Exploring Unreliable Narrators in the Classroom

Books which tell us the story from the perspective of one of the main characters can often have unreliable narrators - narrators you can’t quite trust 100%. These unreliable narrators can be fascinating to explore in the classroom - allowing us to take a closer look at the intentions of the author and what kind of person these characters are.

 
Exploring Unreliable Narrators in the Classroom. A quick look at first person narratives with unreliable narrators and how we can explore them in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

The Unaware Narrator

Jamal in Boy Overboard (by Morris Gleitzman) is sure that he and his sister have arrived at a soccer match. Only to discover that he is terribly wrong.

Jamal is a character who often only has part of the story. He is forced to fill in the gaps with the knowledge he does have, but many times his conclusions aren’t right and he has to reassess and draw new conclusions. As readers there are times when we are aware that he doesn’t have it quite right (or we soon find out that is the case) and we have to assess whether we will believe his next conclusion, or treat it with a level of scepticism.

Morris Gleitzman writes a LOT of characters like this. Which makes sense because childhood often feels like this - like you have some of the puzzle pieces, but someone’s hidden the picture which helps you put them together.

Another great example of a character like this is Mothball the Wombat from Jackie French and Bruce Whatley’s Diary of a Wombat story. In this case, the illustrations soon let us know that the scratching post is a ladder and the furry enemy is really a doormat, so we find ourselves carrying two narratives through the story - the narrative in Mothball’s head and the narrative we can tell from the illustrations.

Exploring Unaware Narrators in the Classroom

These can be great fun to explore in the classroom because our own knowledge, experiences and schema may be able to help us fill in the gaps. Comparing what our narrators think is happening and what is really happening allows us to understand where our characters come from - whether they’re boys or wombats.

It also allows us to explore the intentions of the author. An author study on Morris Gleitzman books would be particularly interesting, looking at what information he gives his narrators before the events of the book, what conclusions they draw from that information when they’re in unfamiliar circumstances and what they learn going forward.

When we explore a character like Mothball, we can also look at the choices the author has made - the wombat understands certain terms like sleep, scratch and - of course - carrots, but hasn’t come up across concepts like garden beds, door mats or washing lines. Why has the author made those choices for our wombat narrator? How would the story be different if there were different choices?

The Deliberately Unreliable Narrator

Erica Yurken is the best thing since sliced bread. Or at least she is in her own mind. And in the stories she tells others.

Robin Klein’s classic novel Hating Alison Ashley is told from the perspective of Erica Yurken who constantly creates stories about herself and others to amuse herself, get herself out of trouble or to impress other people - including Alison Ashley.

If we just listened to Erica, we would probably be inclined to hate Alison Ashley ourselves. But there are things which make us question Erica’s trustworthiness - times when she gets caught out in her stories, times when she contradicts herself and times when we glimpse her through the eyes of other characters. The author knows that Erica is not reliable and wants the reader to know this too.

We find another unreliable narrator in the Do Not Open This Book series from Andy Lee. Our narrator desperately wants us to stop turning the pages (because dreadful things happen to him when we do), so he’ll try anything to stop us - even turning the book around so we’ll turn the pages from back to front. The illustrations, eventual confessions and meta-knowledge of how books work allows us to know that our narrator is not the most trustworthy of characters - even if he’s only being unreliable to save his own skin.

A. Wolf is also just trying to save his skin in The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. He’s found himself in jail and he wants us to know that it’s not his fault at all - it’s all because he needed to borrow some sugar.

In this case, it’s our own background knowledge - our understanding of fairy tales - which makes us question his honesty. After all - we’ve never heard this story before. But we keep reading to see how he’s going to justify his terrible crimes.

 
 

Exploring Deliberately Unreliable Narrators in the Classroom

The biggest questions we can ask in our classrooms when it comes to deliberately unreliable narrators is why do they behave like this? Why are they trying to mislead us - the readers - and what will they get if they manage this?

We can also challenge students to write first person narration like this. To consider what motivates a character and then have them tell a story where they work to convince the reader of something which may not be quite true. This works particularly well when students begin with well known stories like fairy tales and myths and try to tell the story from the perspective of the ‘bad guy’.

What unreliable narrators have you come across in your reading? Have you used a book with an unreliable narrator in your classroom? Leave a comment below.

 
 

3 Ways Students Can Use Folding Resources to Explore Characters

You probably know how much I love interactive notebook resources! So far I’ve written two blog posts exploring how to use them to explore vocabulary and how to make comparisons. But as someone who adores book studies, I couldn’t resist sharing some ways you can use interactive notebook resources to explore character. (Don’t miss the free resources as well!)

