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.

Get Rowan of Rin resources here

 
 

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.

 

 
 

Five Ways to Explore Picture Books in the Classroom

Last week I looked at why we should use picture books in middle grades classrooms, but it's also important to look at some of the different ways we can use them. Picture books are great for flexibility - their length and size allow them to fit into smaller blocks of time and to be shared more easily. So what are some of the different ways you can utilise this flexibility?

 
Five Ways to Explore Picture Books in the Classroom
 

1. Make Pictures A Daily Read

Picture books can be a great way to start a day, lesson or language block. It can serve as a transition for students, giving them time to be prepared to learn. Daily picture books allow your students to be exposed to a large range of books, allowing you to bring a wide range of diverse authors, illustrators and stories to your students. It creates a large shared vocabulary with stories that students can refer back to and talk about. Many picture books also contain themes, questions and social situations which are important to discuss with students.

Students can interact with the books through quick discussion questions, paired or small group discussion or through exit slips (you can download free exit slips here). Students may also like to keep journals exploring some of the books which are read in the classroom.

Although it's great to have students respond to the texts, they don't need to respond formally every day. Sometimes it's best to just let students sit with the text and insisting on a written response every day can reduce enthusiasm for the daily reading time. Mixing up the ways students respond (or don't respond) can help to keep the daily read fresh.

 
 

 

2. Connecting a Text to a Specific Lesson

Picture books are great to use as mentor texts - whether it's exploring a type of story or looking at a particular text element. Picture books can also be used as introductions to other subjects - as a way to look at a historical period or a scientific principal, or they can be used to expand ideas or raise questions about those subjects. 

In this way, picture books may be simply used as a prompt to get students thinking about a subject. They might follow it up with a brainstorm or ask questions to explore further. Students may refer back to the book later on when they have more understanding of the topic and may engage in a critique of how the picture book handles the subject.

Alternately, the picture book can become the basis of an entire unit of work. A book like I'm Australian Too by Mem Fox can become the centre of a unit on what it means to be Australian and how people travel to Australia. Students can refer back to the book at different times, connect the book to other texts or media and create pieces of work inspired by the book and other information they have learned.

3. Teacher Led Small Group Work

If you use literacy rotations or use a reader's workshop in your classroom, picture books are great for teacher-led small group work. Students can meet once or more a week with their teacher to explore a book, looking at themes, literary techniques, making comparisons or completing activities. The size of picture books make them perfect for a small group work - they're easy to pass around to examine pictures, and the smaller amounts of text on each page make it easier for students to find examples or read out quotes from the page.

These small group explorations can be a great way to support your curriculum goals and assist you in collecting evidence for assessment. With guidance, you can allow students to take on discussions themselves, allowing you to take notes on their understanding of the book and the elements you wish to explore.

4. Student Led Exploration

Also great for literacy rotations or in a reader's workshop, students can work independently on their own, in pairs or in small groups to explore the book. You may create a generic set of discussion questions or activities for students to work through with any book they choose, or you may have 'packs' of books, questions and activities for students to work through. You can also select themes or ideas for students to explore, choose picture books which will work with those themes or ideas and have questions or activities specifically created to link to those themes or ideas.

When students are being asked to work independently with picture books, it can be useful to model how they do this. When students are being asked to work in small groups, you may walk them through the process during the first few weeks and then offer a reminder card of the process for following sessions. If students are working on their own as part of a literacy rotation, you may like to outline the routine and expectations, then use a reminder card to help students keep on track.

5. Whole class close reading

Sometimes it can be useful for all the students in the class to take a deep look at one text at the same time. Students may follow with a large classroom copy of the book or work in smaller groups examining multiple copies of the text. It can be helpful to provide a range of activities when all the students are engaging with the same text - you may start by reading it aloud to the class, give them individual time to record their ideas and reflections (possibly with question prompts), bring them into small groups to discuss and look closer at the text and then ask them to work individually or in pairs to create their own work. There are many other options to use here including whole class discussion, students using sticky notes or exit slips to share their ideas with others or even a whole class response to the text.

