as Zodiac signs used in horoscope. Today horoscopes are used to predict patterns in our lives. Students list their birthdays on a modern Zodiac chart.
    • Link to the study of Night and Day and Seasonal Changes in Science.
    • Together read this Greek version of the Great Bear story. Look closely at the Ursa Major and Minor diagrams at the end of the story. Link the diagram on the website to the back end paper of Gleeson’s book.
    • For schools with iPads download the free Night Sky 2 Lite App. Hold the iPad so you are viewing below the horizon and slowly rotate to find Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.
    • Read Libby Gleeson’s book, The Great Bear, which is a modern myth that combines the very old story of the formation of the Great Bear constellation and issues around cruelty to animals.
    • Visit the Animals Australia website. Discuss Australia’s position on animals performing in circuses. Students may contact their local council to determine the local position.
    • As a class explore the pictures of the text. Look at each double page spread. For the first eight double page spreads, the left hand side page is about the bear, that is depicted in a small black and white line drawing in the bottom corner of the page. The drawings of the bear are simple with subtle changes in stance and gaze to indicate feelings. No one really cares about the bear – it is just a part of their performance. The right hand page of each spread is all about the people involved in the story: the group of strange looking circus performers, and the group of villagers in the crowd. It shows their reactions as they struggle to entertain and be entertained. As their efforts become more intense, their pictures take up more of the page. On the ninth double page spread their reactions take up the whole page. From now on the bear is the salient feature of each illustration – all eyes are on the bear. From here on there are no words, and from here on the illustrations have more light; the light is leading to an escape (ideal position). Readers are directed by the Bear’s nose in the direction of the light and twoards its freedom (reading path).

(ACELT1596)   (ACELA1483)   (ACELY1678)   (ACELT1603)   (ACELA1496)   (ACELT1605)   (ACSSU048)   (EN2-8B)   (EN2-11D)

Assessment Achievement Standards

Can Year 3 students

    • Select information, ideas and events in texts that relate to their own lives and to other texts.
    • Explain some ways in which authors and illustrators engage the interests of audiences and achieve a range of purposes.
    • Understand how language (and visual) features are used to link and sequence ideas.

Can Year 4 students

    • Describe literal and implied meaning connecting ideas in different texts.
    • Explain some ways in which authors and illustrators engage the interests of audiences and achieve a range of purposes.


Rich assessment tasks

Assessment (formative)

Look at the illustration from The Great Bear on the eleventh double page spread. Notice how the big dark shape of the bear is in the foreground but its head is pointing to something bright and light in the background. This is leading her to freedom. She will follow the light up and escape forever into space. Discuss the effects created by the use of contrasting colours and the reading path suggested by the placement of the images.

Think Pair Share activity

Direct students to individually think of a story (myth) they have looked at in this unit. Think about a character that could be illustrated this way – a character that escaped a bad situation and headed off, or was sent to a future somewhere completely different (usually as a natural phenomenon). In pairs have students share their ideas (they may have several). Students now share by collating on the board suggestions of stories or myths that end with characters being changed in form. One student from each pair will share at a time, with students listening carefully to make sure they don’t repeat suggestions already provided. They may however add to a similar suggestion.

Assessment task

Students select one of the suggested stories, or one of their own. They will illustrate the scene where the character leaves the real world, using the visual effects used by Armin Greder. Use the structure of Greder’s illustrations of the Bear, by placing a dark outline of their character towards the bottom of the page,  heading up towards their new existence which is indicated by light and maybe colour.


This section will respond to and explore the literal, inferred and interpretive/critical/applied understandings of the text. Students will benefit from knowing the reading behaviours involved with each level of understanding. Literal understanding is important for recalling facts and as the building blocks for new information. The answers to the literal questions can be found in one sentence. Inferred comprehension involves making connections between different chunks of information. The answers are found across several parts of the text for example text and illustrations, the title or heading, linking information in a number of sentences or paragraphs, and sometimes what is written and what the reader already knows. This is the case with abstract language such as similes, metaphors, personification, jokes etc, when the literal doesn’t make sense. Interpretive/critical/applied questions ask what you think or feel or how can you apply all you know to other situations. The answers are found outside the text. Thoughts and feelings may differ among students. It is important that they can give reasons for their judgements and interpretations. Students should respect differing points of view and feel safe to express them.

