Connecting to prior knowledge

Before Reading

This is a picture book about friendship. It explores the close bond between two young boys, and by extension their families, who live and play in the Kimberley. It is a warm and genuine book about how true friendship has no limitations.

To support students’ connection to the text it is useful to explore what the word ‘friend’ means to them. As a class discuss the term ‘friend’. Record ideas and the words they use to describe ‘friend’ on chart paper e.g. mate, classmate, buddy, partner, companion. The class will then be able to refer back to the list throughout the unit.
(ACELA1470)   (EN1-2A)

Offer the following probe to students: ‘I wonder what a good friend is?’

Explain to students that you want them to start thinking about friendship and friends. Ask students to draw a picture of themselves and a friend. When they have finished their picture, students share their drawing in small groups of three or four students. Each student is encouraged to describe their picture. Display students’ pictures in the classroom.

Revisit the probe: ‘I wonder what a good friend is?’ In pairs students think-pair-share their thoughts and reflections. Using large sticky notes, each pair of students chooses a word or short phrase to describe a friend. Students share these with the class and then display them with their pictures.
(ACELA1462)   (EN1-7B)


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

During Reading

As a class explore the front cover of the book. Discuss the title and the illustrations with students and encourage them to predict what they think the book may be about. Read the blurb on the back cover that reveals it is a true story. Predict again.

Read the text to students, without showing the illustrations. Discuss the text with students. In pairs, students write down their wonderings about the characters and the setting. These can then be shared with the class and placed onto the class ‘Wondering Wall’.
(ACELA1581)   (EN1-2A)

After Reading

Discuss the two main characters in the text: Jack and Raf. Students choose either Jack or Raf and write down four words on sticky notes to describe their character. List these descriptions of each character on chart paper.
(ACELA1469)   (EN1-8B)

Reread the book, this time focusing on the illustrations. After reading the picture book ask students if and how the illustrations add more to the story being told. Focus students’ attention on the page showing Raf in a wheelchair. Discuss if this surprised them. Did they have any idea that Raf had a disability? As a class read through and revise/reflect on the class descriptions of each character. What other ideas would they like to add to their list?
(ACELY1660)   (EN1-4A)

This picture book has a number of areas that can be explored in depth. Jack and his family are descended from the Ngarluma people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Discuss why we have an Acknowledgement of Country. Find out the country name and the Indigenous language group for that country. Discuss some local places that have Indigenous names and what those names mean.

Ask students to reflect on the many different ways that Jack and Raf explore the environment around them with the support of Jack’s family. Examples include catching big green tree frogs on Jack’s Nan’s verandah, hunting with Jack’s Uncle Ned, collecting feathers and seeds to show Jack’s Nan (look also at the end covers of the book and the detail in the feathers).

Being curious about and exploring our local environment is a great way to look more closely at our world. As a class, go outside and explore a small area of the school yard, looking for feathers, seeds, etc. Make a class ‘Exploring our world’ table in the classroom. Encourage students to find out more about the feathers and seeds they find around the school and around their home.

Little J & Big Cuz is a new series on SBS that follows Little J and Big Cuz as they explore the world around them and their Aboriginal culture, at home with Nan and at school with their teacher and friends. Watch episode two of Little J & Big Cuz called ‘Wombat Rex’. What did Big Cuz learn about how to be a good friend in this episode. Encourage students to talk in pairs and then share as a class. Talk to students about how we can all learn how to be a better friend, no matter how old we are.

Take your class out in the playground to see if you can find foot prints or tracks of animals including possums, dogs or cats. Look at the Little J & Big Cuz website and play ‘Following Tracks’. Students may like to watch this at home and play the games on the website with their family.
(ACELY1655)  (EN1-4A)


Rich assessment task

Friendship looks like, feels like, sounds like…

Talk with students about what we know about friendship from reading Two Mates and watching episode two of Little J & Big Cuz. Use or popplet to brainstorm as a class what is known about friendship. This brainstorm can be added to throughout the unit.

Friendship is more than just a word, it’s a concept, it’s lots of things combined together. One way we can show what we know about a concept is to draw and write about it. In pairs, students complete a Y Chart together – Friendship looks like/feels like/sounds like.

Note contributions to the class discussion.
(ACELT1582)   (EN1-4A)

Responding to the text

Looking Deeper – The gift of friendship

Focus students’ attention on the front cover of the book looking at the names of both the author and the illustrator. Return to the dedication page. Read the dedications again and focus on the words used: beauty, miracle, blessed.

Reflect on the dedications and how they describe friendship:

‘…the beauty and miracle of friendship…’

‘…this beautiful gift of friendship…’

Encourage students to think more about friendship and revisit the Y Charts students developed. Ask them to think about what qualities Jack and Raf have that define their friendship and list these together.

Students view the video ‘Children Tell Us What Friendship Is’ by Plan International UK.

