Title: Belonging

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Title: Belonging

Concept: to belong, or not to belong

Language Modes: speaking, reading, writing, listening, viewing, ICT


2. A student demonstrates understanding of the relationships among texts.

5. A student analyses the effect of technology and medium on meaning

6. A student engages with the details of text in order to respond critically and personally.

Key Question: How can a concept affect our perceptions of ourselves and our world?


  • Core Text: The Simple Gift

  • Additional: The Black Balloon

  • Students own

Key Learning Ideas:

  • Students explore, analyse, question and articulate the ways in which perceptions of this concept are shaped in and through a variety of texts.

  • students explore and examine relationships between language and text, and interrelationships among texts.

  • They examine closely the individual qualities of texts while considering the texts’ relationships to the wider context of the Area of Study.


Portfolio and listening task

Software or Web 2.0 application:

  • http://notsostandard.edublogs.org/belonging/

  • HSC Online


An Area of Study is the exploration of a concept that affects our perceptions of ourselves and our world. Students explore, analyse, question and articulate the ways in which perceptions of this concept are shaped in and through a variety of texts.

  In the Area of Study, students explore and examine relationships between language and text, and interrelationships among texts. They examine closely the individual qualities of texts while considering the texts’ relationships to the wider context of the Area of Study. They synthesise ideas to clarify meaning and develop new meanings. They take into account whether aspects such as context, purpose and register, text structure, stylistic features, grammatical features and vocabulary are appropriate to the particular text.

 The Area of Study integrates the range and variety of practices students undertake in their study and use of English. It provides students with opportunities to explore, assess, analyse and experiment with:

  • meaning conveyed, shaped, interpreted and reflected in and through texts

  • ways texts are responded to and composed

  • ways perspective may affect meaning and interpretation

  • connections between and among texts

  • how texts are influenced by other texts and contexts.

  Students’ responses to texts are supported by their own composition of, and experimentation with, imaginative and other texts. They explore ways of representing events, experiences, ideas, values and processes, and consider the ways in which changes of form and language affect meaning.

 The Area of Study and the prescribed texts will be subject to periodic evaluation and review.  In addition, students will explore texts of their own choosing relevant to the Area of Study. Students draw their chosen texts from a variety of sources, in a range of genres and media.


Learning and teaching

Communicate own ideas about belonging

Listen and discuss other students ideas about belonging

Developing vocabulary

Focus on Section 2 Paper 1
Exploring belonging through narrative
Conceptualising belonging
Reading and explaining an interpretation of belonging

From ETA Belonging

Revise key words
Reflective journals

Group activity

Developing vocabulary
Reflective writing
Students own selected text
Focus on techniques and messages of belonging

Focus on preparing for key parts of Paper 1 Section 1

From ETA Booklet

Teacher modeling

Focus on Section 1 Paper 1

Reflective writing

Technical language/Terms

Introduction to the Simple Gift

Communicating student and teacher knowledge and understanding of belonging through the text

Close study of core text

Focus on Section 3 Paper 1

Writing an integrated response

Communicating similarities and differences with core text and related text
Close study of text

From HSC Online

HSC Online

HSC Online

Knowledge and understanding of the text

Relating text to concept

Writing integrated responses

From Karen Yager

Introduction: Rubric and discussion of key points and words:

  • meaning conveyed, shaped, interpreted and reflected in and through texts

  • ways texts are responded to and composed

  • ways perspective may affect meaning and interpretation

  • connections between and among texts

  • how texts are influenced by other texts and contexts

An Area of Study is the exploration of a concept that affects our perceptions of ourselves and our world. Students explore, analyse, question and articulate the ways in which perceptions of this concept are shaped in and through a variety of texts.

Class discussion: Who do I belong with? Where do I feel as if I belong? When don’t I feel as if I belong? What active and reactive choices do you make about who and where you belong? Is belonging natural for human beings?

Belong fit in to be in the right place feel right to belong

1. A personal item that one owns; a possession. Often used in the plural.

2. Acceptance as a natural member or part: a sense of belonging.

But it is more.

To not belong, to be an outcast, an outsider (even if it is self-perception or due to social, cultural, religious or other reasons…). Think about where and who you belong with. Those people could, will, change over time. It is those experiences with like minded people that may make us feel like we belong to a cause or group. In some ways, where and who we belong with is made for us, yet at other times, we make active or reactive choices as to where and who we belong with. Those connections we made or are made for us is essential to understanding the countless lines within and around the ideal of belonging.  

In a modern society, bombarded with advertisements and other persuasive texts that suggest belonging is everything. Belonging is everything. It is the essence of self-esteem, self-image, of societies and civilisations. What it means to belong is different for every group, and individuals within groups, or alternatively, individuals within traditional family units or in the work place or within a profession.


noun fellowship, relationship, association, partnership, loyalty, acceptance, attachment, inclusion, affinity, closeness, rapport, affiliation, kinship

So, there is no one exact definition of belonging, it is a sense, and we all will think of it on different levels. Belonging is important, but to make active choices not to belong with one group or idea, but to belong to many or none is vital in the wide scope of this concept.

