Adventure Girl and Reclusive Author

Three Ways to Investigate Stereotypes Using the Nim's Island Movie

I've previously introduced Nim's Island, the adventure book by Wendy Orr. But you can also enjoy the story as an adventure movie, released in 2008. The movie and the book are fantastic to explore together in the classroom, especially when we are teaching characters. The notion of character stereotyping, whether stereotypes are good or bad and how they apply to Nim's Island makes for a wonderful classroom investigation - giving students questioning tools they can also transfer to a range of other texts.
 

 
Adventure Girl and Reclusive Author - Three Ways to Investigate Stereotypes Using the Nim's Island Movie by Galarious Goods
 

A stereotype is an oversimplified view at a character or person, usually demonstrated through a collection of behaviours or traits. First glances at the Nim's Island movie tell us that we can see Nim as an adventure girl. She flies through the trees, uses different adventuring tools and tackles big challenges. Meanwhile, Alex Rover can be seen as a the stereotype of an author. She is reclusive, a little scattered and her whole life revolves around her books and her writing. As students are watching the movie, they can find other examples of these stereotypes and others. But once they've found the examples, what can they do with them?

Are the Stereotypes Realistic?

This is a great question to add to a comparison between the book and the movie. Students can have a look at character traits in the movie and note where they were similar or different to the book. Which ones were more realistic? Which ones were less realistic.

Students can also discuss whether authors would really be able to be mostly anonymous the way Alex Rover is or if they'd be required to attend events to promote their books. They can research authors who have been anonymous (or have tried to remain anonymous) and authors who use a pen name and why they do that. (J.K. Rowling is one example, as her adult crime novels are written under the pen name of Robert Galbraith).

Another classroom activity to look at whether stereotypes are realistic can involve acting it out. Students can identify a section of the movie which they feel show a particularly stereotyped version of the character. They can reenact that scene themselves, then look at ways they could change the character's words or actions to make them feel more realistic.


What Part Do Stereotypes Play in Books and Movies?

Although stereotypes often have negative connotations, they can be very useful when telling stories. They provide a shortcut to the reader or the viewer, helping them picture or understand the character and the behaviours of the character without needing extra descriptions. 

Students can explore this by thinking about how they picture certain characters. You can brainstorm a collection of 'character types' like princess, wicked witch or famous sports person and ask your students to draw what they think they would look like or write a description of them. Students can compare their drawings or descriptions and look at which elements or traits they share. 

Stereotypes can also help to surprise us when they are changed. When Alex Rover steps out into the world to help Nim, we know that it is a big thing - something her character would never do normally because it doesn't fit her stereotype. It lets us know that things are changing in the story and that we should be paying attention. Students can identify other times that characters break their stereotypes in movies or books and how that changes the way the story goes. You can set up a large piece of paper or display board for this and students can add their examples on pieces of paper or sticky notes as they find them.

 
Use a large piece of paper or a section of a display board for students to add stereotypes to as they find them
 

Can Stereotypes Be Harmful?

There's no doubt that stereotypes can be harmful in real life situations. They can act to give us incorrect impressions of people and box people into categories or situations where they're uncomfortable or restricted from doing what they'd like to do. But what about stereotypes in stories? Can they be harmful too?

Students can look at the way stereotypes are used in fairy-tales - especially the versions of fairy-tales which have come to us through popular movies. How is the princess portrayed? The prince? The step-mother? The dragon? How do we see those stereotypes and the language around them used in the real world? How many times do we see the word 'princess' on girl's clothing or toys? How does that have real world impacts?

We can also ask if all stereotypes are harmful? Nim is portrayed as an adventure girl - students can discuss whether that's a good or a bad portrayal and whether we should need more or less characters like her. They can also have a go at writing their own stories with characters like Nim or her father or Alex Rover. 

 
 
 
 

9 Brilliant Books to Read if You Love Nim's Island

Nim's Island by Wendy Orr makes a wonderful classroom read and is great to inspire classroom activities. But what do you read next? What books should teachers have on hand for those students who absolutely adore Nim's Island? From adventure to animals, survival to communication with authors - here's nine more books to read when you've finished with Nim's Island.

 
9 Brilliant Books to Read if You Love Nim's Island by Galarious Goods. Nine book recommendations and some ways to use them in the classroom
 

The Nim Sequels

This is, of course, the best place to start. Wendy Orr has authored two more books about Nim and her adventures - Nim at Sea and Rescue on Nim's Island. In the first, Nim finds herself out of her island comfort zone, heading out on a rescue mission. In Rescue on Nim's Island, she's back on the island, but this time she has to share the space with others. 

Sequels are a great way to explore characters and settings which we're already familiar with. Students can easily compare and contrast the different books, look at the ways the characters are developed and talk about which kinds of stories are suitable for sequels. The familiarity of the characters can also make it easier to look for underlying themes and how the story  conveys them.

