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.

 
 

8 Free Resources for Classrooms Reading Boy Overboard

Providing students with high quality background information for Boy Overboard can be a little bit of a challenge. Many resources are older and out of date and many links are sadly broken. Here, I’ve collected a range of free resources to assist you in providing background information for Boy Overboard and teaching the novel more effectively to your students.

 
8 Free Resources for Classrooms Reading Boy Overboard - a collection of links and ideas for the Morris Gleitzman novel and some ways to use them in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post.

8 Free Resources for Classrooms Reading Boy Overboard - a collection of links and ideas for the Morris Gleitzman novel and some ways to use them in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post.

 

(While all efforts are made to make sure these links are accurate - the nature of the web means they may be ‘broken’. Sometimes searching will help you access the material, but - sadly - some information may be taken from the web permanently)

On Refugees

National Geographic: Refugee Week

To access this resource, you need a login (which is quick and easy to get). This one page primary resource introduces students to a range of concepts, vocabulary terms and ideas around refugees. The page also includes teaching ideas.

This would be good to use before students read Boy Overboard or right after. It would also be a useful resource if students were researching refugees.

BTN: Refugee Day

This BTN video provides background information on refugees in a range of situations and provides images for students to put with the story. BTN has broadcast a wide range of stories on refugees over the years and many are available. This story, like many of the others, also includes teacher notes and further links for students to explore.

UNHCR Teaching Materials for 9-12 Year Olds

This teaching resource from the UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) offers a range of teaching ideas and lesson ideas about refugees. One of the most useful resources is the teacher’s guide to integrating teaching about refugees and asylum into a range of classroom subjects.

On Afghanistan

The Pulitzer Centre: Lesson Plan on Afghanistan

This is a complete lesson plan on Afghanistan and its history, based around resources from news organisations. The lesson plan may be a little complex for your students, but there are a range of teacher questions and activities and some good news links (though some links are no longer available)

Royal Geographical Society

The Royal Geographical Society page is good for some background information on Afghanistan. Some of the links are broken, but the documents at the bottom provide a timeline and a number of fact sheets with extra information about Afghanistan.

On the Pacific Solution

Australian Catholic Social Justice Council - Discussion Paper - The Pacific Solution
Australian Parliament House - Parliamentary Library - Pacific Solution

These two pages are aimed at an older audience, but provide background information to The Pacific Solution and arguments around it. These would be good for teachers to use when preparing discussions or further reading information for students.

On Boy Overboard

Morris Gleitzman’s Author Notes

This is a thoughtful reflection on why Morris Gleitzman wrote Boy Overboard and would be especially good to read while considering author intention. Students should wait until they have finished reading the book to read this.

Boy Overboard Novel Study - Sample Pack

This Galarious Goods free resource allows teachers and students to take a closer look at several aspects of Boy Overboard. This is a great resource if you have limited time to explore the novel or you are just looking for a few supplementary resources

 
 

10 Books for Classrooms Exploring Boy Overboard

Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman is a great book to explore in your classroom. But what other books are connected to this important story? What books can you make available for your students to read? What books can you explore together?

Today I’m proud to present 10 books related to Boy Overboard, perfect for the classroom. From picture book memoirs, to wordless books to well known novels, this is the list every teacher needs when they’re teaching Boy Overboard!

 
10 Books for Classrooms Exploring Boy Overboard. A curated list of books related to Boy Overboard and how teachers can use them in the classroom as teaching resources. Perfect for classes learning Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

Girl Underground (and other Morris Gleitzman novels)

Girl Underground is a must have for students who are reading Boy Overboard. The companion to Boy Overboard it follows the story of Bridget and Menzies who team up to help Jamal and Bibi who are now living in a refugee camp in the Australian desert.

In the author notes for this book, Morris Gleitzman says he was struck by the range of responses from the public to those in need of help - like refugees. He sought to explore that in Girl Underground and it makes for a great discussion which you can explore with your class.

It’s well worth making other Morris Gleitzman novels available for your students to read as well. He’s got a huge collection of novels covering a wide range of topics - there’s something for everyone!

Mahtab’s Story and Parvana

Mahtab’s Story by Libby Gleeson and Parvana by Deborah Ellis (published as The Breadwinner outside Australia) both look at the harsh life under the Taliban in Afghanistan - the same regime that Jamal and Bibi were living under at the beginning of Boy Overboard.

