2—Using the world’s resources
The teacher reads aloud The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley by Colin Thompson.
Form a circle and encourage students to ask questions about the text. Discuss each question in turn, using techniques noted in Phil Cam’s book Thinking Together: Philosophical Inquiry for the Classroom.
- What do you notice about the illustrations? How realistic are they? What colours does Thompson use?
- How is the language different from a typical narrative picture book? Ask for examples. Why did the author use this unusual type of language (for example, the hyphenated words)?
Then discuss the following questions:
- Does everyone really want to live forever?
- Who is everyone?
- Who are the people referred to in the book?
- Why does the author separate lists of words with hyphens?
- Why are the rats pink?
- The framed paintings are all very famous ones in European art that have been modified by the authors. Which parts do you think the author has added to the originals? (Original images could be accessed online for comparisons.)
- What is the author’s point of view about what people generally eat, wear, and want?
- What might the author want his readers to consider at the end of this story? The discussion here could refer to the blurb on the back of the book.
A hyphen is a punctuation mark used to join the parts of some compound words, except when both words are nouns. In this book Colin Thompson uses hyphens to separate lists of words. Why has he done this? Has he achieved his purpose?
What other devices, including visual ones, are used to influence the reader?
Colin Thompson makes a number of generalisations in The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley.
- Explain what a generalisation is by providing examples from the book. It is important that students understand that there may be exceptions to a generalisation. Encourage them to seek and record exceptions to the generalisations in the book.
- Discuss possible reasons for making such generalisations.
- Students work in pairs or small groups to list the generalisations from the book and leave space to insert exceptions. For instance, students may find exceptions among their own classmates.
Ask the question — Who are the ‘people’ referred to in The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley?
Using a selection of families from the photo essays, locate on a world map the countries in which they live.
Write brief descriptions of the lifestyle of each family by making inferences from the pictures. Draw students’ attention to the amount of packaging on and transport of goods, the energy required in food processing and packaging and the waste generated. Place the descriptions on a continuum, with one end being most like the lifestyles of people in The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley and the other end least like their lifestyles.
most like least like
- Discuss and justify reasons for each placement.
- Students can then discuss similarities and differences between themselves and the families depicted in the photo essays. Each writes a brief description of their lifestyle and adds it to the continuum, justifying its placement.
Introduce the concept of an ecological or global footprint.
- Calculate the global footprint of individuals, families, the class or school using an Ecological Footprint calculator. There are a number of online calculators available, and state and local government websites often provide links. People or characters encountered throughout this unit of work may also be compared.
- Return to the continuum and the world map. Discuss them in the light of information gained through calculating ecological footprints. Ask students to make generalisations about the world’s people and the comparative sizes of their ecological footprints.