NOTE: There is a message at the front of the collection, opposite the title page, advising adults that some poems are not suitable for young children. Make sure you read any poems you wish to use in class ahead of time to check for suitable themes and content, and consider the additional support or input that may be required.

Connecting to prior knowledge

Before you begin, please acknowledge what your students bring to the classroom (i.e. their knowledge, disposition, skills and understanding) so you can modify this unit and guide the thinking and direction to best suit their needs.

Unpacking the cover

Before diving into This is Home: Essential Australian Poems for Children, analyse the title, front cover and blurb with your students.

Think about what the words ‘home’, ‘essential’, ‘Australian’, ‘poems’ and ‘children’ mean individually, and what they mean collectively to form the title of this collection. What might this reveal about the contents of the book?

Encourage students to identify what they see on the front cover (words, fonts, images, colours) and make connections to what they think might be inside the book (themes, ideas, authors, events).

To build inferential comprehension, ask students to identify parts of the text and justify their suggestions.

Identify any Tier 2 or Tier 3 vocabulary students bring to the discussion. Record these on a word wall and discuss etymology (word origin), morphemes (base word), prefixes, suffixes, and spelling patterns as appropriate.

Discuss the meaning of the phrases ‘selected by Jackie French’ and ‘illustrated by Tania McCartney’. Ask if these phrases differ from other books students have seen before.

(ACELY1692)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELA1779)   (EN2-5A)

Before reading

Working individually, students should brainstorm their initial thoughts, feelings and knowledge about poetry. Ask them to ponder and document some questions they have about poetry. Record these questions so you can shape and guide the unit of work to answer them. Alternatively, you could choose some questions to deeply investigate OR to explore through quick class discussions. Display the brainstorms so you can revisit them at the end of the unit to reflect on new knowledge and findings.

(ACELY1692)   (EN2-8B)

Making connections

Engage in a whole class discussion about poetry. You might ask students to think-pair-share before discussing all together. Use prompting questions such as:

  • What makes a poem a particular piece of writing?
  • What types of poems do you know?
  • Do you know any poems? Do you have any old favourites?
    • List these and check later to see if any appear in the collection.
  • What do we call a poem set to music?
    • The answer is a ‘ballad’. Ask students if they know any ballads.
  • How does poetry make you feel?

Continue your discussion by exploring some of the elements in the first few pages:

  • Is this book written by Jackie French? What other texts do you know that she has written?
  • In her Introduction, French advises readers to turn the pages until a poem catches their eye or their heart (para. 4). What does she mean by this? How might a poem speak to us?
  • The collection tries to represent the ‘many threads of our diverse past and culture’. Who does ‘our’ refer to, and why is this important to recognise?
  • How is this book different to reading a literary text? In what ways is it similar to a non-fiction text?
    • For example, the contents page is called ‘Where to Start’. Turn to this page and discuss how the information is presented through headings and subheadings, regular text, italics, and bold text. Why might this page have been included?
    • Read and discuss the lines at the top of the page regarding preferences. You could link this to the idea of catching eyes and hearts, and to other books with contents pages. Discuss the index in the same way.

(ACELY1690)   (EN2-8B)

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

Thinking about their community, their school and themselves, ask students to write anonymous comments or words on sticky notes about how and when they feel ‘at home’. Answer may include in their house/bedroom; in Australia; on Country; with family; with a hot chocolate; on the footy field; and so on. Encourage students to think deeply about places, people and things that have a meaning and feeling of ‘home’ to them. Collect the sticky notes to display in the classroom – perhaps around an outline of Australia to connect to the idea of Essential Australians Poems – and invite students to share their thoughts as you do so. They do not need to verbally respond, but could instead give you a thumbs up or thumbs down if the comment resonates with how they feel about the meaning of ‘home’.

The purpose of this next activity is to open up conversations in which students acknowledge each other’s point of view, using appropriate vocal effects (e.g. tone, pace, pitch, volume) and speaking clearly and coherently.

Focus on the community context of This is Home and ask:

What do we know about the changes the Australian community has experienced over time?

