Ask students to think about the word ‘wolf’ and the wolves they have read, seen or heard in books, movies, songs, etc. They will work quietly in groups of two or three to jot down as many of their best ideas as they can onto a bingo grid (PDF, 70KB) within a five-minute time limit. You should have your own list of wolves from popular culture, including (but not limited to):
- Akita from Ninjago
- The Big Bad Wolf from The Three Little Pigs
- ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ from Aesop’s Fables
- Maugrim from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
- Max’s wolf suit from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
- Mr Wolf from The Bad Guys
- Peter and the Wolf
- We Are Wolves by Katrina Nannestad
- White Fang by Jack London
- Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
- The wolf from Little Red Riding Hood
- The Wolf Girl series by Anh Do
- The wolves from The Jungle Book
- Wolves by Selena Gomez and Marshmello
Once students have filled out their bingo grids, you can starting reading aloud from your list of wolves. Students are to look for matches on their own grids and cross those squares out. When they have crossed out three squares in a row (vertical, horizontal or diagonal), they will call out ‘Bingo!’
Students will then select two examples from their bingo grid or the list of wolves, and identify how the wolves have been presented in their respective texts. They can use a Venn diagram (PDF, 73KB) to capture the wolves’ positive, negative and neutral attributes. Once they have finished their diagrams, students are to share their ideas with the rest of the class. Track and highlight key words and themes from this discussion that will link back to the novel.
Introduce the title of Tristan Bancks’ novel, Two Wolves. Ask students to share their ideas about what this might mean. Read the blurb aloud, then ask students to look back at their Venn diagrams. Do they notice any similarities or differences to the blurb? Invite students to predict what the novel might be about.
Working in groups of three or four, students are to skim through the novel and scan the pages for chapter titles. They can use this information to update their predictions with additional ideas about how the story may develop. As they skim and scan, they should look for vocabulary that seems unique to this type of story. They should also identify the protagonist and reflect on how the title may relate to this character.
Come back together as a class to discuss students’ early ideas about the novel. Create a word wall that you can add to throughout the unit as new vocabulary is discovered and introduced. Examples might include:
Students should also keep a personal vocabulary list to develop over the course of the unit. This table (PDF, 83KB) may be a helpful graphic organiser to support them in building their list.
Activity 3 (optional extension)
Students can debate whether wolves are treated unfairly in stories. Fairy tales often portray them as cruel and evil; of all the animals, why does the wolf carry this burden? Is this fair?
Students should refer to evidence from other texts to build their case for or against the wolf. Encourage them to focus their argument on one main wolf (e.g. from The Three Little Pigs or Little Red Riding Hood).
Personal response on reading the text
Thinking about the title
Break students into groups of two or three. Give each pair or trio a list of good and bad words (PDF, 81KB) that need to be grouped. Do not tell students how to group their words; they can sort, arrange and classify as they see fit. Encourage them to title their categories and add words as they proceed through this task.
Ask each pair or trio to share how they grouped their words. Summarise and record points of agreement on the whiteboard. When you have reached the conclusion as a class that the words represent good vs bad, introduce the story of the two wolves. You can find a copy on the back cover of Two Wolves, as well as immediately prior to the start of Chapter One.
Prompt students to think-pair-share by asking them what this legend might be about. Together identify examples of how a person might ‘feed’ the good and/or the bad wolf.
Now place students in groups of four to six. Explain that they are going to work together to reflect on and answer some big questions. You will need to print some question placemats (PDF, 87KB) on A3 paper ahead of time and place these around the classroom. Give each group a different coloured marker to track their contributions, then get them to pick their first question. Students will spend a few minutes discussing ‘the right thing to do’, plotting the group’s overall consensus on the continuum and writing a sentence or two to explain their position, before rotating to the next station. Give them five minutes to respond to each question to ensure that they stay on task.
