Searching for Cicadas

Exploring the 2020 CBCA Short List: Information Books

Searching for Ciacadas cover

Author: Lesley Gibbs  Illustrator: Judy Watson

Publisher: Walker Books

Themes: Lifecycles, insects, grandparent/grandchild, nature

Years: Australian Curriculum: English, Years 3 and 4, Science; Year 3 and 4. NSW Stage 2.

From the publisher’s synopsis: This lovely story about a child and a grandfather searching for cicadas is part of the award-winning narrative nonfiction Nature Storybooks series. In the summertime, Grandpa and I go cicada-watching. We put our camping gear into my wagon and walk down to the local reserve. Last year we saw five Green Grocers, three Yellow Mondays and one Floury Baker. Can we find the rare Black Prince this year?

Unit writer: Amanda Worlley  

Building field knowledge

  • Use a strategy such as KWL or RAN Chart/Strategy (see reference in additional resources below) to determine what students know about the topic. Add to this as facts are uncovered in the text and wider reading and viewing.
  • Create a vocabulary wall chart (or online version using a tool such as Padlet to add new and interesting words as they are encountered in the text. Have students add definitions of the words as they are added.
  • View the Amazing Lifecycle of Cicadas part of David Attenborough’s Life in the Undergrowth and add any facts to the KWL or RAN Chart. ACSSU072  ST1-1LW-S
  •  The Queensland University Insects at school site offers resources, activities and information fact sheets.

Exploring the context of the text

  • Compare the lifecycle of the cicada to other insects you may have been studying in the Science curriculum. ACSSU072 ST2-4LW-S
  • Research websites such as National Geographic and list other characteristics and features that are uncovered. Use a graphic organiser such as a Venn diagram to compare and contrast with any other insects you may have been studying in Science. ACSSU044 ST2-4LW-S
  • Before reading list the different types of cicadas encountered in the text (Green Grocer, Yellow Monday, Black Prince, Double Drummer, Floury Baker) and brainstorm the reasons why these names have been chosen. Add any facts as they are encountered in the text reading. Ask students about their experiences with cicadas.
  • Lead a class discussion about camping and have students share experiences about camping. Elicit information from their experiences using the framework of the five senses (hear, see, taste, feel, smell)  and record interesting phrases and words that students may then be able refer to  in future writing. ACELT1596 ACELA1498 EN2-11D EN2-9B

Responding to the text

  • Gather a range of traditional and contemporary texts from the school library or websites about insects to enable students to compare and contrast how different authors have approached this subject in different ways. Have them identify the texts they prefer and explain why. ACELT1594 EN2-10C
  • Have students classify the collection of texts, letting them choose the way they want to sort and explain their thinking. To prompt, ask them to sort books into information and narrative and lead a discussion on the traditional information versus contemporary narrative/information texts. ACELT1602 EN2-10C

Creating texts

  • Read the information at the end of the text and we find out the cicada is the loudest insect in the world.  In groups have students use websites such as National Geographic for Kids; LiveScience; Smithonian; and the Australian Museum to research other insects and create an infographic of interesting facts for example the longest, quietest, smallest, slowest, fastest, strongest. Use an online tool such as Piktochart or software such as PowerPoint to design. ACELY1697 ACELY1685 EN2-3A 
  • The text provides an exemplar of how to present information about a species in a narrative form. Use information gathered from existing science studies, or research another insect or animal.  Use the camping context of this text to have students create a text which weaves facts into the narrative.  Use the word banks from the previous class discussion about camping to support their writing. ACELY1697 ACELT1791 EN2-3A EN2-2A
  • Read page 10 of the text where the child covers her/his ears as the ‘cicadas are so loud’. Have students close their eyes and play a few minutes of the video Cicada Sounds  concentrating on what they are hearing. Brainstorm with class, words to describe and jointly construct a short paragraph describing the sound for someone who has never heard a cicada before.  ACELY1695 EN2-2A
  • Have students choose one of the cicadas mentioned in the text (Green Grocer, Yellow Monday, Black Prince, Double Drummer, Floury Baker) or any they have encountered from experience,  wider reading and research these further and then create a poster to display, including an image and information profile of the insect. (If time permits you may like to explore creating the image in Photoshop using the techniques like in Mechanica by Lance Balchin. Access the Mechanica website for complete tutorials on how to make your own mechanica.)