Discuss this with your students, paying attention to the aforementioned interaction skills. This might be an opportunity to identify the Country on which you are learning and make links to your History unit, should it lend itself to these ideas.

(ACELY1688)   (EN2-6B)

Rich assessment task

Using their ideas from the previous activity as a starting point, students will complete a CSI (colour, symbol, image) or CSA (colour, symbol, animal) to explore and identify their understanding of ‘home’ and what home means to them. They should choose a colour, a symbol and an image/animal to represent their thinking, explaining the reasoning behind their choice AND how this connects to the meaning of ‘home’ for them personally.

Split the class into four groups and have students share their work with the rest of their group. They should employ the interaction skills from the previous lesson.

(ACELY1690)   (EN2-8B)   (ACELY1688)   (EN2-6B)

Responding to the text

Poem journey

Explore the ‘Where to Start’ page as a class, pausing on a few titles to predict what those poems might be about (and the illustrations, should you choose to give them more information). Then choose ONE poem from the primary school recommendations for the whole class to focus on.

Students will work in groups of four to predict what the poem might be about. Invite each group to create a short performance OR sequence of three tableaux (frozen images) based on what they expect to find in the poem (e.g. the beginning, middle and end). The groups will then present their work to the rest of the class. Once all groups have watched each other’s performances, choose a student (or yourself) to read the focus poem aloud and compare everyone’s predictions with the actual content.

(ACELT1603)   (EN2-11D)

As This is Home is a collection of many poems, your approach may be different compared to teaching a picture book or novel. Instead of reading the entire collection you might consider one of these approaches:

  • Begin by choosing some suitable poems and reading them to the class for enjoyment. This might be undertaken as one poem a day.
  • Learn about your students’ interests and choose poems that might connect with them.
  • Choose poems that connect with other KLAs currently being explored in your classroom.
  • If you have access to multiple copies of the book, get students to explore it in small teacher-led groups, identifying poems that they might enjoy and using these to dig deeper into structure, language and themes.
  • Complete the activities in this unit! You will end up exploring many poems from the collection.

Use think-alouds and ask questions such as:

  • How does this poem link to the world? Are there aspects of this poem that you recognise in your own world?
  • Is this text similar or different to others you have read/viewed (poems or otherwise)?
  • Is this experience common in the real world?
  • What new ideas does this poem bring?
  • Does this fit in with what you believe?

Check pp. 154–158 of the book for notes on the poets and some poems.

(ACELT1603)   (EN2-11D)

Exploring plot, character, setting and theme

Abridged poems

Several of the poems in This is Home have been abridged.

  • What does ‘abridged’ mean?
  • Why would abridged poems have been published?

‘Abridged’ means that the work has been shortened but retains the most important aspects. These are usually more accessible for readers. Remember that these are Essential Australian Poems for Children – perhaps this is an explanation? Discuss this reasoning. Abridged versions, although shorter, aim to be true to the source material. Select ONE poem from the collection, such as ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’ (pp. 12–13), and read the abridged and full versions.

Follow up with a discussion about the positives and negatives of full versus abridged versions of poems. This could include:

  • the approach to the topic
  • the purpose of the text
  • the intended audience

When discussing the purpose of the abridged poems, you can refer to the subheadings on the ‘Where to Start’ page:

‘My Country’ by Dorothea Mackellar (pp. 92–93)


If you are in primary school
‘Botany Bay’ (Anonymous) (pp. 9–11)

‘The Wild Colonial Boy’ (Anonymous) (pp. 12–13)

‘Andy’s Gone with Cattle’ by Henry Lawson (p. 43)

If you want poems to sing to
‘Nine Miles from Gundagai’ by John ‘Jack’ Moses (p. 27)


If you love animals
‘The Shearer’s Wife’ by Louise Esson (p. 19)

‘The Women of the West’ by George Essex Evans (pp. 20–21)

If you want to hear whispers from the past
‘A Bush Christmas’ by C.J. Dennis (pp. 22–25)


This poem wasn’t listed on the ‘Where to Start’ page. If a new category had to be created, what might be an apt subheading?

(ACELA1490)   (EN2-8B)

Index and contents

  • Where would you usually find an index? How does an index differ from a contents page (‘Where to Start’ can be found on p. 3, and the index on p. 160)?
  • Why might this book have an index?
  • What information do you learn from an index?

