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4 — Descriptive language

Students will identify the thematic links between the fictional story presented in Tanglewood by Margaret Wild and Vivienne Goodman and the historical account of One Small Island. Analysis of the figurative language within the texts will support the students in crafting their radio broadcast and their written journal.

Steep, densely forested mountains descending to a sea coast with forested islands in the sea beyond

Above: Aerial view of the forested Palau islands and the sea, adapted from a photo by Lux Tonnere CC-BY-2.0

Activity 1: Identifying similar themes

Read Tanglewood to the class in a modelled reading session. The students then engage in class discussion identifying the themes within Tanglewood that are also present in One Small Island. Model the way the Dot to dot connections worksheet is used. Select a range of themes or main messages that are present in One Small Island, as well as other key concepts that will encourage critical and creative thinking (for example, sustainability, freedom, perspective, growth and love), then draw in lines of connection (thereby joining the dots). Explain the connection along each connection line. For example, the words ‘isolated’ and ‘environment’ may have a connecting line with the words ‘both Tanglewood and Macquarie Island were originally uninhabited by humans’ written on it. This activity could also be done on an interactive whiteboard for whole class modelling and joint construction.

The students are now required to complete their own Dot to dot connections worksheet. The template could be modified to suit themes identified in earlier sequences or to record different key concepts, depending on student needs. Alternatively, a blank organiser could be used with themes or main messages being drawn out of a hat so that all students have different concepts to make connections between. ACELT1798

Activity 2: Thinking about literary devices

Explain that the author has chosen the literary devices of personification and metaphor to express difficult ideas more clearly. Define personification (giving human qualities to animals, non-human beings or inanimate objects and abstract ideas) and record this on an anchor chart or on the interactive whiteboard.

Ask the students to identify what human quality or idea is the focus of this sentence from the text: ‘Then one day a seagull fell into the heart of Tanglewood’. (page 10)

This is an example of personification, with the author giving the tree a human organ and the associated feelings. This is also an example of a sustained metaphor, with the heart of the tree being a metaphor for the love Tanglewood provided to the seagull.

Now model the construction of a sentence that uses the structure of ‘where, when, what’ and includes personification and a metaphor related to Macquarie Island (for example, ‘On the lonely, brutal shore, as the sun set, its hide a blackened shroud, lay the seal’ – ‘lonely, brutal shore’ is an example of personification; ‘its hide a blackened shroud’ is an example of a metaphor). This activity also reinforces previous work on writing complex sentences.

Ask the students to identify an object or animal that could be found on Macquarie Island, either now or in the past. They then craft a sentence that uses the where, when, what structure and includes personification. Remind them that the when and where clauses can be moved around in the sentence, depending on what the writer wishes to emphasise.

Now model how metaphors can further enhance and evoke emotional responses. Model the construction of a sentence to the class. For example, ‘On the lonely, brutal shore, as the sun set, its hide a blackened shroud, lay the seal. Greed is alive.’

The students can then develop a further sentence to include a metaphor or add a metaphor to their current sentence. Volunteer students may read their sentences to the group with other class members being encouraged to visualise the scene being described. ACELT1795ACELT1611


Facilitate a whole group discussion around the literary devices that have been used and whether or not they have been successful in creating images and expressing difficult ideas clearly. The students could be encouraged to find other examples from texts they are reading in independent reading sessions and to share these with the class.

Activity 3: Caring for our land

Before conducting this optional activity, consult with local elders or Indigenous groups who may be able to provide advice and add a local perspective. Read Bob Randall and Melanie Hogan’s book Nyuntu Ninti (What You Should Know) to the students. This is an opportunity to discuss how Indigenous people have looked after the land and continue to do so. Key questions for the students could include:

The students could write a descriptive piece about the land depicted in the book or a comparative descriptive piece about the land described in the book and the land they live on.