2—Activities for Whoever You Are
Predicting storybook content
As a class, look at the cover, title and dedication of Whoever You Are. Ask students to suggest what clues about the story the cover gives to the reader.
Look at the cover. Consider items such as colour, texture, patterns, representations and layout. Questions might include:
- What else is on the cover? What elements are in the central or salient image and how is the image composed? Why might the main or salient image have been included and placed in a central position?
- What clues do we get about the story by looking at the cover?
Explain to students that images or symbols are a very important part of the culture in which we live and that successful use of these symbols in texts depends on shared cultural understandings.
Read Whoever You Are
Ask students to comment on the illustrations and layout in the book. How do the artist’s illustrations enhance and extend the story?
Whoever You Are is not a traditional narrative. It has no traditional orientation, complications or resolution — it is more about relationships between things than a story in which things happen. To help children navigate a story with no story, Leslie Staub has created the blue suited man as a kind of tour leader, on each page, taking the reader on a journey around the world. The journey is supported by repeated references to the ‘world’ in the text. The blue suited man and the children with him are a recurring point of identification for the reader, as we shift geographic contexts with every page turn.
Did the students notice the repeated inclusion of the front cover illustration throughout the story? Can they give their own reasons for the artist repeating this image?
Point out the stylised script in the children’s work illustration of the school. Why would the author select this script? What can be inferred from the stylised script? This script will be seen in Mirror.
Explain that a symbol is a visual sign or shape and ask the students to identify symbols in the story such as heart, globe and arc. Mention that the circle is an ancient symbol of unity and wholeness and ask if the students can give an explanation as to why.
Discuss with the class symbols that are associated with other qualities and list them on the board; for example, the peace sign, X for kisses, flags, sun, stars, the smiley face. Take suggestions from the class as to symbols that could be used instead of words. List them on the board.
Ask students to write a sentence using symbols to replace words in some places. Share the students’ sentences.
After reading Whoever You Are
Ask students to:
- form pairs and in 30 seconds summarise the main ideas of the text to each other
- using a table, record ways that people around the world may be the same and different
- using music, create a choral reading of the poem to express the mood, ideas and feelings depicted in Whoever You Are, such as pain, laughter, joy, love, togetherness or sameness.
- form groups of three to compose a short ‘list’ poem, drawing on the story-poem's repetition. Give a simple model as an example, such as:
Whoever we are, wherever we are
We are different
Lisa likes apples
Khalid likes oranges
Lee likes pears
We are different!
Whoever we are, wherever we are
We are the same.
Lisa likes movies
Khalid likes movies
Lee likes movies too
We are the same!
The poems may be shared with other groups.
Modality in Whoever You Are
For a further language focus, download this SMART notebook file for an interactive whiteboard (IWB) activity, Understanding modality: Modality in Mem Fox's Whoever You Are (.zip 2.6 MB). If you don't have the software, SMART provide a free online version of their software that allows you to view Notebook files when you have downloaded files. You can also download a free file viewer (PCs only). There is also a print version of this activity (.pdf 2.6 MB).