Teaching and learning cycle lesson: level 5 and 6, The City

Lesson text

 The City by Armin Greder, first published by Allen & Unwin, Australia in 2010

Set in what could possibly be medieval Europe, a mother takes her child away from the city, in order to spare him the dangers he might encounter there. She takes the child to a place far away and happily cares for him, until one moonless night she dies. Insecure and full of fear the boy sets off to find his own way in the world.

The text contains the following areas for investigation:

  • charcoal and pencil illustrations
  • colour and shade
  • vectors
  • salience
  • the use of white spaces
  • multiple images to form a sequence
  • framing
  • varied sentence structures
  • the use of adjectivals and adverbials
  • sentence theme (what is positioned as prominent in a sentence)
  • verb groups
  • noun groups
  • pronouns.

1. Building the field: The City

Links to the English curriculum

  • Reading and Viewing, Language: Expressing and developing ideas
  • Level 6: Identify and explain how analytical images like figures, tables, diagrams, maps and graphs contribute to our understanding of verbal information in factual and persuasive texts (Content description VCELA340)
  • Reading and Viewing, Literacy: Interpreting, analysing, evaluating
  • Level 6: Select, navigate and read increasingly complex texts for a range of purposes, applying appropriate text processing strategies to recall information and consolidate meaning (Content description VCELY346)
  • Speaking and Listening, Literacy: Interacting with others
  • Level 6: Participate in and contribute to discussions, clarifying and interrogating ideas, developing and supporting arguments, sharing and evaluating information, experiences and opinions, and use interaction skills, varying conventions of spoken interactions according to group size, formality of interaction and needs and expertise of the audience (Content description VCELY366)

Theory/practice connections

Searching for information will inevitably lead students to online research. Choosing sites, navigating pages, using hyperlinks are aspects to teach and explore with students. It cannot be assumed that all students have grown up with access to digital devices, nor can it be assumed that students know how to use digital devices to meet their academic needs. Websites can be examined during shared reading sessions. When teaching about websites, choose features that are strongly represented (Callow, 2012). Students will need to develop the metalanguage to talk about web-based texts, in order to effectively communicate and collaborate with peers. 

Learning intention

We are learning to use sources and present information.

Success criteria

  • I can use websites to find information about the facilities available in my local area.
  • I can read and make inferences about population maps.
  • I can create and administer a survey.
  • I can present information in visual ways.

Role of the reader

Text participant: Synthesising what we know with new information from online sources.

Group size

Individual, partner, small group, whole class.

Learning sequence

  1. Students brainstorm the reasons we live in our local area.  Refer to the local council website for more ideas about the affordances of the local area. Based on what students know about the area, they create a survey for their families to complete, investigating the reasons families live in the area.  Consider how the data could be presented  - Likert scale, questionnaire, Google form etc. Compare the results from the survey to the brainstorm.
  2. Use an online population map of Australia to initiate discussions about where people live. Explicitly teach the language to negotiate the map. Ask students to consider why certain areas are more populated. Begin a vocabulary list of the technical words needed to talk about population density - urban, urbanisation, rural, density, local etc.
  3. Create a class visual continuum from least populated areas to most populated areas, by finding images of the outback, pastoral areas, suburban areas, city areas and central business districts. Research 'liveability' and create a checklist for liveability and apply it to the areas on the continuum.

    Assessment: Students participate in small group discussions to share their thinking. Anecdotal records can be taken on student participation, logical reasoning and use of language to explain thinking.
  4. Look at the front cover of Armin Greder's The City. How does it compare with the urban areas we have examined?  Students work with a partner to determine the place and time of the city depicted on the front cover. Read the text to students.

Differentiation

Activity 4, which asks students to consider time and place may be difficult for students who have little experience of European history.  The teacher can scaffold this step by asking students to conduct an internet search on medieval instruments, the history of Carnevale in Italy and European cities in the 1600 and 1700s.

Able students can be afforded the opportunity to participate in data research about urbanisation and its social effects, present their findings through various written, visual or graphic texts. This task has strong curriculum links to Mathematics. 