Mahtab’s Story is also similar to Boy Overboard because it traces the difficult journey out of Afghanistan to Australia. We’re taken through the long - and sometimes tedious - journey Mahtab and her family take as they move from one place to another - sometimes in danger, sometimes just waiting for something to happen. The writing is beautiful and this would make for a great text if you are looking at description.

Parvana is a little different because it focuses more on the life under the Taliban. Parvana is a young girl who is forced to pretend she is a girl when her father is taken away. Girls and women in Afghanistan aren’t allowed to be in public without a male family member, so Parvana’s disguise is an essential part of their survival as she starts working to support the family.

Refugee

Refugee by Alan Gratz reminds us that stories of refugees aren’t new and that they will probably continue into the future. By presenting three different stories from different time periods, students are invited to look at the similar and different aspects of people fleeing from dangerous situations and to look at where else in the world this might apply.

 
 

The Arrival

The Arrival by Shaun Tan is a large, wordless book which follows the journey of a man fleeing danger and hoping to be reunited with his family and the kindness of the people he meets in the strange land. It connects with the journey made by Jamal and their family and the strange things Jamal comes across from one place to another.

This is a stunning book, well worth taking an in-depth look at if you have the time. It can be accompanied with a wide range of texts and can definitely become the focus of an extended book study. Students can explore how illustrations can tell such vivid stories and where else they can find powerful illustrations, or they can explore other wordless books or graphic novels.

I’m Australian Too

Much of I’m Australian Too by Mem Fox focuses on different groups of people who live in Australia and how their families came here. However, at the end of the book we are introduced to a refugee in a camp, still waiting to come to Australia.

This powerful end to the book, contrasted with all the other children leading fulfilling lives within Australia can raise a number of discussion points with students. They can compare this story with Jamal and Bibi’s story, reflect on why people leave one country for another and whether it reflects Australian history.

My Name is Not Refugee

My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner is aimed at younger children, but is a beautifully written way to explain life as a refugee to people of all ages. Throughout the book, a range of questions are asked which put the reader into the shoes of refugees.

This would be a great book to share before starting Boy Overboard, as it introduces students to the idea of refugees. Students could also read it to compare the story of the child depicted with Jamal and Bibi and their journey

 
Books for classrooms exploring Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman. A collection of books which are perfect for the classroom for teachers to explore as they teach Boy Overboard. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

Wisp

Wisp by Zana Fraillon is more abstract than some of the other books, asking students to draw connections between the text, the illustrations and things which are happening around the world. This beautiful book draws the reader in as they go on journeys of memory and imagination with the characters.

Students can use this book to explore the notion of hope and to compare it with the hopes Jamal and his family carried with them as they journeyed away from the danger in their homeland. They can explore different ways hopes can be written about and drawn and how we may hope for a better future for everyone.

Room on Our Rock

Room on Our Rock by Kate and Jol Temple is an incredibly clever picture book which shares two messages depending on whether you read it from back to front or front to back. This reflects Morris Gleitzman’s statement about the range of opinions which exist when it comes to refugees and other people who need help.

This would be a great book to look at in terms of structure. Students can attempt to write their own forwards or backwards stories with different messages and examine how the authors have successfully managed it.

The Little Refugee

The Little Refugee by Ahn Do and Suzanne Do shares another story of a boat trip to Australia, but this time as a result of a different conflict - the Vietnam War. Students may be surprised to see that this is the picture book memoir of a popular children’s author, well known for the Weir Do and Hot Dog books, allowing them to see what life may look like for refugees as they grow from children to adults.

There are many parallels with Boy Overboard in Ahn Do’s story, which students can explore and list. They might also explore what Jamal and Bibi’s story might look like if it was turned into a picture book and how it might be illustrated.

 
Books for classrooms exploring Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman. A collection of books which are perfect for the classroom for teachers to explore as they teach Boy Overboard. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

Whether you are able to add one or all of these books into your classroom, you will find that there are plenty of strong, thoughtful books to supplement the stories and messages of Boy Overboard in your classroom.

 
 

5 Ways to Take Rowan of Rin Out of the Classroom

When you explore a book like Rowan of Rin in the classroom, it can be a little overwhelming knowing where to start. It’s an entirely new world - similar, but different to our own. There’s adventure and fantasy and relationships. And how can we make connections between all of that and the world that our students live in?