You Can Find a range of picture book studies for middle grade students at Galarious Goods including Flood by Jackie French, The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin and I'm Australian Too by Mem Fox

 
 
 
 

Five Reasons to Use Picture Books in Middle Grades Classrooms

Books with pictures can sometimes get a bad reputation as 'lesser books'. Once we're able to read novels - the 'important' books, we're supposed to put away our books with pictures - relics of our younger childhoods. However, there is so much we and our students can learn from picture books and plenty of reasons to make sure they find a home in middle grades classrooms. 

 
5 Reasons to Use Picture Books in Middle Grades Classrooms
 

1. Picture Books Are More Complex Than You Might Think

There can be a stereotype of picture books as early readers. While it's definitely true that a number of picture books are written for young children, there's an increasing number of complex picture books written and illustrated for older readers. The books of Shaun Tan, for example, contain intricate and complex illustrations and themes and ideas which can take multiple rereadings to untangle. Many picture books contain unnamed themes which allow students to flex their inferencing muscles. Illustrations can also allow students to examine prediction or question the choices of the illustrator in matching the words of the writers. It's well worth taking time to look through picture books to find those more complex books.

2. Picture Books Cover A Wide Range of Topics

As well as fictional stories, you can find plenty of biographies, history and science picture books. Many of these books present information on complex topics in a clear and simple fashion and they're great as an introduction to a discussion or a topic of study. Even books aimed at the youngest children could be used like this in the classroom - I recently bought a board book called Rocket Science for Babies which would be a great introduction to a science class or a great way for students to explore how scientific topics can be explained for a wider audience.

3. Picture Books Can Be Easier to Manage in the Classroom Than Novels

When students read novels as part of a small group or class, it really is important that all the students have their own books. Sharing novels can be frustrating for slower or faster readers and make it harder for students to follow the narratives. Picture books can be more easily shared between pairs or groups because each page is meant to be taken in as it is. Teachers can also use picture books to lead small group or class discussions - their larger size can make it easier for all the children to see and discuss illustrations. 

Picture books can also be easier to fit into crowded classroom timetables. Students can easily finish, discuss and analyse a picture book in one or two lessons, where a novel requires a much bigger block of time to complete and discuss. This is particularly useful when looking for texts which share certain literary techniques like personification, rhyme schemes or allegories.

4. Picture Books Improve Visual Literacy

More and more information is shared through graphics and images these days and it's important that students learn to 'read' these as well as text. Picture books can be used as one way of improving visual literacy. Students can examine what aspects of the text the illustrator chose to depict and how they chose to depict it. They can look at the style the illustrator used to tell a story and how it might be different if a different illustrator had been used. They can question the choices the illustrator made and how they make an impact on the story as a whole. This can also be connected with art classes as students explore different artistic techniques used in picture books (the works of Jeannie Baker, Shaun Tan, Bruce Whatley or Freya Blackwood would be fascinating to explore here!)

5. Picture Book Allow For Effective Differentiation

The shorter length and shorter text of picture books can make them excellent tools for students who have difficulties with reading or need assistance to focus for longer periods of time. Students are more likely to finish picture books in a short amount of time, allowing for feelings of mastery and growth and building self-efficacy for future challenges. The wide range of picture books available means that it is possible to find ones which suit particular interests and wordless picture books can also assist students to find themes, ideas and literary techniques without needing to decode words. Picture books can also allow for in-depth and extensive examinations of theme and exploration of the choices of the authors and illustrators, allowing advanced or gifted students to reflect on how they might apply what they have learned to their own writing. 

You Can Find a range of picture book studies for middle grade students at Galarious Goods including Flood by Jackie French, The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin and I'm Australian Too by Mem Fox

 
 
 
 

3 Ways to Engage Students with Folding Vocabulary Lessons

Over the last few months I've discovered interactive notebooks and folding resources - and I've fallen hard for them! I love the ways you can combine folding, colouring, words and ideas to create an interactive resource which helps students to explore and engage with the topic they are learning. 