 
9 Brilliant Books to Read if You Love Nim's Island by Galarious Goods
 

Islands and Survival

In Nim's Island, Nim is required to survive by herself after her father finds himself stranded out at sea - a task which becomes more difficult after she injures herself. Two other books which deal with survival are Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. 

In Island of the Blue Dolphins, Karana has to survive alone on an island after a series of events leaves her stranded. She needs to use innovation and apply new skills in order to survive for years. In Hatchet, Brian is a passenger in a small plane which crashes in a remote part of Canada. Like Nim, he finds himself all alone, but he doesn't have Nim's knowledge of his surroundings. With time, he discovers the skills he needs to survive and reach civilisation once more.

As well as comparing them to Nim's Island, these books open the way for an interesting classroom conversation about what is required to survive on your own. What knowledge do you need? What kind of personality do you need? Can anyone survive in extreme situations?

 
9 Brilliant Books to Read if You Love Nim's Island by Galarious Goods
 

Saving the Day

Nim is required to fight for her island when she spots a tourist boat heading for her secluded home. Students who enjoy this part of the plot may also enjoy The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex and Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins. Just as Nim employs her animal friends to help her fight for the island, the main characters of these two book work with unusual companions to save the day. In The True Meaning of Smekday, Tip sets out on a journey with the alien J. Lo to find her mother. Meanwhile in Gregor the Overlander, Gregor finds himself in a completely unfamiliar underground world where all kinds of giant creatures work together and against each other. Gregor finds himself caught up in a battle between two groups and, with the help of some of the creatures, strives to save the day.

Students can engage with these books by looking at what is required to save the day - what kind of personality does a hero have? This could also lead to classroom discussions of the word 'hero' in real life and what makes someone a 'hero'. Students can examine media reports which use the term, sort them into different groups and use them to write their own definitions.

 
9 Brilliant Books to Read if You Love Nim's Island by Galarious Goods
 

Animal Friendships

From the beginning of Nim's Island, we know about Nim's animal friends. She has a unique relationship with them and they often step up to help her throughout the book - just as she helps them. There are lots of books for the animal fans in your class including Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo and Charlotte's Web by E.B White. In Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal befriends a dog. The dog - Winn-Dixie - helps her make new connections with the humans around her as well as being a faithful friend. Charlotte's Web is often best remembered for the relationship between animals - particularly Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider - but it's the caring actions of Fern the little girl which first saves Wilbur, and the early chapters of the book look at how Fern nurtured and befriended the little pig.

Fiction books featuring animals are a great match with non-fiction books about animals. Students can question whether the animals would really demonstrate that kind of personality, research the features of those animals or explore stories about exceptional animals. 

 
9 Brilliant Books to Read if You Love Nim's Island by Galarious Goods
 

 

Author Relationships

Throughout Nim's Island, Nim communicates with the author Alex Rover through email. In Dear Mr Henshaw by Beverly Cleary, Leigh writes letters to his favourite author Boyd Henshaw. Both Nim and Leigh develop their relationships with the authors through their writing and find themselves having to build separations between the books they love and the authors as people.

These two books are a wonderful introduction into looking at the lives of authors and how they create their books. Many authors have biographies (or even autobiographies) to explore or have given interviews which are easy to find on the internet. Students can look at how authors are influenced by the world around them or things they see or hear or even write a thank you email to their favourite author (But don't ask authors to do your author assignment for you! They need that time for writing!)

 
9 Brilliant Books to Read if You Love Nim's Island by Galarious Goods
 
 
 

Four Simple Ways to Teach Nim's Island Outside the Classroom

Nim's Island by Wendy Orr is all about the adventures - and dangers - you can find when you get outside. Nim, her father and the author Alex Rover all head outside to learn new things and explore at one time or another. Here I have put together four Nim's Island related learning activities - encompassing a range of different teaching subjects - all of which can be completed outside the walls of the classroom. And they're almost certain to have minimal danger!

 
Four Simple Ways to Teach Nim's Island Outside the Classroom - Engaging, outdoor activities which explore events and themes of the novel Nim's Island by Wendy Orr.
 

1. Create an Island

(Teaching areas: mapping, geography, mathematics and possibly history)

For this activity you'll need some string, yarn or rope and a large space like a field, yard or oval.  You might like to use other marking tools as well, like hoops or cones, as well as measuring tools like tape measures and measuring wheels. Paper, pencils and clipboards can also be used. 

Use a large open space for students to create their own island. They might like to make it 'to scale' but unless you have a huge amount of room, it'll probably be reduced in size from a 'real' island. Use string or rope to mark the outside of the island and get your students to add any features they think the island needs, like hills or mountains, sources for water, land for growing crops, a safe place to shelter, beaches and forests. Have your students use different colour string or rope or other marking tools to mark out the features. This can be an opportunity to talk about the features of real islands around the world - which might include reefs, features related to volcanoes or things required as part of certain animal habitats.