Finding real world connections and real world topics to explore can help our students gain a deeper understanding of both Rowan of Rin and how we can use books as a launching pad to gain a deeper understanding of the world around us. Here’s 5 topics you can explore with your class to get you started!

 
5 Ways to Take Rowan of Rin out of the Classroom. A thoughtful and extensive blog post exploring Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda and how teachers can extend learning outside the four classroom walls. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

1. Plan a Treasure Hunt (or go searching with a map)

Rowan of Rin is a quest story which sees Rowan and several other villagers following a map to the top of the mountain to uncover a secret.

Working with maps of different kinds is a great way to get students learning outside. Students can create playground maps or use maps of their school to ‘explore’, or you may extend your learning to an excursion to a local park or forest area where you can continue to expand map using and map making skills.

One way to explore maps is to get students involved in orienteering activities. In orienteering activities, students use maps and compasses to reach checkpoints and race towards the end. While you may not have time to complete a full orienteering course, orienteering organisations around the world have put together some great teaching activities like this and this to give your students a taste of orienteering.

Students can also create their own treasure hunt for others to follow. They can begin with an existing map of the school or create their own from scratch. They can use trundle wheels to measure distance and include distances in their maps as well as written clues to guide the seeker to the next position. As students are creating their maps, they can learn more about mapping symbols, features and keys and apply this to their own maps. And - of course - when they are finished creating their maps, they can give them to their classmates to test them out.

 
 

2. Obstacle Course

Throughout Rowan of Rin, the villagers and Rowan run into a number of obstacles on their trip up the mountain. This makes the perfect inspiration for your own obstacle course at school.

Students can look through the novel to find 5-6 inspirations for their obstacle course, then brainstorm different ways they could create the obstacles. You may like to offer them a range of equipment they could use for their obstacle course, or ask them to be creative with sports and playground equipment and things like tape, string or elastic! Students also need to consider things like safety, how long it would take students to complete the course and whether they should offer different difficulty levels.

Once students have planned their course, they can set it up and test it with their classmates. They may like to introduce it to other students in the school as well, combining it with some retelling of Rowan of Rin so students who haven’t read the book can understand the context of the obstacles.

Students can also create maps, diagrams and posters of their obstacle course or take photos or video of students completing the course which they can share or present for others to enjoy.

3. Team Games

Rowan finds that he has to work with the others a number of times to get through the obstacles to the top of the mountain. Learning to work together is a great activity for school students and can allow them to reflect on the difficulties that Rowan and the others may have experienced as they worked together.

There are several team games which you can relate back to events in Rowan of Rin:

Tug of War
Rowan and the others have to work together in the swamp to stop each other from being drawn into the mud. They end up working together to pull each other out.

Students can work together in teams to ‘pull each other from the swamp’ through playing tug of war. To extend the challenge, students can be broken into four teams with 2 ropes intertwined to make a cross.

See What I Mean
Rowan misunderstands Strong Jonn’s feelings about him - a misunderstanding mostly caused by a lack of communication.

Students can explore the importance of good communication through playing See What I Mean. One person draws a picture using simple shapes. Another person describes the picture to the other students in the group or class who try to replicate the picture. The better the description, the better the drawings.

Minefield
Another way to explore communication is through creating a simple obstacle course, and having students assist a blindfolded student through the obstacle course. The course can be slightly changed between students to keep the difficulty up.

As well as exploring communication, this activity also connects to the way Rowan and the others move through the cave and the tunnel on the way up the mountain.

Don’t Wake the Dragon
This is a really easy game with a direct link to the dragon in Rowan of Rin. In the original version, students work to line up from shortest to tallest - without making a sound and ‘waking’ the dragon. When they are all lined up, they simultaneously call out ‘boo!’ to wake the dragon.

To extend this idea, students can line up from oldest to youngest or in alphabetical order by their names.

4. Spiderweb

During Rowan of Rin, the villagers come across a forest filled with spiders and are required to move through spider webs to keep moving forward. Spiderweb is another team building game, but this one relates even closer to the book.

Students can work together to make a spider web by weaving string between two fixed places (the string can be held to the poles or trees or walls with tape). Holes should be made which are big enough to pass students through, and if you are going with the more difficult version of the game - there should be enough holes for every student in the team, plus a few more.

Students then need to work together to get through the ‘web’ without touching the web in any way. For the harder version, each ‘hole’ in the web is closed once a student is through it. Students ‘win’ the challenge when everyone is through the web.

