story by Claire Catacouzinos , illustrated by Caitlin O’Dwyer

Learning Intention:

I am learning to work with small and large groups to break down and analyse a narrative so that I can plan and present my own independent verbal explanation and analysis of the narrative.

Success Criteria:

  • I am learning to engage in whole class discussions
  • I am learning to discuss key features in a text as part of a pair
  • I can identify and explain the theme of a narrative
  • I can connect my own life experiences with that of the character in a text
  • I can plan and deliver a short presentation


Essential knowledge:

View the video Understanding theme on the NSW Department of Education website.


Oral language and communication:


Prior to reading the story, engage students in a class discussion. Assign one student to be the note-taker and record the ideas that are offered by their classmates.


Before beginning the discussion, set up the group protocols for a group discussion including establishing how students can raise their hand to contribute, wait to be called upon and not interrupt or call out. Discuss what active listening looks like


When the class is ready, use the discussion prompts:

  • What is a family?
  • Can there be other definitions or different versions of families?
  • Why is family important?
  • Who are ancestors?
  • Why is knowing about your own ancestors considered important by some people?
  • What does heritage mean in relation to families?
  • What might happen if people do not have access to knowledge about their own family heritage or their ancestors?


As a class, read the story or listen to the audio recording if you have a digital subscription. Stop reading at ‘Hurry up!’ Zach yelled impatiently, freestyling after them.’ On page 23.

Before reading on, ask students to turn to the person next to them (a partner) and talk about Christina’s family. What do we know about the family at this stage of the story? (Students might notice that the word Yiayia is used for Christina’s grandmother. They might notice that Christina’s older sibling and cousins are impatient with her. Students might also identify a family heirloom. – the necklace)


Continue reading the story, stop reading at ‘Yet Christina’s family and the Greek community up on the pier didn’t scream in fear, they all whooped in roaring delight.’

Before reading on, ask students to turn back to their partner and discuss the following:

  • What is a nereid and a hippocamp? (these are beings from Greek mythology)
  • What does this inclusion of mythical beings from Greek mythology suggest about Chirstina and her heritage? (This suggests that Chirstina’s family has Greek heritage, and might even have connections with Eione’s family of Nereids.
  • Why is Christina’s family the only group of people who are thrilled to see Eione and the hippocamp? (Christina’s family must recognise the nereids and the hippocamp from their own family stories. They are not frightened because it is familiar to them.)
  • Why do you think that Eione and Christina both have the same necklace? (they are possibly distant relations)

Understanding text:

Continue reading as a class, until the end of the story. As a group, look at the extract below:

Christina helped her Yiayia down from the rail. Zach grabbed Yiayia’s arm too. ‘I’m so glad Eione appeared,’ Yiayia said, clasping her hands to her mouth. ‘It’s been a long time. Too long. I thought they had forgotten us …’ She looked so pensive. ‘Maybe we forgot about them … our heritage … but this …’ She reached out and touched the coin pendant around Christina’s neck. ‘This is how we remember them.’ Christina hugged her Yiayia, and so did Zach. And the whole family swooped in and group-hugged Yiayia too. Amongst the squished bodies, Zach caught Christina’s eye and he half smiled. ‘Sorry about before, Chrissy.’ He looked thoughtful.


Discuss the following questions as a group:

  • What does Yiayia’s dialogue reveal about the message or theme of the story? (this story is about the importance of family and heritage – not forgetting those who came before you.)
  • How can we apply this in our own life? (We can become interested and curious and ask questions about our own heritage. You can learn about different cultural experiences of family members belonging to an older generation).
  • How does Zach speak to Christina at the end of the story, compared with their interactions in the beginning? Has he learnt from the experience? (Zach is more respectful and connected with his sister.)



Creating text:

Have students conduct research on the nereids and/or hippocamps from Greek mythology.

Once students have gathered information about the nereids/hippocamps, they are to plan and prepare to present a short speech in which they answer the following question.

  • Why are the nereids/hippocamps a good feature to include in the story ‘Eione’ to help convey the key theme or message of the story?

Students may like to prepare some slides with images to accompany their presentation.


Suggested structure:

  • A brief introduction to the story and the theme or message of the story
  • An explanation of the beings from Greek mythology included in the story
  • An explanation of why the author has chosen the Nereids and Hippocamps to help convey the theme of families and family heritage
  • An analysis of why the use of Greek mythological beings is an effective way of conveying the message about the importance of f.mily heritage,


Assessment for/as learning:

Reflect on the lesson by answering the following questions:

  • What do you like about talking with your classmates about a story and the themes presented in them?
  • What do you dislike about talking with your classmates as a learning strategy?
  • Do you prefer to write down your ideas or discuss them? Why?