 
3 Ways Students Can Use Folding Resources to Explore Characters. An exploration of interactive notebook resources for book studies and more. A Galarious Goods Blog Post
 
 
 

These folding resources use a picture of the character’s face (or the whole character) to combine creativity and understanding of the character in one resource.

Students are provided with a ‘cover’ image of the character with a side or top tab. They cut around the outside, then fold the tab on the dotted line. The tab is pasted into their notebook or onto paper and the cover is lifted so students can write about the character under the cover.

This is a really adaptable resource because students can use a template or create their own character images. As long as they include a side or top tab, it works as a folding resource.

Take it further

  • Students can use it to explore a character they’re writing about

  • Students can work in pairs or small groups to explore all the main characters of a book. These can be put together to create a display

  • Students can recreate a ‘scene’ from a book with the lifting character resources.

2. Circular Character Folding Resource

 
 

A circular folding resource is a great way for students to explore particular characteristics of a character.

Students cut out the circle and between the tabs, fold up the tabs, then paste the middle into their notebooks or into paper. The top of the tabs include different aspects of the character for students to explore - they write the answers to these under the tabs.

Take it further

  • Students can create multiple folding resources to make a display.

  • Students can use this in their own creative writing to assess the characters they’re writing

3. Character Booklet Folding Resource

 
 

This is a great way for students to take a really in-depth look at a character. Students can use a folding booklet to explore questions like what kind of character they are, why they behave the way they do and their relationships with others in on compact resource.

Students cut out the folding resource on the solid lines and fold in the sides on the dotted lines. They answer the questions on the inside, then add details or decorate the outside.

Take it further

  • Students can leave off the name of the character and challenge others to work out who the character is

  • Students can use these as part of a ‘book talk’ or ‘book promotion’ for a character

  • Students can create these as assessment for a particular book

 
 
 
 

3 Ways Students Can Use Folding Resources to Make Comparisons

I love folding resources and interactive notebook resources. They’re a great tool students can use to understand, remember and share content and ideas. I’ve previously shown three ways you can use folding resources to explore vocabulary. Today, here’s three ways students can use folding resources and interactive notebook resources to make comparisons.

 
3 Ways Students Can Use Folding Resources to Make Comparisons. Explore these three different types of interactive notebook folding resources perfect for students to create comparisons on different topics. A Galarious Goods Blog Post
 
 
 

This resource uses a background and flaps to compare different characters, people in history, events and more. Students attach flaps or tabs to the sides or the middle of the background sheet, with a heading or headings on the outside of the resource and the similarities and differences or characteristics under the flaps.

This is particularly good when looking at the similarities and differences of characters. Students can write the character names on the front of the resource and lift one flap to share the similarities and the other to share the differences. You can also extend the resource to 4 or 6 characters and write some of the qualities of each character under the tabs.

Because this organiser just uses straight lines, students can easily make their own. Or you can download the free resource to get a printed copy.

2. Sliding Resource

 
 

This resource uses a folded ‘sleeve’ and an insert card to make comparisons. When it’s completed, the students can slide the insert card back and forward to see the comparisons. These can go into notebooks or be used to create classroom displays - especially for complex topics or novel studies.

Students make the sleeve by folding the two side sections backwards and fastening them behind the middle section. The card - which has a dividing line in the middle - then slides through.

This would be particularly good when exploring government or civics topics. Students could compare different levels of government, the roles of different people involved in government or even different types of government.

3. Turning Card Resource

 
 

This resource includes a pocket and an insert. The insert is created by folding a piece in half and fastening it together. Students can write about one thing on one side and one on the other (or similarities on one side and differences on the other. These can also be used to make a wall display.

The tabs on the pocket are folded back so they are tucked behind the main part of the pocket. These tabs are then fastened to the page or display board. The prepared insert goes inside the pocket and can be taken out and ‘flipped’ as required.

As well as characters or events, this can be used to compare settings of books, famous historical figures, things from a long time ago and things from now, different books - even different animals!

 
 
 
 

Introducing Hating Alison Ashley

Hating Alison Ashley by Robin Klein has been a staple of Australian classrooms for decades now - and for good reason! This classic Australian novel still holds its own against more modern novels and is the perfect book to engage your upper primary readers.