The groups will then return to their original questions, examine their peers’ responses, and prepare summaries to share with the whole class. This will enable them to practise using cause and effect connectives. Students should share their initial ideas about the question before they give their final thoughts, including any changes to their thinking along the way.
Students are to imagine that they are a designer creating a visual concept that communicates the battle between good and evil. This concept can be very simple, focusing on a single word or idea, or it can be more detailed.
The task can be presented in a number of ways:
- a poster
- a t-shirt
- a meme
- another format as negotiated with you
In composing their design, students should consider the effect they want to have on their audience and how they can achieve this visually. They will also need to submit a paragraph explaining their design choices and how these communicate the concept of good vs evil.
Through Ben Silver, the protagonist of Two Wolves, readers can consider the dilemma and ethics of choosing to do what is right when you know that something is wrong. Over the course of the novel Ben transforms from a boy who is uncertain and afraid, particularly of his father, into a young man ready to tackle challenges as they arise. He takes control of the fear that once controlled him.
The following close study focuses on character and setting, as well as how these elements of the texts create suspense.
Who is Ben Silver?
Begin by having students read Chapter One. Distribute a list of statements about Ben (PDF, 104KB) that require evidence from the text to determine whether they are true or false. Discuss the answers (PDF, 104KB) as a class, inviting students to share their reasoning for each statement. Using this information, what can they deduce about Ben’s personality? As students progress through the novel, they can track any changes and make notes on how Ben grows and develops as a character.
As an extension of this task, students can compare how Ben is introduced in the first chapter with the way he is presented in the final chapter.
Students are to use the Frayer model to analyse the word ‘conflict’. Show them some examples of completed models, then distribute the blank template (PDF, 70KB) and decide what to include in each quadrant (e.g. definition, characteristics, examples, non-examples). Students can then fill in their models, using examples from other narratives to guide their thinking (e.g. Harry Potter vs Lord Voldemort, the Narnians vs winter). Once they have recorded and shared their ideas, explain what we mean by character conflict:
|Character vs self||A character’s internal thoughts, emotions and/or feelings that interfere with their purpose/goal/journey.|
|Character vs others||A character’s physical, mental or emotional struggle with another character. This typically occurs between the protagonist and antagonist.|
|Character vs society||The struggle between a character and the beliefs, values and/or laws of another group (e.g. Shrek encounters people in the kingdom who are prejudiced against ogres).|
|Character vs nature||The struggle between a character and the natural world (e.g. weather, animals, illness, etc.).|
Together identify examples of each of these conflicts in Two Wolves. Students can then summarise their understanding of character conflict in a spider diagram, supported by simple line drawings.
Students are to work in pairs or trios to read an extract from the book, identify the type of conflict, and complete the corresponding section of the conflict thinking sheet (PDF, 104KB). You will find multiple suggestions below, but students only need to read ONE extract.
|Character vs self||Chapter Nineteen: The Plan (pp. 146–147)
Chapter Twenty-Two: Into the Wild (pp. 163–167)
Chapter Twenty-Seven: First Night (pp. 198–201)
|Character vs others||Chapter Seventeen: Trapped (pp. 127–129) – Olive
Chapter Nineteen: The Plan (pp. 144–145) – Mum
Chapter Twenty: Apricots (pp. 151–155) – Dad
|Character vs society||Chapter Four: Chase (pp. 26–33)
Chapter Twenty-Four: The Fugitive (pp. 175–182)
|Character vs nature||Chapter Ten: Culpam Poena Premit Comes (pp. 66–73)
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Tempest pp. (210–213)
Discuss students’ responses as a whole class. Point out that the combination of information about a character’s thoughts, actions and emotions elicits a specific response from the audience.
Working independently, students are to write a paragraph identifying ONE example of character conflict in Two Wolves. They can write about one of the conflicts from their thinking sheets, OR another example of their choosing. They should explain how the conflict enables the audience to better understand the story, as well as its link to the title of the novel. Remind students to plan their work and use evidence to support their argument and explanation.
