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Literature Unit

Karen Atkins ­ Teacher, NSW Department of Education and Training, and Tony Hepworth ­ author of Bill.


Before the book (1) Background for teachers (2) For the Students (including web sites) During the book (1) Story ladder (2A) Travel brochure for the "Gunagga" area (2B) Discussion of Travel Brochures (3) Illustrations of similarities / differences ­ BLM 1 (4) Poetic scenes (5) Character sociogram ­ BLM 2, p. 8 (6A) Character map ­ BLM 3, p. 9 (6B) Character journal topics (7) What if? (8) Look into your crystal ball and ...­ BLM 4 (9) Who values what? (10) Six hat thinking ­ BLM 5 (11) Change is not easy ­ BLM 6 (12) Spelling (13) Writing (14) Contracts (16) Other ideas : (15) What happens now? BLM 7

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Literature Unit

Before the book

(1) Background for Teachers:

Environmental Damage: Australia is faced with a long list of environmental problems, one of which is salinity. The causes of these problems are, in part, technical, ie, the way we have engineered the environment has given us a series of negative causes and effects. But they are also in part, attitudinal, ie, we engineer the environment with the goal of getting short term economic returns for our money, capital and labour. For several years Tony worked for the Wagga Wagga City Council, where it was accepted that if the Council took a "do nothing" approach to urban salinity in the city, the damage from salt could cost up to $6 million per year. These costs would be in repairs to roads, traffic lights, underground pipes, and parks and gardens, as well as in private costs to individuals when driveways cracked, bricks flaked, paint bubbled, interior walls showed damp, and plants died in the gardens. Many other inland settlements throughout Australia face these same problems. From a wider perspective, salinity costs Australian agriculture over $190 million per year, and the cost is rising. Progress traps: But how did it come to this? Basically, we fell in to what Ronald Wright (2004) calls a progress trap. It's the old trap of "one ice cream is good, two are better, three are terrific, but the fourth makes you sick." In the same way if one cleared field ­ for farms or factories or homes ­ is good, more cleared fields are better. If one dam is good, more dams are better. As we charged towards progress we did not pause to see if we were falling into a progress trap. Mary E White (2000, p. 4) refers to the mighty Snowy Mountains Scheme as a "monumental act of environmental vandalism". By making water available to the inland, it encouraged us to clear more fields for settlement, and at the same time change the existing water and salt balance. With more water and more clearing, the water table rose, and the salt came with it. Michael Archer and Bob Beale (2004) now tell us 15 ­ 20 billion trees need to be planted in the Murray-Darling Basin, the nation's food bowl, if we are ever going to fix the salinity problem. So it's a big problem. Ian Lowe (2005) tells us 3 million hectares of cultivated land is affected by salt, while 5.7 million hectares are judged to be at immediate risk. Are there any fixes? Are we ever going to fix salinity, and the host of other environmental problems? Perhaps, but we need to change our attitude first. David Orr (2005) argues the most important discovery of the past two centuries is that we are all joined in one fragile experiment. Humans are members, and citizens, of the community of life. If we stand apart from this community we will continue to damage its animals, plants, soils, fresh water, seas, ozone layer and greenhouse, and ultimately ourselves.



Literature Unit

But if we learn, and teach others, that we are a part of the natural world, bound together in the community of life, then we change our attitude and move towards a sustainable future. References: Michael Archer and Bob Beale, (2004). Going Native. Hodder Headline: Sydney. Ian Lowe (2005). A Big Fix. Black Inc.: Melbourne. David W Orr, Forward, in M K Stone and Z Barlow, (2005). Ecological Literacy. Sierra Club Books: San Francisco. Mary E White, (2000). Running Down: Water in a Changing Land. Kangaroo Press: East Roseville. Ronald Wright, (2004). A Short History of Progress. Text Publishing: Melbourne.

