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Ministry of Education.

Learning task 2

Interpreting text

Formative reading text 2: I Feel Like an Animal in a Cage (Word 37KB)

Activating prior knowledge

  • Introduce the text by reading a short newspaper article about a current refugee situation, preferably a positive one, on a family that has just arrived here, eg. from the The New Zealand Herald. A good photograph is all that is required.
  • If there are refugee students in the class, ask if any are willing to talk to the class about their expectations of arriving in New Zealand. Ask the class if they have heard about what happens to refugees who arrive illegally in Australia.

Pre-teach vocabulary

  1. Write up a grid on the whiteboard: "word / your meaning / dictionary meaning" The target words are: regime, oppressive, bribery, corruption, prohibited, reunite, humanitarian.
  2. Have the students copy the grid onto a piece of refill, copy the words and fill in the second column with their own meaning.
  3. Allocate a word to small groups to fill out the dictionary meaning on the whiteboard.
  4. Ask students to copy these onto their own paper.

Predicting text content

  1. Study the title of the story. Ask students to predict what the story will be about. Ask them why "i" is written as a lower case letter. Read the story.
  2. Ask the class to follow their copy of the text as you read it aloud. Stop at times in mid sentence as you are reading, expect them to say the next word aloud. This is a good check that they are following.

Pre-teach language features

  1. Repeat the exercise from above with the new text.
  2. More work on language features: teachers who wish to do further work on language features might like to try this Co-operative Reading Exercise (Word 40KB) .

Preparing to write

  1. For a paragraph writing practice exercise, go to ReadingText2 (Word 33KB) .

Analysing the language of immigration

  1. Revisit the brainstorm that was done at the start of the unit.
  2. Ask the class if they could now add more to it from what they have learnt from studying the texts so far?
  3. From what they have discovered from reading and viewing, what do they notice about the language used to write about immigration and how it affects people?
  4. Ask them to look for any similarities or patterns? Look for positive and negative references? What are the effects created by these references?
    NB: the language is emotive as this issue arouses strong emotions in both the immigrants, depending on their reasons for leaving their own country, and their expectations on arriving, as well as how well they are received by the people of the new country.

Formulating key questions

Ask your students to make up some questions based on the formative texts they have read in class so far. Tell them to make their questions open-ended so that they can include a wide range of sources. The questions need to allow them to include factual information but also to make judgments. Some examples are:

  1. What positive and/or negative words have been used in the context of immigration? (factual)
  2. What effects do these words have/create? (interpretative)
  3. Why did the writers use these words? (interpretative)
  4. What purpose did the writers have in using this language? (interpretative)
  5. What patterns can be observed in the language of immigration over the last 20 years? (interpretative)

Locating information

Ask the class to study the exemplars in their student instruction booklet.

Organise a jigsaw activity. Divide the class into small groups and ask each one to focus on a particular exemplar. The group must list the sources of information used in their particular exemplar. Have the students feed back to the class.

Record the sources of information on a large piece of paper which can be put up as a poster for later reference.


  • Internet

    It is essential that students use their time efficiently. Teachers need to check that students can search, scan for appropriate sites, skim read to locate information. They need to copy the website reference into their own document. They also need to quote the language from the source that they are going to make their own comments on. They will need to summarise information on the context or situation that language was used in.

  • The database EPIC is available to schools from the National Library.

    This provides easy access to a huge number of sources, sites, articles, newspaper material as well as magazines. The databases that are recommended for this topic include EBSCO (Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre), InfoTrac Onefile and RDS Contemporary Women's Issues (One of the GALE databases). Not only is this collection carefully edited, it also carries citation details and all articles have a level of difficulty indicator. The Toolbox is also another excellent feature. To access EPIC you need to enter a user id and password that should have been sent to your principal. If you do have access to EPIC it is strongly recommended that you familiarise yourself with access first before using it with a class.

  • Your library also contains personal recounts in literature (short stories, novels). Check through the information file for magazine and newspaper articles, or try INNZ. Another recommended primary oral source would be to interview an immigrant about his or her own personal experiences, preferably someone who has reasonable English.

Key words

In class have students suggest what these might be. Try "immigration" and specify the country, eg "immigration in New Zealand", "immigration issues", "racism in a specify country", "refugees in New Zealand", "adjusting to a new culture", "immigration and refugees". These produced many results on EPIC.

Recording information

Practise note making.

Cut up sections of ReadingText2 (Word 33KB) . Make sure you include sections that contain language features suitable for analysis. Paste the text in paragraph blocks allowing space between each block for students to write a short paraphrase/summary.

Tell students they can use abbreviations and they can write in incomplete sentences. They are looking for the main idea and one or two examples. They must record details of the author, title, publisher and publication date for every example.

Model the exercise on the whiteboard as a class activity.

Students should be given the opportunity to practise summarising skills with every text they encounter for close reading exercises. Use graphic organisers.

Here is another idea that Aida Walqui recommends. Paste the target text in paragraph chunks or slightly longer sections so that there is a 5cm margin down the right hand side of the page headed up "notes". Introduce the content by prefacing what the text is about in a sentence at the start of each section. "The Afghani immigrant, a hardworking man, tells his story. Read about how his family found their arrival in Australia an unpleasant experience" It can also be in question form: "Why is Mr Ahmed worried about his daughter?" These prompts act as hooks to draw the reader into the content. Students read and write notes alongside the text.

Students could also set out their information as follows:

  • Date
  • Reference
  • Information found
  • Comments

Published on: 16 Jul 2009