1—Literary language and meaning in Flood: acts of service as acts of heroism
What kind of character?
Orient students to the task by explaining that they are going to be looking at some of the language from a book which they will not encounter until later. Firstly students will be exploring how language can be used to develop characterisation (‘build up a sense of what a character is like’) by inventing their own characters based on some wordings from the book.
Display for students the blank activity sheet ‘What kind of character?’ (.pdf 1.2 MB) — ideally using the interactive whiteboard. Ask students what kinds of words have been shown in green (verbs/processes — ‘the words that say what is happening or what is going on’), and explain that these begin to give us some hints as to what a character is like because these are the kinds of activities in which the character engages. However, who or what the character does the processes to is also very important (‘done-to’ participants, indicated by light orange cells) for example ‘slashed the neighbour’s tyres’ versus ‘slashed expenditure on education’ — what kinds of characters are suggested by these alternatives? Also, the circumstances in which the action happened (light blue cells) can give us a sense of the character and sometimes also the setting — for example ‘fell off his mountain bike’ versus ‘fell from the monkey bars’ versus ‘fell from favour’.
Modelled grammar activity
Model for students how to complete the activity, either using the model answer (.pdf 1.2 MB) or your own example. Explain to students that all the clauses need to match the kind of character they have in mind so that a reader could guess the character type without being told.
Joint grammar activity
Repeat the activity jointly with the class if another example would be useful to them (for example, try to complete it imagining the ‘do-er’ is a toddler, or a cricket player). Clarify where necessary the difference between the orange and blue boxes (orange ‘done-to’ boxes — the verb or process is being done to or directed at a person or thing; blue ‘circumstance’ boxes will usually have a phrase telling more about when/where/how, often starting with a preposition such as ‘like’, ‘from’, ‘into’, ‘off’) — but make sure to emphasise the role of language choices in making meaning rather than over-emphasising accuracy of grammatical analysis.
Independent grammar activity
Have students work independently or in pairs to complete their own ‘what kind of character?’ sheet. The teacher should assist students to clarify if their choices for the white boxes should be shaded orange (for a participant which had the verb ‘done-to’ it) or blue (for the circumstances in which the event indicated by the verb occurred).
Sharing and class discussion
Students form small groups and share their work. Have each group select one worksheet to share with the class. Have the class guess ‘what kind of character’ has been developed using the particular language choices made by different students.
Reading and interpreting literature: Flood by Jackie French and illustrated by Bruce Whatley
Read students the picture book Flood. Then hand out a blank ‘What kind of character?’ worksheet and re-read the text, asking students to complete the blanks with the words from the book.
Invite students’ responses to the text, for example: Had students imagined that an inanimate force such as a flood might be the ‘do-er’ of the activity indicated by the verbs in the ‘What kind of character?’ task? What sort of character is the flood? Would you say it was a kind of villain? How is it different from a typical villain in literature? Was the flood ever a ‘done-to’-type participant in the text? (No.) What does this say about the characterisation of the flood? For example, it is a ‘do-er’ of action but never affected by the actions of others — hence depicted as having unchecked power — which was indeed literally the case with the real flood upon which the text is based. Discuss the use of extended metaphor in Flood, with an inanimate force being ascribed human-like qualities.
Active listening / independent reading
Re-read Flood while students complete the activity sheet ‘Some other characters in Flood’ (.pdf 1.2 MB).
What do these characters, the other ‘do-ers’ in the text, have in common with one another? How do they contrast with the flood? Can they all be characterised as heroic in some sense? If so, how are these characters the same as or different from typical heroes in literature? For example, they don’t defeat the ‘villain’ — the flood — but they are heroic in acts of selflessness and courage towards others in a time of need.
What sort of text is Flood and what is its purpose? (In some respects it is a recount of factual events, but with narrative elements).
What makes a real hero? What implications for ethical behaviour do you think the book’s creators want readers to consider, if any?
Reflection on learning
Students independently write a ‘text response/review’ of Flood, focusing in particular on the language. They should address how the language creates two contrasting sets of characters: the flood itself as a kind of ‘villain’; and the collective efforts of volunteers, a tugboat and many ordinary people as ‘heroic’. Students should evaluate the success of the language choices in the text. Encourage students to substantiate their evaluations with examples of wordings from the text.