Creative writing tasks: 2008 and 2009 HSC papers: You have been invited to contribute a piece of writing for ONE of the sections in this book. Belonging Choose ONE of the options below for your contribution. (a) Compose a memoir entitled ‘Anywhere, everywhere’. OR (b) Compose a speech entitled ‘The Connection’. OR (c) Compose a story entitled ‘The Curious Incident’.
“Human beings, like plants, grow in the soil of acceptance, not in the atmosphere of rejection.” “When someone prizes us just as we are, he or she confirms our existence.”

Drawing on the ideas in ONE of these quotations, write an imaginative piece that celebrates the ways relationships contribute to a sense of belonging.

Teacher modeling of narrative, with explicit revision of descriptive language, dialogue and establishment of character.
Conceptualizing Belonging PowerPoint presentation

Belonging is security. Where you belong is where you feel you are safe. Safe from what? Safe from threat and safe from being misunderstood. To belong is to understand the unspoken codes of the people you live with and to share their values. Not only do people understand what you say, but also understand what you mean… and can accept you as an individual in their community.

While we may try to understand belonging as an idea, it is not in itself a cognitive concept but rather an affective one – we can only feel we belong. All objective criteria, such as roots, similarity of experiences, culture and values, for belonging may be checked off but unless we feel we belong, we remain an outsider. Belonging is extremely subjective. The desire to belong has always been seen as important. This is evident in the many stories of outcasts and exiles from the earliest times. But it is with the mass migrations of the 20th century which put pressure on the sense of cultural identity that the concept of belonging was destabilised. One of the effects of this was that those on the margins, those who had been silenced in centuries past, were gradually being heard, albeit from the borders of established society or ‘writing back’ from the edges of empire. Those of us lucky enough to live in the wealthy west can look back on the successes of multiculturalism, which has been able to flourish through the interdependence of law enforcement powers of the state and, at the very least, the willingness of individuals to submit to these for the common good. Because of a generosity of spirit and openness to difference, we have been able to enjoy a sense of belonging to a larger and far more diverse community than has ever existed in the past. The cosmopolitanism of the 20th century is giving way to the globalism of the 21st. We now can look forward to a sense of belonging to a community that is worldwide. At this point in time, this is an ideal. It is an ideal at risk of sentimentality with its connotations of ‘home’, comfort and togetherness and has even become a cliché through political professions of harmony and ‘feel good’ Images. Nonetheless this is the challenge of the next century – belonging to the world – a concept that can be fulfilled when we understand and feel understood through ….feel safe enough.
Revise key words: representation, techniques, values/messages, composer, responder

Student journal entry Before beginning the Area of Study students consider

- Their own ideas of belonging – where they belong and why/ whether they want to belong or not/ what belonging means to them

- Aspects of belonging they would like to explore

- What they expect to enjoy about the study and difficulties they expect to encounter

Group Activity 1:

1. In groups, students discuss the concept of ‘belonging’ then construct a visual representation of their concept of belonging on a large piece of paper (they could use magazines, newspapers, coloured pens, etc) considering:

-What they agreed on as common to their understanding

-What they rejected as not appropriate to their idea of belonging

- Why they made these choices

Revise structure of Paper 1: 45%, 45 marks broken into three sections.

Section 1: Responding and comprehension with 3-4 unseen texts, Section 2: Creative writing, Section 3: Critical responses, core text, own selected text.

Vocabulary words displayed around the room

relationship, connection, affiliation, affinity, rapport, proximity, identify with, association, closeness, comradeship, camaraderie, fellowship, companionship, brotherhood, sisterhood, fraternity, acceptance, acknowledgement, approval, support, affirmation, welcome, labelling, categorizing, defining, prejudge,

Belonging to a tribe: role play

Belonging as experience shared with other people: Texts of a student’s own choosing

Most texts deal with shared experience in some way or other. Students need to consider texts that focus sufficiently on this so that they can clarify the ways the text portrays how shared experience invites a sense of belonging.

Sub headings: composer, published date, form, medium, summary of text, five techniques used with examples, how the text gives a new insight into journeys.

Students to describe purpose and audience of their text

Students to compose three comprehension questions about the text, using a key verb (identify, assess, discuss etc)