 
Looking to take Rowan of Rin out of the classroom? Try some team building games to reflect on some of the difficulties of working as a team in Emily Rodda's Rowan of Rin. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

5. Book Walk

This is a really easy way to get students and Rowan of Rin outside. Students bring their books with them and take a walk to another place in the school. When they arrive, a student may read a pre-prepared section of their book, or the teacher can read a part of the book, or a few students can act out a part of the book. You may even organise to visit other classrooms to share a little bit of your book.

By taking students on a book walk, you can show them that reading is a wonderfully portable activity, and source a few new places in the school for reading to happen. And students can see that learning is never restricted to the classroom.

Have you participated in a Rowan of Rin activity outside the classroom? Share your experiences in the comments.

 
 

5 Topics to Explore with Rowan of Rin

When you explore a book like Rowan of Rin in the classroom, it can be a little overwhelming knowing where to start. It’s an entirely new world - similar, but different to our own. There’s adventure and fantasy and relationships. And how can we make connections between all of that and the world that our students live in?

Finding real world connections and real world topics to explore can help our students gain a deeper understanding of both Rowan of Rin and how we can use books as a launching pad to gain a deeper understanding of the world around us. Here’s 5 topics you can explore with your class to get you started!

 
5 Topics to Explore when you read Rowan of Rin by EMily Rodda as a class. A look at a range of topics in Rowan of Rin and how these topics can be covered in teaching activities. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

1. Mapping

In Rowan of Rin, a map is the central tool to help Rowan and his fellow villagers in their quest to get to the top of the mountain. But while we don’t usually have magic maps in our world, mapping is a great topic to explore with students.

Students can look at a range of maps, from maps made by early explorers, maps created to help students understand historical events or places, maps used to show weather or maps available on our phones and computers. They can identify similarities and differences between those maps and begin to create a list of features which maps have.

Students can look at maps of their local area and beyond, examining what features they know and how they connect with roads and paths. They can also create their own maps of familiar places - like school, bedrooms, streets, places in their community - or unfamiliar places - like places in books they have read or places which come from their own imagination.

Students can also examine the role of maps in fantasy books like Rowan of Rin. What do these maps tell the reader? Why are they included? How do they help the reader when you are in the middle of the book? How do you create a map of your own fantasy world? (The blog post Cartography Makes Me Cry by the author Tansy Rayner Roberts gives a great insight into the mind of an author creating a map for a fantasy world!)

 
 

2. Caring for Animals

Rowan is the bukshah keeper in Rowan of Rin, a role he was supposed to have grown out of, but a role which made him invaluable throughout the journey to the top of the mountain.

Students can look at what qualities are required to be good at caring for animals, whether the animals in question are their own pets, animals in a farm or large animals in different situations. They may like to research people who are famous for working with animals like Steve Irwin or Jane Goodall and explore what qualities made them suited for working with animals.

Students can also explore the different jobs which exist for people who want to work with animals. They can sort and organise the jobs and match them with the qualities required to be good at them.

3. Quests

Rowan is one of a group of people who set off on a quest up the mountain to solve the mystery of the stream drying up in Rowan of Rin. Quests are a common part of fantasy books, including well known books like The Hobbit. But what quests can students explore in real life?

Across history, explorers have set out to find new places - often for reasons to do with money or power. Sometimes the explorers have been solving problems, looking for new trade routes or easier ways to get from one place to another. Sometimes they’ve been searching for something big - a southern land or an inland river. And sometimes they want to be the first to go somewhere - like the quest to be the first people to stand on the moon.

Students can choose an exploration to look at, discovering who was involved in the exploration, what they did to prepare for that exploration and what happened during it. They can look at difficulties faced during the explorations and how they dealt with them. They can also look at the impact of the exploration on people and environments which were already there.

 
5 Topics to Explore when reading Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda in your classroom. Covering mapping, caring for animals, questions, caves and dragons, this blog post covers teaching ideas for Rowan of Rin. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

4. Caves

At one point during their quest up the mountain, Rowan finds himself in a cave. Caves are fascinating places to learn about, and students can gain a better understanding of Rowan of Rin by exploring real life caves.

Students can look at what defines a cave, what features they have and how people have found them over the years. They can create representations of cave features, including stalagmites and stalactites and how they are created. If you have space in your classroom, they can even turn a section into a cave!