(2) For the Students:

Before you begin reading Bill conduct some pre-reading discussion to stimulate interest, sharpen expectations, and help students get an understanding of how we all need a healthy environment. Bill is, after all, a story about the environment. 1. Study the cover. Which of the four is Bill? 2. Of the four, who will be the most important character? Why? 3. Read "About the Author" on page 7. What is Landcare? What does this make you think this book is going to be about? 4. What is meant by "the world we leave to our children"? What would be a good world to leave you? A bad world? 5. What is meant by "the children we leave to the world"? Who would be good children to leave the world? Bad children? 6. In the dedication, the author writes Take care of the environment and it will take care of you. Can the environment take care of you? 7. If the environment were full of foul smelling air, polluted rivers, and empty of native fish, birds, animals and plants ... would it be taking care of you? 8. Bill is about an environmental problem and adults who are not doing what they should be doing, so the children take over. As you look around your local area, can you see any environmental problems? These problems might be to do with waste, water, a river, weeds, birds, salinity, clean air, soils, native vegetation, feral animals, etc. If you were going to take over one of these problems, what would you do? 9. Lenny the Rat Junior and Lenny the Rat Senior are the villains in Bill, who are not interested in the environment. What do you think these villains, like all villains, would be interested in? 10. Here are two websites that will help you find out about salinity. Salinity: Salinity: Australia's Silent Flood : Salinity ­ Our Silent Disaster : 11. Here are more websites. As you read through these web sites, ask yourselves: Is this group looking after the environment? How?

Bill -3Literature Unit

National Tree Day: Planet Ark : Bilbies and other endangered native animals: River Health Student Conferences: Australian Environment: Australian Conservation Foundation : Landcare : NSW Wildlife Information and Rescue Service : The Wilderness Society : World Environment Issues: WWF :



Literature Unit

During the book

(1) Story ladder:

Construct a `ladder' in your workbook. On each `rung', summarise the plot details of each chapter. On completion, there will be a full description of the text plot.

(2A) Travel brochure for the "Gunagga" area:

The story is set in Gunagga, a small city (which does not exist) on the Murrumbidgee River. But to find out about places along the Murrumbidgee, search the www for Gundagai, Narrandera, Wagga Wagga or Griffith. Prepare a Travel Brochure for one of these centres. Fold an A4 piece of paper into three columns. On one side, number the columns, from right to left, 1, 6 and 5. Open the page and number the columns 2, 3 and 4 from left to right. Draw a travel agent in column 1. Draw one or more pictures from this centre across the tops of columns 2, 3 and 4. Write captions for each picture. Turn the page over and, in column 5, convince the reader they should visit this centre. In column 6, write the name and design the logo for your Graphic Arts Design Company. Fold the brochure so that the pages appear in the correct order.

(2B) Discussion of travel brochures:

Describe the area along the Murrumbidgee River where the story is taking place. Have you ever been to any of these places? What was it like? How is it similar to, or different from, the way it's described in the story? Did you see any of the environmental problems described in Bill? Would you like to live in this place? Why? How would your life be changed? What would you do there on a weekend?



Literature Unit

(3) Illustrations of similarities / differences ­ BLM 1:

In the sections below, draw and label the things which are the same where you live and where the story is set, then do the same for the differences. Where I live Story setting

Things that are the same:

Things that are different

Things that are different



Literature Unit

(4) Poetic scenes:

Select three settings from the story. Draw each setting in a separate cloud. Write the name of the setting, in capitals, in a vertical line on the page near each cloud. Using each letter of the word, describe the setting. For example: Green Room

G reen R estful E njoyable

E ducational

N ....

(5) Character sociogram ­ BLM 2, p. 8

Draw the main character in the star. Draw pictures of the other characters in each of the frames. Write the main character's relationship with each of the other characters on the lines between the star and the frames.

(6A) Character map ­ BLM 3, p. 9

Select a character for your map. Write the character's name in the centre and/or draw a picture of him/her. In the different boxes, list the character's Feelings, Description, Behaviour, and Personality.

(6B) Character journal topics:

What things do you have in common with the character you have chosen? How are you different from the character? What do you like about this character? What do you dislike about this character? Would you like to be friends with this character? Give reasons for your answer. Does the character remind you of someone you know? Does the character seem real to you? How did the author help to make this character seem real? Would you change the character?



Literature Unit




Literature Unit








Literature Unit

(7) What if?

Identify a "What if?" question in Bill, eg: o What if James and DaDi did have a fight? o What if Uncle Jack had brought a rabbit instead of a bilby? o What if the rangers had taken Bill to the pound? o What if Roddy had not changed sides? Write two or more solutions to this "What if?" problem. The solutions must be believable and in keeping with the overall story line.


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Literature Unit

(8) Look into your crystal ball and .... BLM 4

It's time to tell two futures ­ a "Do Nothing " future and a "Do Something" future.