Discuss the qualities mentioned by the children in this video. Students reflect on these and then develop their own list of the qualities they think are important in a strong friendship. Students share their list with their small group. They can then add/revise their list after talking to and listening to the other members of their group.
(ACELY1657)   (EN1-1A)

If friendship was an actual gift what sort of box would it be in? How would you wrap it?

Using cellophane, tissue paper, photos from magazines, ribbon, texta colours, paint and glitter, invite students to decorate small three dimensional boxes or a shoe box. If each student has their own box, they can put the qualities they believe are important inside their box. Students then share their friendship gift box, explaining why they decorated it the way they did and why the qualities inside it are important to them. Display these in the classroom and encourage students to share the friendship gift boxes with others.
(ACELA1462)   (EN1-8B)


Exploring plot, character, setting and theme

Exploring characters

Revisit the descriptions the class developed for Jack and Raf. Discuss what we know about them as individuals and as friends. The book tells us information about what both Jack and Raf like to do together and what they enjoy. As a class, explore the last two double pages of the book which include photos of Jack and Raf’s family and also information about Melanie and Maggie. Melanie, Jack’s mother and author of the book, and Maggie, the illustrator, share a little of their history and why they wanted to share this story. There is also a note from Raf’s mum, Kim, that gives us insight into why Raf is in a wheelchair and a descriptive paragraph explaining Spina Bifida. Read and view these pages as a class.

Before moving on draw attention to the different genres within the text, all with different social purposes. For example, the biography for Melanie and Maggie, Hi from Kim is a biography about Raf with a call for action plus the information text about Spina Bifida.

Look closely at Kim’s note, focusing on the last paragraph, ‘So when you meet kids who use a wheelchair, try and see the person, not just the wheelchair. And always try to see what the person can do, rather than what they can’t.’

As a class reflect on what Kim is saying to us all. Invite students to create a still image in small groups by using their bodies to create an image of one or two students meeting Raf. Encourage students to explore the attitudes and feelings of all those in the image. It is through the discussion of why that particular image was chosen that the learning becomes clearer.
(ACELA1444)   (EN1-1A)

Exploring setting

This picture book is set in the Kimberley.

On a map of Australia find Western Australia, the Kimberley and finally Broome. Together, look at the illustrations of Broome and the surrounding area. Watch the video ‘A look around Broome’, WA which includes the Courthouse Markets.

As a class complete a Venn Diagram:

  • in one circle is the student’s own school and community setting.
  • in the other circle is Broome and the surrounding environment.
  • and in the middle list the similarities between both settings.

The Kimberley is now home to many cultures and has a remarkable history as it has been home to groups of Aboriginal people for more than 40,000 years. Melanie, Maggie and Jack are all descended from the Ngarluma people of the Pilbara region, Western Australia. Explore the area on the AIATIS map of Aboriginal Australia.

Reread the book. As you read, list each setting where Jack and Raf spend time together and make brief comments about each of the settings.

  • Nan’s verandah – has green tree frog
  • Fishing spot
  • Out bush
  • Courthouse markets
  • Town Beach
  • The primary school
  • Raf’s house and pool

In small groups, students choose one of the settings listed and create a collage of the setting using tissue paper and texta colours. Display each setting with a brief description.
(ACELT1584)   (EN1-8B)

Exploring theme

The theme of a text is the main idea that comes through the text. Read Whoever You Are by Mem Fox, discuss the theme of this book, focusing students in on the following lines:

‘Their skin may be

different from yours…

Their lives may be

different from yours…

But inside,

their hearts are

just like yours…’

Encourage students to reflect on the themes of this book using think-pair-share. As a class share understandings, develop a mind map together using or popplet. Encourage students to think carefully about Whoever You Are and the theme, making clear links back to the picture book.
(ACELT1582)   (EN1-4A)


Rich assessment task

Revise the theme of Whoever You Are with students and look back at the class mind map created around the theme from Whoever You Are.

Ask students to discuss with a partner what they think the theme of Two Mates may be. Encourage students to make direct links to the picture book. Pairs of students then move into small groups and share their thoughts around the theme. Students then write and draw in their Reading Notebook what they believe the theme for Two Mates is and why.
(ACELT1582)   (EN1-4A)

Examining text structure and organisation

Visual Literacy – Focusing in on illustrations

This is a book about two mates spending time together and having fun.

The illustrator Maggie Prewett focuses in on faces; they are all bright, bold and open. Look more closely at Jack and Raf’s face on the front cover. Ask students what they think Jack and Raf may be feeling? Why do you think this? Look closely and discuss with students the expressive eyes and mouth.