 
Introducing Hating Alison Ashley. A look at Hating Alison Ashley, the classic Australian middle grades novel by Robin Klein - and why it's perfect for upper primary classrooms. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Hating Alison Ashley is the story of Erica Yurken - a Year 6 student with big dreams and bigger stories who finds her world turned upside down when the seemingly perfect Alison Ashley arrives at her disadvantaged school. As the story progresses, and Erica gets more frustrated with Alison taking on her position of ‘best student’ we see that Alison’s life might not be as perfect as it seems - and Erica might have a real direction to take her big imagination.

Why should you teach Hating Alison Ashley in your classroom?

1. It’s still really relevant!

There’s an occasional reference which seems a bit out of place in Hating Alison Ashley, but it’s still tackling themes and ideas which feel relevant to students today - our position in our class or school, friendships or lack of them, embarrassing families, dealing with teachers and of course - school camp.

Hating Alison Ashley gives students a launching point to discuss some of these ideas and what they would do if they were in the positions that Erica and Alison find themselves in throughout the story.

2. Erica Yurken

Erica knows she is smart. She knows she is the best thing her school has ever known. But maybe, just maybe, is there a possibility she isn’t quite as smart as she thinks she is?

Erica is a brutally real character. She’s funny and smart, but also super frustrating at times. She narrates the story, so we see it from her point of view, but sometimes she gives us just enough information to wonder what the story would be like if someone else was telling it.

Erica in the book also makes me wonder what she would be like as a teenager or an adult. She’s an incredibly memorable character, and it’s definitely worth the time exploring her closer.

 
 

3. The other real characters

Hating Alison Ashley is filled with characters who feel real - from Alison Ashley who looks perfect but has a less than perfect family life to Barry Hollis who does all sorts of terrible things - but seems to be looking for read friendships as much as Erica is. Erica’s family includes her super embarrassing younger sister and strangely absent-but-there older brother who live in dream worlds as much as Erica does as well as Valjoy, who is just the right amount of terrifying. The teachers are also a delight to read - feeling incredibly real as they take on super challenging tasks each day. Then there’s Lennie - Erica’s mother’s boyfriend - who comes in to save the day at just the right time.

These characters elevate the story, allowing students more areas to explore and discuss. Is Erica fair to Lennie? Is Barry Hollis really misguided? What skills do you need to be a teacher at Erica’s school?

4. The novel is really accessible - but has room for deeper exploration

Hating Alison Ashley isn’t a particularly long novel. It would be possible to read the book fairly quickly, either with students reading alone or a mixture of along reading, teacher reading and guided reading. It’s set in a fairly familiar setting - an Australian school in an Australian suburb - so students already have some background knowledge as they step into the world. The writing is good - but it isn’t overwhelmingly complex. It’s easily a novel every student can engage in reading.

But the themes allow for a wide range of explorations for more advanced readers. Unravelling Erica as a character can be an in-depth task on its own! Students can also compare characters, look at the choices made throughout the book by the characters and the author, look at how Erica relates to the people around her and engage in creative tasks around the book.

Have you read Hating Alison Ashley with a class - or as a student? Share your experiences in the comments!

 
 

Exploring The Girl With a Mind For Math in the Classroom

The Girl With a Mind for Math is a beautiful book from the creative team of Julia Finley Mosca and Daniel Rieley. Telling the story of Raye Montague who pioneered new ways of designing ships in the US Navy, this is a must have book for the classroom - and one which can be used in a number of different lessons.

 
Exploring The Girl With a Mind for Math in the Classroom. Explore this picture book memoir of the amazing Raye Montague by author Julia Finley Mosca and illustrator Daniel Rieley. This blog post explores why it's great for the classroom and a range of teaching ideas as well as a free resource. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

This is the third book from Julia Finley Mosca and Daniel Rieley (and the team at The Innovation Press) focusing on the life and achievements of great scientists. The Girl With a Mind for Math introduces us to Raye Montague who was just a young girl when her grandfather took her to visit a submarine, inspiring her to one day design ships just like it. However, Raye was born into the segregated south of the USA, and as a black girl she would have to fight to get the education she wanted to get. Her persistence and hard work and the support of her family over a number of years helped her finally achieve her goal and allowed her to bring new design ideas into the US Navy.

Why is this book important?

Told in relatively simple rhyme, A Girl With a Mind for Math allows readers an accessible insight into the world of a remarkable mathematician. With the extensive additional material at the end of the book, adults reading with children can help them gain an even deeper understanding of Raye Montague and the importance of her work, as well as the systemic barriers she faced as she worked to achieve her dream.

