Resources needed to teach this unit
- Basic craft supplies (scissors, glue, coloured pencils)
- White A4 paper
- Brown paper bags
- The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood
Connecting to prior knowledge
Using the questions below as a stimulus, facilitate a class discussion with students with the aim of foregrounding some key ideas in the text:
- Why do you think people fight with each other?
- What happens if the fighting gets very bad?
- What do you know about war?
- From where did you learn that information about war?
- Where would we find books about war?
- What are some sad things that happen because of war?
- Do you think that a library would be a likely place to attack in a war? Why/why not?
Take students to the school library on a ‘special quest’ for some inquiry learning. Students have to explore the library, seeing how many different types of books they can find (e-books, picture books, novels, joke books, non-fiction, poetry anthologies etc) and consider how each type of book has a different purpose. Is there a war section, and what sorts of books are present in that section? What do their front covers look like? How many books can be found that were written in wartime, or about war? Present students with the scenario that if they could only take one book from this library before it was about to burn down, what would it be and why? Have students find such a book and justify their choices amongst their peers. Will anyone change their ‘one book’ as a result of this activity? Finally, have students reflect on why it is important that books are kept for future generations.
Exploring the text in context of our community, school and ‘me’
- Present students with the scenario that they will be stranded on a desert island, and can only take one treasure from home with them. Students are to consider what that possession would be and why. Share these with a partner and then in a circle. Is this the choice that a family would make also? Why/why not? Would the class make a different choice?
- Students are to informally interview their grandparents/an elderly person and ask them to share a story from their childhood. Did they have a special thing they treasured growing up? Stories can be shared between students and as a wider class. What are some similarities about the stories told? And similarities in the treasures?
- Have students view the front cover of The Treasure Box and predict what the story will be about. Students can write down their thoughts in dot points and display them around the room to be referred back to at the end of the unit. In particular, have students identify the treasure box on the cover and consider what might be in it. Look at the tree on the cover. What season is it in/what words would you use to describe it? Have students discuss what a treasure box is and why they are used.
Rich assessment task
Students are given the opening line of a story: “Peter opened the treasure box and found…” Students are to complete the opening of this story, which needs to introduce the character of Peter and what he finds in his treasure box. Students should aim to display creativity in their planning and writing with some intentional vocabulary choices regarding the character of Peter and his discovery. Students can peer-to-peer review their work and then brainstorm as a wider class all the different things that Peter found from the variety of student stories. Also consider the differences in character that are communicated. Students could also act out their stories through play performance once a draft has been written.
Responding to the text
- View and listen to a professional reading of The Treasure Box. Make this the first time students encounter the story, and just have the audio on (no visuals for distraction). When finished, students can turn to the student next to them and discuss their initial reactions. What questions do they have? Then play the reading for a second time, this time with the visual accompanying the audio. Call on three students to read out some of the predictions made in a previous activity and see if any were correct or close. Then for a third and final time, play the audio only and have students read along the text with the teacher. Ask the students how experiencing this story in those three different layers helped them to get to know the plot more effectively. Note, if you do not have access to Storybox use the version on YouTube.
- Ask the students to read the story on their own, with some quiet time to think and process once the story has been read. Have students think of one word that sums up the story, and one word to describe their feelings/reaction to the story. They could embody and then draw these feelings before writing these two single words on separate post-its. Students can stick their post-it to the wall to help build up a word bank of reactions. Students are to speak out their key words trying to portray the feeling/reaction in their voice as they stick them to the wall. The teacher then, with the class, can group like reactions and words together. This activity reminds students that there are different ways of responding to texts, and we all have our own reactions.
- Towards the end of the book, Peter decides the only way to keep the treasure box safe from bombs is to bury it under the linden tree. Divide the class into two groups, one team who will agree with the decision and the other team who will disagree, with both teams debating the following question “Does Peter make a good decision burying the book under the linden tree?” Have students write down their ideas prior to speaking. During the debate, students can take it in turns to speak, one person from each side at a time, allowing time for the opposition to reply.
Exploring plot, character, setting and theme
Watch The Treasure Box Book Trailer 1 and The Treasure Box Book Trailer 2 and discuss with students how the main ideas of the text (plot, character, setting, theme) have been represented. Which one did they prefer and why? Have the students discuss what they would have done differently if it was their trailer. An extension activity could be for students in groups to make their own book trailer at the end of the unit.
Rich assessment task
Building on the activities above and focusing specifically on the character of Peter, have students write a journal entry from Peter’s perspective at any point in the story (you as the teacher may like to choose and have all students write from the same point in time in the narrative, or give three or four different starting points for students to choose from). In their journal entry writing, have students consider this story from Peter’s point of view – how is he feeling? Physically? Emotionally? What is he thinking? How does he feel about what is not just to him, but to others? How does he feel about leaving his home? About his father’s illness? About the treasure box? What words would he use and what emotions would he feel?
