Through Whose Eyes? Aboriginal and European Perspectives in Literature

6. Identifying and Comparing the Purpose and Features of Texts

Suggested Learning Intentions

  • To use comprehension strategies to understand and evaluate a text
  • To investigate purpose, structure and features of a historical text

Sample Success Criteria

  • I can discuss the purpose of a text, and the intentions of the author
  • I can summarise the key ideas in a text
  • French, J. 2011, Nanberry: Black Brother White, Harper Collins AU, pp. 1-4.
  • Tench, W., 2012, 1788, The Text Publishing Company
  • Character investigation: docx PDF

It is strongly recommended that teachers review all suggested stimulus texts prior to their use to ensure their appropriateness and to enable rich, respectful discussion. For guidance on text selection refer to the Teaching and Learning Resources — Selecting Appropriate Materials policy.

In addition, it is suggested that teachers refer to the guidelines around establishing a safe & culturally respectful classroom in the ‘Before you use this sequence’ section of the resource.

Display a short excerpt from Watkin Tench’s diary, such as the account below of the First Fleet’s arrival at Botany Bay.

For on the Supply’s arrival in the bay on the 18th of the month they were assembled on the beach of the south shore to the number of not less than forty persons, shouting and making many uncouth signs and gestures. This appearance whetted curiosity to its utmost, but as prudence forbade a few people to venture so wantonly among so great a number, and a party of only six men was observed on the north shore, the governor immediately proceeded to land on that side in order to take possession of his new territory and bring about an intercourse between its old and new masters.

Watkin Tench, 1788, p. 40

Discuss the writing style and vocabulary used by Tench to ensure the students fully comprehend the events described and can interpret the sentiments expressed by Tench.

You could also share a student exit ticket or wondering from Stage 5: Analysing and interpreting a historical account, and discuss the viewpoints or wonderings about the views presented by Watkin Tench in his journal.

Introduce the reading from Nanberry. Explain that Nanberry was a real person who was adopted by Surgeon White. Read a short passage from Tench’s journal that refers directly to Nanberry.

Reduce the cognitive load of the students if required by explaining the text type, the context of the narrative account or summarising the reading a Story Tell (watch at 1:09:00).

Discuss the lines from Jackie French’s notes, “The events in this book are as true as I can make them… I have done my best to interpret actions and motives in this book” (p. 278).

Generate a discussion about history and historical records. Question prompts include:

  • How do we know what we know about events from the past?
  • What artefacts, documents and records exist to tell us about the past?
  • How might Jackie French’s work differ from the writing of Watkin Tench?
  • What things would it be difficult or even impossible for Jackie French to know about this period in history?

Provide students with the prologue to Nanberry. This could be read independently, or during guided or reciprocal reading groups.

Ask students to create a character investigation, or a written or pictorial summary of the text and to provide examples of:

  • Narrator’s voice, e.g. first person, third person, passive, active
  • Tense used in text, e.g. past, present, future
  • Historical, context specific vocabulary, e.g. Jackie French uses the Aboriginal word, maigal, synonymously with stranger when writing in Nanberry’s voice.
  • Use of direct speech
  • Insight into the thoughts and feelings of the characters

Circulate among the students, drawing attention to the particular features of the text and the perspective of Nanberry presented by French.

Allow time for students to view each other’s work in a gallery walk, then add any additional information they may have gathered to their summaries.

Discuss the similarities and differences between the perspectives presented of early contact in Nanberry, Watkin Tench’s diaries, John Marsden’s, The Rabbits and the visual illustrations and paintings.

Select two texts, for example Nanberry and the visual images, and model using a Venn diagram to demonstrate similarities and differences between the texts.

The Literacy Teaching Toolkit provides a useful protocol to guide group discussion.

Enable students to read and comprehend the text by reading the text to and with them. Pause regularly to highlight the text features and discuss what information each feature provides and the intent of the author. When comparing and contrasting text types, arrange students into collaborative pairs where students can extend and support each other.

Extend students analysis of varying text types by encouraging them to compare and contrast three different texts.

Ask students to select two texts that have been examined to complete a similar compare and contrast activity, demonstrating their knowledge of the text features and the perspectives presented in each text.

Collect the student work and gather formative assessment data.

Clickview, 2019. My Place series. [Online] 
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Monaghan, F., 2015. NALDIC SCL RIG 3: Misty Adoniou- Literacy through Literature. [Online] 
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

National Library of Australia, n.d. First Peoples. [Online] 
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

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