Students can explore some of the famous and spectacular caves around the world - from ice caves, to caves filled with crystals to caves filled with glow worms. They can create posters or displays of these caves (matching them to world maps to bring two topics together!) write about the features or create material encouraging tourists to come and visit the caves.

Students can also explore how people have used caves over history, including using caves as shelter, as a source of minerals, as burial sites or as religious places.

5. Dragons

Many of the people of Rin are convinced that there is a dragon at the top of the mountain. While dragons are (probably!) fictional, representations of dragons have been common around the world throughout history.

Dragons appear in stories from as early as the Ancient Sumerians and Egyptians. Early on, they were seen as sometimes protective and sometimes dangerous creatures, but later on European tradition turned dragons into the fire breathing monsters to be slayed which we see so commonly in western myths and modern stories.

Students can explore the different dragons who appear in modern stories, from the treasure hoarding Smaug to the cute, but potentially dangerous Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback. They can then compare these dragons back to the stories which surround the village of Rin.

They can also look at the role of dragons in Chinese stories and beliefs, where dragons are the top of the animal hierarchy. They can explore some of the stories about dragons and how people include dragons in their celebrations today.

 
 

Celebrating Valentines Day in the Reading Classroom

While we can’t give our favourite characters a large bunch of long stemmed roses and it’s a little hard to bombard our favourite authors with chocolates and declarations of love, we can bring the spirit of Valentine’s Day into our reading classrooms and celebrate all we love about reading and books.

 
Celebrate Valentine's Day in the Reading Classroom with these Valentine's Day teaching ideas. With a free character valentine resource and more. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Celebrating the Books and Characters We Love

Valentine’s Day is a great time to celebrate everything we love about our favourite books and characters. Whether it’s the small celebration of a classroom activity or a complete Valentine’s Book Love Party, sharing affection for favourite books and characters consolidates the classroom as a place where reading is valued.

How can your students show this love? They can write letters to their favourite characters or their favourite authors, telling them how much they mean to their lives. You can schedule a lesson full of book talks, where students share what they love about their favourite books and why their classmates should also read them. They can create images of their favourite characters and write about their lovable qualities or create Valentine’s Day cards for their favourite characters or books.

Taking it a little further, students can examine the qualities of a popular book or series and discuss why it is so loved. They can analyse why ‘bad guys’ are often loved by readers, or how to make an unlikeable character more likeable.

By acknowledging that emotion - falling in love with books and characters - is an important part of a reading life, we allow students to see reading as a lifelong pursuit - something they can have as part of their world long after school has finished.

 
Encourage students to share their love of books and reading on Valentine's Day and throughout the rest of the school year to create a reading friendly environment. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Celebrating Friendship in Books

Friendship is a central theme in many books for children and a great comparison topic for Valentine’s Day. Whether it’s the imaginative friendship of Jess and Leslie in Bridge to Terabithia, the frenemy friendship of Erica and Alison in Hating Alison Ashley or the often life-saving friendship of Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Harry Potter series, there’s so much to explore and discuss.

Some of the things students can question and discuss:

  • What does a good friendship look like in books?

  • Which books show us examples of good friendships?

  • How is the friendship in one book similar to a friendship in another book?

  • What picture books show us friendships?

  • What is our favourite friendship in books?

  • What do books teach us about friendship?

How Would Characters Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

What kind of Valentine’s Day celebrations would Pig the Pug plan? Does the Green Sheep stop resting to write Valentine’s Day cards? And would Gandalf send Bilbo a Valentine’s Day card?

Imagining Valentine’s Day celebrations for book characters allows students to step into the shoes of those characters for a little while. Students can discuss the features of those characters, what they would be likely to say or do, or how they might interact with other characters in an unfamiliar situation.

One activity students could engage in is writing Valentine’s Day Cards from one character to another character. This could be from a book you are studying as a class, books your students love or a brand new picture book you introduce to your students on the day.

Whether you just engage in a small book based activity or you plan a whole lesson of Valentine’s themed book celebrations, there’s so many ways to celebrate a class love of books on Valentine’s Day!

 
 
 
 

What Does it Mean to Be Australian?: Using Picture Books in the Classroom to Explore Australian Identity

As you read through I’m Australian Too, written by Mem Fox, it is easy to see how this book can be used to explore Australian identity in the classroom. By adding a wide range of other Australian picture books, we can further facilitate these discussions and create a better understanding of what it means to be Australian for our students.