  • Students work with a partner to fill in the table below by locating answers in the text. They will be responding with literal meanings, language patterns and vocabulary.
Activity Response
Find two words in the beginning of the story which introduce what sort of bear the story is about.
What part of the Bear was affected by the cold floor of the cage?
What did the Bear do at night?What did the circus performers do at night?
Find the words that tell you the Bear danced every night of the week and every week of the month.
What did the crowd keep telling the Bear to do?
Find three things the circus performers did to make the Bear dance. Find three things the crowd did to the Bear to try to make her dance.

Guided comprehension

This is a whole class activity, with students in pairs. The focus is on explicitly teaching the reading behaviours required to answer the different levels of understanding. The questions are asked by the teacher. Pairs are then asked for their answers and discussion takes place with the class if their answers vary. The teacher instructs which answers to write. The teacher creates at least six questions with at least two questions at each level of understanding – literal, inferred, interpretive/critical. Make it clear to students that different types of questions require the reader to respond in different ways and where the answers are found differs from question to question. Give each student a copy of the questions and the text, but they must discuss the answers with a partner before writing the answers.

The following is a sample:


Underline the answer to these questions in a sentence. Decide on the correct answer by talking to your partner. When the two of you agree, write the answer on your own sheet.

1.   What did the bear do all day?
2.   What instruments did the circus performers use?


The reader needs to make connections between two or more sentences, sentences and pictures, and what is written and what you already know. Circle the parts of the text you have connected.

3.  Which sentence do you think best describes the crowd’s reaction when the Bear roared?

a)   They were excited and wanted to see more dancing.
b)   They were slightly scared, but wanted to see what she would do next.
c)   They were very frightened and raced to escape from her.

4.  How do you think the crowd in the village felt when the circus performers came to their town and started to perform?


What you think and feel. With your partner think of at least two possible answers.

5.   Why do think the circus performers used the Bear in their performance?
6.   Do you think the Bear will like its life as a star in space, better than life on Earth?
7.   Why do you think that for thousands of years people have used myths to explain scientific phenomenon?

Note: Post it notes can be used in place of underlining or circling parts of the text.
(ACELY1680)   (ACELY1676)   (ACELY1692)   (ACELY1688)   (EN2-4A)

Assessment: from Achievement Standards

Can Year 3 students

    • Identify literal and implied meaning connecting ideas?

Can Year 4 students

    • Describe literal and implied meaning connecting ideas in different texts?


Rich assessment task (formative)

    • Divide the class into three groups. Assign each group to either the Bear, the Crowd, or the Circus Performers. Each group has a copy of the text. They brainstorm words to describe what their character/s did and how they felt in each of the following three parts of the story:
    1. Arriving in the village.
    2. During the beginning of the performance.
    3. At the end of the performance – finishing with the roar.
    • Groups write their words on charts with the headings as per the table below.
Group: the Bear What they did How they felt Evidence – how you know
Arriving in the village.
During the beginning of the performance.
At the end of the performance – finishing with the roar.


Exploring plot character, setting and theme

    • Use the information and evidence in the tables created by each group in the previous section. Each group now decides how to dramatise the three parts of the story. Students practise their performance using only simple props, for example, items on their desks. Each group performs for the other groups as the story is read.
    • Class combines to dramatise story as it is read, showing the three perspectives of the three character groups, bringing out actions and reactions.
    • Now undergo a ‘pluses, minuses, interesting’ (PMI) thinking activity. PMI is based on Edward De Bono’s thinking skills in the CoRT Thinking Program. The question for the activity is: Should the Bear be used in the circus performers’ act?
      • Make a table with three columns with the headings: Positives, Minuses, Interesting.
      • Under Positives, write all the good reasons why you should do something.
      • Under Minuses, write all the negative reasons or why you shouldn’t do the same thing.
      • Under Interesting, write all the points that are neither positives or minuses but might be an unexpected result of doing the thing you are discussing.
      • Add up the points in each column and come to a decision of what is your point of view, in this case, should the Bear have been used in the circus performance? Use your points in the columns as your reasons/evidence.