2. Deconstructing The City: The verbal and visual

Links to the English curriculum

  • Reading and Viewing, Literature: Literature and context
  • Level 5: Use metalanguage to describe the effects of ideas, text structures and language features on particular audiences (Content description VCELT314)
  • Level 6: Identify and explain how choices in language, including modality, emphasis, repetition and metaphor, influence personal response to different texts (Content description VCELT342)
  • Reading and Viewing, Literature: Examining Literature
  • Level 6: Identify the relationship between words, sounds, imagery and language patterns in narratives and poetry such as ballads, limericks and free verse (Content description VCELT344)
  • Reading and Viewing, Literacy: Texts in context
  • Level 5: Analyse the text structures and language features used in imaginative, informative and persuasive texts to meet the purpose of the text (Content description VCELY320)
  • Writing, Language: Expressing and developing ideas
  • Level 6: Investigate how complex sentences can be used in a variety of ways to elaborate, extend and explain ideas (Content description VCELA350)
  • Writing, Language: Text structure and organisation
  • Level 5: Understand that the starting point of a sentence gives prominence to the message in the text and allows for prediction of how the text will unfold (Content description VCELA321)
  • Writing, Language: Expressing and developing ideas
  • Level 5: Understand how noun groups/phrases and adjective groups/phrases can be expanded in a variety of ways to provide a fuller description of the person, place, thing or idea (Content description VCELA324)
  • Level 6: Understand how ideas can be expanded and sharpened through careful choice of verbs, elaborated tenses and a range of adverb groups/phrases (Content description VCELA351)
  • Speaking and Listening, Literature: Literature and context
  • Level 5: Present a point of view about particular literary texts using appropriate metalanguage, and reflecting on the viewpoints of others (Content description VCELT336)

Theory/practice connections

Understanding characters in narratives is more than simply offering character description. Rich narratives show how characters change across the text. We can monitor how characters change by considering their experiences, what they say, and why the characters act in particular ways.

The setting and the plot contribute to the reasons for characters to change. It is important for students to be able to infer meaning, in order to reach deep understandings about characters and the themes that surround them.

Picture storybooks provide the reader with multiple sources to make meaning. The visuals may mirror the verbal; provide additional information or provide an alternate reading to the written text. Analysing the interplay between the visuals and the written text will provide scope for a character study.

Learning intention

We are learning to analyse character changes that occur in stories and note why these occur.

Success criteria

  • I can articulate how and why a character has changed.
  • I can relate a character's feelings and actions to the way they change.
  • I can use evidence in the text to support my ideas.

Role of the reader

Text meaning maker: focusing on decoding the elements in the visuals and understanding how the grammatical elements add meaning to the text.

Group size

Individual, partner, small group, whole class.

Learning sequence to deconstruct The City

  1. Read the text to the students, pausing at certain stages to offer think time. Think time is a quiet reflective time, when students can record their thinking, note a question or make a comment. Once the text has been read, students share their thinking in small groups.
  2. Re-read the text to students. Explain to students that they are going to plot the changes that occur with the two main characters - the woman and the boy. This will be achieved by analysing the pictures and the texts on each double page spread. Students work in pairs to provide an analysis of a double page spread, by examining the following areas:

    • page number
    • what has happened
    • what the character says or does
    • how the character has changed
    • what the pictures tell the reader
    • what the words tell the reader.
    Students share their thinking with the class group. By participating in this task, students are presenting a collective recount of the story, they analyse the aspects of plot, consider characters motive and feeling, and have the opportunity to address the story's themes.

    Text deconstruction of The City by Armin Greder​ (docx - 449.98kb) 

This document can be used to lead teacher discussion or be explored with students in small groups.

Differentiation

Comprehending text at the inferential and evaluative level relies on the students' background knowledge, vocabulary and critical thinking. Some students will need greater support in these areas. Teacher knowledge about the students is vital, when determining what support is needed and how the support is enacted. The downloadable table provides teachers with some insights into the text analysis, which can be used for explicit teaching of concepts or language, should it be needed. Students will need an understanding of the metalanguage to discuss the visual and language features.

All students should have the opportunity to construct texts, with the above mentioned concepts and language structures.

3. Writing book reviews: The Island and The City

This lesson is organised around the Teaching and Learning Cycle.

Links to the English curriculum

  • Reading and Viewing, Language: Text structure and organisation
  • Level 5: Understand how texts vary in purpose, structure and topic as well as the degree of formality (Content description VCELA309)
  • Reading and Viewing, Literature: Examining literature
  • Level 5: Recognise that ideas in literary texts can be conveyed from different viewpoints, which can lead to different kinds of interpretations and responses (Content description VCELT315)
  • Reading and Viewing, Literacy: Interpreting, analysing, evaluating
  • Level 5: Use comprehension strategies to analyse information, integrating and linking ideas from a variety of print and digital sources (Content description VCELY319)
  • Level 6: Select, navigate and read increasingly complex texts for a range of purposes, applying appropriate text processing strategies to recall information and consolidate meaning (Content description VCELY346)
  • Writing, Language: Expressing and developing ideas
  • Level 5: Understand how noun groups/phrases and adjective groups/phrases can be expanded in a variety of ways to provide a fuller description of the person, place, thing or idea (Content description VCELA324)
  • Level 5: Understand the use of vocabulary to express greater precision of meaning, and know that words can have different meanings in different contexts (Content description VCELA325)
  • Writing, Literacy: Creating texts
  • Level 5: Plan, draft and publish imaginative, informative and persuasive print and multimodal texts, choosing text structures, language features, images and sound appropriate to purpose and audience (Content description VCELY329)

Theory/practice connections

Students' school experiences will expose them to a variety of text types. Working with text types involves organising language to meet a social purpose (Humphrey, Droga & Feez, 2012). 

