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Worked example: Semiotic systems at work in the text

Text: Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet by Melanie Guile

Some features to highlight with the students

Stitching, the First Fleet image and the background paper: a scrapbooking effect used on most pages in the book (except for graphic text), which gives cohesion through the use of repetition.

Page 3 – Contents

Draw the students’ attention to the call-out (audio) box regarding the background used on graphic pages and indicate that this means they are from a historical source. The author has used a colour code (visual) to indicate this. Note the traditional layout (spatial) of contents; however, graphic pages are emphasised. Observe other visual elements: stitching, images of fleet, colour and texture of paper. Ask the students what meanings these are intended to create.

Pages 4 and 5

Look at the layout: contrasting images of Sydney Cove show a contemporary celebration while on the opposite page is an image of a painting by an officer on the First Fleet.

Comment on the effect of the different uses of colour. On the bottom right corner there is a section: ‘What does it mean?’; here the meaning of the word ‘colony’ is given, not just bolded and included in the glossary. Ask the students why this choice has been made and whether this has made this section a salient feature.

Pages 5 and 6

Discuss the title ‘The Big Picture’ and what this is intended to mean.

Discuss the meaning of ‘eyewitness words’ and the use of the quotation marks.

Draw attention to the consistency of the layout: bolded words to be found in the glossary and primary sources of the paintings. Point out that the consistency in layout supports students in reading the text.

Pages 8 and 9

Discuss the title ‘Key People’ and what this means.

Read the accounts of both Arthur Phillip and Thomas Townshend. Ask the students why the author has chosen to list them as key people.

Pages 10–15 (Graphic text ‘Bound for Botany Bay’

These pages contain many items for discussion. Make explicit to the students the use of framing (or type of shot) and the reason these are used; the call-out text boxes and thought bubbles; the information that is on the colour-coded box which indicates it is from a historical source; gestural features such as body language and facial expressions to create meaning; how information is conveyed using arrows on the first image of the First Fleet, and the arrow on the map background. Finally, draw attention to how the author ends the text.

Pages 16 and 17

Discuss how we can get a viewpoint from someone from hundreds of years in the past, the importance of primary sources such as diaries and journals and how there can be different points of view about the same thing. Ask the students how accurate our knowledge is of exactly what happened in the past.

Note the use of the image of the nib pen on the page. Ask the students what it symbolises (handwritten diaries). Note also the use of quotation marks and bolding of glossary terms.

Pages 18–23 (Graphic text ‘The Struggle to Survive’)

See the notes for pages 10 to 15 above.

Pages 26 and 27

Examine the use of the timeline to organise events chronologically: What do the orange rectangles between years indicate? (months) Boxes with information point to the correct month. Consider why some boxes are linked.

Pages 28 and 29

Ask the students why they think the author has included pages where she asks the reader to participate and why cartoon illustrations have been used rather than actual paintings.

Scenarios with multiple choice answers are a familiar layout. Draw attention to the circled instruction at the bottom of the page, which appears to be hand drawn.