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1 — Finding out what we know

The cover of a book entitled 'Nanberry', which features a young Indigenous Australian boy

Above: Cover of Nanberry: Black Brother White by Jackie French, HarperCollins Publishers, Australia 2011, reproduced with permission of HarperCollins, © Jackie French 2011

This sequence sets up the historical inquiry: Was life the same for everyone in 1788? to give the English unit a purpose and context. In this sequence you will find out what conceptions and misconceptions the students have about the topic. This will enable you to guide and facilitate them as they tune in to the inquiry, and there will be an opportunity to use the students’ questions to guide the inquiry.

Jackie French’s novel for young readers Nanberry: Black Brother White will be studied in this unit. This historical novel is based on the life of Nanberry (his name is also transcribed as Nanbaree, Nanbarrey and Nanbaray in various early accounts of the colony) a young Cadigal boy from the Sydney area who lost his family to the smallpox epidemic of 1789. He was nursed back to health by John White, the settlement’s chief surgeon and went on to live with him and his convict maid Maria.

Activity 1: Setting the scene

Introduce the unit to the students by viewing the short video European Observers from the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA).

Highlight the sort of documents historians have used to piece together an understanding of the first contact between Europeans and Indigenous Australians. Point out that there are gaps in our knowledge of the past, and whether or not we have a clear perspective from both sides. You can also mention the visual features of this multimodal text, including for example, the music, sound effects, slow panning shots and voice-overs that create meaning for the viewer. ACELA1496ACELA1489

Activity 2: Identifying what we think we already know

Use a strategy such as a KWL chart or an adaption of the RAN strategy, which allows the identification of misconceptions of what we think we know, to elicit the students’ prior knowledge on what life was like in the early years of the colony. This RAN chart will be displayed on the classroom wall for the duration of the unit. In pairs or small groups, the students use sticky notes to record what they know about the early experiences of the First Fleet arrivals. Colour code for different groups of people (that is, free settlers, convicts, marines and guards, and Indigenous people). ACELT1603ACELY1688

RAN strategy

The Reading and Analysing Non-Fiction (RAN) strategy is an adaption of the popular KWL strategy by Tony Stead. Five categories are used: What I think I know, Confirmed, Misconceptions, New information and Wonderings. (Tony Stead (2006) Reality Checks: Teaching reading comprehension with non fiction, K–5.)

Activity 3: Framing our inquiry

Lead a class discussion about what we think we already know and pose questions to draw out what the students are wondering about. You should model posing questions about the past, then share and guide the students with the aim of having them add their own questions independently (Quality questioning gives some helpful tips on this). ACHASSI073ACELY1688

As the students work through the unit, the facts are moved into the adjacent Confirmed or Misconceptions columns, and as new things are learnt these are added, along with further questions that are posed, while questions that have been answered are removed. A digital tool such as Padlet (formerly Wallwisher) could be used instead.

You may wish to develop your own knowledge about history, visual literacy and pedagogical inquiry (learning, RAN strategy, Quality questioning). There are references listed for each of these areas in the Resources.