Students to describe purpose and audience of their text

Students to compose three comprehension questions about the text, using a key verb (identify, assess, discuss etc)
Heywire Josh Whitely, Bernie, Tasmania. ‘Identity and Belonging’. Listening task: What type of town is Bernie? Why does Josh believe he has been a heads up in life? What’s the effect of the sound effects? Who are his mentors? What is the ‘one fundamental concept’ that brings people together? How might someone’s family name also mean that they are excluded? What are the things that a kid might get their photo in the local newspaper? What does he mean by a ‘sense of pride and confidence’? Where could that lead someone from Bernie? What values are people from Bernie armed with? Are these values unique to Bernie? Assess this text in relation to your understanding of belonging.
One of the more provocative sections of the Area of Study rubric requires students to consider the concept of belonging as an aspect of their engagement with texts in which “a responder may experience and understand the possibilities presented by a sense of belonging to, or exclusion from the text and the world it represents.” While this idea is followed by the elaboration: “[t]his engagement may be influenced by the different ways perspectives are given voice in or are absent from a text”, this does not fully explain the use of the unusual expression “a sense of belonging to…a text”. This seems to operate as an apparent opposite to “exclusion from a text” rather than as a term that works fully in its own right. Thanks to contemporary technology, “belonging to… a text” may be interpreted in a purely literal way. The web site of an online community such as Facebook, MySpace or Shelfari contains aspects of a real person be it a ‘true’ or imagined projection of the writer’s identity. A posting on one of these sites invites the same kind of distinction we apply to, say, the writer of a literary work when we distinguish between its real author and the ‘implied author’ of the work. Similarly, when we play a computer game or enter Second Life, we assist in determining the course of the text and are clearly, and sometimes visually part of the text and so ‘belong to…the text’ visually
Teacher’s own selected text Connections with family, social groups: Black Balloon, film.

View film, summary of plot and characters, responding questions, contextual information. Discussion of acceptance, difference, acts of kindness, importance of family and friends, feeling isolated.

Revise film techniques: focus technique music and costume, effect of dialogue and symbolism
Student responding and comprehension questions similar to Section 1 Paper 1.
Student journal entry: To what extent do feel I belong to a cultural group? To what extent does this matter to me?

To what extent is my experience echoed by a character in a text I have read/ listened to/ viewed?

Writing task: Individually, write a paragraph about acceptance and its importance to a sense of belonging.
Glossary of key poetic terms
Introduction to the Simple Gift: teacher reading of opening chapter

Free Verse novella: Free verse novels are also known as Vers libre and contain narrative poems that are separated into verse chapters called cantos. Free verse is not controlled by rhyming patterns and meaning is shaped by using the intonation (rises and falls in pitch) of everyday speech. Free verse novels use a variety of poetic techniques to create an image, atmosphere or mood. Using a colloquial register, a free verse novel is often told with multiple narrators from a variety of perspectives. This provides an opportunity for the responder to engage with the text and to gain an intimate knowledge of each character’s observations, thoughts and feelings.

Free verse novels often explore contemporary issues and for this reason offer a sense of realism.

In The Simple Gift Herrick reveals the personalities of the characters by using first person narrative for the three main characters, Billy, Old Bill and Caitlin. Readers share the thoughts and feelings of the characters as they give their perspective on the events in the story. The reader becomes a part of the story, the characters thoughts and actions become interactive, enhancing the reading experience. Herrick explores the social issues surrounding the homeless and offers a comparative study of ‘those who have’ and ‘those who have not’.

Studying free verse as poetry: The Simple Gift is prescribed on the HSC text list as ‘Poetry’. The free verse of Herrick is distinctly poetic. Each unique poem is interrelated with the next, with vibrant changes in perspective. Single events or incidents are given life through the different voices/personas adopted by Herrick. We will study The Simple Gift as a narrative, with all the key features of narrative technique; however, the poetic nature of the prose will be the main focus. The Simple Gift represents all the ideals of belonging, of choice, acceptance, difference and relationships.
Teacher and student reading
Annotation of two poems: belonging to the story, via Billy and Caitlin. We are meant to relate to the characters in any narrative, this is a part of the composer’s success; at times Billy and Caitlin also provoke us and create an emotional connection. This is a clever ploy by Herrick. Which character do you connect with the most?

Outcomes: Revise poetic techniques, identify and explain poetic techniques, consider the concept of belonging in the context of each character, show knowledge and understanding of the text and the concept

Language Techniques search: enjambment, Colloquialism, slang, symbolism, alliteration, metaphor, and simile. Technique, quote and page number, effect/connection to Belonging.
The Characters The three main elements of any narrative are: Setting, Characters, and Conflict. Students Complete the table to determine whether the characters in The Simple Gift are: main or minor characters, stereotyped characters, Do they change or develop a sense of belonging? Do they offer a contrast or a comparison to other characters? Where does the character feel accepted? Are they a part of a social/cultural group that makes them feel needed/wanted? What do each of the characters attitude towards each other impact upon a sense of place?

Before and after: How do the characters change? Why do each of the characters change? The major altercations in characters occur due to the desire to exist within a group (the town) or to be accepted by the group (the town). In the end Old Bill and Billy combine to come to terms with their place in the world. While Old Bill does not want to go back to his way of life before the death of his family, young Bill does not want to turn into Old Bill.

Herrick establishes rapid changes in characters perspectives to reinforce the ideas that surround the concept of Belonging. Via the characters evolution, Herrick suggests that Belonging, or not to Belong matters more than conforming to societies expectations. Also, through Billy and Caitlin Herrick highlights that proactive choices to exclude oneself from unrealistic expectations or situations can help individuals become accepting of differences in perspective. If Billy had stayed with his father, history would repeat, and Caitlin who seemingly has everything, decides that she wants to make her own decisions, one of these decisions is to be experience life as an individual.