(ACELT1594)   (ACELY1676)   (ACELT1605)   (EN2-6B)   (EN2-10C)

Assessment: Achievement Standard

Can Year 3 students

    • Contribute actively to class and group discussions, asking questions, providing useful feedback?
    • Understand how language can be used to express feelings and opinions on topics?

Can Year 4 students

    • Understand how to express an opinion based on information in a text?


Rich assessment task (formative)

Direct students to use the PMI model to decide whether wild animals should be used to perform in circuses or shows. Ask them to make up their own mind and present their opinion with reasons for their point of view.

Examining text structure and organisation

After reading the whole text several times, discuss how Libby Gleeson has structured her book, which is different to many others. The Great Bear is a narrative and as such it has an Orientation, Complication and Resolution. Within the stages of the story the author sets up worsening problems and reactions until the Bear decides to resolve it once and for all. The components, or phases, within the stages of narrative are commonly as is listed below (from Rose, A. Reading to Learn Accelerating Learning and Closing the Gap: Book 2 Selecting and Analysing Texts. Reading to Learn, 2010):

  • Setting: presenting people, activities, places, times.
  • Description: describing people, places, things.
  • Episode: sequence of events that are expected.
  • Problem: unexpected event creating tension.
  • Solution: unexpected event releasing tension.
  • Reaction: participants’ feelings about problems, descriptions.
  • Comment: narrator’s comments on people, activities.
  • Reflection: participants’ thoughts about meanings of events.

Revise the purpose of the stages (Orientation, Complication, Resolution) with students. Direct students to allocate phases to the text in the book. This process may be done with whole or part of the text, or one stage at a time. Use the pattern of the Orientation to jointly construct the beginning of another story. Brainstorm suggestions of a new character and list these on the board. The class decides which character to use in joint construction. Write the labels on the left hand side of board as a scaffold. Orientation includes setting, what was happening, reactions and the problem. Students create a new story, while the teacher scribes – rubbing out and rewriting as better language/structures are suggested, demonstrating the process of writing.

Because the pictures are such an important part of The Great Bear, it is important to examine the structure of them. Guide students through the illustrated pages after the word ‘ROAR!’. Look again at the way light has been used to indicate the ideal (refer to Callow, J. The shape if texts to come. How image and texts work. PETAA 2013, p. 82-84).  In pairs students decide on at least two reasons they think that the people disappear from the illustrations.
(ACELA1479)   (ACELA1478)   (ACELA1599)   (ACELA1490)   (ACELT1605)   (EN2-7B)   (EN2-8B)

Assessment: from Achievement Standards

Can Year 3 students

  • Identify literal and implied meaning connecting ideas in different parts of a text?

Can Year 4 students

  • Explain how language features, images and vocabulary are used?
  • Describe literal and implied meaning connecting ideas in different texts?


Rich assessment task (formative)

Students use the pattern of the Orientation used by Libby Gleeson, in the joint construction method, to write an Orientation for another story.

Examining grammar and vocabulary

Select one or two sentences that demonstrate the grammar and language features to focus on for students in years 3 and 4. As an example, two sentences have been chosen from the Orientation: ‘All day she lay in a cage where the floor was cold, hard stone on her paws’ and ‘At night, by the light of flaming torches, she was led to the centre of the square where acrobats and tumblers, trapeze artists and clowns performed for the crowd’.

  • These two sentences have similar patterns, starting with adverbial phrases (time) that work in contrast to each other i.e. ‘All day’ and ‘At night’.
  • In the second sentence the adverbial phrase of time ‘At night’ is followed by a prepositional phrase (manner) ‘by the light of flaming torches’.
  • In both sentences it then tells us what she did: ‘she lay’ and ‘she was led’.
  • In both sentences it now tells where – where she lay and where she was led: she lay ‘in a cage’ and she was led ‘to the centre of the square’.
  • In both sentences the place – a cage and the square – are then qualified with more information, making an extended noun group: a cage ‘where the floor was cold, hard stone on her paws’ and the centre of the square ‘where acrobats and tumblers, trapeze artists and clowns performed for the crowd’. This analysis by the teacher highlights the chunks of meaning in the sentence.