Examining text structure and organisation

  • Compare the dual strands of texts (narrative and information) found in this book. First read the narrative only part of the text. Ask the students to identify the audience for this text. Why do they think the author has chosen to use the characters of a grandfather and young girl about their age? Do they think this was the best choice and ask them to explain why or why not. ACELT1596 EN2-11D
  • During the narrative reading, be mindful of pointing out 'facts' that the author has weaved into the narrative and adding them to the KWL/RAN chart (for example cicadas hatch in summer, at night, nymphs on ground in wavy grass under grey gum, time involved in process of splitting skins, life span). ACELY1680 EN2-4A
  • Reread the text, this time only the information strand. Add any additional facts to the KWL/RAN chart in a different colour to compare facts from narrative and information strands. You may wish to reread a third time reading the narrative and then information text on each page. Do students have a preference for narrative or information, or combined and ask them to offer reasons for them assigning greater or lesser merit to one style. ACELT1598 ACELT1604 EN2-12E EN2-4A

Examining grammar

  • Explore how the author has developed the characters of different ages through language choices. The young child is the narrator of the story and the grandfather's character is developed through both direct and indirect speech. Show page 9 and discuss the sentence where we are told that 'Grandpa says they're as rare as hen's teeth'. How has the use of colloquial language helped establish the context of Grandpa's age to the reader? Have they heard that expression before? What does it mean? Show page 15 where Grandpa says directly ‘It's a beauty!’. Does this phrase belong to a particular age group? Is it something the students would say? Have students write that same sentence by asking them to 'show' it was from different groups of people for example a very young child, a teenage boy, the child’s mother. ACELA1484 ACELA1494 ACELY1687 EN2-9B EN2-1A
  • Show page 15 and ask students  to consider what the experience must be like from the insect’s point of view. Brainstorm with the class, words and phrases that would support how this character would be feeling. Students can work in pairs or individually to write a text from the perspective of the nymph burrowing out from the ground after 17 years and climbing onto the trunk of the tree under the watchful gaze of the girl. ACELA1482 ACELA1493 EN2-9B
  •  Retype the information strand text from page 12, 15 and 19 and display on the interactive whiteboard. Examine how the author has used noun groups to provide richer, more specific descriptions (tiny rice-shaped eggs; muscular front legs, glassy transparent wings). Have students examine the text in pairs to identify other noun groups/phrases or verb group/phrases that have been used.  ACELA1493 EN2-9B

Examining visual and multimodal features

  • The illustrator has used shadows and light, and a rich palette of colour to show time of day. Flick through the pages and have students identify what time they think it is and explain why.  Show the double page 18 and 19 on a document camera for closer inspection and discussion. Take note of the writing in blue which is quite hard to read at first. This is in contrast to all the other pages. Why do they think this has been done intentionally? Is it because the characters are now inside their tent? Does it 'quieten' down the page as there are no other human characters in the scene?  What is the salient feature of this page? What is happening on the tree? ACELA1496 ACELA1483 EN2-8B
  • Draw students attention to page 17 and the three images. What do they see when they first glance at these? Have a closer look, where is their eye drawn first? Is there a reading path that their eye follows? What information can we gain from these images? Discuss how the illustrator has used the sequence of images to show action over a period of time. ACELA1496 ACELA1483 EN2-8B 
  • The beautiful layered illustrations provide depth for the viewer. Examine the layers on page 16 for hidden details. Careful examination reveal Grandpa and the girl sitting quietly watching by torch light.  Lead a discussion on the different shots and angles that the illustrator has used. Many of the pages are long shots which are purposeful to provide the reader with a lot of information about the setting. Page 14 provides a close up where we engage with the characters fascination of the nymph. ACELA1496  ACELA1483 EN2-8B

Additional and related resources and links to other texts: 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 Publishers, Portland. Teachers can preview in Google Books. Explore other similar texts in the PETAA units of work, including Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect, Python by Christopher Cheng (2013), Lyrebird! A True Story by Jackie Kerin (2013) and Bilby Secrets by Edel Wignell (2012)

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