Picture book memoirs and biographies can be used across a wide range of grades. Young students can bring illustrations and words together to discover new worlds, while older readers can experience the story and gain background knowledge to support further research without having to wade through material often designed for adult readers.

This is also a story we should all know, but may not. Raye Montague was named a ‘hidden figure’ of the US Navy; someone whose contributions may have been overlooked or not remembered or celebrated as much as they should have been. Her achievements would be extraordinary for anyone - to design a ship by computer in less than 19 hours even though she had been given a month to work on it - but they are especially noteworthy as you learn the story of what she had to do to learn the skills she needed to achieve this feat.

 
 

Ways to Use The Girl With a Mind for Math in the Classroom

The Girl With a Mind for Math is a great book to share with your students or to add to your classroom library. But you can also use it for a range of teaching moments.

Explore machines used by the military

Often times when we think about the military, we think about those who fight in the armed forces. But it’s worth taking a little time to look at what happens behind the scenes and the machines which are used to assist the military. Some of these machines have become famous in history (like the aircraft of World War 2) and it can be interesting to look at how these were designed, how they worked and how they changed the way battles were fought or life was made safer for armed forces.

The Girl With a Mind For Math is just a little insight to that behind the scenes work - there are many scientists, mathematicians and engineers who have worked for the military to create machines!

Uncover other under recognised people of STEM

Students can go for their own search for STEM people in history who should be well known but aren’t. They might like to use their research to write memoirs or create museum displays or can even create a website or podcast series to share their discoveries with others. It can be a great way to explore research skills as well.

Explore some of the themes of the book

There are so many themes to explore in The Girl With a Mind for Math. Students can look at some of Raye Montague’s defining characteristics such as persistence and hard work, compare these with other examples from other people or reflect on how they can use these skills in their own lives.

Older students might like to explore discrimination and how it can impact the lives of people historically and today. The book gives several examples of discrimination faced by Raye Montague; students can also examine other notable people and the challenges they faced due to discrimination.

Download a Freebie for The Girl With a Mind for Math

Want a free resource to go with The Girl With a Mind for Math? Galarious Goods was thrilled to create an Interactive Timeline, along with additional questions for teachers to use, for students to set out notable moments in Raye Montague’s life. This is a great way to get an overall understanding of the book, and a good starting place for a more in-depth exploration.

You can see how the resource goes together in this video!

 
 


Have you read The Girl With a Mind for Math? Have you used it in your classroom?

 
 

Exploring Three Galarious Goods Picture Book Studies for Upper Primary

I love picture books. I love reading them. I love exploring them more thoroughly. And I love creating a range of activities to bring them to life in classrooms around the world. I have a house full of picture books and a list full of studies to tackle.

But right now, I wanted to introduce a couple of books to you, and the book studies which will help you to bring them alive in your classroom

 
Exploring three Galarious Goods picture book studies for upper primary. Looking at Drought, The Peasant Prince and Memorial, and my favourite parts of the comprehensive book studies for these books. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin and Anne Spudvilas

This is the autobiographical picture book story of Li Cunxin, who spent his early childhood living in a small peasant village in China until he was chosen to join a ballet school in Beijing. It’s a story of family, working hard and following dreams.

This lovely story is excellent to explore for classrooms looking at persistence, or classrooms exploring memoirs or biographical texts. Students can compare it to other biographical and autobiographical picture books (including The Little Refugee by Anh and Suzanna Do or The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield).

This book study includes comprehension, reader response and review activities as well as activities exploring Li Cunxin, allegories and writing memoirs.

One of my favourite things is the interactive notebook activity which brings together a quick retell and student impressions of the book. You can see how this activity goes together here:

 
 

Drought by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

This is the fourth book in the natural disaster series from Jackie French and Bruce Whately and a beautiful, heartbreaking look at drought and its impact on the people, animals and land.

Drought is an incredibly important book and a great way to open discussion about drought and to prompt further research about what causes drought and how we can help communities who are going through droughts.

The extensive book study for Drought includes comprehension, reader response, vocabulary, language, theme, research and writing tasks. It’s everything you need to take a comprehensive look, with most activities available in a variety of formats to suit your classroom and your students.

I love this little interactive notebook activity within the book study which explores what happened before, during and after the drought. You can see how it goes together here:

 
 

Memorial by Gary Crew and Shaun Tan

I adore the work by both of these creators and this is a truly special book - the benchmark for books which deal with Australian involvement in wars. It tells two stories - the story of family and the impact of war on the family and the story of two war memorials - a statue and a tree - which have had a world grow up around them.

