The Little Wave

Exploring the 2020 CBCA Short List: Younger Readers

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Author: Pip Harry

Publisher: UQP

Themes: Friendship, bullying, city school and country school, pastimes, school community

Years: Australian Curriculum: English, Years 3 and 4; HASS (Inquiry and Geography) Years 3 and 4; Digital Technologies, Years 3 and 4; Visual Arts, Years 3 and 4.

From the publisher’s synopsis:  When a Manly school sets out to bring a country class to the city for a beach visit, three very different kids find each other and themselves. Noah is fearless in the surf. Being at the beach makes him feel free. So where does his courage go when his best mate pushes him around? Lottie loves collecting facts about bugs, but she wishes her dad would stop filling their lonely house with junk. She doesn’t know what to do about it. Jack wants to be a cricket star, but first he has to get to school and look after his little sister. Especially if he wants to go on the class trip and see the ocean for the first time.

Unit writer: Helen Cozmescu

Field and context

Building field knowledge

  • Letter writing is one form of communication. Research the history of letter writing. AC9E4LY01  
  • Explore the differences between letters and other forms of communication, such as emails, tweets, text messages, video messages, phone calls. AC9E3LA03  
  • Use an electronic device to create a video letter. AC9E4LA05
  • Explore the purposes of letter writing today, including: to inform, to build and maintain relationships, to invite, to declare, to inquire, to recommend. Discuss how the purpose of the letter and the relationship between the writer and the recipient of the email determines the formality of the letter. Investigate differences between formal and informal letters. Students select someone they would like to communicate with and use their knowledge of purpose, relationship and formality to construct a letter. AC9E3LA03 
  • Letters can be primary sources of historical content. Find examples of letters from a particular time in history and identify the historical information we can gain from reading them. Students may wish to research letters from the ANZACS, letters from the Burke and Wills expedition, Ghandi’s letter to Hitler or Henrietta Augusta Dugdale’s letter to the Melbourne Argus about women’s rights. AC9HS3S05  
  • Watch a video about letters and the post system. Write your predictions about what mail might look like in years to come. AC9HS3S05
  • Look at different examples of handwriting scripts. Debate the importance of handwriting today. AC9TDI4P05 

Exploring the context of the text

  • Students from the small, country town of Mullin travel to a school in the beachside, city suburb of Manly. Discuss the benefits and challenges of school visits aimed at exploring different parts of Australia. ACHASSK069 
  • Use a satellite imagery program, like Google Earth, to view a different part of Australia or the world and compare it to your own setting. ACHASSK069  

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Responding and exploring

Responding to the text

  • The text explores family situations where adults deal with difficult aspects of life — Lottie’s dad uses hoarding to cope with grief, Jack’s mum deals with alcohol abuse, and Noah’s mum no longer surfs. Find examples which highlight how each adult works towards overcoming their difficulties. AC9E3LY05
  • Identify the elements that help characters’ relationships develop. Explore the relationship between Noah and Lottie; Noah and Jack or Lottie and her dad. AC9E4LY05 
  • The work of Arthur Streeton is referenced in the story. Explore the work of Streeton and other Australian artists and discuss what message their artwork sends about Australia. AC9AVA4E01

Exploring plot character and setting

  • The story is set in two parts of iconic Australia — the beach and the drought-stricken bush. Create a photo library of iconic Australian images, which can then be used for snapshot writing. AC9E3LE03
  • Make a list of adjectives to describe each of the main characters found in the first three chapters. Find evidence from the text to support your choice of adjectives. ACELA1493  
  • What insights do we gain about each character from the pen pal letters they write? AC9E4LE03   
  • Noah and Lottie both experience bullying. Critique the effectiveness of their actions to cope with bullying.
  • Discuss the teacher’s reasoning for making Lottie and Noah project partners. AC9E3LY01  
  • Noah, Lottie and Jack all experience situations that make them feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. Critique the characters’ actions in each situation. AC9E4LE02

Creating texts

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Examining text structure and organisation

  • Explore elements of a verse novel. Students use the text as a model to write their own stanza about themselves. AC9E3LE05
  • Discuss the effect of writing about each of the characters through narrative verse rather than prose. AC9E4LE04
  • Create a narrative arc, showing how the narrative features unfold in the verse. AC9E3LE04

Examining grammar

  • It is common for verse novels to be written in first person. What benefits does the reader gain by getting to know each character through their voice? AC9E3LA03
  • The author uses a range of grammatical devices to help the reader understand setting. For example: Adverbials of place — nothing grows ‘from the thirsty cracked earth’ (page 2); ‘Through the window’, the sand curves (page 2); ‘Past Manly’, there are Queenscliff, Freshwater and Curl Curl beaches (page 3). Metaphors — The beach is my backyard (page 4); The wave’s a curling tunnel (page 26). Personification — sly rips shifting underneath (page 4) — the ocean swallows you whole (page 6). AC9E3LE04
  • Find examples of similes that provide insight into a character’s feelings. For example: Lottie, who’s trying to hide like a snail in its shell (page 53); I feel like a helium balloon, slowly deflating (page 143). AC9E3LE04
  • Find a sentence which provides description and use its grammatical construction as a model for your own writing. For example: Its green leaves drooped, browned, curled and gave up (page 160). AC9E3LE05
  • Find examples of Australian colloquial language. For example: barbecued chook; wag school; wettie. AC9E3LA03

Examining visual and multimodal features

  • A symbol representing each character is used at the beginning of each stanza. Design your own symbol to represent you. AC9E3LE05
  • Explore the art work on the front and back covers. Match sections of the text to what is seen on the front cover. AC9E3LE05

Additional and related resources and links to other texts: Read other verse novels (member access) Pookie Aleera is not my boyfriend by Steven Herrick, Do-wrong Ron by Steven Herrick and Caroline Margel, (member access) Sister Heart by Sally Morgan, and Leave Taking by Lorraine Marwood.

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