One area I love using interactive notebook resources with is novel studies. I've included them in all my most recent ones, updated some old resources to include them and plan to update the remaining ones! I especially love using them with vocabulary. Which made me think - what are some different ways to explore vocabulary using folding resources?

 
3 Ways to engage students with folding vocabulary lessons. Interactive resource blog post with free downloadable resource. Includes three examples of folding vocabulary resources - a vocabulary wheel, vocabulary pocket and vocabulary expandable resource
 

1. Vocabulary Wheels

 
Vocabulary Wheel - 3 Ways to Use Folding Resources to Teach Vocabulary. A multi-use vocabulary folding wheel allowing for students to explore words, their definitions, synonyms, images to represent them
 

This is the main way I use folding resources in vocabulary resources. Students begin with one or two 'wheels' with a number of different sections. In most of my resources they use these wheels to connect the vocabulary words and the definitions, though you could use them to connect to the roots of the words, to share some synonyms or even include an image to define the word. 

Students using one wheel cut it out and write the words (or definitions) on each of the sections. They cut between the sections and fold on the dotted lines, gluing the middle section into their notebook. Students then write the definitions (or words) under each section. (Reversing the 'standard' order - by putting the definition on top - can help students connect the definitions to the words in a different way). Students can also use both wheels and layer one on top of the other.

This is definitely an activity which you can adapt for your own vocabulary needs. Students can layer additional circles, add extra vocabulary knowledge or experiment with making their own templates with extra folding pieces or pockets for more information.

These can be reduced in size to create smaller folding vocabulary wheels for notebooks, or can be enlarged to be used as a display. Students may like to work in pairs or small groups to create these.

 
 

2. Go Deeper With a Folding Resource

 
Go Deeper Vocabulary- 3 Ways to Use Folding Resources to Teach Vocabulary. Demonstrating an easy three part folding vocabulary resource which allows students to take a deeper look at difficult vocabulary or content words.
 

This is especially good for students to take an in-depth look at a particular word. Students write the word, definition, synonyms and a sentence using the word in the different sections, then fold the resource up to keep in their notebook or a folder. This resource can reduced in size (with several copies on one page) and students can complete several smaller folding activities or it can be enlarged and displayed around the classroom - especially as part of a unit of study.

The best part of this style of folding vocabulary resource is that it’s easy for students to design and create themselves. It can be easily adapted for different students; designed to meet their individual learning needs.

3. Synonym Pocket

 
Synonym Pocket- 3 Ways to Use Folding Resources to Teach Vocabulary. Showing a folding pocket used to extend vocabulary knowledge and understanding
 

Collecting synonyms can be very useful when students are writing, especially when you're looking for them to move beyond words like 'good' or 'happy'. This resource gives students a place to keep those synonyms. They write the word they're finding synonyms for on the pocket and then write the synonyms on the inserts. These pockets can then be glued into notebooks or into a manilla folder for students to refer back to. They can also be used to create a display in the classroom or as part of a writing centre.

These can also be adapted to collect similar words for content areas. Students can collect words connected to different historical events or civics and citizenship concepts or vocabulary connected to mathematical concepts.

 
 
 
 

6 Exciting Books for Students Who Love The Ruins of Gorlan

The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan is a great book and I thoroughly enjoyed using it to create a comprehensive book study. Recently I updated the Ruins of Gorlan resources, adding additional material and activities and offering more options for teachers using the book study in the their classrooms. To celebrate the update, I'm pleased to present a new Ruins of Gorlan blog post offering 6 additional books (with a few sneaky extras) for students who loved the Ruins of Gorlan.
 

 
6 Exciting Books for Students Who Love The Ruins of Gorlan by Galarious Goods
 

The Mapmaker Chronicles by A.L. Tait

I've only read the first in this series (the second is in my to-read pile!) but I loved it as much as I love the Ranger's Apprentice books. It's similar in 'style' to The Ranger's Apprentice - a fictional setting similar to a real-life historical period - and there's some other similarities, but it's also very much its own book, with unique characters and antagonists and completely different adventures.

