Connecting to prior knowledge
Before commencing this unit of work, ask members of your school community (e.g. staff or students’ families) if they would like to share their native language by recording themselves reading Where Happiness Hides. A video recording would be best, if it can be arranged, to show facial expressions and gestures. Dirt Lane Press offers free translations of the story in the following 29 languages:
You can then share a selection of readings with your class. Alternatively, you could invite members of the school community to visit your class and read to students directly.
Reading the story
Read Where Happiness Hides to students. Share the recordings from your school community and watch some of them as a class. You could also watch the reading by Greta Scacchi on YouTube.
Introducing the story behind the story
Take students to Dirt Lane Press’ website, with the translated PDFs of Where Happiness Hides. Ask them if they have any questions about this story and its many translations into different languages. Have them turn and talk to a partner. The following prompts may help facilitate discussion:
- What are you wondering?
- What makes you ask that?
- Can you guess the answer to the question you are asking?
- Do you think you can get the answer to your question here in the classroom, or will you have to investigate elsewhere?
Now have students sit in a circle and chant the tic-tac-toe rhyme together: ‘Tic-tac-toe, here I go. Where I stop, I do not know!’ As they chant, they can either pass a prop to the person sitting next to them, or you can point to different students around the circle. When the chant ends, the student holding the prop (or the student to whom you are pointing) will share both their own and their partner’s ideas. Repeat the chant until all students have had the opportunity to share.
Return to Dirt Lane Press’ website and read the paragraph at the very top, which explains that Where Happiness Hides was written for children during the COVID-19 outbreak of 2020.
Discuss how the book and its many translations can be considered a gift to children. Students may realise that gifts can be conceptual rather than physical, in the same way that emotions are things we experience rather than things we can hold or touch.
Exploring the text in context of our community, school and ‘me’
Why do we write?
Anthony Bertini has focused on simple and memorable pleasures in Where Happiness Hides. Students have already explored why the book has been shared in such a special way; now they are going to generate ideas as to why it was written.
Reread Where Happiness Hides to the class. Introduce the stand up/hand up/pair up cooperative learning strategy, explaining that students will need to stand up and walk around the learning space with one hand in the air. When you call out ‘pair up’, they will partner with the student nearest to them and lower their hand (anyone who has not found a partner will keep their hand up until they do so). You will then give the class a discussion prompt, and students will share their ideas in their pairs. The prompts should focus on the author’s intentions and those of the students as writers:
- The author cares about …
- I care about …
- The author chose to write about …
- I choose to write about …
- The author thinks this is a good story to tell because …
- I think this is a good story to tell because …
Repeat this activity until all the prompts have been explored.
Spotlight on happiness
Reread Where Happiness Hides to the class. Focus on how the child characters experience happiness in the story and how, even when things change, they can still find happiness in their world. Ask students to think of a time when they experienced happiness. Have them ‘hold onto’ one memory in their mind, then ask them to share with a shoulder partner.
Now challenge students to describe happiness using all their senses. Display the senses chart (PDF, 81.4KB) and ask students to respond to each of the prompts as you read them aloud. They will share their ideas verbally with their shoulder partner (and, optionally, as a whole class at the end).
Rich assessment task
Thinking like a character
Reread Where Happiness Hides, using a frame (PDF, 72.7KB) to highlight the gestural elements in the story (specifically the characters’ body language). Ask students to select one of the characters and imagine what they are thinking and feeling, then complete a senses chart as if they were that character. Try to provide additional copies of the book for students to refer to throughout this task, as well as any translations for those who would like to access the story in their native language.
Responding to the text
Where Happiness Hides is a great book for modelling reading in phrases, rather than word by word. Explain to students that scooping up a few words at a time translates to a smoother reading experience. Model how you read the text by:
- scooping up a few words (a phrase)
- reading word by word like a robot
- scooping up too many words so that they cannot be read at the correct rate
Display Where Happiness Hides for the class physically or digitally (if using the video, make sure it is muted). Chorally read the book together, asking students to identify the words they will scoop up to read in one breath. Map this process for students, using appropriate tools to highlight different phrases (e.g. you might write on a sheet of transparency film placed over the pages of the book).
Now that students have had a chance to read smoothly, they will practise this skill and receive feedback from a peer. Create a class anchor chart that identifies the roles in this process:
Exploring plot, character, setting and theme
The characters in Where Happiness Hides do not have any direct speech, yet we can decipher how they feel about each other and the events in the book. It is important to recognise that the emotions conveyed by characters in books may differ from those we might experience in the same situation. Print off an emotion wheel (PDF, 165KB) for each student. This template includes two arms that students can cut out to identify emotions: one for themselves, and one for the characters. Read Where Happiness Hides to the class, stopping to ask students what emotions the characters are expressing and what they themselves would convey if they were part of the story.
Introducing a character
Students are to choose one of the characters from Where Happiness Hides and ‘introduce’ them as if they were a friend. They do not have to invent names for the characters, but they should use appropriate pronouns and descriptions based on what they do in the book. For example: ‘My character likes to climb trees. She also likes to hold fabric in the air while she runs.’ Students can take turns introducing their character to the rest of the class, going around in a circle or rolling a ball from one speaker to the next.
