Welcome to the sixth edition of Teacher Tuesday, where I match one of my books to a year level, and offer some activities for sharing the book in the classroom. In previous weeks I shared activities for Pearl Verses the World, Looking Up, Do Not Forget Australia, Snowy’s Christmas and The Floatingest Frog.
This week, continuing my focus on verse novels, I am focusing on my second verse novel, Toppling.
Using Toppling in a Year Six Classroom
Published by Walker Books, 2010
ISBN: 9781921529429 (Paperback)
Format 128 page Paperback, RRP $16.99
Blurb: John’s friend Dominic becomes ill, John’s world begins to topple. A warm story about the importance of friendship.
Sally’s Recommended Grade Levels: Year 4- Adult, but these suggestions focus on Year 6.
- Childhood Illness
- Empathy and Compassion
Publisher teaching notes available HERE.
Year 6 English
- Make connections between students’ own experiences and those of characters and events represented in texts drawn from different historical, social and cultural contexts (ACELT1630)
- Analyse and evaluate similarities and differences in texts on similar topics, themes or plots (ACELT 1614)
- Before reading: set up individual journals OR a special section is students’ writing journals. During reading: after reading each section, have students write about their responses to the story so far. Although you could provide questions for guidance, if possible allow students to write about any aspect of the story that appeals to them. After each writing session, allow time for group/class discussion, encouraging links to students’ own experiences.
- Ask students to identify other books which deal with childhood illness from their previous reading, OR have a wide range of these available in the classroom. There is a list HERE you could use a starting point. In groups, have students brainstorm similarities and differences between Toppling and the books they have read. This could work either with each group working on a different book, or with each group allocated a book, or with reference to a book previously read as a class book. Students to then prepare a report back to the class, explaining similarities and differences.
- Focus on hobbies. Toppling deals with some difficult topics. Some work on the lighter aspects of the book can help alleviate this and offer varied activities. Discuss John’s toppling hobby, view big topples on Youtube and, if possible, have dominoes available the classroom for either free time or for science and mathematics activities. Have students talk about their own hobbies- especially non-digital ones. Students can prepare mini-presentations which explain their hobby, or an unusual hobby they have learnt about.
- Identify, describe, and discuss similarities and differences between texts, including those by the same authoror illustrator, and evaluate characteristics that define an author’s individual style (ACELT1616)
- Analyse how textstructures and language features work together to meet the purpose of a text (ACELY1711)
- Analyse strategies authors use to influence readers (ACELY1801)
- Understand how authors often innovate on text structures and play with language features to achieve particular aesthetic, humorous and persuasive purposes and effects (ACELA1518)
- During reading introduce students to the terms ‘free verse’ and ‘verse novel’. After reading use groups to establish similarities and differences between verse novels and prose novels. Discuss findings.
- After reading, revisit and analyse key scenes: p. 9 (opening page), pp 43-46 and pp 15-17 contrasted with p.62-63. Have students focus on which techniques are used in these scenes which might be poetic rather than narrative techniques, and how these techniques influence our connection and reaction to the events. Report or journal writing: how has Sally Murphy used poetry to explore the difficult topic of childhood cancer?
- A term unit could encapsulate reading of one or both of my other two verse novels, Roses are Blue and Pearl Verses the World, allowing time for examination of similarities and differences between the three books via group work, or class boards. A verbal or digital presentation examining Sally Murphy’s Individual Style could meet other learning outcomes in multiliteracies, technology or speaking.
- Identify the relationship between words, sounds, imageryand language patterns in narratives and poetry such as ballads, limericks and free verse (ACELT1617)
- Createliterary texts that adapt or combine aspects of texts students have experienced in innovative ways (ACET1618)
- Experiment with textstructures and language features and their effects in creating literary texts, for example, using imagery, sentence variation, metaphor and word choice (ACELT1800)
- Plan, draft and publish imaginative, informative and persuasive texts, choosing and experimenting with textstructures, language features, images and digital resources appropriate to purpose and audience (ACELY1714)
- During or after reading revise or introduce devices including simile, metaphor, personification, onomatopoeia, repetition, tricolon. Use examples from the book, or have students identify them in the book. Experiment with each form either in journals or on worksheets or display boards. If you have space on your pin up boards, have places where students can write examples of each device on strips of paper or sticky notes and build up a bank of examples.
- Examine the elements of free verse poetry (this link here is a simple starting point). Write lots of poems: there are many great lesson ideas on this site, from Australian poets.
- After reading and examining author style, have students experiment with writing about their own lives in free verse. Draw on journal writing tasks completed during reading. Structure this activity by allowing time for discussion ingroups of possible topics, experimenting with how to tell veracious parts using poetic devices, then drafting and revising poems.
- Have students write poems mimicking my style to tell a key event from the point of view of another character: Tess, Dominic, Mum, Miss Timms etc. Produce a class collection entitled Toppling: The Untold Story.
Other suggestions for using Toppling in your classroom include:
- Toppling can be used as a springboard to building empathy, and to understand differences between sympathy and empathy, outside of the literacy classroom.
- Show students the cover and blurb for the UK edition of the book, which is titled John and Dom, and the US, still titled Toppling but with some cover differences. Explain that the story inside is the same: itis only the cover that has changed. Discuss students’ preferences. Have them design a new cover for the book, or a different cover for another book they have read.
- Email the author (that’s me!) Your students can write to me through this website, and share their responses or ask questions.
Related Books (these are all verse novels)
- Roses are Blue, by Sally Murphy, illustrated by Gabriel Evans
- Pearl Verses the World, by Sally Murphy, illustrated by Heather Potter
- Runaways by Sherryl Clark
- The Spangled Drongo by Steven Herrick
- Forget Me Not, by Ellie Terry
Mostly, I’d love to remind you that while I love to see my books used in classrooms, I also love to see kids just enjoying them. Reading a book should be pleasurable – whether it’s being used in the classroom or not. So allow your students to enjoy reading Toppling.
If you find this useful, or have any suggestions or comments, do leave a comment. And, if there is a particular book or year level or topic that you would like covered in a future edition of Teacher Tuesday, let me know.