Spellbound: Making Pictures with the A-B-C

Exploring the 2017 CBCA Short List: Information Books

Frieda Karlo like image on Spellbound book cover

Author: Maree Coote

Melbournestyle Books

Themes: Letter art; typography; design; invention

Years: Australian Curriculum: English, Year 5; HASS (History), Year 5 (NSW Stage 3) 

From the publisher’s synopsis: There are shapes all around us shapes that look like the letters of the alphabet. Spellbound is 120 pages of unique typographic illustration known as ‘Letter Art’. This introduction to typographic design is the first of its kind, and promotes and improves letter recognition, observation, spelling and design skills.

Unit writer: Amanda Worlley

Building field knowledge

  • Determine what students know about typography. Use a strategy such as KWL chart or RAN chart/Strategy, (see reference in Additional resources below) to elicit what students understand.  Add to this as facts are encountered in the text and wider reading and viewing. 
  • Watch a five-minute video The History of Typography - Animated Short to get a broad overview of typography and its development over the centuries. You may like to create a timeline and a vocabulary word wall to add technical language as it is encountered in the text, and through further research. ACHASSI097
  • View the History of Printing Timeline which has details for events relating to printing, including paper making, first publications of texts, and processes through to the digital age. Have students add interesting facts to the class timeline (such as the accidental invention of air-conditioning in 1902). ACHASSI096
  • View The Book of Kells, the text that was completed around 800AD, handwritten and illuminated by monks, which is Ireland's most precious medieval artefact. Zoom in on a page of text and study the handwritten fonts, explaining to students that they are examining a primary source. ACHASSI096

Exploring the context of the text

  • Display a word document on the interactive whiteboard and type a word such as ‘angry’ in both lower and upper case. Right align, and choose a large font size, such as 72pt. Highlight the word and then use the drop down tool in the font type selection.  If you use the down arrow key and move through the fonts, it will change the word to that font. Lead a discussion about design choices. ACELY1699 EN3-8D
  • Give students a selection of stimulus words (for example, beautiful, fast, speed, miserable, scared) and have them use laptops to create one A4 page, typing five of these words and choosing appropriate font type, colour and size. Have them share with the class and justify their design decisions. ACELY1699 EN3-8D
  • Gather images of the iconic people and places that the author has used in the book and store them digitally, so that students can access and download them onto their device. For example use an image of Luna Park with similar frame and angle to page 38 of the text. Have students download and annotate over the top of the image, identifying letter shapes, using a pen tool on a device if available or appropriate app (such as Explain Everything). ACELY1703 EN3-3A

Responding to the text

  • Show the students the cover of the text (while covering the subtitle) and ask them to predict what type of text it is and what it is about. Have them study the cover and ask them to identify any part of the illustration that links back to the title of SpellboundACELT1795 EN3-1A
  • Read pages 4 and 5 with students. Provide groups of students with sets of letters and carry out the study of shapes of letters activity. Have students pass letters around so that all groups get to explore all letters of the alphabet. Why do they think that the author has included this activity idea? How will this help with interacting with the rest of the text? ACELT1609  EN3-2A

Creating texts

  • Have students write a poem about the magic of words. Use this text to stimulate ideas and view an online gallery. Students can design and hand-draw their own or use an online tool such as Theme Poems which have restrictive themes. Try other tools such as Word Art, Tagxedo to generate shape word art or Wordle to generate random layouts. You can develop this activity further using an app such as Kinetic Typography to create animated typography. ACELY1704 EN3-2A
  • Using an iPad or tablet have students photograph architecture around the school. Have them use a pen tool on the device if available, or an app such as Explain Everything (link above) to annotate a design of letter art in a layer over the photograph. Remove the photograph from background and display alongside the letter art. Create a 3D Art Gallery to display these. ACELY1707 EN3-2A
  • Challenge students to create a typographic letter art design using a word document. Prepare a word document to share with students which has all letters of the alphabet inserted in individual text boxes so students can duplicate, rotate, change fonts, manipulate to create their design. Start with a simple task of using any letters to create a common item such as a house.  ACELY1707 EN3-2A

Examining text structure and organisation

  • At first exploration of the text it appears to have a loose structure, however close examination reveals a consistent structure to aid navigation. Explore the structure of the text and bring to students attention the three numbered sections — architecture, animals and people, and how the author has used headers to define sections. Draw their attention to the the opening page of the section section titled ‘The Rules’. Why has the author chosen this heading?  ACELT1610 EN3-8D
  • Display a ‘The Rules’ page from one of the sections on a document camera or interactive whiteboard to examine more closely. Why is this structure interesting, and what features has the author used to create this? Does this make it easier, or more difficult, to understand? How is the reader’s attention drawn to the different specific rules?  ACELA1797 EN3-5B
  • The use of different fonts, italics and bold for words is used in a wide range of non fiction texts. This is a major cohesive feature of this text. Identify the other non-textual feature of ‘call out’ boxes, and have students discuss what they think their purpose is.  ACELA1511 EN3-3A

Examining grammar

  • The instructive nature of the text is written in an informal tone. Find a paragraph (for example, on page 21) and identify the vocabulary choices made by the author that support this. Can students substitute these language choices to create a more formal text?  ACELA1512  EN3-6B
  • The text does not have many of the usual features of information texts. During subsequent readings, have students identify technical vocabulary to create a glossary wall.  ACELY1702  EN3-3A

Examining visual and multimodal features

  • Gather a range of texts around similar topics of typography, calligraphy, letter art and design to compare and contrast this text. Draw students' attention to the particular colour palette that the author has chosen. Why has the author used these tones? Do they have an affect on the letters remaining the salient feature? Do the colour choices relate to the subject matter? ACELA1496 EN2-8B
  • Examine pages where the letters, or other features have broken out across the header border or outside of colour frames. How does this influence the viewers' interpretation of this design book? Would a different mood have been created if everything was contained and strictly ordered? ACELA1512  EN3-6B

Additional and related resources and links to other texts: Use the symmetry of the alphabet in a mathematics unit of work; Students can create their own font using online tool Fonstruct which can be downloaded  RAN strategy/chart — The Reading and Analysing Non Fiction (RAN) Strategy is an adaption of the popular KWL Strategy by Tony Stead. Five categories are used — what I think I know, confirmed, misconceptions, new information and wonderings. Stead, T. (2006) Reality Checks: Teaching Reading Comprehension with Non Fiction, K-5 Stenhouse Publishing, Portland available for purchase through its website. Teachers can preview in Google Books. Explore other texts by the same author: Alphabet City Zoo, Letters from Melbourne, Alphabet City Melbourne, plus. For further ideas to explore words, refer to Literature Single — The Return of the Word Spy . Search Youtube or Vimeo for ‘typography art’ for further resources to inspire.  Explore the supplementary resources of The Shape of Text to Come for ideas and information on multimodal texts.

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