In this task, students will consider Ben’s relationship with his parents and his struggle as he comes to understand their criminal behaviour and involvement in illegal activities.
Give each student a blank sheet of A3 paper. Working individually, they are to construct a character web that focuses on the Silver family and their interactions. Encourage them to include evidence to support their ideas. You can use this model (PDF, 104KB) to help students get started.
Once they have completed their character webs, students will record more details about Ben’s parents, Ray and April Silver (PDF, 77KB). They will use this information to identify and explain how the audience is positioned to respond to these characters, referring to specific examples from the novel.
Finally, place students in small groups for a guided reading activity. Suggested extracts and focus characters include:
|Chapter Four: Chase||pp. 25–27
from the start of p. 25, to the end of the second-last paragraph on p. 27
|Chapter Seven: The Bag||pp. 46–48
from the third paragraph on p. 46, to the start of the last paragraph on p. 48
|Chapter Eight: The Secret||pp. 55–57
from the last line on p. 55, to the end of p. 57
|Chapter Nineteen: The Plan||pp. 144–145
from the start of p. 144, to the dinkus on p. 145
|Chapter Thirty-One: The Wreckers||pp. 222–223
from the last paragraph on p. 222, to the dinkus on p. 223
|Chapter Thirty-Eight: One Wolf||pp. 264–266
from the start of p. 264, to the end of the second paragraph on p. 266
Model identifying some of the strategies Bancks uses to create character. Students will then work independently to apply their new learning to Chapter Three: Holiday Haircuts, or another chapter as negotiated with you.
In what sort of places, and over what lengths of time, could a story occur? Students will work in pairs or trios to list as many ideas as they can think of in two minutes (e.g. a haunted house; a year). When time is up, give each group twelve strips of paper (created by cutting six A4 sheets in half lengthwise) and a different coloured marker. Ask the groups to look at their lists, write their six best places and lengths of time on separate strips, then move around the room to compare their ideas. When they find a similar place/time from another group, they should place those strips together on a sheet of butcher’s paper. Once students have matched as many strips as they can, they should move between the sheets and jot down ideas, themes and moods that connect to that place or time (e.g. a haunted house might be ‘mysterious’, ‘foreboding’ or ‘supernatural’). Finish with a whole class discussion on the importance of setting, building on the ideas from this activity.
Watch ‘The Importance of Setting in a Story’. Revisit the class discussion and add any points or ideas that students may have missed earlier. Invite them to return to their pairs or trios and add any final notes to the butcher’s paper. Then ask each group to share and briefly explain any additions or adjustments they made after watching the clip and discussing as a class. Finish by getting students to record a definition of ‘setting’ in their notebooks.
How does Bancks use descriptive language to create the setting in Two Wolves? Explore how we learn about Ben’s changing character through the setting, particularly when he is in nature.
Get students to complete the descriptive language worksheet (PDF, 112KB), locating examples from the text that illustrate how the senses engage the audience.
As an extension of this task, students can explore how and why some descriptions in the book are obvious while others are more subtle. As a class, discuss how a simple description can still be effective, identifying examples from the novel to support these ideas.
Give students a list of words related to ‘suspense’ (PDF, 78KB) that they can cut out and arrange in a word cline. Students may remove a few of the suggested words and include a few of their own. They may need to use a dictionary or thesaurus to help determine the best order for the cline.
Define what we mean by ‘suspense’. Ask students if they can think of a story that had them on the edge of their seats. Based on their contributions, create a class checklist of features that can be used to create suspense, which may include:
|descriptive language||short or simple sentences||fragmented information revealed piece by piece|
|the protagonist’s vulnerability||timing||setting|
As a class, decide where the first chapter of Two Wolves belongs on a suspense chart (PDF, 124KB). Ideally students would track the tension of each chapter as they read; if they have already finished the book, you can discuss and agree on which chapters were most tense or suspenseful. Use the class checklist from the previous task to plot these chapters on the chart. Students can then plot the rest of the chapters, if they have not already done so, and answer the remaining questions.