Ask students to look at the Index and explore the difference between the index of poets and the index of poems.

Option 1

Students will use the Index to find a poet with multiple poems in This is Home. They will then locate TWO of these poems in the collection. Students will read the poems and make text-to-text connections, exploring the different ways the poet has represented their ideas. The poems may not address the same theme, but students could still explore the text patterns, language, content or characters.

Option 2

Students will choose a category from the Where to Start page. They will then choose TWO poems from that category. Students will read the poems and make text-to-text connections, exploring the different ways the poets have represented a similar theme.

(ACELT1602)   (EN2-12E)

Reader interest

Once students have had a chance to review several poems, ask them to answer the following question (with evidence and examples from the collection):

How do poets draw readers in, and how do poets maintain readers’ interest?

Students should consider the following:

  • How does the poet describe a character’s appearance, behaviour and speech?
  • How does a character develop throughout the text?
  • How does a character’s relationship with others change throughout the text?
  • How does a character’s reactions change throughout the text?
  • When does the character have to make choices?
  • How does the poet make us care about the character, their decisions, and the consequences that they face?

(ACELT1605)   (EN2-8B)

Rich assessment task

Expressive reading

Choose a poem from the book (e.g. ‘Dog Days’ by Elaine Harris, pp. 82–83) and model an effective oral reading, paying attention to vocal affects such as tone, pitch, pace, volume and punctuation. After this, try either a choral reading (students reading aloud at the same time as you) or echo reading (students repeating a line after you say it).

Discuss the fact that many poems rhyme, but emphasise that there is more than one way to write rhyming poetry (if it rhymes at all).

Guide students to investigate the different rhyming patterns a poem can utilise, such as AABB in George Essex Evans’ ‘The Women of the West’ (pp. 20–21) or ABAB in Henry Lawson’s ‘Faces in the Street’ (pp. 44–45). Although there are other ways to approach a poem, you can discuss how the rhyming patterns, the multisyllabic words and the sounds create smooth timing and rhythm. This could make it easier to read.

Ask students to choose ONE poem from the collection that spoke to them. This can be a rhyming poem, OR a poem with some other feature that they connect with. Students will use oral language skills to read and understand their poem, and practice reciting it aloud. They should focus on oral devices such as tone, pitch, pace and volume, as well as literary techniques like punctuation, to devise an effective, clear and coherent reading. Encourage students to practice individually in a quiet space; you could also get them to record themselves and play back the audio/video using a device, OR you could try whisper phones. The aim is for students to experience how they are reading their poem, and to improve their delivery before presenting to the class. You could conduct this as an assessment task, OR have students present to small groups (depending on your class size and time allowance). Work with the class to devise the success criteria before you begin.

(ACELY1688)   (EN2-6B)

Examining text structure and organisation

This is Home starts and ends with poems by Oodgeroo Noonuccal (also known as Kath Walker). Read both poems – ‘The Past’ (p. 5) and ‘A Song of Hope’ (p. 150) – to the class.

  • Why do they think Jackie French chose to bookend the collection with these poems?
  • Could the poems be switched?
  • Do they serve a purpose?

Working in small groups, students will compare the poems and write a response as to why they think French chose to begin and end the book with Noonuccal’s poems.

The story within the layout of the book

French has carefully selected and devised the order of the poems in This is Home. Explore the layout of the book; is there an overarching story being told by these poems?

As a class, examine French’s ‘chapter’ pages (the orange pages that group the poems together throughout the collection). Is there a story being told across these pages? Discuss how they can help us can infer the flow of the collection.

Read some of the ‘chapter’ pages and ask students to predict what they would expect to find in each section. Think about the vocabulary, images, layout and content of each section. Also think about the outfits worn by the participants in each section, and the construction of gender.

What themes are beginning to emerge throughout the book?

(ACELT1604)   (EN2-11D)   (ACELY1686)   (EN2-8B)


Discuss the illustrations in This is Home and how they connect to the poems. You could do this each time you examine a different poem in class, OR as a separate lesson.

