Gundungurra Country – a writing based end of year unit

In my first year as Head Teacher, I overhauled the junior English programs to promote skill development in readying students for senior studies and their completion, ultimately, of the HSC exams. The final four or five weeks of Term 4 became opportunities, for students in each junior year, to work through a series of writing activities as self-directed learners. Over time, the activities for each unit have become a mix of class based and student choice.

In Year 10, students work towards achievement in a unit titled ‘Our Country’ that is based on Gundungurra lands. I have previously written about our staff cultural training day on country with Aunty Wendy.

We discussed our country as an introductory activity to the unit – students received instructive map below. It was important for students to understand that boundaries were not strictly linear and measured, but more a reflection of the rivers and spaces the Gundungurra belonged to and cared for.

Many teenagers will tell you that their home town is ‘boring’ so a mindmap of potential events and places of interest is an effective way of reminding students of the different possibilities.

Beginning with our own knowledge, we quickly compiled many ideas that naturally group themselves into a focus for a travel article. This lead into a discussion on

  • audience
  • language
  • context

to remind students of how our writing focus impacts on the language choices we make. If students imagine their article being published to persuade young couples to spend a weekend in the southern highlands, they may well write about the ‘foodie’ culture and use colour images of local specialties eg. Bernie’s menu offers a delicious Mars bar thick shake.

These discussions created a sense of enthusiasm and I quickly outlined the structural expectations of their article:

  • headline: include a language feature such as pun or alliteration
  • blurb: quick overview of article ending with the byline
  • two body paragraphs of two to three sentences on a different place or event – consider the groupings in the mindmap
  • conclusion with contact details for further information

This built upon the selected reading and writing activities contained within The Text Book 3 – Resources for English (series editor: Helen Sykes) Module 6 ‘Travel Genre Texts: Where will we go today?’ 2003 edition, Cambridge University Press.

*featured image from Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners

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