Earlier this year Wendy Cowey visited Tennant Creek Primary School and observed teachers Tracey Sant and Paul McLoughlin working on Colin Thiele’s ‘Pannikin and Pinta’.
The Year 6 class spent some time working on the part of the text where the author describes the adult pelicans and their babies, focusing particularly on the description of the babies.
The teaching sequence on this passage was aimed at the use of the oxymoron ‘wonderfully ugly’ as these two words would not usually be used together. We say wonderfully graceful or terribly ugly but not wonderfully ugly. Colin Thiele used these words for the baby pelicans deliberately to imply that despite their appearance they were wonderful. He then expanded on their appearance by pairing descriptors as in ‘pink and featherless’, ‘awkward and ungainly’. Finally, he expanded on awkward and ungainly by describing their attempts at walking as ‘They flopped about when they tried to walk.’ In other words, they couldn’t actually walk but they could flop about. The whole description allows readers to imagine the birds clearly but with a fondness for them in their wonderful ugliness.
As you can see from the photos here, the students applied the principles used by Colin Thiele to describe other baby animals. They looked at illustrations, and practised the language they would use to represent very young animals seen through fond eyes.
The photos on this page give you an idea of the sorts of things the students discussed when they were studying the text.