Mia's Key

story by Pam Greatorex , illustrated by Ana María Méndez Salgado

Learning intention:

I am learning to analyse various descriptions of literary texts so that I can identify specific historical details.


Success criteria:

  • I can identify objects from the past included in texts.
  • I can describe how life was different in Australia in the 1950s.
  • I can explain how details in texts can give information about historical context.


After reading the story, ask students to identify what objects Mia discovers that are from Grandma’s past (the old brass key with intricate designs, clothes, dried lavender sachets, watches, hatpins, coins, leather case with satin lining, pearl necklace - she also recalls the button tin). Ask students what these objects have in common. Students might identify that they are important to Mia’s memory of her grandmother.


Watch ABC’s Back in Time for Dinner part one, the 1950s. Ask students what things surprised them about the video. Some students might notice the connection between the hats mentioned in the video with the hatpins in Mia’s grandmother’s possessions. Explain that as hats were part of the etiquette dress code during much of Mia’s grandmother’s life, it wouldn’t be unusual for her to own hatpins.


Ask students why the food in the video was wrapped in paper and string. When they have an answer (plastic bags weren’t used back then), discuss society’s move to ‘throwaway culture’, where many items are disposed of rather than repaired. (More information about throwaway culture can be found on National Geographic’s article Why our Throwaway Culture Has to End and BBC Future’s article The High Cost of our Throwaway Culture.) Explain to students that Mia’s grandmother lived in a time where torn clothes or faulty products like watches were repaired rather than replaced, that items weren’t made from plastic and that things were created to last. With this information in mind, encourage students to have another look at the list of Mia’s grandmother’s possessions and discuss why they think she had them. For example, the button tin was because she repaired clothes rather than throw them away. The same could be said for the old watches. The dried lavender sachets could be an example of people from the past using nature to fragrance their homes because no aromatic sprays were available. Finally, the pearl necklace is not cheap plastic that will be tossed in the bin once it’s broken – it's a precious heirloom that’s meant to be kept and passed down through the generations.


Have students write a reason why they believe each of Mia’s grandmother’s possessions were included in the text, using the information above.


Explain that additions in literary texts like the examples above give clues to a broader historical context. Encourage students to include specific details in their own writing to expand their world-building.