Examining text structure and organisation
- Model an explicit guided reading of the text to students, in which you identify and discuss the structural elements including the beginning of the story, the middle and the end. Explain to the students how you identified this structure and invite students to choose one of the picture books from the additional resources section and to try to do this themselves with another text.
- Have students compare the two library pages in The Treasure Box (first page and third last page). Using the questions as a guide below, students can make notes about how the two different pages communicate similar ideas.
|Library page 1||Library page 2|
|How does the written text support the visuals?||How is the view of the village different to the one we first see?|
|What colours have been used for this page?||What colours have been used for this page?|
|What feelings do these colours bring out from us?||What feelings do these colours bring out from us?|
|What words are associated with the dark colours?||When did bright colours start to be used in the book and why?|
|What has happened to the top of the buildings?||Why is the library at the centre of the city?|
|Which building do you think is the library and why?||Which picture of the library do you prefer and why?|
- Have students trace the use of colour and the weather in The Treasure Box by drawing a simple timeline and writing the weather above the line and the colours used in the text beneath the line. What does the change in weather/colour tell us about the story?
- Students identify five words that they do not know in the text. Students can look them up in a dictionary and write down their definition in their books. Students can compare their unfamiliar words with a partner. Did similar unfamiliar words emerge? Write these words on a post-it that could also be added to the vocabulary/spelling list. Students could test each of these words and their meaning throughout the unit.
- Have students search for the pages that have paper words used in them (i.e. endpapers, page 2, page 4, page 5 etc). Ask students what they notice about them. Why did Blackwood (illustrator) use different languages?
Examining grammar and vocabulary
- Revisit the double page where Peter’s father is dying and charges Peter with the task of having his story live on through the treasure box. Have students consider and write full sentence notes on the following questions below.
- Why does Peter’s father whisper?
What in his body language and character reflects his illness?
What makes this dialogue powerful for us as readers?
- Students can work in pairs or small groups to fill in the comprehension table below by locating the answers from The Treasure Box. Each question below is in reference to one of the double pages (in order of appearance).
|Page of the book||Response|
|“When the enemy bombed the library, everything burned.” How can we tell that people were sad about this?|
|“People caught the words and cupped them in their hands.” Write down five words that you can see on this page.|
|When Peter says to his father that they have “No rubies, no silver, no gold.” What does his father say in response?|
|Look up the word “fleeing” in the dictionary. What does it mean?|
|What tells you that the conditions were tough for the group on their journey?|
|What does Peter promise his father?|
|“Leave the iron box,” they told him. What reason was given to Peter by the group for not taking the treasure box with him?|
|Why was Peter finding it hard to carry the treasure box?|
|Where did Peter hide the treasure box?|
|Identify the five places that Peter used to think about his father.|
|What in the image tells us that it was safe for Peter to return to the village?|
|What question does the little girl ask when digging up the treasure box?|
|Where does Peter take the iron box?|
|What shelf number does Peter put the book on?|
Rich assessment task
Students are to redesign the front cover of The Treasure Box. They are to do this using newspaper (just as Blackwood has done her layered tree) and any other media/design tools of their choice. They should ensure that their book cover design has the title and author/illustrator names on it. Students are to consider their use of colour, layout and size in emphasising particular aspects of the text in their particular cover design. Display the covers in the classroom and refer back to them throughout the unit.
- Have students compose their own acrostic poem using the word TREASURE. Once finished, students can peer review and redraft based on any feedback. Students can also source or draw relevant images to support the ideas in their poem.
- Have students create their own treasure hunt. This involves students creating a treasure map. Once the visual map is completed, students must also write out their instructions in the form of a procedure. Students may also create a treasure box, hide something inside of it and place it in the location identified on their map (somewhere around the school, with specific boundaries set by the teacher). Students can take it in turns in finding the hidden treasure. Once finished and all the treasure has been collected, students can write a brief recount of their experience finding the treasure and what they learnt from this activity.
- Have students go to the library and choose another picture book (for a list of suggestions, see the additional resources section of this unit). Once students have chosen an appropriate picture book and their choice approved by the teacher/librarian, students can read this text and then write a scaffolded book report (details of the text, summary, characters and plot) and any connections (similarities/differences) to The Treasure Box.
Rich assessment task
“This is a book about our people, about us. It is rarer than rubies, more splendid than silver, greater than gold.” This quote from The Treasure Box is repeated twice in the story to emphasise its importance. Although the reader does not know exactly what the book inside the treasure box is about, we know it was important enough to be protected and be passed on. Each student is to write down what the opening page of this book would look like and then share their opening page to the class. For example, it might be a family tree in which they communicate about their immediate family, for others it might be a history of their culture or group, and still for others, it might be how that student came to be where they are now (story of migration, growth, change). Encourage students to decorate their particular page with photographs and maps. Collect all the student sheets together and have them bound, thus creating your own class version of a text “about our people, about us.”