As a class, explore the framing and placement of the illustrations; the inferences a reader can make; and the comprehension a reader gains from them. Ask prompting questions such as:

  • What medium do you think the illustrator, Tania McCartney, used?
  • What do the illustrations add to this book? Why?
  • Can you make any connections between the themes and the style of McCartney’s illustrations?
  • Can you make any connections between colours?
  • Do the images help tell the story of the poems?

Share with students the fifth paragraph from this Kids’ Book Review post, focusing on Tania McCartney’s illustrations. Use this paragraph as stimulus to dig deeper into the illustrations throughout the collection.

Ask students to choose ONE illustrated poem and explain how the images help the reader to understand the text. For example, in Steven Herrick’s ‘Constable Dawe’ (pp. 98–101), the illustrations depict the students’ questions and comments, bringing the conversation to life and developing the humour in the poem.

Using this poem as an example, discuss:

strong framing that creates a sense of enclosure the children sitting on the mat (p. 99)
weak framing that creates a sense of openness the children on the move (pp. 100–101)
salience by placement of items in the foreground the stop sign (p. 99) and the road (pp. 100–101)
salience by size the tall policeman (tall) versus the sitting children (p.98–99)
salience by contrast in tone or colour the policeman’s dark blue uniform (p. 98); the only other time this colour appears is when the girl wears the policeman’s hat (p. 100)

Students could also discuss the information they glean from the images that cannot be gleaned from the words alone. For example, in Bill Condon’s ‘Diving In’ (pp. 130–131), we learn that the sea monster is really just a pool cleaner. Discuss the salience (placement) of this object as an example.

Once they have explained how the illustrations for their chosen poem help the reader, ask students to imagine that they are now the illustrator. What image(s) would they pair with the poem and why? They could then create this.

(ACELA1496)   (EN2-8B)

Poetry in all shapes and sizes

As they explore the collection, students will be exposed to many different types of poetry. This is a wonderful opportunity to broaden their repertoire. For example, there are:

poems that tell stories e.g. ‘The Sash’ by Stephen Whiteside (pp. 28–31)
ballads e.g. ‘Botany Bay’ (Anonymous) (pp. 9–11)
rhyming verse e.g. ‘The Man from Snowy River’ by A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson (pp. 36–39)
poems with messages/lessons e.g. ‘Rainforest Song’ by Libby Hathorn (pp. 61–63)
poems that follow specific poetic structures e.g. ‘Haiku’ by Anna Pignataro (pp. 84–85)
poems that are fun because they stretch the imagination e.g. ‘Yuval Says’ by Elizabeth Honey (pp. 58–59) or ‘The Triantiwontigongolope’ by C.J. Dennis (p. 95)

Ask students to choose TWO different poems from the collection and complete a Venn diagram about their similarities and differences, focusing on the features used to meet their respective purposes. This could be done as a small group activity.

(ACELY1690)   (EN2-8B)

Examining grammar and vocabulary

Students can examine the language in various poems and identify possible influences on their creation. ‘Botany Bay’ (pp. 9–11) or ‘A Bush Christmas’ by C.J. Dennis (pp. 22–25) would make interesting choices. Ask:

  • What is the purpose of the poem?
  • What is its context/setting?
  • How is language used to achieve the writer’s purpose?
  • How might this be different to contemporary texts?
  • Why would the writer make these choices?
  • How does the language change with appropriateness depending on the situation and audience?
  • What clues can we use to understand words like ‘o’er’ (p. 21, stanza 2), ‘thro’’ (p. 22, stanza 1), ‘‘neath’ (p. 30, stanza 7; p. 92, stanza 2) and ‘‘gainst’’ (p. 43, stanza 2)?
  • Do any of the poems in the collection feature language we would use with our family and friends? How does this differ to the standard Australian English you would find in more formal texts?

Discuss how vocabulary is connected to social dialect, and how social dialects have their own rules for grammar.