This is a must read if you are looking for activities around Anzac Day or Remembrance Day or when you’re exploring the impact of war on Australia and Australians. There are so many avenues for further discussion, from looking at whether the tree should be removed, to exploring how we can create memorials for those who fight (and die) in wars.

The book study for Memorial takes a really close look at the book, encouraging students to develop questions, to look at how the text is structured to tell a story through conversation and dialogue, to look at the symbols included within the picture book.

One activity asks students to look at what Memorial says about memories and what it says about war. Students discuss the message of the story, then put together an interactive notebook resource where they can record those messages. You can see how it goes together here

 
 
 
 

3 Easy Ways to Explore Alpacas with Maracas

Alpacas with Maracas by Matt Cosgrove is a book packed with great language and enticing pictures - making it perfect to read to an audience. It’s no surprise that it was chosen as the 2019 National Simultaneous Storytime book, and it’s sure to be a classroom read aloud staple for years to come.

But what else can you do with this great book? And what can you do if you’ve only got limited time and resources to explore it? Here’s three easy ways to explore Alpacas with Maracas when it’s your classroom read aloud book.

 
3 Easy Ways to Explore Alpacas with Maracas. Easy Ways for teachers to take a closer look at Alpacas with Maracas by Matt Cosgrove. Perfect for school story telling, this blog post includes a free resource as it looks at story telling, vocabulary, movement and character lessons. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

1. Make Dance Patterns with Maracas

The whole book Alpacas with Maracas is an invitation to get up and dance. While maracas are perfect for this, any shaking percussion tool - from bells to shakers to dried beans in containers - will also allow students to explore the patterns in movement and rhythm.

Students can start with a good old fashioned dance party. Once you’ve read the book, you can invite the students to move like Macca and Al, shaking their musical instruments and getting their groove and move on. You can follow this up with talking about how dancing makes you feel and why people might dance.

Students can also explore shaking to a beat. You can clap out a rhythm for students to follow, explore 4/4 time, explore what happens if you skip a beat or play with different groups of students playing at different times in different parts of the room. Your school music teacher may be able to help you come up with some interesting patterns to explore as well!

Finally students can explore making dance patterns by moving their maracas in different ways. Students can move their maracas (or shakers or bells) up and down, diagonally, to the left and right and in front of them. How can they use these directions to make up a dance routine? And how could they write it down or draw it for other students to follow?

2. Explore the Vivid Verbs of Alpacas with Maracas

Alpacas with Maracas is FILLED with wonderful words including some lovely verbs. Students can find the verbs throughout the text, using them to create a poster of great words. They can also act out the verbs that they find, working in small groups to share them.

Another way to explore verbs is to look for synonyms for some of the verbs in the book. Students might like to start with an easy verb like dance and see if they can brainstorm as many synonyms as possible. You can display these brainstorms in the classroom for students to refer back to in the future.

Students can also use the lovely language of Alpacas with Maracas to create their own stories. It might be a continuation of the story of Al and Macca or their own creation.

 
3 Easy Ways to Explore Alpacas with Maracas. Easy Ways for teachers to take a closer look at Alpacas with Maracas by Matt Cosgrove. Perfect for school story telling, this blog post includes a free resource as it looks at story telling, vocabulary, movement and character lessons. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

3. Reflect on the Character Lessons

There’s some lovely character lessons in Alpacas with Maracas, perfect little ideas for students to reflect and build on.

Al and Macca are great friends - they work together, they complement each other and they look for ways to find happiness together. This is a wonderful lesson for students to reflect on, thinking about what makes a good friend and what good friendships look like.

Macca and Al are also persistent They try so many different talents when they’re looking for the right talent for the show. Even when they fail - and they fail quite spectacularly - they get back up to try again. This can lead to a wonderful discussion about persistence and what it can look like when we’re persistent at something which is difficult. We can also talk about trying different approaches to reach a goal - Macca and Al have a goal of being in a talent show, but they need to try different approaches to make it in there.

Macca and Al are also great losers in Alpacas with Maracas. They are the perfect representatives of ‘it doesn’t matter if you lose as long as you give it a try’. Students can discuss what it feels like to lose at something and what a good loser looks like. They might even like to role play some ways to be a good loser.

Are you looking to explore character lessons with your students? This free download includes three character ideas your students can write or draw about.