Students can be assisted to compose texts, which meet specific social purposes by using scaffolds or proformas. However, it is important to ensure that students are aware that there are many ways in which texts can be organised to meet a social purpose. For example, an information text could be a graph, a diagram, a visual text with symbols, a verbal text etc. 

Additional resources 

  • examples of reviews in paper format and links to online sites
  • proforma for writing a review.

Learning intentions

We are learning to review books.

Success criteria

  • I can state the purpose of reviews.
  • I can place reviews along a continuum of formality.
  • I know how to structure a written review.
  • I can use language to show judgement and language to persuade.

Group size

Individual, partner, small group, whole class.

Learning sequence

Occurs over several sessions

  1. Clearly state the learning intention and explain to students that they will work in small groups, to plan a library display, promoting Armin Greder's work. To prepare for this task students re-read The Island and The City. They may also have access to other books Armin Greder has illustrated, such as I am Thomas, The Great Bear and An Ordinary Day. 
  2. Students negotiate how to present the display and create a plan of action. The display must include a synopsis of the books, presentation of the texts' themes and book reviews.
  3. Supporting students to write reviews: Building the field of knowledge - The purpose of reviews

  4. Conduct a floor storming activity, where students sit around cards with words or images from reviews. For example: highly recommended, great, suitable for young children, should, must, thumbs up icon, smiley face icon, tick icon, three stars. Discuss when they have heard these words used or seen such icons. Lead students to the notion of reviews and brainstorm experiences with reviews in their lives. This could include reviews they see on cooking shows, after a football match, movie recommendations etc. Students create a definition for ‘reviews’.
  5. Deconstructing reviews

  6. Provide students with a number of written reviews, including online links to reviews. Students match each review with the definition of a review previously created. Consider if the definition needs to be modified.
  7. Students create a list of commonalities found in reviews – these could include structure of the texts, the use of vocabulary, purpose, use of visuals etc.
  8. On a language continuum from least formal language to most formal language, plot where most of the reviews occur.  Encourage students to explain why (Many reviews use more informal language, directly speaking to the reader and referencing the reader with the pronoun ‘you’. This serves to strengthen the relationship between writer and reader, and encourage the reader to accept the opinions and recommendations of the review).
  9. Modelling reviews

  10. Present students with a scaffold of a book review, as an example of one way of structuring this type of writing. E.g.
    • Introduction: Introductory sentence presenting the book and author. Information about the type of book
    • Offer information about the book, which the reader will find of interest – a character description, themes of the text, setting, use of interesting language etc. Any important quotes from the text can be included in this section. Each idea should be included in a new paragraph. This section will include the language of judgement
    • The reviewer’s response – likes and dislikes about the book
    • The suggested audience for whom the book is written
    • Recommendation to read or not to read, referring back to the text.  This section will include language to persuade. 
  11. With the use of the above scaffold, model the writing an exemplar text. Make explicit to students the language of judgement, to show the writer’s view towards the text.  For example: The endearing characters, The entertaining story, The fast-moving plot. (A simple way of including judgement is through the build up of the noun group.)Also, model the language of persuasion.  I highly recommend this book, if you are interested in history.  It is a must read!
  12. Jointly construct text

  13. Students work in small groups to jointly construct two paragraphs for an Armin Greder text. One paragraph will include the language of judgement, the other will include the language of persuasion. Project students’ writing onto an interactive whiteboard, to use for peer feedback and editing. Use examples from the students’ text to create charts for language of judgement and persuasion, for later reference.
  14. Students complete a cloze activity, using the reviews used earlier on, where language of judgement or persuasion have been removed. Once completed students can check their responses against the original text. Assessment: This can be used as a language assessment activity.
  15. Independent construction of text

  16. Students write their own reviews based on The Island and The City.
  17. Students present their work to peers for feedback and editing.
  18. Students collaborate to construct their author display for the school library.

Differentiation

Reviews can take on different degrees of formality. More able students can be involved in experimentation of how language can change, to make it more/less formal. These students can consider when a more formal review would be better suited.

The structure of the review can be further scaffolded by slowing down the pace of the teaching. Each day, the teacher can model the sections of the review, across several days.  Students could participate in a joint construction and then write independently about that section. For students who need extra assistance with writing, guided writing or interactive writing session may be appropriate.