When students have finished creating their island, they can map it. They may like to think about creating coordinates to help them map it or think about what mapping symbols they might use in their map. They can use measurement tools and talk about how big the island might be if it was twice as big or ten times as big. The creation of a map can lead to discussion of historical explorers and surveyors and what methods they used to create charts and maps as well as the work of modern surveyors. (One example of a historical surveyor is Matthew Flinders who circumnavigated the coast of Australia).

 

Tie it back to Nim's Island - How would Jack and Nim map their own island? How would Jack have known that it was the right island for them to live on? What features made it liveable?

Stuck Inside the Classroom? Create a miniature island using clay or paper or found objects. Draw a map of the miniature island, striving to keep it as accurate as possible. 

Create an Island - Explore this and three other outside learning activities inspired by Nim's Island by Wendy Orr. Find more at Galarious Goods
 

 

2. Observe Nature

(Teaching areas: science and art)

For this activity students might like to use paper, pencils, pens, clipboards, magnifying glasses, cameras, reference books and collecting containers - or a combination of those! A garden or nearby park is also helpful

Take your students outside to observe the environment around them. They might like to take a close up look at trees in the school grounds or see what kind of insects or birds (or possibly bigger animals!). Students can simply observe, use magnifying glasses to take a closer look, take photographs or videos of things they find to investigate further later, draw or take notes about what they see or collect specimens to investigate or display. They can discuss what impacts humans have on the local environment, look at some of the techniques used by botanists or biologists and refer to reference books to find out more about their discoveries. 

Students can also take the time to sketch what they see when they are outside. They might like to create a drawing using the colours they see, draw a landscape or still life using nature as inspiration or investigate with the patterns they find in nature.

 

Tie it back to Nim's Island - Jack is a scientist and Nim helps him. What scientific methods and skills do we see in Nim's Island? 

Stuck inside the classroom? Break out the reference books, show documentary videos about nature and the work scientists do or bring some specimens in from outside for your students to explore and draw.

Observe Nature - Explore this and three other outside learning activities inspired by Nim's Island by Wendy Orr. Find more at Galarious Goods
 

 

3. Nim's Island Obstacle Course

(Teaching areas: physical education, reading, problem solving, design)

For this activity you might need a range of physical education or games equipment as well as space and pencils, paper and clipboard for brainstorming or recording ideas.

Challenge your students to create an obstacle course covering the key events from Nim's Island. Students may like to start by making a list of those events, then thinking about what kind of movements, activities or interaction with equipment would best suit those events. They might work in small groups on different parts of the obstacle course, then come together to test it, or work collaboratively from the beginning. 

Students should think about how to lay out their obstacle course, which order it should be completed in and could reflect on how they would improve it if they had no limits on equipment. They might like to take pictures of different elements or create diagrams with instructions for participants.

 

Tie it back to Nim's Island - What do we know about Nim's health? What healthy habits does she have?

Stuck inside the classroom? See if you can source a hall or gymnasium and include more gentle movements. Or look for smaller movements which can be completed in the classroom, create a 'Nim's Island fitness circuit' and video the movements for participants. Students may like to use the videos to create a website or virtual classroom linking their fitness circuit back to the events in the book. 
Or - if you have access to robotics, create a Nim's Island inspired robotic course . . .  

Create an Obstacle Course - Explore this and three other outside learning activities inspired by Nim's Island by Wendy Orr. Find more at Galarious Goods
 

 

4. Writing Outside

(Teaching area - writing)

For this activity, students just need a clipboard, paper and a pen or pencil as well as somewhere comfortable to sit.

A change in environment can be great inspiration for writers. Take your students outside and ask them to use their senses to be inspired to write something. They might like to explore poetry, fiction, a biographical piece about being outside or a report. Or you might like to offer some additional writing prompts or parameters. This can be followed up with a lesson back inside the classroom where students write pieces inspired by their classroom and compare their writing from both locations.

 

Tie it back to Nim's Island - How did Alex find inspiration and research information for her books? How would it have been different if she'd visited different locations around the world?

Stuck inside the classroom? Fill the classroom with outside prompts - videos, audio, items. You can get creative with this and choose different types of 'outside' (beach, forest, field, desert) or just look outside the classroom door.

Writing Outside - Explore this and three other outside learning activities inspired by Nim's Island by Wendy Orr. Find more at Galarious Goods
 
 
 

What Was New in May 2017?

A new month! New things! New resources! But first let's take a look back at May.

