Connecting to prior knowledge

Dot-to-Dot Connections Activity

From Teaching Reading Comprehension Strategies Sheena Cameron.

The teacher chooses 8 – 10 meaningful words or phrases from the text (different tongue, journeyed north, granite, headdress, pandanus armbands, humpies, shelter). If some of the words are new words to the students add them to word walls to build vocabulary. Write the selected words randomly on poster paper each with a dot point. Have enough for groups of 4. Students link the words to each other and discuss why they have linked particular words by drawing a line between dots and writing the connection on the line. Students can make predictions about text and review the charts after close reading.

Read aloud The Rainbow Serpent by Dick Roughsey 

After reading use pairs and whole class to discuss:

  • Where does the story take place?
  • Who are the main characters?
  • What happened?
  • What is the outcome?
  • How did each of the characters feel at various times in the book?
  • What do you know about Dreaming stories?
  • How are Dreaming stories structured?
  • What do Dreaming stories teach us?
  • How do the Dreaming stories connect the land to its people and animals?
    (ACELY1666)   (EN1-1A)

View this YouTube video that also tells the story of The Rainbow Snake. After watching the video create a venn diagram by placing two overlapping hula-hoops on the mat. Have students write on post-it notes to compare and contrast the two versions (written text and YouTube). Unpack the vocabulary. Alternatively students can do the venn diagram online.

Google Earth

Optional: Using Google Earth, create a visual image of the text setting by looking at the fly view of Kakadu, cave art and other sacred sites in and around Kakadu.

Word Investigation Chart Activity

Have students list unknown words from the text, noting whether they have seen the word before. Have them make predictions about word meaning and finally check in a dictionary. Students will then jigsaw their word list and investigations with others.
(ACELA1460)   (EN1-7B)   (ACELA1469)   (EN1-10C)


Students use their developing knowledge of words and vocabulary in text to create their own Wordle.


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

Think/Puzzle/Explore Routine

Students use the Think-Puzzle-Explore (source Harvard Project Zero) text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections.

  • What questions or puzzles do you have after reading the text?
  • What does the text make you want to explore?

This routine helps students connect to prior knowledge, stimulate curiosity and develop their own questions of inquiry.
(ACELT1590)   (EN1-10C)


Rich assessment task

Re-do the Dot-to-Dot Connections activity after the activities above. Have students use two different coloured pens to show development of thoughts, ideas and vocabulary use and knowledge. Alternatively have students complete their own in small groups or pairs.

Responding to the text

  • Students discuss the features of the text.
  • On the cover the book is described as an ‘Australian Children’s Classic’. What does this mean?
  • What makes this book appealing after nearly 40 years?
  • Talk about how you would entice someone to read this book?

After the discussion and some small group planning, have students create a book trailer to advertise the book to another class. Just like a movie trailer, a book trailer tells the story in a way that gives snippets and highlights, but sells the audience on wanting to experience it. Information is available to guide the teacher with the process. There are a number of resources students can choose from to share their response, including:


Padlet is a ‘virtual wall’ tool where users can express thoughts, opinions and critical thinking skills. Padlets can be collaboratively worked on with global classroom connections. The students complete a Padlet page in partners or small groups.The teacher posts instructions and some research topics for the class to contribute to.

Teacher: Paintings of the Rainbow Serpent first appeared in Arnham Land rock art more than 6,000 years ago. Your research will help us understand some background to the Dreamtime story. Choose a topic and collect enough information to write a paragraph about your chosen topic in your own words.

  • Find out about historical and sacred sites in the Northern Territory
  • Find some facts about Arnham Land

Research rock art in Arnham Land.
Students capture, compare, contrast and organise their thoughts on a theme or character in the text. They can use Popplet as a mind-mapping tool to help them think and learn visually or if unavailable, post-it sized paper that can be moved and grouped as the discussion unfolds. Students can collaborate in pairs to capture facts, thoughts, and images and create links between them.
(ACELA1462)   (EN1-10C)


Exploring plot, character, setting and theme

Trading Card Generator

Students create trading cards of all the characters of the text: Goorialla, Rainbow Lorikeet brothers, Tree Goanna brothers. These cards can be used for a pre-writing exercise for writing a narrative. Specific prompts guide the student through the various types of cards, expanding students’ thinking from the basic information and description of the topic to making personal connections to the subject. Trading Cards could also be made on Indigenous culture facts, Geographical or historical facts of Kakadu National Park, own Dreamtime story character cards.
(ACELT1589)   (EN1-10C)


Rich assessment task:

Double Entry Journal – T-Chart (Text-to-World)

  • Students complete a T-Chart to demonstrate their developing understanding of the text.
  • First side of the T-Chart title will be: ‘The text says’.
  • Second side of the T-Chart title will be: ‘My connection’.