The king wants to know what lies in the world and he's looking for captains and map makers who can make it happen. Quinn, a 14 year old boy who would prefer a quiet farm life, is chosen as one of the map makers.

This would be a great read aloud book, as well as working as a whole class or small group novel study. It could be easily connected to the ideas of map making and explorers around the world and could definitely lead to some interesting discussions amongst students.

Find more at The Mapmaker Chronicles website
 

The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

If you're looking for a book which combines fantasy and adventure, it's hard to go past The Hobbit. The tale of Bilbo Baggins who sets off on an unexpected adventure with a group of dwarves is a classic for a reason. Although it goes more into the fantasy side of things than The Ruins of Gorlan, it balances it nicely with adventure - making it a easier read for those students who make not have a lot of experience with the fantasy genre. 

The Hobbit is a great book as a read aloud (prepare your voice for the Gollum chapter), a small group or recommended as a reader's workshop novel. Students who finish with The Hobbit may like to go on and explore The Lord of the Rings.

 

A Book Talk of The Hobbit

 

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

The Ruins of Gorlan is set in a time period and place which which obviously meant to reflect medieval England. For a different look at the medieval world, students may like to explore Catherine, Called Birdy, a diary style book which examines the life of the daughter of a knight. It explores the social history of medieval life and the pressures on young girls to be married.

This would make a fascinating comparison piece with The Ruins of Gorlan. Students could discuss why John Flanagan chose to be inspired by the medieval time period while making changes, especially in the way women are treated. I think this book would be especially effective in small group discussions.


Castle by David Macaulay

For a different way of looking at the medieval world, students may like to examine Castle, a picture book which combines drawings of a fictional castle (based on detailed research) with descriptions of the construction process. This would be a brilliant book to combine with STEM activities, as students explore the different elements which go into making up a castle. This additional knowledge may also provide more context for some parts of The Ruins of Gorlan or assist students in picturing events in The Ruins of Gorlan more clearly.

 
Book recommendation castle.jpg
 

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

The Thief tells the story of Gen, a thief who is released from prison to assist the magus - the King's scholar. It's an excellent adventure book, with a main character who demonstrates intelligence, skill and bravery, when required - much like Will in The Ruins of Gorlan. It also demonstrates influences from historical cultures - something which would be fascinating for students to explore. This would work particularly well as an option in Reader's Workshop (especially with a good book talk) or as a read aloud book for the whole class or a small group.


Other Ranger's Apprentice books and The Brotherband Series by John Flanagan

It feels a little like cheating to include these, but they are a must read for any fans of The Ruins of Gorlan. The Ranger's Apprentice is not a strictly chronological series - the books are often gathered together in twos or threes (though there are some stand alones and a collection of short stories) and they jump forward and backward around Will's life. There's a lot in them to explore and lots of students will be caught up in the adventures of Will, Halt and their friends.

Brotherband goes off to the land of Skandia - a land we meet in the second, third and fourth Ranger's Apprentice books - and continues the adventures in a slightly different way.

Both series are great to have available - either in the classroom library or the school library - for when students have finished reading The Ruins of Gorlan. Alternatively, you may like to help a small group of Ruins of Gorlan fans conduct their own book study on one or more of the Ranger's Apprentice series when they're finished with the first book.

Find the complete updated range of Ruins of Gorlan Resources at Galarious Goods

Ruins of Gorlan Comprehension and Vocabulary
Ruins of Gorlan Research

Ruins of Gorlan Characters
Ruins of Gorlan Whole Novel Activities
Ruins of Gorlan Complete Novel Study Bundle (US Spelling)
Ruins of Gorlan Complete Novel Study Bundle (UK Spelling)

 
 

6 Great Books to Integrate With Australian Social Studies


There are so many different ways to explore Australian social studies (or Humanities and Social Sciences as it is described in the Australian curriculum) in the classroom. One of the best ways is to use books - fiction and non fiction - which relate to the themes, ideas and events our students are exploring. I'm pleased to present six books covering Australian social studies which are perfect for middle grades classrooms.

