2— Investigating orientation
Explain to the students that opening paragraphs, or beginnings of narrative texts, which serve the purpose of orientation, are meant to hook the reader and hold their attention.
Most openings give a brief glimpse of a main character, a description that sets a scene and touches on an issue. The voice and tone of the work reaches out through the pages and hooks your attention, and there may already be some sense of how the problem (complication) will be introduced.
Begin by drafting a retrieval chart — a simple matrix or grid where information is recorded for the purpose of retrieving the information and using it in another way. Tell students to be alert to aspects of the stories that will help them complete this chart after reading and discussion.
Read the beginning of the texts to the students, stopping at critical points to ask about the particular language techniques and choices that the author has made. Once completed, ask the students to talk about how the structures and features of the texts contribute to the way each text communicates both information and the setting.
Ask the students what questions come to mind when they read the opening. Some questions could be:
- Where is the story set?
- What does ‘dry’ mean in these opening sentences?
- How does the author convey that the town is dry?
- What words, phrases and clauses are repeated or have a similar pattern?
- What effect does this have on the setting and the situation?
- Why would you stay in such a place?
- Who are the main characters and what do you think about them?
- How old do you think Glory-Alice is? Or Maisie?
- What is their relationship?
- Rodda says that the ‘land shrank’. What does that convey?
- ‘Noah’s Ark in reverse’ what images does that bring to mind? Can the students explain this reference?
Explain that the opening introduces the characters of the neighbours, Glory-Alice and Maisie.
Miracle on Separation Street
Questions that might come to mind when students read the opening could be:
- The first paragraph uses a different technique to that in Bungawitta. Describe the technique. How is it different? (Hint: what words are repeated? Which words are linked in some way?)
- How does the writer convey the effect of a conversation with the reader — as if the writer was talking directly to them? What words try to draw the reader into the writer’s inner circle?
- In the opening paragraph the writer hints at a secret story and that story is told in the end. Did this opening paragraph hold their attention? Did the ‘hook’ work for them — that is, do they want to find out what the story is about?
The First Lakatoi
The opening of this traditional tale uses a different technique to that in Bungawitta and Miracle on Separation Street.
The First Lakatoi is a traditional tale that explains the origins of the lakatoi, and its importance in opening up the possibilities of trade. Explain to the students that from the time of the ancestors, important information was passed on to the young in the form of stories. Many of these stories have survived. Today, there are still communities in Papua New Guinea where oral storytelling is an important way of passing on important information. At the same time, with increased access to education, there are other communities where reading and writing are also significant forms of communication and learning. With the new skills of reading and writing, it is in the cultural interests of the community that the stories be recorded for now and the future.
Questions for The First Lakatoi:
- A traditional tale sets the scene — what information are we given about the setting of this story? Why was this important information?
- List three or four interesting or unusual words or phrases in these opening lines. Why did you select certain words?
- Which part of the story increases the reader’s interest in what might happen? What questions might be asked?
- Do students know what a lakatoi is? Ask students to research the term.
- In the extract the writer hints at a secret story, the sacred art of building the lakatoi and that story is told in the end. Did one part of this opening ‘hook’ you more than another part? Why?
- Ask the students if they have any family or personal stories that are passed on as spoken stories. Are they in danger of being lost if they are not written down? Give the students the opportunity to record their oral stories in written form.
Share an example of the story of the first lakatoi, from a PNG Newsletter.