Character questions: Which characters make active choices to belong? Does Herrick suggest it is good to run away from problems? Does Herrick find any good in adults? Why would Old Bill not return to his previous life? Why would Herrick leave the ending open with no clear resolution?

Matching quotes with characters: Billy, Caitlin, Old Bill, Ernie

  1. ‘may you all get well and truly stuffed’ (p5)

  2. ‘I can read. I can dream.’ (p6)

  3. ‘It was like stepping into heaven, no less than perfect.’ (p135)

  4. ‘I tell him to piss off, again, but he ignores me now.’ (p76)

  5. ‘with nothing you’re rich. You’ve got no decisions, no choice, and no worry.’ (p81)

  6. ‘I’m going to sit in this tub and drink myself stupid every weekend.’ (p12)

  7. ‘I ask question after question but I can tell it’s a surprise’ (p177)

  8. ‘My hands still shake from the drink or lack of it’ (p175)

  9. ‘from royalty to unemployment in a few generations.’ (p66)

  10. ‘I swore and laughed and swore some more’ (p136)

  11. ‘I couldn’t spend all that money on food, or beer, or myself.’ (p194)

  12. ‘I thought of what could happen and what I could want to happen.’ (p69)

  13. ‘and I fell with her and I’ve been falling ever since.’ (p98)

  14. ‘an old man before his time’ (p51)

  15. ‘Such perfect manners, eating scraps at McDonald’s.’ (p41)

  16. ‘I… decided I shouldn’t judge, not yet anyway.’ (p39)

  17. ‘I hadn’t thought of anything but how pleasant it was to sit with these people and to talk with them.’ (pp125-126)

Student journal entry: In your imagination, take yourself to a place where you feel you belong. Describe that place in such a way as to convey your sense of belonging.
The Plot – Revision of key features of plot development quiz and analysis, heart beat and cloze passage.

Revision: Remember Paper 1 Section 2 will require a creative writing response, usually in the form of a narrative, while it is important to realise that all the poems are linked via a narrative structure, you will also have to write a coherent narrative for the Trial and HSC exams. Plot analysis

How are the following complications resolved for Billy?

  • Living with his alcoholic father:

  • Unable to hitch a ride on the Great Western Highway :

  • Exposed to the freezing weather on top of the train:

  • Finding somewhere to live:

  • Finding somewhere to go during the day:

  • Getting enough food to eat:

  • Earning money:
  • Being caught by the Welfare officer:

Plot analysis activity suggested response

  1. Billy decides to leave home.

  2. Billy sees a train in the distance and climbs aboard.

  3. Ernie, the Train Driver, invited Billy into the cabin.

  4. Billy goes to the rail yard to find an empty train carriage which is no longer in use.

  5. Billy goes to the library to read books.

  6. He eats leftovers at McDonald’s.

  7. He finds a job at the local cannery.

  8. Old Bill has a plan, and gives his house to Billy to live in.

Heart Beat: Tension…a vital ingredient in any narrative. Plot the tension in collection of poems by placing the significant moments in the correct order next to a ‘heart beat’ rating.

Cloze Passage: students complete cloze passage on plot development.

Plot summary cloze suggested response

Slang and colloquialism as belonging: In texts, slang and colloquialism help establish the context of characters. One way humans connect is through language, and whenever sub-groups in society form, they develop slang and colloquialisms that become a part of the groups sense of self. Also, like jargon related to an occupation, slang and colloquialisms have evolved into ways that people are excluded from a group. Think of the language used by surfers, or by people at work, or words used by family members. The language of any group establishes relationships; it is through language that people are able to communicate. If one part of society does not have access to the language identity and self esteem can be altered. Further, if members of a society actively choose to create their own language it allows that group to stand out as different. The most recent example of the evolution of language as an aspect of belonging is text messaging. Influences on language: environment/physical boundaries, age, gender, occupation, life style, interests, education, nationality...these influences can connect people through a common language, but these influences can also act as barriers, excluding people to the common language.

It is important that you are familiar with and understand the meaning of the vocabulary used in The Simple Gift. As The Simple Gift is a free-verse narrative it uses a variety of colloquial expressions. Find the meaning for the following colloquial expressions. You may find some terms explained on the Australian Slang website . Ernie: cuppa, me boat, son, tub, we’ve

Product brands: There are a number of well known product brands mentioned in The Simple Gift. The mention of product brands in a literary text is often referred to as ‘brand placement’. This is becoming a common practice in films and offers a form of advertising for the brand company. The following brands are mentioned in The Simple Gift. These help establish the context of all characters in the poems.

Intertextuality – texts within texts, Billy belonging in books. ‘I’d go off alone, because you can’t trust those who want to break the rules and you certainly can’t trust those who make the rules.’ (p. 23)

Focus Technique: Intertextuality – ‘texts within texts’, why does Billy feels as if he belongs in fiction?

Meaning:”Intertextuality is the shaping of texts' meanings by other texts. It can refer to an author’s borrowing and transformation of a prior text or to a reader’s referencing of one text in reading another”

What aspects of the concept of belonging does Intertextuality draw out in Billy?

