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ESOL Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Learning task 1

Activate prior knowledge

  1. Ask the students to think about how their culture may be different from that of the New Zealand way of life. They could complete a same / different list individually or in nationality groups on aspects such as food, houses, family life, values, traditions, manners.
  2. Provide some background information about the traditional Māori way of life, the arrival of the Europeans and the Treaty of Waitangi. See New Zealand History Online.
  3. Question them about the kinds of problems and issues they face trying to fit into a different culture. The teacher could make a spider diagram that illustrates these issues on the board.
  4. Find out what the students already know about issues that affect Māori by having them complete the Yes-No-Partly Activity (Word 44KB) .
  5. Have the students read the text The Story of the Maori (Word 29KB) to confirm their answers to the previous activity. Further questions or discussion may occur while reading this text.
  6. Look at the New Zealand Book Council website and discuss the backgrounds of the two authors - Patricia Grace and Witi Ihimaera. Ask the students to find out where the authors are from, what they like to write about and what has influenced their topics for writing.

Close reading of two short stories

In this unit, students read two short stories - Journey by Patricia Grace and Big Brother, Little Sister by Witi Ihimaera.

  1. Before reading each story, get the students to make predictions about each story from the titles and the first paragraphs, for example: What do you think the story will be about? Where do you think the story takes place? Who do you think the main people in the story will be?
  2. Pre teach some MaoriVocabulary (Word 34KB) that is in the short stories. Teach some strategies for students to use to understand the meanings of unfamiliar vocabulary or idioms from the stories.
  3. Read each of the stories aloud to the students. Take the time to pause often to check for understanding and to make predictions about the next part of each story.
  4. It will probably take at least two to three lessons to read each story. After having listened to a new part of the story in each lesson, students could either create a story map (pictures drawn of the main ideas or events in each story) or a written summary of the main ideas or events. This could be done in groups or as individuals for homework. You may want to read the stories again for the students to confirm their story maps/summaries and to consolidate understanding of the plots of both stories.
  5. After having read both stories, use a running dictation or a dictogloss activity with the JourneyPlotSummary (Word 25KB) and the 'Big Brother, Little Sister' - plot summary (Word 50KB) to help the students to become familiar with what happens in each story.
  6. Get the students to write a personal response to each story (supported with details from each text). Before writing the response help the students become familiar with response starters by doing some AuralPractice (Word 34KB) with responses to texts of the language needed.
  7. Help the students to become familiar with the Terms (Word 37KB) (plot, theme, character, style and so on) by cutting up the names of the terms and matching them with the explanations. This will help to prepare them for the next parts of the unit.

Story type

  1. Both short stories are "slice of life" type stories in which the stories are taken from the lives of ordinary people but which centre on an interesting experience or event. Tell the students to think about the stories that they have read and find evidence for both stories being slice of life types. Both stories both make a comment on difficulties that Māori face in the modern day. Ask the students to think about the difficulties that are faced in both stories. (This will help to prepare the students for work on 'theme' later on in the unit).


  1. Refer to the Building a Vocabulary and Grammar 'toolbox' (Word 39KB) for expressions used when talking about viewpoint.
  2. Journey is narrated in the third person with the old man as the main character of the story. We see everything from the old man's point of view. Big Brother, Little Sister uses an "eye of god" or external narrative, however it does focus more on Hema and his sister Janey than the other characters.
  3. Ask the students the following questions about each story.
    • From whose point of view do we follow the events of the story? Find evidence from the stories to support your answer.
    • Why do you think the authors chose to use these particular viewpoints? What effect do they have on you as readers? Try reading 'Journey' and 'Big Brother, Little Sister' in the first person narrative. Try reading parts of Journey with an external narrative. Discuss how this changes the way we perceive the characters or events

Published on: 16 Jul 2009