Literature – “cultivating a culture of optimism and hope”

Sarah Weaving (Jarryd and Paige) share insights and experiences from the students’ study of literature and modeled, co-construction of writing with Years 3-5. Take a moment to also read Sarah’s closing paragraph!

Sarah writes:

Shared writing is an important part of our class time. It involves the teacher modelling the thinking and writing process, using the ideas of the children. The class have been sharing a number of books about feeling upset or overwhelmed. We have looked at the lovely ‘Mr Huff’ by Anna Walker, ‘Penguin Problems’ by Jory John and Lane Smith and then ‘The Red Tree’ by Shaun Tan.

We took one illustration from The Red Tree, with the text removed and discussed what we thought it might be about…..with the richness of Shaun Tan’s work, the discussion can be interesting.


Some of the students comments:

stormy night, midnight, cloudy, rough looking, looks like something rough, sudden, dangerous might happen on the next page, surreal, ominous, gloomy, dark, diabolical, time passing rapidly.

colours are dark blue (3 shades), black, same sort of colours, different shades, mouldy green, white clouds.

white lines show the bottle has been thrown, literally thrown out, metaphorically disowned. Helmet blocks everything out, inside the helmet ‘echoes in your head’, she is trapped and does not know how to get out, she wants to be forgotten, a storm is coming and she is trapped in the bottle, she is stuck, she can’t escape, she is alone, she feels like none cares about her. I wonder if she is afraid of the dark? feels like none understands her and what she is feeling, overwhelmed (black sky). There is hope shown by the white clouds, the red leaf, there is a staircase in the lines of the painting….a way out.

So, we had a fair bit to play with!

Next stage was to put this together into a brief piece of writing about the picture.

The Red Tree

The Red Tree is a book by Shaun Tan. This picture shows a girl with a diver’s helmet, in a glass bottle, on the sea shore. The illustration is set on a gloomy, stormy, diabolical night and the colours express how the girl is feeling, without words. These colours are shades of blue, mouldy green, black and white. An ominous storm approaches and she is stuck in the bottle. She wears a helmet to block everything out. Unfortunately, she feels alone and that none understands what she is going through. The bottle has literally been thrown out of the sea and she feels disowned and abandoned. Fortunately, there is hope, portrayed by the white clouds and the small, red leaf.

This was our first draft although we made slight changes as we reread and wrote.

As part of our ongoing whole school focus, we will continue to foster the use of literature and imagination to delve into understanding the emotions and feelings of ourselves and others. We hope to build the resilience of the children by cultivating a culture of optimism and hope. This term, as the journey continues, we will attempt to grow this core life skill of empathy and show the children that in small, practical ways, through kindness, active listening, deep conversation and social activism they can change the world, one small step at a time. We will also focus on their friendships and personal well being. Watch this space for some stories of our adventures!


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