(ACELA1487)   (EN2-6B)

Students can go on a word hunt to add new and interesting vocabulary to their repertoire. They should write these on sticky notes or list them in their workbooks. Invite students to contribute to a new vocabulary poster, OR to the class word wall (Literature and Context > Connecting to Prior Knowledge > Unpacking the Cover). Encourage them to brainstorm ways that they can problem-solve the meaning of a word if they don’t know the definition. Also encourage them to read the word within the poem as a starting point, so they understand how meaning can be gleaned from the accompanying text (i.e. by inferring and looking for clues in nearby words or illustrations).

Ask students to choose some new vocabulary and research the definition, etymology (origin) and morphemes (base word) through a word investigation. You might have each student take responsibility for one word and report their findings to the class. They can use their own ideas first as a prediction, then find out more using an online dictionary.

New vocabulary can be found on the following pages:

p. 4 p. 12 p. 15 p. 19
p. 23 p. 28 p. 43 p. 48
p. 58 p. 71 p. 78 p. 92
p. 112 p. 124 p. 132 p. 138

(ACELA1498)   (EN2-9B)

Word play experiment

Students can create a word cloud with a selection of new words and phrases.

They can then try to answer the question:

How does word play create freshness, originality and playfulness in poems?

(ACELT1606)   (EN2-8B)

Similes and metaphors

Explore the meaning and use of similes and metaphors in poems:

  • What do similes and metaphors do (i.e. create vivid images for the readers)?
  • Why do you often see this type of language in poems?

Invite students to discuss their thinking around this. They might suggest that this type of language engages us emotionally and brings to life the poet’s subject matter.

Similes and metaphors also help the reader to connect something they know to something they don’t know. Similes are more explicit because they use ‘like’ or ‘as’, while metaphors are more implicit, requiring a higher level of inference skill from the reader.

Select a poem that contains similes and metaphors and explore their possible meanings. Here are some examples (underlined below) from ‘Home’ by Bronwyn Bancroft (pp. 6–7):

To roll down the 3 hills to home,

Draw in the breath of the Valley

Run to the creek.
Check on the 2 Goannas.

Find a python skin.
Listen to Kookaburra and the rest of Bird Orchestra
singing a Black Tchaikovsky.
This is Home.
The lines of the Country are etched like wrinkles in a wise old face.

We walk with our Countrymen and Women.
We ease into the colour palette of
ochre green, red rust, yellow ochre, baby blue and crimson
Rolling storms and heavy clouds
that drop the downpour majestically.
To slip into the clear crystal water
to find a giant rock in the creek to be king or queen of.
To protect your Castle.

Living in the city is heroic
When all of this is what waits at home.
Sitting in the Memory pods of
that sit inside your Mind
all the time.
The hypnotic sound of the creek
and as you fall into slumber, sleeping across
Generations into the night time of the past
Pregnant with journeys for
The future.
Watching clouds skirmish across the sky feasting on each line

to create an intricate image before your eyes.
To feel the breeze ignite the hairs on your body
—embalming you in the safety of your people’s arms.
To lie on your back and gaze fully into a real sky

that is stretched to its fullest extent with a star encrusted brocade.

This is how I see, feel and know my Country.
This is peace.

And from ‘Summer Rain’ by Phil Cummings (pp. 64–65):

stanza 2 ‘Like grumpy giants woken from sleep’ simile
stanza 2 ‘The children fly loud’ metaphor
stanza 3 ‘shirts flapping like sails’ simile
stanza 3 ‘ghostly red veils’ metaphor
stanza 3 ‘Thunder roars like a truck in a shed’ simile
stanza 4 ‘They shake and buck like wild horses’ simile
stanza 4 ‘They stumble in mud, like new-born foals’ simile
stanza 5 ‘Wandering like sheep on weary marches’ simile
stanza 5 ‘Like moths seek light in a summer-night game’ simile

Students can then pair up to play metaphor/simile tennis (a version of word tennis), taking turns to say new metaphors or similes. If they cannot think of one, the other student receives a point. The first person to reach three points wins. You might modify this game by giving each pair a pile of words to prompt ideas in their short thinking time!

(ACELT1604)   (EN2-11D)   (ACELT1604)   (EN2-11D)

Rich assessment task

Return to Kids’ Book Review and draw students’ attention to the second sentence of the second-last paragraph (about using language to paint a picture of Australia).