 
Introduction to Rowan of Rin - a look at Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda and teaching activities and discussion questions to go with the novel. Includes a look at novel study teaching resources
 

What it means to be Australian and how we define the ‘Australian way of life’ have been topics of discussion for a very long time. Many people, from politicians to journalists to public figures have weighed in on these questions and many different answers have been offered. It is a topic which features prominently in Australian discourse, especially from politicians - and a topic which can easily spill into our classrooms as politicians insist that ‘Australian values’ be taught to our students.

Getting adult Australians to agree on what it means to be Australian is a difficult task, but it’s important that we engage our students in what it means to them. By having these discussions in the classroom, we allow them to look at their own identity as Australians, the identity of the people around them and how Australia may be viewed by the world. We give them ideas and words which allow them to take part in a larger conversation.

There are a wide range of Australian picture books which can prompt questions and discussions of Australian identity. From books which focus on a range of different characters from different backgrounds (like I’m Australian Too or My Place) to books which explore moments of history (like Sorry Day and the many ANZAC Day related books) to books which give us a sense of place (like Mrs White and the Red Desert) to books which explore big and devastating events which tend to shape up (like Jackie French’s natural disaster books). There are books which help out students understand who we are, how we got here and where we might go next.

 
A few Australian picture books which can be used in the classroom to explore Australian Identity with your students. These picture books can help students examine how they see themselves, how they see others and what stereotypes of Australians are. Perfect for the classroom
 

But how can we use these books effectively in the classroom when we talk about Australian identity? In a 2012 Australia Day speech on Australian Identity, the Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke points out that identity is a tricky concept - that it is linked to our perceptions of ourselves, the way we view others and stereotypes which may or may not be accurate. These three links to identity allow us to form a great framework to explore Australian picture books which deal with Australian Identity.

How we view ourselves

If we offer a wide range of Australian picture books in our classroom, students should be able to find moments which offer a connection to their own experiences. They may talk about their local war memorial like the one in Gary Crew’s Memorial, or hearing about drought like the one in Jackie French’s book. They might recognise the tall buildings in Narelle Oliver’s Home or the tram in I’m Australian Too.

Students can keep a list of these connections or note them on sticky notes as they read through the books. They can examine these lists or collections of notes and reflect on how their experiences connect them to the ideas of Australian identity.

Using compare and contrast graphic organisers, students can explore how they ‘fit’ within the Australian identity shown in these picture books and how they are different.

Students can also dig deeper to see what ‘hidden’ messages the authors and illustrators have included about Australian identity and what that means to them. What is the author saying when talking about helpers cleaning up in Flood (by Jackie French)? What qualities are those people showing? Are they Australian qualities? How do I reflect those qualities in my own life?

How we see others (and the world around us)

As well as showing us connections to our own experiences, Australian picture books allow us an insight to other Australians, Australian places, Australian history and Australian experiences.

As students read these books they can take notes of questions they might have:

  • Why do farmers have to feed animals in drought?

  • Why were some children not allowed to swim in the pool?

  • Why did they take horses on the boats to war?

  • What would it be like to escape your country on a tiny boat?

Students can work in pairs or small groups to sort their questions, finding questions which are similar. They can discuss which value might go with those questions.

Students can also look at which books are connected to other books. They may put books about the Australian environment together and books about our history in another group. They might talk about how different books show different aspects of drought and how it impacts Australian identity. They can discuss how the authors might define Australian identity.

 
Three questions we can bring to the classroom when we explore Australian identity with our students. These questions can help teachers frame a bigger conversation about what it means to be Australian through the lens of Australian picture books
 

Exploring Stereotypes

As I write this post, I have just retrieved our family’s Christmas books from the cupboard. One of the books is an old Australian version of the 12 Days of Christmas, complete with a swagman in his singlet, boots and cork hat. What does that tell us about Australian identity?

As our students explore these picture books, it’s important to discuss the stereotypes of a ‘typical’ Australian. Students may like to draw a picture or write a description of a ‘typical’ Australian before they start reading any of the books.

Students can see that many Australian picture books offer an image of Australia which is mostly different from the ‘typical’ image. They can discuss why that it, why a stereotype may not be accurate, how we can better illustrate and describe Australian identity in the future. By using an understanding of stereotypes, they can identify the choices authors and illustrators make when they do and don’t follow those stereotypes of ‘typical’ Australians.