In this box draw and label the problem that DaDi's father and others have with salt. Read pages 46 ­ 49.

In this box, draw and label what the salt problem will be like, for many people, if we sit back and "Do Nothing" to stop it getting worse.

In this box, draw and label how things will look, if, like Stephanie, James and DaDi, we take action to "Do Something" to make the problem better.


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Literature Unit

(9) Who values what?

In ancient times, noble families would have a Coat of Arms. This Coat of Arms could sometimes be found on the shields the men would take into battle. Design a Coat of Arms for one of the characters in Bill, eg: Stephanie James DaDi Lenny the Rat Senior Lenny the Rat Junior Roddy / Hades Judy the Git Mr Smith Bill Sections of the Shield In Section 1 of the shield: Give the owner a mark out of 10 for "concern for others" Draw and label a positive, or negative, example of the owner's "concern for others" Write the page number of this example. In Section 2 of the shield: Give the owner a mark out of 10 for "respecting different people" Draw and label a positive, or negative, example of the owner "respecting different people" Write the page number of this example. In Section 3 of the shield: Give the owner a mark out of 10 for "looking after the environment" Draw and label a positive, or negative, example of the owner "looking after the environment" Write the page number of this example. In Section 4 of the shield: Give the owner a mark out of 10 for "doing the right thing" Draw and label a positive, or negative, example of the owner "doing the right thing" Write the page number of this example. Value Social Justice: Concern or the rights, welfare and dignity of all. Social justice: Rejecting racism, sexism and other forms of prejudice.

Draw a shield and divide it into 6 parts.

Ecological sustainability: Appreciating the environment, one's relationship with it and responsibility for its future. Beliefs and moral codes: Recognising that some behaviours are considered morally wrong.


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Literature Unit

In Section 5 of the shield: Give the owner a mark out of 10 for "listening to others and being peaceful" Draw and label a positive, or negative, example of the owner "listening to others and being peaceful" Write the page number of this example. In Section 6 of the shield: Draw and label something the owner wants to find out more about in the next few years.

Democratic processes: Respecting different viewpoints and finding peaceful ways to resolve conflict. Lifelong learning: Appreciating the importance of lifelong learning in a changing world.


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Literature Unit

(10) Six hat thinking ­ BLM 5:

Use six hat thinking to examine the statement : It's OK for Bill to drop a pellet of poo in the coffee of those who annoy her. Hat White: When does Bill do this? To whom? Red: How do you feel about Bill paying back this way? Answers Thinking Skills Observe Recall Record

Explore feeling Explore values

Black: What's bad about Bill doing this?

Analyse Judge

Yellow: What's good about Bill doing this? Green: Is there a better way for Bill to pay back? What? Blue: Overall, what can you say about Bill's way of paying back?

Analyse Judge

Think creatively Solve a problem Judge

Synthesise Generalise


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Literature Unit

(11) Change is not easy ­ BLM 6:

Stephanie, James, DaDi and Bill start to get students to change their behaviours. Read page 128. List 3 reasons why is it important for all of us to behave in ways that shows we care for the environment? 1 2 3

List 5 main steps it took for Stephanie, List 5 main steps the Junior Rat, Judy James, DaDi and Bill, to get the students the Git and Roddy took to try to stop to change their behaviours. them causing this change. 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5


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Literature Unit

(12) Spelling:

Words used in the text have been provided for inclusion in your study of `Bill'. The website: has a matrix of study using Multiple Intelligences and Bloom's Taxonomy. In the web site go to (1) Teachers' Resources, (2) Multiple Intelligences and Bloom's Grid and Work Units, (3) Multiple Intelligences and Bloom's Grid, Stage 2, (4) Stage 2, Spelling Grid.