Invite students to discuss their point of view on this statement. They can agree or disagree, but they need to explain their decision in detail, providing examples of how the collection does or does not paint the picture described. Prompt students to reflect on the text structure, organisation, illustrations, poetic styles, language and vocabulary to help support their arguments.

(ACELT1605)   (EN2-8B)

Page to stage

Place students in small groups. Invite them to imagine that they have been commissioned to stage a performance of a poem from This is Home.

Each group must choose ONE poem from the collection (preferably from the expressive reading Rich Assessment Task under Responding) to move from page to stage. They will need to consider:

  • The place this would be staged and why
  • The audience this would be aimed at
  • What the set would look like
  • Who the characters are and what their costumes would look like
  • How the characters would behave

Students will share the task of preparing costumes and choosing images from Openverse to project onto the wall as they perform. They will then create a poster to advertise their performance. Students are to work on this production and present their performance to the class for peer feedback, using a technique such as two stars and a wish.

(ACELY1689)   (EN2-6B)

What is my history and my home?

Students are to write the words ‘this is home’ in the centre of a blank page. They will recount and document significant events in their lives that summarise their personal history and understanding of home in a mind map. Alternatively, they could use a platform like MindMup or Explain Everything. Students can add to their mind maps over the next few lessons. This will start to build a wonderful bank of information and language that they can use for the upcoming Rich Assessment Task. Encourage students to discuss their mind maps with extended family members; these conversations may yield more historical life events and metaphorical interpretations of ‘home’.

(ACELT1607)   (EN2-10C)

Home illustration

Give students a blank piece of paper so they can illustrate their idea of home (this could be a possible Visual Arts link, if desired). Emphasise that ‘home’ does not need to be their physical home or house, but somewhere (metaphorically speaking) that makes them feel at home (e.g. a special place, in nature, a person, an activity, a memory). Students can use pencil, paint, collage, or any other form/style they feel will demonstrate their idea of home authentically. They might look at Tania McCartney’s illustrations for inspiration, or explore their own personal style. Once everyone has finished, conduct a gallery walk so that students can quietly view each other’s artwork (just like they would in a real art gallery). They can then review their experience through a whole class discussion, mentioning elements of particular artworks that they found interesting.

(ACELT1607)   (EN2-10C)   (ACELA1496)   (EN2-8B)

Growing a poet-tree

Using ideas from the previous two tasks, students will create a poet-tree like the one accompanying Meg McKinlay’s poem (‘A Gardener’s Guide to Poetry’) on pp. 122–123 of the collection. This will enable students to continue exploring their ideas about home through significant words and phrases, in preparation for writing their own poem.

Students can flesh out the trunk, leaves and branches of their poet-tree using:

  • Key words and ideas
  • Rhyming words
  • Homophones
  • Connection lines or linked ideas on the same branch

(ACELT1607)   (EN2-10C)

Revisit the brainstorms from the beginning of the unit (Literature > Connecting to Prior Knowledge > Before Reading) to see what knowledge and skills students have gained. Some ideas to stimulate discussion include:

  • Literacy techniques that stood out
  • Which texts students appreciated and why
  • Which texts were most like their own experiences
  • Which texts were similar to other texts they have read and viewed
  • What new ideas were raised by particular poems – how did these fit with existing beliefs?

(ACELT1603)   (EN2-11D)

Rich assessment task

Reflecting on the learnings, skills and knowledge they have gained throughout this unit, students are to write a poem about their home. They may like to pick a poem from the collection as inspiration (in terms of structure, language use, or content). Prepare some examples for students to refer to, such as those on:

pp. 6–7 pp. 12–13 pp. 28–31 pp. 66–67
pp. 68–69 pp. 106–109 p. 115 pp. 128–129

Students should use their personal histories, artworks and poet-trees as a springboard to plan, write and edit their poems. Before they begin, develop a class success criteria that incorporates the learnings from this unit, including new vocabulary, use of word play and interpretation of ‘home’.

Upon completion, you could create a class book of students’ poems to share with the rest of the school community.

(ACELY1694)   (EN2-11D)   (ACELA 1498)   (EN2-9B)