Values of life: For Billy are learnt from novels and real life experience. As suggested in the poem, Lord Of The Lounge, life seems, to Billy, to be about taking sides, but it ‘hits’ him: ‘I’d go off alone’. This proves to be the moment he realises that being alone is better than being controlled or powerless. Billy becomes the ‘deserted island’ of the Lord Of The Flies. The way Billy escapes into books suggests he is a solitary figure, who is devoid of faith in fellow man. Billy cannot trust those around him, as seen with his bleak relationship with his father, so he continually finds himself in self exclusion, captured by settings and characters of fiction. His favourite subject is English and he refers to stealing books as hobby. Also, his first place of rest after leaving his father is the Bendarat Library. This deeply personal connection to words on the page rather than physical humans is drawn out in the poem “Lord of the Lounge”, page 23. However, we soon learn that Billy’s finds two colleagues for his island. Teacher and student close reading of poem.

Focus technique: Dialogue page 25, The Librarian. The dialogue is intersected with an interior monologue from Billy, in which he speaks directly to the reader: ‘Please just leave me alone’. This confirms his thoughts as expressed in ‘Lord Of The Lounge’, but also shows you his desire changes, he wants to be alone, but ends up in a life changing relationship.
Picnic and Billy’s Cave: The same event is represented from two personas. This amplifies Herrick’s ability to interlock Billy and Caitlin’s experiences. This way, belonging, on its broadest terms becomes an individual and collective concept. The same event can be viewed and connected with different people.
Shared story, page 66, Billy feels attached to Caitlin and immediately he shares his experiences, making her a part of his world. They are connected through their stories.
Need page 85, flashback reinforces Billy’s honest approach and his reflective voice. This flashback allows the reader to see that some adults have helped him.
Symbolism and mofits –Two examples: ‘I wouldn’t want to meet her here not when she’s with her friends and in uniform and me dressed in the same clothes as always.’ (p. 39) Exclusion emphasised through clothing/image

‘And I looked up into the sky, the deep blue sky that Old Bill and I shared.’(p. 205) Belonging reaches beyond boundaries

Symbols : A symbol is the recurring use of words, phrases or images which convey specific ideas or meanings. The graphic image of a person’s hand is repeated throughout The Simple Gift and is presented both positively and negatively.

positive image

negative image

Conveyed through the understanding of the meaning of the aphorisms or sayings such as: ‘a helping hand’; ‘give me a hand’; ‘Do you want a hand’.

Of the hand is conveyed as a violent powerful force: ‘gave me one hard backhander’ (p15); and ‘with the force of a father’s punch’ (p10).

The key that Old Bill gives to Billy, which is also illustrated on the text cover, is also symbolic. It is symbolic as it is the answer (the key) to all of Billy’s problems and it is metaphorically unlocking the door to Billy’s future.

As a result of Old Bill and Billy’s unlikely friendship there are many occasions for laughter, something that has been missing from their lives for some time. This laughter conveys the image of happiness and friendship: ‘I laughed long and loud’; and ‘two hobos laughing, laughing the morning away (p130) suggest Billy and Old Bill enjoy each other’s company and that the laughter is a therapeutic aid, part of their transformation from an ‘earlier self’. The words sunshine, sun and light are also often repeated.

“The river is a symbol of ease, grace and fluidity; as expressed by its meandering form. Often times it is used to represent the calm beauty of nature.”

How does Caitlin first describe Billy? Where does Billy remember feeling the most accepted? What do Old Bill and Billy regularly do together?

Towards the end of the poems, Billy takes Old Bill and Caitlin where?

Focus poem: Westfield Creek This is a flashback. This is the only place Billy has fond memories of. Herrick goes into much detail about Billy’s calm exterior, his patient and natural approach to life. The cleansing nature of the Creek, the refreshing qualities of water are reinforced by Billy’s time away from the world.

When Billy first meets Old Bill they go to Bendarat Creek to wash their clothes and swim. That symbolised the start of their connection, and Old Bill’s rebirth. Also, towards the end of the collection, Billy is confident enough to invite Caitlin and Old Bill to the river, suggesting a new start, a collective connection to each other, as if the water played a part in their coming together. Water has traditionally been used as a symbol of rebirth, cleansing, hope, life, nature, peace, tranquillity...Without water human beings would not exist. Also there is a suggestion that water- creeks, rivers, lakes, oceans- are places where people meet and live as they usually have an abundance of food.
Motifs: A motif is a recurring idea, concept or theme. The references to dreams throughout The Simple Gift convey the idea that reality is something from which to escape. In this context dreams are reflections of the characters desires or fears. Billy says ‘I can read. I can dream’ (p6), inferring that perhaps there is a better place, a better life out there for him. He later says he ‘slept the sleep of the dreamless’ (p30) after his first night in Bendarat. This was a deep, peaceful sleep for a boy accustomed to stress and anxiety. Billy’s dreams also confront him with the reality of his ‘new life’. His fears are exposed when he tells us, ‘I dreamt of myself as an old man…. afraid to fall asleep and dream again of myself getting old.
Caitlin’s friends: Caitlin has a very deep relationship with her friends, page 90, her identity and sense of self is interrelated with her friends, Billy doesn’t have that connection with people his own age.
Old Bill’s Fall: Old Bill’s escapes his reality by drinking. Both Billy and Old Bill try to escape their worlds, interestingly, Caitlin can have her place in both worlds. Page 96. These experiences have shaped Old Bill, these tragic events have taken all that Old Bill knew and loved. All the things Old Bill valued are gone. Caitlin and Billy have a chance to make their future.
Caitlin’s worlds: Caitlin has two crafted lives; she belongs in both and can alter her dress and attitude to suit the context. However, Old Bill and Billy create their own place together. Caitlin doesn’t have their freedom to act on her deepest desires, to be her true self.
Honour in Poverty?: Do you believe Billy’s statement, about the honour in poverty? What do you think this means? Why does it make Caitlin feel ashamed? Billy believes that poverty can bring freedom, a sense of being free to move and act in anyway, without the social expectations to have a 9-5 job or the material possessions. Billy firmly believes in choice in life. Caitlin has been brought up in a different set of values, while Old Bill incorporates both these ideas, as he has lived both lifestyles, as a result he becomes the mentor and guidance between the two.