 
 

Alpacas with Maracas is a wonderful celebration of movement, music and having fun. It’s a great book to bring into your classroom and well and truly worth exploring a little more.

 
 

5 Reasons We Love Macca (the Alpaca)

Have you met Macca?

He’s an alpaca! And the star of the great Macca the Alpaca picture book series by Matt Cosgrove. These books - four at the moment, including a Christmas book - have jumped into popularity (and many homes and classrooms) since the first was released in 2017.

We love Macca - and we think he’s great for the classroom. And here’s a few reasons why . . .

 
5 Reasons We Love Macca (the Alpaca) - a little look at the Macca the Alpaca series of picture books by Matt Cosgrove and a range of ways they can be used to supplement teaching in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

1. There is so much to learn from the illustrations

While picture book illustrations are often important to get the most out of a story, in the Macca books they’re super important. Often the word we need to finish the excellent rhyming structure is there, in the illustrations, not to mention the important image clues which help readers decode and comprehend what is happening on the page.

You can use this while exploring why illustrations are so important to tell the full story in a picture book. Students can explore matching text and illustrations to make sure they have the best combination or explore how the story might change if an illustration was changed.

Students can also explore the style of illustration, looking at how lines are used to show movement and how different fonts are used in the text. Again, they can question what would happen if it was different - without the lines and the different fonts, would the story feel the same to the reader?

2. The books are funny

There’s this lovely slightly frantic and slightly absurd humour in the Macca books, whether it comes through the joy of how Macca will outsmart the bully llama or the inevitability of the Christmas crackers creating chaos and creative present gifting.

In the classroom, it would be interesting to look at why the books are funny - is it seeing alpacas doing things that alpacas don’t usually do (or do they?) or does the humour come as the author builds anticipation for what is going to come next.

Students can also explore writing their own Macca stories. What would happen if Macca went travelling? What would happen if Macca opened a store? What would happen if he had to take those nephews and niece to school . . . .?

3. Macca is Nice

We have our fair share of selfish (but lovable) characters in picture books (looking at you Pig the Pug and Mothball the Wombat!), but Macca is just nice. He wants to defeat the bully, but does it with brains and kindness. He wants to win the competition, but is happy just to dance with the winners. He really, really wants to give his friends the best Christmas ever.

Looking at Macca’s qualities is a great classroom activities - and a great way to compare the different Macca books. You can create a comparison table for the class to fill in as they read the different books, or different groups could read each book and describe all of Macca’s great qualities to share with the rest of the class.

Students can also explore what lessons we can learn from Macca. What does he do that makes him a good role model? And how can we apply those lessons in our own life. This is a great way to explore qualities like giving to others, being creative and being persistent.

 
5 Reasons We Love Macca (the Alpaca) - a little look at the Macca the Alpaca series of picture books by Matt Cosgrove and a range of ways they can be used to supplement teaching in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

4. The Macca books encourage our students to move

Encourage them to move? But they’re books! Students sit down to read and listen to books!

But the Macca books are full of movement - and you can use this in your classroom. Macca uses all kinds of movement to defeat Harmer. He and Al try so many different ways to share a talent before dancing with their maracas. And those naughty little Alpacas move in all the wrong ways.

This is perfect if you would like to integrate dance into your literacy lessons. Students can explore different kinds of movements and what they might look like as dance steps. And then they can put those movements together to create their own dance sequences.

Students can also integrate this with physical education, designing an obstacle course which Macca and Harmer might compete over - and then setting it up and trying it out themselves!

5. Who doesn’t love alpacas?! (and the other creatures)

Alpacas are all the rage at the moment - and it’s not hard to see why. The Macca version has lovely big eyes and eyelashes, those great ears, and - thanks to the magic of books - he’s not going to spit at us! We also meet a number of other creatures in the Macca books - either directly (a llama and yaks) or indirectly (Al’s pirhanas or the cuddly sloth).

Students can research these animals and compare the real life versions with their book counterparts. They can explore why we really love some animals while other animals remain unloved. And they can use Macca and his friends as characters in other work - what happens when you have an alpaca as part of a maths problem or a sloth as part of a music lesson?

 
 

Explore the Pig the Pug Series with these Writing Tasks

We’ve talked about how we love the Pig the Pug series by Aaron Blabey before - and how it can be used in the classroom. But how can we use it to teach writing? These five writing tasks allow you and your students to take a closer look at the books, and a range of writing formats

 
Explore the Pig the Pug Series with These Writing Tasks - 5 Writing Task Ideas for classrooms and students exploring Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey and how teachers can teach them. A Galarious Goods post
 

1. Write a News Article About Pig’s ‘Adventures’

When Pig the Pug goes big, it’s usually followed by some sort of disaster. This is bad for Pig, but great for budding news article writers.

