By Mira Najdovska (teacher at Canley Vale Public School) and Kelly Hodkinson (Head Teacher English at Erskine Park High School).
A using quality literature Shared Practice and Resource Kit (SPaRK) for English Stage 2, Years 3-4.
Resource: ‘My Two Blankets’ by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood, Little Hare, Vic, 2014.
What is it about?
‘My Two Blankets’ tells the story of a young girl who is trying to transition between her old and new world. Cartwheel, as her auntie used to call her, has immigrated to a new country and her blanket is a metaphor for the culture she knows and feels safe in. Cartwheel then creates a new blanket with what she learns about her new culture, as she starts to feel more comfortable in her new world. This is a beautiful story exploring the need to belong and the power of language.
Why is this important? Why does it matter?
This story is told through the Point of View of the main character, Cartwheel. The use of personal pronouns enables the reader to connect with and relate to the protagonist. The first person narration provides opportunities for the reader to explore and make inferences about her motives, actions and feelings in more depth. Students could interpret the meaning of the story through the eyes of different characters and could adapt the story through different points of view to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the text.
The written and visual text invite exploration of Connotation, Imagery and Symbol. Colour is used symbolically throughout the text, depicting Cartwheel’s old life in rich red tones and her new life in pale and cool watercolours. Figurative language is subtle and used elegantly to describe the new language and sounds Cartwheel hears in her new country as ‘a waterfall of strange sounds’. Both the words and images provide layers of meaning, allowing the reader to extend their understandings beyond the literal meaning of the text and providing opportunities to look at the use of metaphors and similes.
How do I use the text to teach the textual concepts of Point of View and Connotation, Imagery and Symbol?
Understanding and experimenting with Point of View
Focus on the event where the two friends meet at the park for the second time. Have students change this extract from first to third person point of view. Ask students to comment on the effect of this change in point of view by answering the following questions.
- What effect does this change have on the reader?
- Does it change the reader’s attitude towards or intimacy with the main character?
- Does third person point of view give the writer more freedom to present scenes from the viewpoint of other characters?
- Students could also choose to retell the same event from the point of view of Auntie or Cartwheel’s new friend. What effect does this have on the story (experimenting and engaging critically)?
- identify the point of view in a text and suggest alternative points of view (ACELY1675)
- understand, interpret and experiment with a range of devices and deliberate word play in poetry and other literary texts (ACELT1606)
- use metalanguage to describe the effects of ideas, text structures and language features of literary texts (ACELT1604).
Interpreting figurative language and symbols
Irena Kobald has used the blanket in this story as a metaphor for Cartwheel’s familiar life experiences and language. As Cartwheel collects and learns new words, her English language develops and she has two blankets of life experiences and language that she can feel comfortable with. After some discussion about the blanket being a metaphor for familiar life experiences and language, look at other examples of metaphors.
Then as a whole group, extract the literal statements from the text for each blanket. Using the old blanket text and image, jointly create a mind map showing how the literal statements can be interpreted. Together, construct a justification statement about the interpretation, referencing the text, images and colours. Then in pairs, using the new blanket text and image, students create a mind map showing an interpretation of these statements or the inferred meanings. In their justification statement about their interpretation, students should make reference to the meaning of the written text, as well as the meaning of the colours and symbols used in the images (understanding and engaging critically).
My old blanket was warm. It was soft. It covered me all over. It made me feel safe. Sometimes I didn’t want to go out.
Soon they [new words] didn’t sound so cold and sharp any more. They started to sound warm and soft. At first my new blanket was thin and small. But every day I added new words to it. The blanket grew and grew. I forgot about the cold and lonely waterfall.
- recognise the use of figurative language in texts, e.g. similes, metaphors, idioms and personification, and discuss their effects
- interpret text by discussing the differences between literal and inferred meanings
- use metalanguage to describe the effects of ideas, text structures and language features of literary texts (ACELT1604)
- justify interpretations of a text, including responses to characters, information and ideas.
Experimenting with similes and metaphors
Irena Kobald has used the waterfall in this story as a metaphor for the strange, new unfamiliar language that Cartwheel hears. In the example of figurative language pictured, she has used a simile. Similes use ‘like’ or ‘as’ to make a comparison and often connect two items which might not otherwise be connected. Authors use similes to create vivid images and spark the reader’s imagination. They help the readers to ‘see’ the scene in their heads.
In this example, writing ‘foreign language is like a waterfall’ does not provide enough detail. Instead, the author has used a simile within a sentence, creating a vivid image: ‘… it was like standing under a waterfall of strange sounds.’ Using the pictured double page spread that refers to the waterfall, have pairs discuss and share their ideas about how the author and illustrator have successfully represented foreign language to be like a waterfall.
Then, as a whole group, use the mind map strategy to record one word thoughts, feelings and ideas that come to mind when students think about having to understand a foreign language. You could role play this situation to achieve a more emotive response. Students then individually choose one of these ideas which they would like to develop into a simile or metaphor for the topic. Provide time for students to write a sentence or phrase that transforms the words into a vivid image. Encourage students to experiment with figurative language to provide enough detail to show how the two things being compared are similar.
After some work on identifying and interpreting similes and metaphors, students can start developing their own similes and metaphors and incorporating them when they compose texts. As a class, brainstorm ideas, emotions, objects or topics that the students find interesting or make them experience strong feelings. Then in pairs, students need to choose one topic from the list and, using the mind map strategy, write down one word thoughts, feelings and ideas that come to mind when they think about this topic. Students then individually choose some of the ideas they would like to develop into a simile or metaphor for the topic. Encourage students to write a sentence or phrase that transforms the words into a vivid image. After composing their own similes and metaphors, each pair could combine their efforts to make a short poem about the topic. Similes and metaphors do not have to rhyme. What is important here is to create strong images (understanding, experimenting and engaging personally).
- discuss the nature and effects of some language devices used to enhance meaning and shape the reader’s reaction, (ACELT1600)
- experiment with figurative language when composing texts to engage an audience, e.g. similes, metaphors, idioms and personification
- create literary texts that explore students’ own experiences and imagining (ACELT1607)
- identify creative language features in imaginative, informative and persuasive texts that contribute to engagement.
The Little Refugee by Anh Do, Suzanne Do and Bruce Whatley
A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts and Hyewon Yum
How to cite this article - Najdovska, M. & Hodkinson, K. 2017, 'SPaRK – ‘My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood’, Scan 36(1).