Package 4-3: Responding to text 1

This lesson focuses on building vocabulary and background knowledge around the text: ‘Almost Impossible: Crossing the Blue Mountains’ by Kate Walker.

Week 5 - Package 3 - Year 5 and 6 English/literacy - Responding to text 1

Things your child will need

Have these things available so your child can complete this task.


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Before your child starts

This lesson focuses on building vocabulary and background knowledge around the text: ‘Almost Impossible: Crossing the Blue Mountains’ by Kate Walker and published in the School Magazine.

This text is written from the point of view of European settlers and does not acknowledge that the traditional custodians of the Blue Mountains crossed them regularly. You can explore the more information about the traditional custodians on the NSW National parks website.

What your child needs to do

Your child will watch a video of a lesson to introduce them to the text and explore vocabulary within it. The teacher will guide your child as they brainstorm and delve into the meaning of words within different contexts.

Throughout the lesson, your child will be asked to pause the video to complete an activity on the activity sheets.

What your child can do next

Your child will be completing a range of activities, including:

  • brainstorming vocabulary around an image
  • using context clues to determine the meaning of a word
  • exploring strategies to understand a word in more detail
  • choosing appropriate words in a cloze passage.

Options for your child

Activity too hard?

Your child might focus on understanding the vocabulary within the first section of the text. Have your child say the words aloud in different sentences.

Activity too easy?

Have your child create their own cloze passage with different words omitted from the text.

Extension/additional activity

Your child might research additional information about the Blue Mountains, Aboriginal Dreaming stories based in the area or on Governor Arthur Phillip.

Activity sheet 1: Image brainstorm

Your task

  • Use this image to start a vocabulary brainstorm.
  • Place the words around the image.
  • After returning to the video for further instruction, use a thesaurus or other words you know to add to the words.

Activity sheet 2: Almost impossible: Crossing the Blue Mountains

Your task

  • Read the following text extract.
  • Highlight any unfamiliar vocabulary within the ‘First Attempts’ section.

Almost Impossible: Crossing the Blue Mountains

Article by Kate Walker, published in The School Magazine

(Note: This text is written from the point of view of European settlers and does not acknowledge that the traditional custodians of the Blue Mountains crossed them regularly.)

The Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, can be crossed by car in one hour and fifteen minutes, the distance being just seventy kilometres. However, back in 1788 when European colonists first settled in Sydney Cove, those mountains were a barrier no-one could pass. It would take twenty-five years and as many attempts to find a way across.

First attempts

In December 1789 Governor Arthur Phillip sent Lieutenant William Dawes with two soldiers to cross the Blue Mountains on foot. Only six horses had come from England with the First Fleet, and they were too valuable to be risked or spared. Horses would have been useless on the journey anyway. Dawes’s party spent three exhausting days climbing rocky ravines and hacking through tangled bush. They reached Mount Twiss, north of where Linden is today. Here their food ran out and they turned back, having crossed less than a quarter of the way.

It was a bitter defeat. Dawes had been sent to find better farmland away from the coast. Crops planted in the sandy soil of Sydney Cove had failed to thrive, and better farmland needed to be found if the colony was to feed itself. But those mountains, a mere fifty kilometres away, defied escaped convicts and soldiers alike. Governor Philip mounted no more serious attempts and focussed instead on developing farms around the Parramatta and Hawkesbury Rivers. Unfortunately those farms failed too.

In 1792 Major Francis Grose took over as caretaker Governor, with Captain William Paterson as second-in-command. Paterson was a seasoned soldier and explorer, and he set out in September 1793 to cross the Blue Mountains by boat. His party of soldiers and convicts followed the Grose River, which flowed out of the mountains to the north. Rowing against the river current would prove the easiest part of the journey.

They soon entered a vast valley rimmed with sheer cliffs on either side. The exploration party was forced to carry their two boats over rocky shallows. Then came the waterfalls. Waterfall after waterfall, around which the boats had to be hauled. After ten tiring days, one boat had been shattered on a stump, and the planks of the other boat were coming loose. Paterson had followed the torturous river for just a third of its length when he admitted defeat and turned back. Boats were as useless as horses in this wild country.

Activity sheet 3: Cloze passage

Your task

  • Read the text extract and add a word in the gap that you think makes sense.

The text continued:

Seamen attempt a crossing on foot

Henry Hacking had been quartermaster of the First Fleet ship Sirius. He was a rough man, often in trouble with the law, and he hoped that if he found a path across the mountains, the [insert correct word here] would overlook his villainous deeds. With two companions he is believed to have [insert correct word here] only as far as present-day Linden. Though Hacking himself suggested he made it much further—all the way to the Great Cliff wall of Kings Tableland. If he had, that cliff plummeting 1000 metres to the Jamison Valley below would have stopped him. On his return, Hacking [insert correct word here] the mountains ‘an impassable barrier’ and announced that if he could not cross them, no-one could.

That boastful challenge was taken up by George Bass, the naval explorer after whom Bass Strait is named. In 1796 Bass and two [insert correct word here] tried crossing the mountains along the Burragorang Valley to the south. Rather than [insert correct word here] cumbersome boats, they came prepared with ropes and what Bass called ‘scaling irons … hooks fastened to the wrists, to better climb the precipitous ridges’ (probably what we'd call today grappling hooks). With these Bass was able to climb steep [insert correct word here]. Other times, he had himself lowered down on ropes. His party travelled west, reaching the Kanangra Plateau, with its 700 metre high walls. Bass wrote later, ‘after fifteen hard days … many (more) lines of cliffs made us turn back.’

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