Examining text structure and organisation

Narrative Writing 

‘The Rainbow Serpent’ is a Dreamtime story told many years ago. In many of the Dreamtime Legends, native Australian fauna is used to portray a message about how things came to be the way they are. Read the story again and identify the parts of the story. Discuss and record the features of this type of narrative.

Re-read the narrative and re-listen to the YouTube version of the book, stopping at:

Some of them were killed by flying stones. Others ran away to hide, turning themselves into animals, birds, insects and plant life that live in the country today.

Students discuss the writer’s craft of the text by examining word choice, use of punctuation, language structures and features, imagery, tone or mood. Craft is anything done by a writer to make their writing look or sound a certain way. After the discussion, students create their own Dick Roughsey inspired alternative ending.


Students create a GarageBand piece to examine the text. Ideas for Garageband or similar include:

  • Creating background music to accompany voice recording of retell of the text.
  • Produce a Podcast about a character in the text.
  • Compose own song including vocals.
  • Create soundtrack to a Readers Theatre play of the text.
  • Create an audio book.
    (ACELA1463)   (EN1-8B)

Examining grammar and vocabulary

Writer’s Craft activity

Have students read The Rainbow Serpent and look for word choice and visual literacy symbols that relate to Dreaming stories. In small groups have students identify powerful descriptions that create specific images enhancing the text. When sharing have students identify the part of speech.

adjective: sharp peaks
adjective: rayed headdress
verb: the great mountain shook and thundered
Add the words to the word wall.
(ACELT1591)   (EN1-9B)


Rich assessment task

Narrative Writing 

Provide a venn diagram for the students and ask them to complete it for their dreamtime story ending and The Rainbow Serpent original ending, looking for similarities in the intersection of the circles. Develop an assessment rubric with the students based on text structure, vocabulary, cohesion and sentence structure, and peer assess the dreamtime story ending. Use the NAPLAN writing guide to assist in the development of the rubric for the elements mentioned.

Investigating the text structure

Read the text discussing the narrative structure and making connections to other narratives previously read. Return to the beginning and focus on the introduction:

Far off in Dreamtime there were only people, no animals or birds;
no trees or bushes; no hills or mountains. The country was flat.
Goorialla, the great Rainbow Sepent, stirred and set off to look for his own tribe. He travelled across Australia from south to north.


  • What was your first reaction when you heard the first two pages of the text?
  • How does the illustration enhance the introduction?
  • Is the illustration what you expected?
  • What do we find out in the introduction?
  • Consider the word choice.
  • What is the impact of the punctuation (semicolon)?

Read the introduction to two or three other Dreamtime stories. Try Bohra the Kangaroo and Dinewan the Emu and The Origin of Water. After discussing the introductions have students in pairs or independently write an introduction to their own Dreamtime story. Students may choose one of the following titles or think of their own Dreamtime story:

How the Kangaroo Got it’s Long Tail
How the Wombat got a Flat Nose
Why Dingoes Howl
Why the Echidna is Spiky

After sharing, choose one of the students introductions and do a joint construction of the complication and conclusion for the selected story (whole class). When complete, the writing  can be published. Try the Creative Book Builder app for publication. Students can create, edit and publish an ebook using Creative Book Builder. All published ebooks can be read by any EPUB reader including iBooks. Sharing is easy through the iTunes store enabling a global audience to view students work.
(ACELT1593)   (EN1-9B)

Drama Dialogue

Independently, students imagine the dialogue between the Rainbow Lorikeet brothers from the point when they went searching for shelter. In pairs students write the conversation that may have taken place as they searched for shelter or when they realised where they were and what had happened.

Form groups of four (two pairs) to share the conversations. In those groups have students select and develop one of the ‘conversations’, combining ideas from both pairs. Now using the ‘new’ dialogue between the two brothers, have each produce and perform a short performance. The group could create their own video on Vimeo so groups could watch the performances later. Vimeos can also be embedded to class blogs for global connections.
(ACELT1593)   (EN1-2A)   (ACELY1671)   (EN1-9B)


Rich assessment task

Word Summary

Refer back to the writing task which involved individual or paired writing (introduction) and joint construction (complication and resolution).
In groups of 3 have students re-read the text having given each group a section to focus on (introduction, complication and resolution). Ask students to select 5 words that ‘summarise’ what they have read/heard in their section. This requires deeper level thinking as students choose and justify the words that are the most important in the story. Do this in small groups to generate discussion. Provide time for groups to share and discuss their decisions.
(ACELY1670)   (EN1-4A)