Common backgrounds can build into strong relationships, yet the opposite nature of the three also makes the connection extremely strong. Further, Herrick suggests that because they are active participants in their relationships, that is, they have made the choice to be friends, it has more power and significance.

Page 204, What does Billy teach Old Bill? The ghosts of the past can be taken with him, as they belong with him and constitute who he is, he can face them to own them, or keep drinking to escape.

Chapter comprehension questions, focused on techniques and changes to characters attitudes
Chapter 1: Find examples of alliteration, rhetorical questions, fragmented sentences, 1st person narrator, complex and simple sentences.

What subject doesn’t he fail? What’s his dog’s name? Which teachers are mentioned? Does he feel deeply connected to school or ‘Nowheresville’? Why does Herrick have Ernie help Billy? What effect does helping hand have on Billy? Can you hear the differences between their voices? Does Billy Trust adults? Why would Herrick establish adults as corrupt figures? What power does Herrick have over our responses to Billy and Ernie? How are we easily connected with Billy? What language features allow us to trust Billy?

Chapter 2: Find examples of personification, simile, pun What’s the librarian’s name?How important is Billy’s ability escape into books?

What social expectations does Billy want to avoid? Does Herrick set Billy up as an outside/outcast by choice? How important are individual choices when selecting where to belong?

Chapter 3: What is your first impression of Caitlin? What is Caitlin’s first impression of Billy?

Which of the two voices do you relate to? What does Bendarat High have? How is the Grammar school different? Does Caitlin feel a part of the culture of the grammar school? Why would Herrick build a connection between two opposites? What effect does this have on the poems? Make a prediction: Caitlin and Billy, do they belong together? Will Herrick make them find their identities together?

Chapter 4: Bendarat River, describe the importance of the river? What language features establish the differences between the three main characters? Caitlin has a close group of friends, how important are they to the poems? Do they help or hinder her relationship with Billy?

Billy’s cave, a place for him, by him, yet Caitlin approves, does that surprise you? Is she just rebelling against her parents’ expectations or does she really believe in Billy?

Re-read ‘Going Nowhere’, identify the metaphor.
Chapter 5: What does Old Bill call Billy? What colour are Billy’s hands? What other colours are mentioned in the chapter? Describe a flashback from this chapter, what does the flashback tell you about Billy’s pain? How does Old Bill escape reality? Why does he drink? What memories are held in the house? Does Old Bill feel guilty?
Chapter 6:

What effect do the fragmented sentences have on your reading of the poems? What ghosts are in Old Bill’s past? What ghosts are in Billy’s? What role do ‘ghosts’ have in their identity and connection to each other?

Chapter 7:

Re-read The Shadows

How powerful are the sentences that begin with ‘and’?

Does Caitlin live in two different worlds? What’s important about Billy’s love of literature? Page 118-9 The House is material gift, what other gifts do Old Bill, Billy and Caitlin share? How does the sharing bring them together? Does Caitlin regret her parents wealth or does Billy’s anti-materialism influence her? Has he changed her? Do you feel as if you connect with Caitlin, Old Bill or Billy?

Chapter 8:

What’s the role of the police? Write a short piece in the style of Herrick, from the perspective of Brett Stevens. Where does Old Bill find peace?

Chapter 9: How have the locks of Old Bill’s and Billy’s past been unlocked?
Chapter 10: Elder, mature people usually advise the young. How does Old Bill reaffirm that he should have listened to Billy? What effect does this have on their relationship? When does the house become a home?
Chapter 11: What might the hobo sky mean? Re-read ‘Respect’, how does self-respect turn into respect for others? How does Irene come back into the narrative? How does she help Billy? What has Billy taught Old Bill? Which direct does Old Bill walk? What is his dream?
Connections: How important is individual choice for the three main personas?

Discuss how Herrick allows you to know the characters.