grudge enthusiastic fascinate despairing ignore migrant adjust declare interrupt warrior intent sympathy strode extinct outstretched timid criticise embrace kin straddled burrow cunning sensitive gracious nuzzle astound exceptions revenge investigate contrite dismiss unbearable dissolve recognise magnificent idle innocent brief demonstrate regeneration offend humiliation impression volunteer satisfy invaders bristled confession effective patient retreat suspicious realistic defiant accidentally restore expectantly initial ridiculous privilege examine prosecuted overwhelmed conviction witness detour awe application lagoon crouch query progressive odour reply brilliant destruction nervous lecture shun prominent exploit patronise gender decide arrangement complain conscious flustered respect irony contentedly powerless ancestors confirmed reaction install erect ordinary confidence haunches expensive launch caution acknowledge species nestle prefer confront smirk thorough accomplish biodegradable gratitude terse nocturnal rebellious superb feral hilarious devastated surly complicate regret pursuit grace seriously specific threaten envious influence comedian suspect security intently uproar assume deliberately predictable emphasis genuine surge subside humility efficient endangered disqualify commit oversee mumble prestige hysterics recyclable trudge capture decaying extreme rural vicious lousy frenzy prosperous excite announce constant charm culture challenge demand furious scabbard illustrations disguise hesitate desperate stench harm dignified authority distraught murmur vegetation precious radiated obvious emerge distracted imagination generous negotiate obedient modest clamber pretend annoyance initiative civilians cringe domestic scowl pellets


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Literature Unit

(13) Writing:

PROCEDURE Choose one of the Chinese food dishes on pages 60-61. Write the procedure (recipe) for making these dishes (perhaps even Bilby style) Research traditional Aboriginal dishes and write a procedure for one of them. RESPONSE-Review DISCUSSION Write a review on the text "Bill'. Publish it for display in the Library or your school newsletter. Write a discussion on the topic: Should the Australian Government have built the Snowy Mountain Scheme? Research and write an information report on the Greater Bilby. Write an exposition arguing the case for the need to save our native animals from extinction. Explain how hydroelectricity works.


(14) Contracts:

Working by yourself, or in small groups, complete one or more of the following contracts: 1. Prepare a radio interview about the Future of Oz competition. Interview the Rotary Club president, the principal and Mr Smith all at the same time. 2. Put Lenny the Rat Junior on trial for being unfair to his classmates. Read page 17 in particular. Write a paragraph, and then act it out, about how the prosecution would describe Lenny to the jury. Suppose the jury found Lenny guilty. What kind of punishment would the judge hand down? 3. Write a letter to Bill. Tell her how you feel about bilbies, and lots of other native animals being endangered. But also explain to Bill why she should not be so short tempered.


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Literature Unit

4. Start an Environmental Notice Board. Put clippings on the board that show: The damage humans are doing to the environment The good humans are doing as they try to repair the environment. 5. Find out what you can about the Snowy Mountains Scheme, or as it is now called, SnowyHydro. Find maps and pictures of the Snowy Mountains area, and the power stations, dams and tunnels. 6. Create a bilby environment. Research where and how bilbies live, and make a 3D model of their environment. 7. James says, on page 27, the land is a "network"? Find and then draw examples of how different parts of the land can break down when bad things happen, eg: When rabbits were brought to Australia, they ate out much of the native vegetation and this caused soils to wash away in the rain and be blown away by the wind. That made it hard for the plants to regrow and the native animals to find food. When cats went feral they ate many of the small native wildlife. Some wildlife, such as the birds of prey, eg, eagles, kestrels, owls, then went hungry because there was little food for them. 8. Cartoon the faces of the people who drink "Bilby Poo" coffee. On one side of the page show the person enjoying the coffee. On the other side show the person finding out what gives the coffee its special flavour.

(15) Other ideas :

The CAP (Country Area Program) website is a smorgasbord of many rich and wonderful teaching ideas. Teachers who are looking for other ideas to use for this literature unit, are advised to search the CAP website.


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Literature Unit

(16) What happens now? BLM 7:

You have finished the book (and we hope you have enjoyed it) but what happens now? Will you start to change your own behaviour, and maybe even the behaviour of others? One way is to start using less resources, and treating your waste more carefully, eg: What? Can you use less water? Can you use less electricity and gas? Can you produce less waste? Can you recycle your waste? Can you use less fuel for the family car(s)? Can you eat less meat? How? When?

(Because it can take up to 11,000 litres of water to make 1 quarter pounder hamburger.)

Another way is to start doing things for the environment, eg: What? How? When?

(Because it takes a lot of fuel to bring vegetables from a farm to your Can you grow some local supermarket.) vegetables in your own backyard? (Because our native animals need native plants.) Can you take out introduced plants from your garden and put in Australian natives? Can you plant with Planet Ark on National Tree Day?

Can you Clean Up Australia on Clean Up Australia Day, or any other day? Can you do volunteer work with a local Landcare Group?


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Literature Unit


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