 
6 Great Books to Integrate With Australian Social Studies - Galarious Goods
 

I'm Australian Too by Mem Fox and Ronojoy Ghosh

While the text seems simple at first, there's a lot in this picture book to explore and discuss when it comes to Australian identity, those who come to Australia and things which represent Australia. Students can look at and research some of the different reasons people come to Australia, comparing and contrasting different stories. They may also like to contribute their own stories or interview someone who has travelled to Australia and become an Australian citizen. It would definitely be a great book to extend ideas when looking at citizenship and modern Australian history. You can also use the book to discuss global citizenship and the responsibilities different countries and individuals have - or should have - to people in other parts of the world.

You can get an I'm Australian Too Book Study resource at the Galarious Goods Shop

 
 

How to Build Your Own Country by Valerie Wyatt and Fred Rix

This is a brilliant non-fiction book for any classroom covering government or economics! What would you do if you had your own country? What would you need to know? How do you stop your country from falling apart? While this book walks you through the process of setting up your own country, it also looks at the knowledge which will help any young country builder make their country an excellent one. You can use it as the foundation of a teaching unit, dig into bits of it for different activities or make it available for those students who want to explore further. It's not an Australian-centric book, but it's a great general look at some really important topics.

 

Book Trailer for How to Build Your Own Country

 

The Mostly True Story of Matthew and Trim by Cassandra Golds and Stephen Axelsen

Australian history told through a graphic novel? Yes please! This graphic novel tells the story of Matthew Flinders who circumnavigated and mapped Australia. You can use this in small groups in the classroom, with students comparing the graphic novel retelling with other histories of Matthew Flinders. Students can discuss why Flinder's story is important and what his achievements meant to Australia and compare him to other explorers and map makers. Students can also look at the geographical challenges of map making and make their own maps - an activity which can also integrate reading and social studies with mathematics!

 

Say Yes: A Story of Friendship, Fairness and a Vote for Hope by Jennifer Castles and Paul Seden

This beautiful book is centred around the friendship between an Aboriginal girl and a non-Aboriginal girl and the 1967 Referendum in Australia. Including images, paper ephemera and newspaper clippings from the time, it explores how many laws at the time were unfair to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia and invites readers to think about how things could be better going forward into the future. It's a perfect social studies book, which can be related to law making and the rule of law, to referendums, to what a census is and how it impacts decision making as well as modern Australian history. Examining the images in the book could also give students inspiration when they're sharing their own history research.

 

News story about the friendship behind Say Yes - A Story of Friendship, Fairness and a Vote for Hope

 

Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman

It can be really meaningful to students to link a class novel study with a social studies unit. Morris Gleitzman's Boy Overboard is an excellent book for any class examining why people come to Australia and what it means to be Australian. The story of Jamal and his family who flee the Taliban in Afghanistan for the safety of Australia, readers get to see the difficulties refugees can face and the motivations which can turn people into refugees in the first place. It's a great book to read while looking at modern history, those who have come to Australia over history or global citizenship and one which students can study and read as a class novel or investigate as a teacher read-aloud.

You can get the Boy Overboard Complete Novel Study Bundle at Galarious Goods

 
 

Refuge by Jackie French

Jackie French has so many books which are excellent to tie in with Australian social studies - I could make an entire post containing only her books! Refuge is a really interesting book to read - it went in a totally different direction from what I expected. I think this one would make a particularly good read aloud - particularly if students make predictions about the story before it began. Refuge looks at different people from different time periods who have come to one land as refugees and find themselves in a rather odd place. It is very good to connect to Australian history and I highly recommend it.

You can read more about Refuge at Jackie French's website

Find a wide range of teaching resources at Galarious Goods

 
 

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