Remind students to add new vocabulary to the classroom word wall and/or their personal vocabulary lists.
Finish by asking students which chapter they thought had the most suspenseful descriptions. They can write a paragraph in which they explain how the author achieved this effect.
Symbols, ideas and themes
Discuss the following themes and ideas from Two Wolves:
- Appearance vs reality
- Good vs evil
- Coming of age
Ask students if they think these themes and ideas are pertinent to the novel – why or why not? Make a note of any additional ideas they come up with during the discussion. Then challenge them to use emoticons or symbols only – no words! – to try to communicate the list of themes and ideas.
Working in pairs, students are to plan their own stop motion animation based on a chapter from Two Wolves. If time is in short supply, focus on a smaller extract or a single paragraph. Students may select a chapter/extract/paragraph from their close study of character, setting and suspense-building, OR make their own choice in negotiation with the teacher.
Before they begin, students will need to become stop motion ‘experts’ by learning from others’ experiences. Each pair will need a device and a blank cheat sheet (PDF, 82KB) containing links to useful videos and articles. Students will use these links to fill in their cheat sheets, summarising the information from each source to consolidate their understanding about the different elements of a stop motion film.
Once they have completed their cheat sheets, students can move on to planning and (time and resources allowing) producing their animation. Each pair will present their ideas as a storyboard to demonstrate how they would depict their chosen chapter. You could extend this task further by incorporating a peer review component.
NOTE: The focus of this task is on the planning and presentation of ideas; actually producing a stop motion animation is optional.
For students who require adjustment, you could shift the focus to the sounds they would use to recreate their chosen scene. For example, what sounds would capture the mood and feel of the creek – and how would students replicate them? Look at some foley artists for inspiration. Students could identify two or three sounds and attempt to record and play them for their peers. Part of their presentation will be to explain how the sounds add character, setting and/or tension to the scene.
The assessment rubric (PDF, 108KB) will assist students in completing this task.
Ways of reading the text
Comparison with other texts
Ben’s strength of character in the face of adversity, as well as his strained relationship with his parents, is not dissimilar to:
- Matilda Wormwood from Matilda by Roald Dahl
- Johnny the gorilla from Sing (2016)
- Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa from Star Wars Episodes IV–VI (1977–1983)
These texts highlight the notion that parents and role models do not always encourage the ‘right’ things, even if we might expect them to do so.
Australian texts featuring protagonists with troubled parent/guardian relationships include:
- Peony from How to Bee by Bren MacDibble
- Carl Matt from A Bridge to Wiseman’s Cove by James Moloney
- Nate McKee from This Is How We Change the Ending by Vikki Wakefield
To reinforce the idea that authors write for specific purposes and audiences, students can explore how this concept is presented through different characters and in different contexts. They could compare and contrast Ben’s character and relationship with his parents to one of the above protagonists, OR a protagonist from another text they have read. Remind students of the importance of identifying their character’s strengths, flaws and challenges, and how these are impacted by their parental figures.
Connections to the natural world
In Two Wolves we see the Australian environment and Ben’s resourcefulness in navigating it. He is initially petrified of the wild and unknown bushland, convinced that it will kill him, but eventually it becomes a source of comfort. As Ben progresses and develops as a character, he develops an affinity for his natural surrounds.
Students should research and identify the features of a creek (e.g. etymology, structure, threats). Encourage them to think about any creeks they may know about or live near. Discuss the surrounding environment, how people within the community use these creeks, and whether there are any associated dangers.
Finish by considering Ben’s changing character in the natural environment. Students can complete the associated worksheet (PDF, 117KB) to highlight the connection between the descriptions of nature and Ben as a developing character.