 
What was new in May 2017 at Galarious Goods? A look at new resources, blog posts and behind the scenes
 

May was the month I delved deep into Australian political and electoral systems to produce some Year 6 resources. I started by looking at the three levels of government in Australia - local, state and federal - and their responsibilities. Because all that can be a little fuzzy (roads is just one area where everyone gets involved!) I also looked at how the three levels of government work together. (I loved putting case studies together for this. I feel very informed about the amazing Murray-Darling Basin now!). There are also assessment and word wall and poster resources to support the mini-units or you can get them all in one bundle.

This was followed up with resources covering the responsibilities of voters and elected representatives in Australia, which is a real mouthful, but at the key of our democratic responsibilities. I was especially interested in the potential conflicts between serving a political party, serving a local area and serving a state or Australia - that's a lot of balancing to do! Again, these are available with word wall and posters and assessment pieces and as a complete bundle.

 
 

Finally, I released a Nim's Island Sample Pack freebie. This is a great way to have a look at the Nim's Island novel study resources for free.

 
 

I've also been busy blogging. I started off the month collaborating with some other great teacher-authors to produce a blog post about the TeachersPayTeachers sales. I dug deeper into ideas around getting involved by looking at five inspirational young people who've set out to make a change in the world. I also looked at some of the places where students can find information to help them get involved. Finally I introduced Nim's Island as a novel study resource and had a look at some of the ways it can be used in the classroom.

Behind the Scenes

 It's getting cold in Queensland! Well, cold on the Queensland scale! We've been enjoying the beautiful blue skies with trips to see family, park visits and plans to adventure to the city in the coming school holidays. 

I've been working hard on updating some of my old resources, beginning with my Ruins of Gorlan novel study resources. I'm so, so excited about this - my Instagram feed has been getting some sneak peeks. There'll be updated pages, new task cards and totally new activities. The price will go up when the updated resources are released, so it's worth grabbing it now - you'll get the current version at the current price and be able to download the new version when it's released.

 
 

While I've been doing this, I've been looking at other possible novel studies. Do you have any requests? Leave a comment and it might become a real thing!

Introducing Nim's Island

Earlier this year a friend introduced me to Nim's Island by Wendy Orr. I was a bit surprised it had taken me so long to find it, but I couldn't be happier to dive into the world of Nim, her animal friends and Alex - the author she meets on the internet. It's a great book to explore with Grade 5 and 6 students - filled with lots of questions, activity possibilities and ideas to explore.

 
Introducing Nim's Island - A blog post taking a look at the novel by Wendy Orr
 


Adventure

At its heart, Nim's Island is an adventure story. Nim and her father live on an island in the middle of the ocean, relying on their own growing and building skills and occasional supply ships to be self-sufficient. Nim finds herself alone on the island after her father runs into misfortune during a research trip away on his boat. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but a series of misadventures means that she has to dig deep into her skills and knowledge to keep things running and to sustain the lifestyle she and her father have so carefully created for themselves. 

While she's dealing with these issues she 'meets' the author Alex Rover through email - Alex is researching for her new book and Nim reaches out to a voice which might be able to help her. This leads to a whole new set of adventures - especially when Nim and Alex misunderstand each other.

Nim's Island would work great as part of a study of the adventure genre. Students can explore excerpts of classic books like Swiss Family Robinson, the Three Musketeers or The Jungle Book, look at more recent books to compare and contrast, examine how adventure can meet other genres like fantasy or science fiction and read (or try to write) choose your own adventure books. Adventure stories allow for interesting explorations of plot and character as well as creating suspense - interesting to explore in both reading and writing. 


Animals

From the beginning of the book, we meet Nim's friends - who are all animals. Nim's animal friends are obviously loved and part of her life, and she understands them thoroughly, but she admits that it would be nice to have some non-animal friends as well. The animals assist Nim and her father when they need them - especially with communication - which leads to questions about how animals have helped people with communication in the real world.

The animals in Nim's Island allow for some great, in-depth research. What are these animals? Where in the world do they live? What habitat do they need? What makes them special? Why would the author choose them for the book? 


Big Questions

Nim's Island is filled with some great ideas and questions to think over, discuss and write about. This allows for a more in-depth look at the book, allowing students to see the book from different perspectives. 

Some of the questions in the book include whether Nim's father should have left Nim on her own in the first place? Can animals be friends? Do authors owe information about themselves to their readers? Should we take more adventures? How can we be responsible tourists? 


The Movie

Nim's Island was turned into a movie which is always great for comparisons. Which one is better? What changes were made? Why were they made? What impact do the changes make? Looking at how stories can be told in different mediums is a great insight into why writers make the choices they make. Students can think about how they might have retold the story if they'd been asked to create a movie or even act out one of the important scenes from the book.


I highly recommend Nim's Island as a classroom resource - either as a whole class novel, a read-aloud, as a small group or as part of a reader's workshop program. It's a truly engaging and thought-provoking book - perfect for digging into deeper!