Connecting to prior knowledge
As a way of brainstorming and concept building, have students individually think about a word that embodies how home makes them feel. Ask them to say the word and embody it. Students can then write the word ‘home’ in the centre of a page in their books or a piece of paper and draw ten hooks coming off it. At the end of these hooks students should write words or phrases that they relate to the word home. Students can then share their thinking with a student nearby and if they choose, add each other’s words to their brainstorm. Once pairs have shared with each other, have students feed back their thinking and brainstorming as a whole class and look for some major themes that emerge from the discussion.
Have students sit in a circle with a talking piece (it could be a whiteboard marker, tennis ball, any object that is available). Only when the student has that talking piece, can they talk. Some questions for discussion to foreshadow some of the ideas in Way Home might be:
- What do you know about homelessness?
- Who normally is homeless?
- Why might someone be homeless?
- Have you ever seen a homeless person?
- Do you think homelessness is a choice?
Have students do some research about Libby Hathorn. Does this text fit in with her wider style from the other picture books that she has written? For this activity try and collect and have on hand some other picture books by this Australian picture book figure. Look at the back cover. Have students pick up other picture books and look at the differences. Why does this one not include a summary? Have students research the Kate Greenaway Medal and the Parents Choice Award. What can we learn about Way Home from these acknowledgements?
Exploring the text in context of our community, school and ‘me’
Invite the individual responsible for overseeing social justice/fundraising/charity in your school to come into your classroom for a visit. Students could ask them questions about the work that they do, what support the school offers to those outside their community and why this is important to do. Alternatively, students could research on the internet what organisations are out there that support homeless people and present this in a table.
|Organisation name||History of organisation||Service to the homeless||Website|
|e.g. Red Cross||Australian Branch of the British Red Cross Society formed on outbreak of First World War (1914)||Provide short and long term housing to those without a home.||http://www.redcross.org.au/homelessness.aspx|
Begin a class discussion about their experience of the city. Have students ever been to the city? What were their experiences of the city? What sights and smells and sounds do they recall? Prepare by doing a google image search to have some pictures of Sydney city (during the day). Then google image search some pictures of Sydney city (during the night). Have students discuss in small groups which version of the city they preferred and why? Is the city a place for children (generally)? Is the city a place for children on their own? Why/why not? You may wish to substitute an Australian city more familiar to your students.
Have students visit the library and look at other picture books. Based on the cover and what they know/see about Way Home, how does this compare to other picture books? Does it look similar in style, content, theme to any other picture books? Have students write a paragraph about who they think Way Home might be aimed at and why. Are they prepared to be challenged and confronted in and through Way Home?
Rich assessment task
Put students in small groups with a copy of the book. Have students study the front and back covers of Way Home closely. Ask students to analyse the covers by writing half a page of notes in which they use what they can see (evidence) to predict what the text will be about. The following questions may be used as writing prompts:
- Consider the use of colour. Where is it only black and white and where is it lighter colours? Why might this be the case?
- Consider the tear underneath the title. What feelings are created with the tear? Why is this so?
- What does the title suggest?
- Comment on the font used.
- Where do you think this story might take place (setting)?
- What do you think the story will be about (plot)?
- Who might be a main character in the story (character)?
- In what ways is the front and back cover different to other picture books?
- How effective is the cover in making you curious about the picture book and enticing you to read it?
Responding to the text
Read Way Home aloud to the class but do not show students the visuals; begin by having them listen to the story. As they listen, have students number the events that happen to Shane and his cat. The text may need to be read out twice so that students can capture the information they need. Following this, allocate students one of the things that happen to Shane in the story. Without talking, students have to rearrange themselves in order of what happened according to how they remembered it. Once students think they have the correct order, they can say their event out loud to check if they are correct.
Re-read the text, this time showing the illustrations. Hot seating is a drama activity where a student ‘becomes’ a character and is questioned by the class about his or her background, behaviour and motivation. Have the students talk in pairs about some questions they would like to ask the main character Shane if he was here in real life. Have one student come to the front of the class to be ‘hot seated’ (pretends to be) Shane while the other students ask their prepared questions. Where possible, the person in the hot seat should refer back to the picture book to draw upon their answers. When the person in the hot seat has had enough or can’t answer a question, someone else in the class can have a go being Shane. Alternatively after the class member has answered three questions another student takes the hot seat. Students could also discuss what they’d like to question about Shane’s situation. Who else could be hot seated? (This may include for example, a shop owner who regularly gives Shane something to eat, or perhaps the cat).
Have a class debate around the proverb ‘home is where the heart is’. What does this mean? How is this true for Shane? Is this true for the students? What are some texts (picture books, films, stories, etc.) in which this is true?
Exploring plot, character, setting and theme
Re-read Way Home. Give students post-its in which they write down their reactions to Way Home and stick them on the whiteboard. They might like to write down how they feel after hearing the text or questions they have. Students might like to consider the significance of the title Way Home and how this is surprising and ironic. Where is Shane’s home and what do they think of it? Have students read each others post-its and if they like the idea or are thinking a similar thing, they can tick/like the comment. Have students reflect on any major themes that might emerge from their reflections.