Writing a news article is a great task for a range of grades. For younger students who may be just learning about the format, it’s a great way to identify the ‘who, what, where, when and why’ - good reading questions - before participating in a shared writing of an article as a small group or a whole class. Students can follow this shared writing about one of the Pig stories with individual or paired writing about one of the other Pig stories.

For older students, the Pig books offer a great story to write their article about. They can report on the time that Pig ‘flew’ out the window (plenty of headline opportunities there - another aspect you can explore with the class) or the time he exploded a bathroom just because he preferred to be dirty.

2. Write a Diary Entry - or a Series of Diary Entries

What is Pig thinking? While that’s a slightly scary thought, it’s also a great way to explore the Pig the Pug books through writing.

You could ask your students to write one diary entry - focusing on the aftermath of an event perhaps, or what Pig is thinking before disaster strikes. Or you could ask your students to write a series of diary entries which explore the entire events of the week. What is Pig thinking about as he participates in the photo shoot and thinks of himself as a star?

Or - to change it up a little - what exactly is Trevor thinking? What would his diary entries look like after a big Pig Event or in the lead up to one.

This is a great activity to pair with diary led books like the Diary of a Wombat series by Jackie French or the My Australian Story books for older students. Students can look at the examples of diary entries and identify the elements of them before applying these ideas to their own writing.

3. Write a Comic Strip

How can you condense all - or a good part of - a story into just a few small boxes? This is the question which faces students when you ask them to create a comic strip of on of the Pig the Pug books.

Students can talk about which are the most important parts of the story, creating a list which allows them to create 4 or 5 panels of a comic. They can then explore what images or words they could fit into that comic strip.

Students can also explore whether they should keep Pig looking like the Pig of the books, or whether they should explore their own style of drawing in their comic strip - and why they might make some changes.

This is a great way to explore retell and main idea with your students - particularly those in middle to upper primary classes.

 
Explore the Pig the Pug Series with These Writing Tasks - 5 Writing Task Ideas for classrooms and students exploring Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey and how teachers can teach them. A Galarious Goods post
 

4. Review of the Book

Writing a good book review can be a great way to get other people to enjoy the books you enjoy. The Pig the Pug books are great for reviews because there’s usually a range of reasons why readers love them.

Students can explore a range of book reviews from different places before they write their own. You can also share write a review with the whole class before students head off to write their own reviews.

Some things students can concentrate on in reviews is comparing them with other books (maybe other books about dogs, other books which feature animals or other funny books) or focusing on why they are so enjoyable to read.

If your students didn’t enjoy the book, they can also write a review highlighting why. (This can be a great activity even if your students did enjoy it - what kind of review would you write if you didn’t?)

5. Podcast Episode

Podcasts are really popular, with a number of podcasts created just for children. You and your students could listen to some of them before getting into creating your own.

Successful podcasts have a question or a theme to work through. When it comes to Pig the Pug they might like to discuss why they enjoy a particular book, which Pig the Pug book is the best, what it would be like to own a dog like Pig or what to read after you’ve finished all the Pig books.

Students should write at least an outline before they start recording their podcast. If they’re working in a pair or small group, they might identify different parts to talk about or create a list of ‘talking points’ to tackle together. If they’re working on their own they might like to create a whole speech to write about.

 
 
 
 

7 Reasons We Love the Pig the Pug Books

My family loves the Pig the Pug books by Aaron Blabey. We love them so much that both my children have dressed as the not-so-well-behaved but lovable dog for Book Week. But what is it we love so much about Pig? My son sat down with me to put together some reasons we love Pig - and some ways you can explore that love in the classroom.

 
7 Reasons We Love Pig the Pug. A blog post exploring Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey and the ways these wonderful books can be used by teachers in the classroom. Perfect for teachers looking for reading resources. A Galarious Goods post
 

1. We Love the Lessons . . .

Every Pig book comes with a little lesson (or two) to learn - whether it’s sharing our toys with others, telling the truth about our misdeeds or sharing the spotlight.

While the lessons are pretty broad - and sometimes pretty specific to Pig (it’s unlikely our children will be eating their food bowls any time soon!), they’re a great starting place for further conversation about what good and considerate behaviour looks like. We can pose questions like what does a winner look like? Is it necessary to share everything? Is it better to get difficult things over and done with - or just try to avoid them.

