Night Lives

story by David Hill , illustrated by Cheryl Orsini

Learning Intention:

I am learning the process of planning, drafting and publishing so that I can write an engaging imaginative text.

Success Criteria:

  • I can consider the stereotypical representation of animals in literature.
  • I can develop my own representation of an animal.
  • I can compose my own text, in the style of ‘Night Lives’ exploring the nocturnal experience of an animal.

Essential Knowledge:

More information about how authors representations may reflect stereotypes rather than actuality can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Representation.

More information about how authors write with distinctive features can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Style.

Before reading the story, conduct a class discussion around the common (or stereotypical) representation of cats in children’s literature. You may wish to read a range of texts about cats to structure ideas for the discussion. Suggested texts include:

  • The works of Lynley Dodd (Scarface Claw, Slinky Malinky)
  • Judith Kerr’s series on Mog, the Forgetful Cat
  • Rebel Cats! Brave Tales of Feisty Felines by Kimberlie Hamilton

Create a class list of common representations of cat characteristics. These may include: independent, solitary, sometimes aggressive, food orientated, physically gifted, lazy, hostile towards other animals.

Read ‘Night Lives’. After reading, compare the representation of Mig the cat to other cats in literature through completing a Venn Diagram as a class. Areas of commonality may include: Mig is also a solitary creature who enjoys her independence, she does not get along with other animals (including other cats), her owner thinks that she is lazy. There are also some areas of difference, Mig seems to be motivated by adventure rather than food and she is not interested in chasing mice and pigeons.

Explain to students that authors will often be inspired by stereotypical representations of an animal, but will make their characters a bit out of the ordinary to ensure that their story is engaging.

Create a list of the other characters that Mig encounters in her night adventure. These include: possums, the neighbour’s cat, an annoyed neighbour, a mouse, an owlet-nightjar, Daisy the bulldog, pigeons, another dog, the paper delivery girl and her owner.

Instruct students to select one of the animal characters mentioned. They will plan, draft and then compose a story based on this animal’s nighttime experiences.

First students should list all the stereotypical representations of that animal. For example, students could be inspired by the representation of possums in Mem Fox’s ‘Possum Magic’ and plan a character that is wise, interested in food but also needs to be wary of predators. Encourage students to add details to their character that are not included in that animal’s stereotypical representation. For example, students could focus on the growling and hissing sounds that possums make, which reflects the actuality of possums, rather than their cute stereotypical representation.

Next, students plan their story around the following structure:

  • Describe where the animal is at the beginning of the story. What is their home like?
  • List three activities, locations and interactions that the animal has over the course of the evening.
  • Describe what the animal does at dawn. Consider whether your animal is nocturnal, crepuscular or diurnal.

Provide students with time to compose and then review and edit their story prior to publishing.

Assessment as learning:

Imaginative Text Rubrics can be found on The School Magazine website. Students can use these rubrics as success criteria in the crafting of their imaginative writing via anchor charts. The rubrics can also be used to scaffold and sequence the editing and publishing process by providing the structure for peer or teacher assessment.