A Train in Africa (Blast Off 4, May 2019)

Worksheet: Emotions or actions

Understanding EN2-4A

Use this sensory chart graphic organiser to help students organise sensory details they notice in the text, or to brainstorm details they can include in their own writing.

Find three interesting words from the story, ‘A Train in Africa’. Research their meaning and use them to increase student vocabulary by completing this Interesting Words worksheet.

Conduct a See, think, wonder thinking routine using this YouTube clip about the Phelophepa ‘Train of Hope’ which is featured in the story, ‘A Train in Africa’. Record student responses.

  • What do you see?
  • What do you think about that?
  • What does it make you wonder?

This routine encourages students to make careful observations and thoughtful interpretations. It helps to stimulate curiosity and sets the stage for inquiry.

Engaging personally EN2-2A

Point of view: Write a diary entry from Bongani’s point of view about his birthday and the day the train finally came. Highlight the vivid descriptions of the African landscape in the text. Encourage students to use these textual elements to enhance their own writing endeavours. Explore further the English Textual Concept Point of View.

Intertextuality: Use as a scaffold the poem ‘Where the Wild Geese Fly’ (page 11) to write about the train’s impending arrival. Appropriate the poem’s structure, imagery, rhyme and repetition to write another poem. Explore further the English Textual Concept Intertextuality

Write a letter or birthday card to Bogani, to wish him a happy birthday and ask about his visit on the Train of Hope. Students might like to explain how they receive healthcare in Australia and how we use trains.

Step inside is a visible thinking routine designed to get inside viewpoints. Three core questions guide students in this routine:

  1. What can the person or thing perceive?
  2. What might the person or thing know about or believe?
  3. What might the person or thing care about?

Brainstorm perceptions from the story and use themes and ideas generated by the class as story titles, for their own narratives.

Connecting to the text EN2-11D

Background reading: Strategy explained: text-to-text, text-to-self, text-to-world

  • Text-to-text connections occur when we make connections between other texts in relation to the text we are reading.
  • Text-to-self connections occur when we make connections between personal experiences and the text.
  • Text-to-world connections occur when we relate the text with what we already know about the world.

Text-to-World: How do the ideas in this text relate to the larger world—past, present and future.

  • What I just read makes me think about (event from the past) because …
  • What I just read makes me think about (event from today related to my own community, nation or world) because …
  • What I just read makes me wonder about the future because …

Discuss as a class and record student responses on a Think, Pair, Share worksheet.

Engaging critically EN2-2A & EN2-7B

Write a letter to author Elizabeth Williams, using the writing a letter to the author guidelines and worksheets and the Praise Question Polish scaffold. Encourage students to highlight three elements within the narrative that they would Praise, Question and Polish:

  • Praise: What I like about the author’s writing style or ideas.
  • Questions: For the author to remove any confusion.
  • Polish: Things to improve, I would change, I wish that …, I wonder if …, I couldn’t believe …

Support: Write a postcard

Experimenting EN2-10C

Create a script, for a news reporter interviewing patients who have received care from the Train of Hope. Watch the YouTube clip about the Phelophepa ‘Train of Hope’ as an exemplar. Highlight the parts of the text that lend themselves to questions. Use this Question Creation Chart to support students. Option to use iMovie or Microsoft Movie Maker.

Create an advertisement to encourage professionals to visit South Africa and volunteer to help on the Train of Hope.

Adapt the story, ‘A Train in Africa’ into a short clip using iMovie or Microsoft Movie Maker.

Research and create a crossword about the Train of Hope, using this free crossword maker or crossword puzzle creator. Use the crossword on page 34 of Blast Off as a guide for suitable questions. Remember answers can only be letters or words, not numbers.

Support: Question Creation Chart

Extension: Create a Kahoot.

Reflecting EN2-12E

Conduct an I used to think ... But now I think … routine to help students to reflect on their thinking about a topic or issue and explore how and why that thinking has changed. It can be useful in consolidating new learning as students identify their new understandings, opinions, and beliefs.

Journal: Has reading ‘A Train in Africa’ changed how students appreciate access to healthcare? What influenced their response more: reading the text or watching the news story? What difference does knowing about a character’s personal context make when we connect with texts?

Further reading

English Textual Concepts


Harvard Thinking Routines

The Train of Hope: South Africa’s Phelophepa

Think From the Middle: Rochester Community Schools Strategy Toolbox