It is due to their differences that the three become so close? Discuss the similarities and differences of each of the characters.
Know the text: notes, class discussion and writing about the gift:

The shared experiences heighten the connections between the three. This ploy by Herrick places collective guidance as an important aspect of individual and group identity.

Settings: How does Herrick change settings? P. 5, Wentworth High School ‘rainy afternoon/of my goodbyes’, ‘the wind howls and rain sheets in’, ‘One lucky bastard’, this crude and rude self description shows how Billy feels about the school and his knowledge of what schools represent. By reflective a negative experience via the language, Herrick captures a typical teenager males view of conforming to school life.
Perspectives/voices/personas are the gifts from the composer, which one do you belong with? Students select one poem to read to the class and explain the effect of the techniques on their sense of connection with the character.
Teacher presentation: Relationships, a balancing act of acceptance of differences – Caitlin and Billy, Old Bill and Young Bill, Librarian and Young Bill. List the relationships in the novel. Rate each one in importance. Five being the most important to one being the least. Describe Caitlin’s most important relationship. Describe how Billy’s relationship with Old Billy changed his view of the world. How important are the relationships in the novel?
Teacher presentation: Rich and poor Judging others by occupation – social classes and security. Throughout the novel we learn about what it means to be rich and poor. What does it mean to be rich? What does it mean to be poor? Why do you think Herrick sets Caitlin and Billy to be opposites in material wealth? What influence does wealth have on their relationship? How does our view of Old Bill change when we learn he was once rich? Do you think Caitlin’s position (being well off) will influence her relationship with Billy? What do you think Herrick’s message is trying to teach us? That being wealthy with materials doesn’t matter, that being rich inside matters the most?

Quotable quotes with themes: The suggested theme is: The pursuit of the simple things in life is both rewarding and fulfilling. This incorporates the concepts of:

  • friendship and companionship

  • random acts of kindness

  • open generosity

  • Devaluing material wealth.

  1. ‘I felt glad the champagne was going to someone who deserved it.’ (p17)

  2. ‘I like the kid. I like his company.’ (p111)

  3. ‘With nothing you’re rich.’ (p81)

  4. ‘My plan was getting clearer, sure I was doing the only thing I could.’ (p160)

  5. ‘I felt good that I hadn’t called the Manager.’ (p35)

  6. ‘Make a cuppa if you want.’ (p13)

  7. ‘Dad is too rich for his own good.’ (p36)

  8. ‘Someone to talk to, someone to look in the eye knowing they’ll look back.’ (p103)

  9. ‘Caitlin and I stood there measuring a life.’ (p187)

Themes: A theme is used to describe the main message of the story. For the overall text to be cohesive, a story needs to have a main message or theme. In The Simple Gift, Herrick attempts to give responders a particular view of the world, to give a sense of truth and reality. The Simple Gift offers a perspective on reality that provides responders with a way of making sense of the way they view the world.

In doing so, Herrick invites us to challenge what is truly valued in our society; to question our motivations and desires and to reassess the way we view ourselves and others. From this perspective the overarching theme in The Simple Gift may be interpreted as:

The pursuit of the simple things in life is both rewarding and fulfilling.

This theme incorporates the concepts of:

  • friendship and companionship

  • random acts of kindness

  • open generosity

  • devaluing material wealth.

Graph comparison: comparing students own selected text, Black Balloon and The Simple Gift.

Writing Tasks: transcript of radio interview: You are working for Radio station 2ESL FM, a radio station for high school students, and have been asked to interview Steven Herrick, author of The Simple Gift. Write the transcript for this radio interview. In your interview you must demonstrate your understanding of the text and how Steven Herrick uses elements of narrative to promote audience responses.

  • You are the radio interviewer

  • Your audience is high school students

  • You have to write the transcript of a radio interview.

Essay 2009 Section Three Paper 1: “Understanding nourishes belonging ...a lack of understanding prevents it.” Demonstrate how your prescribed text and ONE other related text of your own choosing represent this interpretation of belonging.
Teacher model of essay introduction

Hand written tasks with time limit, teacher and peer feedback, cool and warm feedback.

Paper 1 Preparation:

Section 1 Preparation

Section 2 Preparation: Approaches for Section II: Writing – AOS ‘Belonging’

Craft ‘They demonstrated structural complexity, cohesion, the use of an authentic, sustained and engaging voice and took advantage of the opportunity the question presented to showcase originality and perceptiveness. The mechanics of language, punctuation, sentence structure and paragraphing were applied skilfully in these responses’ (NSW BOS, 2007, p.5).

