Hair I Comb

poem by Jonathan Sellars , illustrated by Christopher Nielsen

Learning intention:

I am learning to consider context so that I can plan and prepare audience-specific multimodal presentations.


Success criteria:

  • I can identify the context from which I read texts.
  • I can use context clues to plan a presentation.
  • I can use digital tools to enhance my audience’s enjoyment of my presentation.


Essential knowledge:               

  • More information about context can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Context.


Focus question:

How does the context of the intended audience affect the composition of a text?


Prior to viewing Hair I Comb, read the poem aloud to students or listen to the digital recording. Ask students who the target audience is for a poem in an issue of Orbit (answer: year five students/themselves). View the English Textual Concepts video Context and ask students what context they’re in. Students might answer that they’re in a classroom, the temperature, the time (e.g., before lunch). Ask them to consider what aspects of Hair I Comb are relevant to their context. Encourage students to consider the purpose of the text (to entertain) and the fact that they know what shaving is through external experiences, even if they don’t do it themselves. Ask if students know of any context where someone has hair on the top of their ears or the tips of their toes. Ask them if the poem is written for ridiculous purposes, or if it’s addressing something specifically.


Sort students into small groups (groups of two or three) and instruct them to brainstorm what the narrator of Hair I Comb looks like using context clues from the poem. Students are to come to a decision about the narrator’s appearance, with reasons for their choice, then prepare a multimodal presentation for the class. This can be done using PowerPoint, Canva, Google Slides or any other digital tools. Give students time to consider who their audience is, the context they’re in and how they can make a presentation relevant to these aspects. For example, students can use illustrations, photographs from the internet and an audio recording of the poem to enhance their presentation and interest their audience.


Once presentations are complete, display the illustration for the poem and discuss whether it matches any groups’ own conclusions. Ask what clues they can see in the illustration to tell them more about the narrator (the fur suggests a dog, but the opposable thumbs and ripped shirt suggest a werewolf or something similar).


Allow the class to evaluate which representation of the narrator suits the poem best – one of theirs, or the accompanying illustration via a Gallery Walk or Exit Ticket.