Other texts that may be useful for considering Australian landscapes and connections to the natural world include:
- Blueback by Tim Winton
- 47 Degrees by Justin D’Ath
- The Art of Taxidermy by Sharon Kernot
- By the River by Steven Herrick
- Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
Rich assessment tasks
This task focuses on how identity is shaped through formative experiences.
Students are to imagine that they have a popular YouTube channel where they post vlogs aimed at other 11–13-year-olds about the things that matter to them. Their next video will explore identity and the importance of self. Students are to plan, script and (optionally) record this vlog, referencing the key ideas and messages in Two Wolves. They may also refer to an additional text identified in this unit (e.g. Matilda, Sing) OR another text of their choosing (e.g. song lyrics).
Encourage students to share their vlogs in small groups and peer assess each other’s work.
The assessment rubric (PDF, 153KB) may assist them in completing this task.
As a class watch Donald’s Decision, a Walt Disney wartime cartoon about Donald Duck deciding whether or not to buy war bonds. This short video provides an opportunity to discuss how authors create texts for specific purposes and audiences. Pause on each of the title cards so that students can read them; what do they think the cartoon is promoting, and for whom? After watching, discuss:
- how Donald’s Decision revealed and supported its creators’ intentions
- what made the cartoon persuasive
- whether any ideas, symbols or language would be altered, replaced or removed if the cartoon was created today
As an extension exercise, introduce the idea of propaganda. Is Donald’s Decision propagandist? Students should justify their thinking using examples from the cartoon.
Revisit the ideas presented in the story of the two wolves. Students could optionally read and annotate Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road Not Taken‘ and discuss how it presents a similar concept. Then give students the statement:
Ultimately, people decide whether they are going to be good or bad.
Students are to argue in favour of OR in opposition to this statement, using examples from Two Wolves to support their position.
Now ask students to consider the times Ben actively had to choose between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, particularly his decision to lie about losing the money instead of admitting to hiding it. You could use the final paragraph of Chapter Twenty-Eight (p. 208) as stimulus for this discussion. Also revisit the notion of whether it is ever okay to tell a lie.
Rich assessment task
For this task students are going to enter the world of Shakespeare. Discuss how many of the themes from his plays and poems remain relevant today, then distribute the assessment rubric (PDF, 155KB).
Part A: reading
Display some symbols and words (PDF, 115KB) that provide clues about the plot of Macbeth. Discuss what they could mean and ask students to try predicting the narrative. Get them to think about the themes and ideas from Two Wolves and how these might relate to the play.
As a class, watch the British Council’s video on Macbeth for a simple, high-level plot summary. Identify the themes and discuss which of his two wolves Macbeth chose to feed (i.e. the wolf of pride, jealousy and greed). Also discuss the fact that he was faced with two choices: to remain loyal and honourable, or to proceed with the plot to kill King Duncan.
Now show students the famous soliloquy from Act 2, Scene 1: ‘Is this a dagger which I see before me’. Read it together and discuss what is happening (a modern translation may be useful here), then distribute the questions (PDF, 100KB). Students will answer independently and discuss their responses in pairs or trios.
Part B: writing
Return to the story of the two wolves. Ask students if they can think of a scenario in which a person would have to choose between feeding the good or the bad wolf. Make a list of these scenarios as a class, and keep them on display so that students can refer to them as they complete the final task.
Students are to select ONE of the scenarios from the class list (or one of their own choosing) and decide which wolf the character in that scenario will ‘feed’. They will then write a soliloquy that explores that character’s thoughts/feelings about their dilemma, using Macbeth as inspiration. The speaker may already have a position, or they may arrive at one over the course of the soliloquy.
If students are not yet able to write a soliloquy, they can instead draw a figure with an appropriate facial expression, then record their feelings in thought bubbles around the drawing.
There is also an opportunity to link this task to the stop motion Synthesising Task from the Close Study section of this unit.