Rodent Rodeo

poem by Jody Jensen Shaffer , illustrated by Greg Holfeld

Learning intention

I am learning to pose questions to keep a conversation moving so that I can engage in meaningful discussions.

Success criteria

  • I can consider factors that impact the flow of a discussion.
  • I can compose questions to ask my peers in a class discussion.
  • I can establish rules around how to conduct a class discussion.
  • I can participate in a class discussion following the rules created with my class.


Prior to reading Rodent Rodeo, discuss the question:

  • What can make participating in class discussions challenging?

Sample responses include:

  • The responses to discussion questions may be repetitive.
  • There may be long pauses between responses.
  • Students may talk over each other/a small number of people may dominate the discussion.

Inform students that one way to keep a discussion moving is by asking questions. Inform students that they will be composing questions to ask their peers about three texts as part of a class discussion. Tell them that first they will be viewing different texts to allow them to develop discussion questions.

Begin by viewing the video Rodeo Kids from Behind the News.

Discuss questions that might be used to stimulate discussion about the information in the video and share responses. For example:

  • What are rodeos? (Competitions where a rider must stay on a bucking horse or a wild bull for as long as possible)
  • What are some of the risks? (Rodeos can be dangerous)
  • What are the benefits of competing in rodeos? (Riders can become famous, people make a career out of it, it can give children a second chance)
  • How do the kids feel about competing? (They are excited)
  • What ideas are raised about animals in the video? (There is some controversy over the treatment of animals)

Next, read Rodent Rodeo. Discuss the subject matter (a rat preparing to compete in a rodeo).

Place students with a partner and instruct them to discuss questions that could be posed about the text in a class discussion. instruct students to share their questions and invite the rest of the class to provide responses. For example:

  • What is the focus of the poem? (The equipment the rat has)
  • What makes it interesting? (It is about a rat rather than a human)
  • What is missing from the text? (How the rat feels about the rodeo)

As students discuss responses to the questions, emphasise any factors that slow-up the discussion, for example long pauses, repetitive responses. Discuss rules that might be established to prevent these elements, for example:

  • Limit the number of responses to each question
  • Establish a rule for how students might take turns to ask their questions

Display these ideas as class rules for students to follow when conducting future discussions.

Next, read Carol’s First Alien Draw, found on pages 4 to 7 of this issue of Orbit. Emphasise that this text also focuses on a rodeo. Inform students that they will be composing questions for a class discussion about the three texts. Tell them that the questions can focus on any elements of the texts. The goal here is to compose enough questions to keep a discussion going for a number of minutes. (Note: the amount of time should be determined by what best suits the specific class.)

Place students in pairs or small groups. Instruct students to work with their groups to come up with at least three questions about the texts. Sample responses include:

  • Which text was most exciting and why?
  • How do you feel about the treatment of animals in rodeos?
  • Which of the three texts provided the clearest indication of how competitors feel before the competition?
  • If you were to recommend one of the texts for providing a representation of rodeos which, would it be?

Once students have had time to compose questions, conduct a class discussion, with students taking turns to ask their questions. Remind students to refer to the list of rules established earlier, regarding the number of responses to each question and how to ensure everyone has an opportunity to ask their questions.

After students have participated in a discussion ask students if there is anything further, they would wish to add to their list of rules. If so, add these to the list and display the class’s discussion rules for them to refer to in the future.


Provide the students with the following exit slip question and instruct them to note their responses in their workbooks:

  • How does posing questions assist with class discussions and what rules enable class discussions to run smoothly?