Every year we’re seeing more picture books telling us the stories of Australia and Australians. These are useful tools in our classrooms in a number of ways - especially as they guide us to a better understanding of what it means to be Australian.

 
 

Introduction to Rowan of Rin: Classroom Discussions and Teaching Resources

Are you looking for a great classroom book, filled with fantasy and adventure *and* classroom discussion potential and opportunities for thoughtful learning activities? Then you can't go past Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda.

 
Introduction to Rowan of Rin - a look at Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda and teaching activities and discussion questions to go with the novel. Includes a look at novel study teaching resources
 

Rowan of Rin introduces us to Rowan - a shy and relatively timid herder of creatures known as bukshah. When the bukshah's water source dries up suddenly, Rowan - and the other residents of the village of Rin - search for answers. With no other options, they send a band of villagers up the nearby mountain to see what is happening.

Through a strange turn of events, Rowan finds himself on the journey up the mountain, despite the warnings about the perilous journey and his fear of the fabled dragon lurking at the top.

Rowan of Rin is a great book to use from Year 4 and older. Although the language is relatively simple, the concepts can be quite advanced allowing for older students to take an in-depth look at the book.

Classroom Discussions

Rowan of Rin especially deals with what it means to be brave. Rowan does not feel that he is brave, while he feels that those around him demonstrates of all the qualities of valour and bravery. As you progress through the journey up the mountain, Rowan realises that there are different types of bravery and that people who look brave on the outside maybe hiding fears inside.

When students have finished discussing bravery, learning activities might include creating definitions of what it means to be brave, creating lists of people or characters who they believe are brave or researching different types of bravery awards.

This book is also a great addition for any class examining fantasy stories. There are many elements of a fantasy story within Rowan of Rin. These include an invented society; the village witch; an invented animal which Rowan looks after; a journey which requires a number of people; riddles to solve; and a mystical beast at the final hurdle.

Students can compare Rowan of Rin to other fantasy stories they have read or seen - including movies, television shows or picture books. They might choose to explore a certain element of fantasy stories and create lists of books or stories which share that element with Rowan of Rin

 
 

Teacher Resources

There are three teacher resources for Rowan of Rin as well as a resource bundle available through Galarious Goods.

The Comprehension and Vocabulary teaching resource allows students to take an in-depth, chapter by chapter look at Rowan of Rin. Students can answer a range of comprehension questions, explore vocabulary or engage with deeper questions as they work their way through the book.

The Character and Setting teaching resource takes a look at the characters of Rowan of Rin, their characteristics and how they relate to each other. It also explores some of the settings of the book, including the places significant to the journey up the mountain.

The Whole Novel teaching resource encompasses the entire novel of Rowan of Rin. It includes reader response, retell, themes, discussion questions and creative activities.

 
 

Using I'm Australian Too in Upper Primary Classrooms

You will find I'm Australian Too (by Mem Fox and Ronojoy Ghosh) in classrooms across the country. But while it has been celebrated as a book for younger children, I'm Australian Too can be used as a teaching tool with classroom activities well beyond the early years. This is an important book - a book that students of all ages can learn from.

 
Using I’m Australian Too in UPPER PRimary classrooms - Teaching ideas and Teaching Activities for the mem fox book
 

I'm Australian Too introduces us to a wide range of children who live in Australia, exploring the history they and their family have with Australia and giving the reader a little insight into how they experience life in Australia. The story shows us that Australia has been a safe place for generations of immigrants and refugees, a place for those facing hardship and danger. And we can question whether we are honouring that legacy today.

There are a range of learning activities which can accompany this book, including

1. Discussing Australian Identity

I'm Australian Too shows the readers children who all consider themselves Australian, even if their family comes from other parts of the world. This is a great introduction to concepts of Australian identity, to explore what makes Australians Australian.

This is a particularly useful book for students to explore at those times of the year when we examine what it means to be Australian like Australia Day, Harmony Day and those times when Australians are involved in large international sporting competitions. These occasions often raise questions about Australian identity and this book gives students a starting place to work from to discuss these questions. Students can use I'm Australian Too as part of a discussion activity, exploring the text and illustrations to draw conclusions about what the author and illustrator believe. They can use these understandings from the text to shape and write their own belief statements, or compare and contrast with other books which look at Australian identity.