2. . . . and How Pig Always ‘Learns His Lesson’

Pig always ‘learns his lesson’ by the end of the book - which is another aspect students can discuss. Does he really learn his lesson. Do students honestly think he won’t repeat his mistakes. And since he usually behaves well when he’s injured and physically unable to misbehave - what might happen when the bandages come off and he is well again. Students can follow this train of thought and develop their prediction skills!

3. We Love the Humour

These are really funny books! They’re a dream for teachers and parents who are reading them out loud, as you can explore with voices (take care with Pig - the shouting can be a problem!) and the funny pauses as you turn pages. But even when you are reading them to yourself, you can’t help but wonder what hilarious hijinks that pug will get up to next . . . and what hilarious trouble he will find himself in.

A lot of the humour comes from the ridiculous nature of the trouble - we know it’s unlikely that these things would really happen to a dog - but it’s funny to imagine that they might. Students can explore writing their own ridiculous paragraphs or stories, seeing how far they can stretch their story before they lose their reader. They can also look for other examples of ridiculous humour in books - the books where the author just has fun with the reader!

4. We Love the Repetition

There’s something terribly comforting about opening a brand new Pig the Pug book and seeing those familiar words . . . ‘Pig was a Pug . . . “

The Pig books follow a comfortable formula which makes them perfect for students developing an understanding of how stories can be structured and for students who like to look for connections between different texts. The familiarity of the stories can also help students concentrate on the details of the book - like the language or the specifics of this particular story - giving students a framework to work within.

It also gives new and pre readers the opportunity to join in and read with the story - they know this bit! They’ve read it before. It can be a wonderful confidence boost or a way to engage with a text because you’re really reading it.

This repetition can be used in writing lessons as well. Students can brainstorm ways for Pig to get himself into trouble and then use the framework to create their own Pig stories. Or they can create their own framework as a class or group and then write a class series of stories which work into that framework.

 
7 Reasons We Love Pig the Pug. A blog post exploring Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey and the ways these wonderful books can be used by teachers in the classroom. Perfect for teachers looking for reading resources. A Galarious Goods post
 

5. We Love Trevor

Poor Trevor. While Pig is rampaging his way through the books, Trevor is the ultimate straight man. He’s kind, thoughtful, honestly cares about Pig . . . he just wants things to go right for him occasionally. Who didn’t cheer when Trevor was selected to be a star?

Trevor shows us what Pig could be like if he would just learn how to behave. He also shows us how a character can react to Pig’s antics. This is a great way for students to explore side characters - the characters who observe many of the actions rather than getting directly involved in them (unless they can’t help it!)

Students can also imagine what Pig’s world might be like if Trevor wasn’t around. How would that make things easier for Pig? How would it make things harder?

6. We Love the Language

I LOVE the way vocabulary is used in the Pig the Pug books. Aaron Blabey refuses to talk down to his young audience, using a wide range of words and terms from ‘quivering’ to ‘sook’. It’s not all big words - there are plenty of smaller, easier to digest words - but this is a great way to explore great words and the way they can be arranged and manipulated to create rhythm, rhyme - and a really funny story.

There are so many vocabulary activities you can do with this book - whether it’s exploring the different words or phrases around the word ‘pig’ or using vocabulary folding activities to record some of the great words you can find in the books. Students can create their own word walls of ‘Pig the Pug’ words and try to incorporate them in their own writing.

7. And We Love the Illustrations

When I had to come up with a Book Week costume on fairly short notice, we decided on Pig the Pug - with a crocheted hat doing the majority of the work. As my son walked out to the car to head to kindy, his friend from across the road yelled out ‘It’s Pig the Pug!’ - those eyes and ears immediately tell you who you’re dealing with!

As well as Aaron Blabey’s iconic Pig and Trevor illustrations, the books are filled with little drawings which expand the story - and sometimes fill in the spaces between the words. My particular favourite is Pig the Star, where we see Pig and Trevor dressing up as a wide range of famous people.

Students can explore how Aaron Blabey uses illustrations to tell the story - and how the story might change if there were no illustrations at all. They can also look at how they can tell their own stories - using just illustrations, or by combining illustration and words to create a complete tale.

Aaron Blabey has so many wonderful books, and I have a hard time deciding on a favourite. But there is definitely a place for the naughty Pig the Pug in your classroom - and many different ways you can explore these stories with your students.