Activity  cut up sentences

  • Write the selected sentences on strips – one set for groups of 3–4 students. Give each group a set of the sentence strips which are in muddled order. Have the group sort them into the correct order. Students read the sentences aloud. Students in the groups then take turns to cut a sentence into chunks as directed by the teacher. As each student cuts off groups of words they put them back into the sentence. When all the cuts are complete, the group muddle the pieces and then put the sentence back into correct order. This activity requires reading on, checking for meaning, re-reading etc, which are the skills required for self monitoring and self correction.
  •  Students can also construct new sentences by reordering clauses/words, joining sentences or breaking them into simple sentences.
  •  Punctuation can be cut off separately from the words and rearranged. Extra blank cards may be needed to add capitals or lower case letters and extra words to maintain meaning. When reordering the sentences, discuss the effect this has on meaning – the emphasis of whatever is in the theme position (what is mentioned first). Example: ‘In a cage, all day she lay, where the floor was cold, hard stone on her paws.’
  • Jointly rewrite the sentences using the modelled part of the text. Class brainstorm new time phrases, new characters and new locations. List all suggestions on the board. In the new text discuss use of the pronoun when used in the original: ‘she’. Discuss why this will not work in the jointly constructed text. A sample rewrite of ‘All day/ she lay/ in a cage/ where the floor was cold, hard stone on her paws’ is ‘In the morning/ Bennie the dog sat/ in the doorway/ where the sun warmed his old, furry back.’
    (ACELA1481)   (ACELA1478)   (ACELY1679)   (ACELA1491)   (ACELA1493)   (ACELA1495)   (EN2-4A)   (EN2-8B)   (EN2-9B)

Assessment: from Achievement Standards

Can Year 3 students

  • Use complex language features, including varied sentence structures?
  • Create a range of imaginative texts?

Can Year 4 students

  • Use language features to create coherence and add detail to their texts?
  • Demonstrate understanding of grammar and how it  impacts on meaning?


Rich assessment task (formative)

Students create their own version of the section of text studied, using the same sentence patterns as Libby Gleeson, using new characters and settings. Students in pairs mark their work against patterns of the original, making corrections where necessary.

Examining visual and multimodal features

  • Review the use of light to indicate the ‘ideal’ as in the illustration where the Bear first sees the pole (on the eleventh double page spread).
  • Sketching activity: look at the faces on the sixth double page spread. Examine the eyes first– the gaze is demanding viewer attention – which are looking directly at the viewer. Draw three circular shapes for heads. Decide on proportions (distance from top of head and also width apart) and draw in eyes in circles. Look back at the illustration – choose one face and examine slight variations in eye shape. Make changes to one of the faces you have drawn. Use the same process for the nose, mouth and shape of face features. Complete the three faces (reference: Callow, J. The shape of text to come. How image and text work. PETAA, 2013 p. 49).
  • Salience: focal points for the viewer. Look at fourth double page spread, on the right hand side. This is the illustration of a performer balancing red balls on the tip of his fingers. Refer back to the ‘See, Think, Wonder’ activity and write answers into a Y chart for the three headings. Review answers the students have written in the ‘See’ part of the Y chart, and ask students what they saw first and so on. Consider what the illustrator had done to guide the order and direction in which your eyes moved around the illustration.
    (ACELA1483)   (ACELA1496)   (EN2-11D)


Rich assessment task (summative)

  • Select a natural phenomenon in your area. It could be hills, rocks, a lake, a river, something in space etc. Create a myth about how it came into existence. Follow the structure of Libby Gleeson’s The Great Bear. The end should tell what the character turned into and where they went after they had left the Earth. This should a good place or beautiful structure in nature.
  • Illustrate your story, using some of the drawing skills you have explored.
  • Decide on a title for your story.
  • Create a class collection of students’ stories.