Rich assessment task
Thinking and speaking like a character
Introduce the concept of thought and speech bubbles and explain the difference between the two (a visual aid may be useful). Split the class into groups with copies of the book and have them turn through the pages, pausing on each spread to consider what the characters might be thinking or what they might want to say. Each student should come up with one thought and one comment for each character, writing thought and speech bubbles on separate sticky notes. They will stick the bubbles around the relevant character on each page, then repeat the process for the rest of the spreads in the book.
Examining text structure and organisation
Ask students whether they think this book is fact or fiction and discuss their reasoning. Create a class anchor chart that articulates the differences for future reference. You could even add pictures of different book covers to reinforce students’ understanding.
Print out the emotion pictures (PDF, 141KB) – you might need several sets at the ready. As you reread Where Happiness Hides to the class, match the pictures to the emotions the characters are displaying in the book. You could even add your own emotion pictures into the mix, drawing faces on sticky notes and attaching them to the pages.
Transfer the emotion pictures in the order they appear to a large sheet of paper, representing the story’s emotional path (you could also map this using an interactive whiteboard). Have students reflect the emotional path by acting out different facial expressions. This could look like:
Happy > excited > happy > happy > worried > sad > happy > calm
Place ticks above the joyful emotions and beneath the concerned emotions to further explain how a story can convey a range of feelings.
Read a book like Michael Foreman’s Fortunately, Unfortunately to students. Map the new emotions experienced by Foreman’s characters, first in the book and then on a separate emotional path.
Place the paths side-by-side so that students can compare the stories and the responses they evoke. Discuss the pattern (or lack thereof) between the two.
Looking for the problem and resolution
Revisit Where Happiness Hides and Fortunately, Unfortunately. Discuss how both books encourage the reader to look at the brighter side of life, and to notice that there are still opportunities for fun or joy even when things don’t go our way. The difference between the books lies in their problem and resolution pattern. Ask students to help find the problem and resolution in each story, standing up when a problem is posed and sitting down when it is resolved.
After reading both books, ask students explain the problem and resolution pattern for each story, using illustrations to assist their explanation.
Examining grammar and vocabulary
Identify some words in Where Happiness Hides that students may not have understood or engaged with and write them on a board. These might include ‘brim’ (p. 9), ‘bowing’ (p. 20) and ‘beckon’ (p. 29). Brainstorm some different methods of working out what a word means, such as:
- consulting a reference (e.g. looking in a dictionary or another book, or even asking someone)
- rereading to work out the meaning of difficult words
- skipping the unfamiliar word and reading to the end of the sentence (or next few sentences) for context clues
More information about reading strategies can be found on p. 114 of the First Steps Literacy Reading Resource Book.
Using mood to become a word detective
Reread Where Happiness Hides to the class, pointing out the words you have identified for investigation. You could place removable sticky flags over these words or write them on a whiteboard for display. Stop whenever you encounter one of these words and inform students that they will need to think like detectives to find clues in the text. You could ask:
- Is this a word you have read before? Have you read it in another book?
- What is the mood like? Is it happy, sad, or something else?
- What feeling do you get from this word?
- What is your prediction for this word? What strategy have you used to work this out?
- Check the word’s meaning – were you correct?
Rich assessment task
Jumping into the story
Draw students’ attention to pp. 18–19. Ask them what could be in the box of shiny things. They should think about one item they would like to see in the box and how it would make them feel. Discuss how applying an emotion to an item creates a connection that can be shared with the reader.
Students will then craft a sentence or two that describes their chosen item. Encourage them to use descriptive language for both the item and the way it makes them feel. These sentences can be compiled in a class book that represents a box of shiny things.
Create some feedback sticks by writing reflective prompts on large popsicle sticks. The prompts could include:
- I liked it how you …
- I found it interesting how you …
- This made me think of …
- Can you tell me why you … ?
- You could also …
- Could you add … ?
Place students in small heterogeneous groups. Ask them to use feedback sticks to provide feedback on their peers’ writing from the previous Rich Assessment Task (Examining). If this is students’ first time delivering feedback, establish and practise some protocols before conducting this activity.
Revisit the title of Where Happiness Hides, pointing out that many of the locations depicted throughout the book are outdoors and accessible by many people. Ask students to illustrate a scene or location that brings them happiness. You could provide a range of materials or have students emulate Jennifer Goldsmith’s style by focusing on pencil and watercolours. You can view more of Goldsmith’s illustrations here.
Once students have completed their illustrations, have them work with a partner to identify the emotions they feel when viewing their scene. Have each student record the feedback from their peer so they can review it later.
Planning the inside story
Thinking about how people react to settings is an important part of crafting a story. The Rich Assessment Task from the Responding section had students craft thought and speech bubbles. The next task builds on this experience by asking students how thoughts connect to emotions. Ask them to record the feelings that their illustration evokes (they can refer to their partner’s earlier feedback), then what it makes them think about. A template (PDF, 82.3KB) may assist with this task.
Rich assessment task
Where our happiness hides
Students will create a class book from the scenes they have illustrated, adding text to explain where their happiness is found. Ask students to craft one or two sentences explaining what brings them happiness in their scene, just like in the book. Before they begin writing, remind students that they can revisit their partner’s feedback about how they felt when viewing the scene.
It would be wonderful to ask members of your school community, including students, to record the class book in the language(s) they speak at home. These can be shared in the school library and across the school community.