To focus on the craft of writing try these quick writing exercises: Compose a 100 micro word (no more no less) story that reflects one of the key ideas of ‘Belonging’: Focus on the power of verbs, Avoid too many adjectives, Include figurative language – a simile is simple but effective You could use an analogy or extended metaphor
Describe in two paragraphs a place that is special to you; where you feel as if you belong. Now describe a place where you feel alienated and isolated. Focus on creating a mood that reflects your feelings through emotive language and colour. Use the details of the place to represent your feelings without actually describing your feelings.
Take a recent well known event such as the Federal Government’s National Apology and write it into an imaginative text that reflects one or more of the key ideas of ‘Belonging’. E.g. Like I said, I didn’t miss her. But she was an addiction of sorts, and like any habit, even once you break it there are still moments that nothing will replace. Like being so amazingly warm with her in your arms that you just want to laugh at the Winter that lives outside the windows. Like the image of her washing her hands at the kitchen sink for fifteen minutes, humming a tune and wearing nothing but pale pink cottons. Or the time we made love on the living room floor, with the background noise of two planes flying into two towers, and hoping our love would make us invincible, and keep us safe.
Narratives As ‘Belonging’ is such a personal concept begin tackling Section II by composing a narrative with a focus on the craft of writing. Garth Boomer stated that ‘Stories are the lifeblood of a nation.’ Stories enable writers to convey significant concepts and differing perspectives, and have the potential to invite empathy and understanding.
Before you begin writing: Discuss ‘Belonging’ and how it is interpreted by different people. E.g. Belonging spiritually to the land Belonging to a peer group/family/team/institution/town/country, Alienation and exclusion, Displacement, Belonging to the past, How an individual can enrich or challenge an individual, group or community’s sense of belonging
Planning a Narrative for ‘Belonging’

Create the setting:

  • Think about your characters who move in the setting; your key ideas, your purpose and how you are representing your perception of ‘Belonging.’ How does the setting shape them and their notion of belonging?

  • Focus on the craft of writing: imagery, figurative devices, syntax, punctuation and structure.

  • Ensure that your readers can ‘see’ the setting – don’t neglect those small details that can capture the essence of a place! E.g. We buzz north through hours of good farm country. The big, neat paddocks get browner and drier all the while and the air feels thick and warm. Biggie drives. He has the habit of punctuating his sentences with jabs on the accelerator and although the gutless old Volksie doesn't exactly give you whiplash at every flourish, it's enough to give a bloke a headache. We wind through the remnant jarrah forest, and the sickly-looking regrowth is so rain-parched it almost crackles when you look at it. (Tim Winton, The Turning)

  • In one to two paragraphs create the setting

Create the character/s:

  • Sometimes our most effective writing is based on our lives and our experiences. Think about the people you have met, even yourself and create one or more characters.

  • Think about the character/s’ perceptions of ‘Belonging’ and how this perception has been shaped by their context, attitudes, experiences, values, perspectives, etc.

  • Consider dialogue and how it can be used to effectively capture and reflect the character/s.

  • Compose one or more paragraphs that describe or represent the character.


  • Good writers have been influenced by many other accomplished writers. Dip into as many texts as you can so that you experience the craft of writing. Tim Winton and Gail Jones have mastered the art of creating detailed settings, appealing characters and intriguing story lines. Read some of the short stories in Winton’s The Turning and read extracts from Jones’ Sixty Lights and Sorry.

  • Write for a specific audience and use the appropriate language and form. E.g. If you are requested to compose a letter to a friend, remember that it should be personal, descriptive and even humorous. It usually starts with a greeting.

  • Show don’t tell. Avoid too much information and focus on appealing to the senses through effective descriptions. Remember our most powerful tool is our imagination! A text that suggests rather than tells all has a powerful impact on the reader.

  • Develop a strong, distinctive voice. To achieve this is it is advantageous to write about what you have experienced so that your writing comes from the heart. If this is not possible because of the nature of the set task, adopt a believable persona and maintain his/her voice. This could mean using colloquial register and slang so that you convincingly capture the voice of the character.

  • Choose and control your use of a range of language features to engage and influence an audience. This means using techniques such as:

  • A variety of sentence beginnings and sentence lengths. You could use short, simple sentences and fractured sentences to create tension or long, complex sentences to slow the action down. Ellipsis (…) is a dramatic way of leaving something not said or hinting that what will happen is too difficult to describe.

  • Vary paragraph lengths – don’t be afraid to use a single sentence paragraph to make a dramatic statement.

  • Poetic devices such as: similes, metaphors, personification, alliteration, assonance, sibilants and onomatopoeia. There are many others. Tim Winton in The Turning cleverly uses very ordinary similes to make us smile and visualize what he is describing or what the character is feeling. E.g. “Reeds bristled like Venetian blinds in the breeze.”

  • Contrast: juxtaposition can be very effective. E.g. You could start by describing the beauty of a place, stressing its quietness and tranquility and in the next paragraph have a bomb drop.

  • Imagery: paint a picture for your reader – add colour, sound and smells. Tim Winton does this well: “From the water’s edge you couldn’t even see our street. I found eggs in the reeds, skinks in the fallen log, a bluetongue lizard jawing up at me with its hard scales shining amidst the sighing wild oats. I sat in the hot shade of a melaleuca in a daze.”

  • You are most convincing when you write about what you have experienced. So ground your imaginative writing in things you know.

  • It is a writing task so the structure and construction of the text do matter: paragraphing, varied sentence structure, punctuation, word choice, and the opening paragraph and the concluding paragraph.

Section 3 Preparation
Writing, writing, writing….

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