Show students the set of cards (PDF, 93KB) provided. The cards have a range of emotions written on them e.g. surprised, excited, happy, etc. Discuss together what each emotion feels like and looks like. As a class, practice a couple of these emotions together, focusing on the eyes and mouth. Students are given their own set of cards (93KB, PDF) then work in pairs or small groups. One student chooses a card, models the particular emotion and their partner tries to guess what they are feeling and what the emotion is.

Invite students to paint a picture of themselves playing with their friend. Encourage them to think about what they are feeling and to show this by focusing on the eyes and mouth.
(ACELA1787)   (EN1-7B)


Examining grammar and vocabulary

Exploring vocabulary

Invite five students to share their painting with the class. Encourage students to talk about what they are doing and feeling in their painting. Discuss and list the different feelings students have been sharing and add these to your class word wall. Collect the paintings and bind together to make a class book.
(ACELA1452)   (EN1-5A)

Exploring Word Families

Using simple grammatical morphemes to create word families.

Start with the word play.

Together build a word family for play

  • playing
  • playful
  • plays
  • playtime
  • playground


  • friends
  • friendship
  • friendly


  • swims
  • swimming
  • swimmer

(ACELA1455)   (EN1-5A)

Exploring Compound Words

Develop an understanding of compound words by exploring the compound words listed in the text. List words, leaving space for students to add other compound words as they come across them.

  • courthouse – court + house
  • spaceships
  • mudskippers
  • superheroes
  • thunderstorms

Discuss with students how the meaning and the spelling of the compound word are linked to the two smaller words that together make the compound word.
(ACELA1471)   (EN1-5A)


Rich assessment task


We know that Jack and Raf have been friends for a long time.

Discuss with students how long Jack and Raf have known each other. Find evidence from the book to support this. Encourage students to think about how old Jack and Raf may have been in 2012 when the book was published and how old they may be now.

As a class, develop a timeline together, stopping at 2012 when the book was published.

Ask students to individually develop their own timeline from the book, extending it by inferring how old they think Jack and Raf may be and what they may be doing. Students share their timelines in small groups.
(ACELA1466)   (EN1-8B)


A special friendship

View the video ‘Friendship: Kids Thought of the Week’.

Ask students to develop and write an individual reflection/statement on friendship and what is important about friendship. After students have written their reflection, ask them to stand and turn and share their reflection with a friend. Then ask students to form a circle allowing each student to share.

Once students have shared their reflection, create a class video of all the students reflections. Start with a general introduction and then video (or have a student video) each student in the class sharing their reflection on friendship.
(ACELY1661)   (EN1-10C)

A lasting friendship

Raf and Jack have known each other since they were babies; they have a lasting friendship. Reflect on why their friendship may be special.

Jack and Raf like spending time together (looking, fishing, catching, eating, hunting, swimming, exploring, collecting, pretending, swimming, reading, etc.). Encourage students to make a list of the activities that they like to do with their friend.

Jack and Raf spend time with each other’s families, sharing their lives and their cultures. What parts of Jack’s Aboriginal culture does he share with Raf? Fishing for salmon, catching bush tucker e.g. barni (goanna). Encourage students to think about what special parts of their culture they share with their friends and why this is an important part of friendship e.g. food, special celebrations, etc. We are proud of our family and our culture. Our culture is a part of who we are and sharing part of it with others means we are sharing part of who we are and what is important to us. As a class make a list of the different cultural backgrounds in the classroom.

Read the blurb, focus on ‘Jack and Raf…prove that friendship has no boundaries.’ What might Melanie mean when she writes that their friendship has no boundaries? Do a think-pair-share. The fact that Raf is in a wheelchair might be seen as a problem for some people.

Kim, Raf’s mum, writes:

‘So when you meet kids who use a wheelchair, try and see the person, not just the wheelchair. And always try to see what that person can do, rather than what they can’t.’

Look back at the list of what Raf likes to do when he’s not at school. Think about whether Jack enjoys these activities too.
(ACELT1582)   (EN1-4A)

Using the Still Image technique (Ewing and Simons), students participate in small groups to explore the issues around what students in a wheelchair might be experiencing at school or at a social event. Have students use their bodies to show how Raf feels when he is at school with Jack. Then ask students to use their bodies to show how Raf might feel at school if Jack wasn’t around. You might even ask the students to think about one or two words that describe what Raf may be feeling during each of these scenarios.
(ACELA1787)   (EN1-1A)


Rich assessment task

This picture book is written in the first person and from Jack’s point of view. It’s a little like Jack is sharing a recount with us, a recount about his time with his best mate, Raf. It’s also written in the present tense, this means that it’s seems like it is happening now, not like it’s happened in the past. This is a nice technique for a writer to use as it helps the reader to feel connected to the story, as if someone is actually telling them a story.

Read students the last two pages of the book and ask students to think about Jack and what he might be feeling and thinking. How might Jack tell their story?  Ask students to rewrite the ending from Jack’s perspective.
(ACELA1447)   (EN1-2A)