The Lotus Seed - Sherry Garland and Tatsuro Kiuchi
The Lotus Seed – Sherry Garland
READING – looking at themes in books, and comparing them.
WRITING - Using better verbs. This could serve as a mentor text in writing
READING/WRITING - understanding how noun groups can be expanded to give a fuller description
The Lotus Seed (Sherry Garland) tells a story that spans multiple generations. It begins in Vietnam in 1945, and ends in the present day, in an unnamed and very different country. Through the story of a seed, Garland builds a story about the importance of family and enduring traditions, through war and migration. Using very few words, she alludes to some big ideas. The story could easily be a story of migration familiar in Australia, allowing for connections to many other texts, or stories students have heard.
How can I use it to teach? What awareness can students take to other texts?
Looking at themes. A theme is just a big idea. It answers the question, “What is this really about?”. This is a good text to introduce the idea that books even have themes, or ‘big ideas’. Picture story books are a good way to explore what it means for a book to have themes. They’re shorter, and they’ll have some similarities that can be used to compare to one another.
In the Victorian Curriculum, there is actually a specific mention in different places, including level 6, “Analyse and evaluate similarities and differences in texts on similar… themes”, so I’ll throw in some texts that might help that here.
You may want to use this with a whole grade, but could be used in small numbers. It’s possible students will need a crash course on what it means to have a theme. SO, some very common themes, or ‘big ideas’ that come up in books may be things like friendship, family, change, resilience, loss, courage, etc. Start a menu of these with them. A lot of these examples will actually fit this text. If you some options to pick from, it will scaffold their thinking in coming up with suggested themes from this one. It’s ok to provide them with some to go on. It’s scaffolding. They should still justify their choice with evidence from the text.
GET THEM TALKING: They will have different responses, so give them time to talk about what applies to this text, and support it with evidence. See if they can come to on agreement for the best fit for this story. They are likely to come up with things like family, loss, change, belonging/immigration, perseverance.
To follow up with students exploring possible themes to texts, I’ll attach some names of some picture books at the end here. Keep a menu of possible themes. You might have a list in your room of questions that good readers ask the author, add, “What is the theme/message?” or “What is it really about?” Now we’re teaching them to ask better questions.
Other authors/texts for exploring themes:
Margaret Wild – Fox; Tanglewood; Treasure Box; Fire; most others
Shaun Tan- most titles, including “The Arrival”
Danny Parker – Parachute; Tree
Jeannie Baker – Circle; Mirror; Window; most titles
Anthony Browne – Voices in the Park; most titles
Rebecca Young – Teacup
Flight- Nadia Wheatley
IF you want to compare texts with similar themes and look evaluate how well they did this, The Arrival (Shaun Tan), Flight (Nadia Wheatley), and Teacup (Rebecca Young) are just a few.
Using better verbs!
Using less common verbs makes the writing more interesting. The more unique they are, the more we can VISUALISE and INFER. Most classrooms will explore words other than ‘said’ at some point. And for good reason. Any other verb there will give a clearer picture of what is occurring.
This text has some pages with multiple examples. It’s worth exploring them, and offering what the more common verb could have been, and comparing what we VISUALISE and INFER when we hear them.
Example: on the second page” She wanted something to remember him by, so she snuck down to the silent palace, near the River of Perfumes, and plucked a seed from a lotus pod that rattled in the imperial garden.”
She said, “snuck” instead of “went” or “walked”. What does the word “snuck” add?
She said, “plucked” instead of “took” or even “picked”. What does that look like?
She said “rattled” instead of “moved” or “grew” or anything else. What does that look like?
Using verbs we don’t hear very often, gives us a clearer picture. If we can replace everyday verbs in our writing with a less common verb, it will immediately sound better.
There are a few subsequent pages with at least one unique verb on them. In each case, what does that action look like? Or help us infer?