2. I'm Australian Too Character Postcards

There are a wide range of 'characters' in I'm Australian Too. The bright distinctive illustrations tell students additional information and allow them to draw conclusions. These conclusions and the illustration styles can then be combined as creative learning activities.

One option is for students to be inspired by the illustrations and characters to create a postcard which features one of the characters as well as a short piece of text about what it means to be Australian. They can touch on where the character family comes from, how it feels to be Australian, the atmosphere of Australian places or participation in Australian past times.

The postcard is a useful tool when students are trying to summarise their thoughts since they are restricted in space - therefore are restricted in how much they can say. This allows them to keep their character reflections succinct and to the point.

Students can then expand on this by creating a postcard which reflects their own experiences and understandings of what it means to be Australian.

Interested in creating your own postcards? Get the free folding template here.

 
 

3. Create a Character Diagram

The wide range of characters and their different backgrounds in I'm Australian Too also allows for visual comparisons. Students can combine text, shapes, arrows and lines to show different characters and how they are alike or different or connected.

Students might also like to explore how they can create different styles of diagrams to show different types of information. Students can then apply this knowledge of diagrams and organisers as they explore other books and novels.

Get I'm Australian Too resources here

 
 

5 Reasons to Explore Christmas Books in Your Classroom

As December looms nearer, Christmas is all around us. Decorations are being hung in public spaces, Christmas music is beginning to be heard, and the Christmas aisle suddenly appears in the shops. You also find Christmas picture books, especially written to bring Christmas into the literary word. These books are perfect to explore in your classroom at Christmas - bringing together the excitement of the holiday season and the real learning which comes with exploring picture books. Here's a few reasons why you should explore them in your classroom.

 
5 Reasons to Explore Christmas Books in Your Classroom
 

1. Christmas is a Time of Excitement in the Classroom

Christmas is a time of great excitement for many children and adults alike. In the classroom, it's often the lead up to holidays, either the long summer holidays in the Southern Hemisphere or shorter winter holidays in the Northern Hemisphere. This excitement around Christmas and holidays can make it difficult for students to focus on more traditional learning. Christmas books are a great way of harnessing that excitement and turning it into real authentic learning. While students are enjoying the stories of Christmas, they can also be looking at the choices the author and illustrator make, the meanings that come from the Christmas books and the text features they use in their work.

2. Christmas Books are Connected to Shared Experiences

Almost everyone has some experience of Christmas - whether it's their own family celebrations, the activities they participate in at school or the Christmas they see in media. This shared experience means that students are coming to Christmas books with a significant amount of background knowledge and understanding. This makes it possible to explore the books a little deeper, to compare and contrast them with the Christmas experiences we have, to create work inspired by the books with a greater knowledge. These books then become another shared experience for students - another part of their Christmas knowledge.

 
 

3. There Are Some Really Good Christmas Books

The idea of Christmas books doesn't always make you think of interesting story lines. But there's been some really interesting and fun concepts developing over the past few years. From exploring how Queen Victoria celebrated Christmas (in Queen Victoria's Christmas) to looking at drought at Christmas time (in the CBCA recognised All I Want for Christmas is Rain), authors and illustrators have been taking a whole range of approaches to Christmas stories and it's fascinating to compare and discuss these.

4. Christmas Books Often Have Beloved Characters in Them

Young readers can easily fall in love with characters who appear in more than one picture book. And when those characters appear in a Christmas book, there's an immediate anticipation of what that book might contain. When students see Pig the Elf by Aaron Blabey, they know they're probably going to read about some of the horrible behaviour of the selfish Pig. Or, if they look at Jackie French's Christmas Wombat, they know there's a pretty good chance that it will be written in diary format and may include carrots. This anticipation builds excitement into lessons using these books as well as offering opportunities to explore how well known characters react to the events of the Christmas season.

 
 

 

5. Picture Books are Easy to Use

Christmas time and the lead up to holidays are usually some of the busiest times in the school year. There isn't always a lot of time for sustained learning. This is where the Christmas picture books can be a huge assistance - they're quick and easy to read, but there's a lot of smaller activities you can do with them. They're portable, so you can take them with you if you're moving from one activity to another and need to fill in waiting time. You can get a complete text experience, without worrying that you're going to run out of time to read a novel. 

Are you exploring Christmas books in your classroom this year? You can find a whole range of Christmas picture book studies at the Galarious Goods shop, including our money saving bundles - for Year 3, 4 and 5 and for Year 4, 5 and 6.