Have students write a reflective journal entry in which they consider all the things that Shane has to stop for in Way Home (crossing traffic, chased, etc.). As they complete their journal entry, students are encouraged to note down which events they would be most afraid of and why. In their discussion and reflection, students should choose a particular double-page spread and analyse what visual literacy techniques have been used to help them feel that way (colour, modality, reading path).
Have students complete a ‘missing persons’ poster on the main character, Shane. As detectives on this case, students should aim to be as detailed as possible considering all the details and clues presented via his appearance, his speech and characteristics. Posters could then be displayed around the class and a ‘Chief Detective’ could come visit the classroom to see which posters would be most helpful for this case.
Students are to re-read the text individually and as they read, ask them to chart the rise and fall of the action in the plot in their writing books. For example, students should consider how the story starts with action and what the effect of this choice by Hathorn is.
Rich assessment task
Revise the language technique of personification and metaphor. Have students reflect and discuss the setting of Way Home (the city). Ask students to write a short creative writing piece in which they write from the perspective of the city (personification). This is quite a challenging activity but after several readings of this text the students will have a ‘feel’ for the city Hathorn has created. If necessary re-read the text before the writing commences.
Examining text structure and organisation
Allocate a double-page spread of the city to each small group of students (three to four). In their small groups, students have to comment on the perception of the city they are given from their two pages. In their notes, students are encouraged to make particular reference to the three visual literacy techniques of colour, symbolism, salience, and comment on how the written text works together with the visuals. The small groups can then present their thinking back to the class.
At the end of Way Home, Shane crawls through a chain link fence into a cubby hole sized shack where he has been living alone. This is reminiscent of a cubby house. Using the internet, search up some images for ‘cubby house’. Have students vote with their feet, if they would like to live in a cubby house (permanently) they are to stand in one corner of the classroom; if they would like to live in a regular building permanently, stand in the opposite corner. If they are not sure or are on the fence, they can stand in the middle of the classroom. Students then have to justify their choices and try to persuade other students to join them.
Students are to complete a venn diagram in which on one side they write the characteristics of Shane’s home (where is it, what is it like, colours, decorations etc.) and on the other side of the circle, students make notes on their own home. For the part of the circles which overlap, students are to write the similarities that exist regarding their home and that of Shane’s. Where is home for you?
Read Way Home as a class and use the text to explicitly teach visual literacy techniques (use First Steps Viewing Resource Book page viii). Teach students about the gutter of the text in which the narrative flows across the page, thus making the story continuous. Draw out that we as readers would want to know what Shane is doing and where he is going and the structure of the text is written in a way that makes that clear.
Examining grammar and vocabulary
Have students consider the effect of the background to the text which is coloured black with white. In particular, take students to the double-page spread where Shane is shown as looking into windows to a life he cannot share, a home with a cat in the window. Have students consider the language on this page that emphasises that the experience of a home is a place which is beyond Shane’s reach.
As students read Way Home, help them to recognise that Shane gives a new name to the cat each time he refers to it. Have students keep track of these different names (the first time Shane meets it, he calls the cat ‘no name’). Are there any patterns that emerge? Ask students to think of reasons why Shane calls the cat by a new name each time, and what might the author be trying to communicate through this?
Rich assessment task
Shane says about the cat: “I’d break my neck for you…” Have students reflect on the high modality use of language and write a reflection as to why the cat is so important to Shane. Students are to explain what the cat represents (is a symbol of) to Shane and how his language about the cat reflects this. Furthermore, students may like to relate the helping hand symbol to Shane’s pledge to the cat.
Revise with students the conventions of letter writing (correct layout, format, language use, etc.) for causes. Good examples come from various charities appealing for donations. These examples are highly persuasive. Have students write a letter to petition the RSPCA advocating for animal rights and why we should be protecting animals that might be homeless. Before beginning revise persuasive devices such as modality, logos and ethos.
Refer to the dedication made by the author, Libby Hathorn. ‘Dedicated to the largely unsung, mostly unseen workers for young people in need’. After a brief discussion about the meaning and intent of the author set the research task. Using the internet, have students research about youth homelessness; the issues and ways that it can be prevented (see More Resources for useful websites). Organisations such as Youth on the Streets and Mission Australia work actively in this area and there may be organisations in the local area. Once students have collated their research suggest they form groups to present the information. Allow students to choose a medium with some creating a short film, others creating a visual poster (or glogster) and another preparing a short speech to the class which seeks to raise awareness on this issue. During the research and creative phases remind students to stay focused on their audience, being other Year 6 students.
Writing in a similar narrative voice to that of Shane, have students write a sequel to Way Home in which Shane comes across another animal on his journey of living life on the streets. Students should be encouraged to employ the full features of a narrative as well as create a front and back picture book cover for their story.
Rich assessment task
“Way Home gives us a more realistic snapshot of life on the streets: an unpleasant way to live and no resolution.” – Kathleen Lilliss. Have students write an opinion piece as to why young people should receive more help to prevent them living on the streets and being homeless. Gather some appropriate opinion pieces from newspapers and magazines and unpack the features before beginning. Remind students to refer to what they have learnt through their study of Way Home for the content of their piece.