Swimming in the Soup

poem by Zoë Disher , illustrated by Greg Holfeld


Learning intention:

I am learning to engage with and respond to other people’s ideas through group discussion so that I can explore, clarify and report on my own views.


Success criteria:

  • I can adjust my language according to different contexts.
  • I can engage in group discussions.
  • I can present my views to the class.


Essential knowledge:


After reading the text, students get into groups of five. Explain that they will be discussing which animal they would prefer to turn into. Each group will then choose one of the animals discussed and convince the rest of the class that their animal is the best. Before the debate begins, as a class brainstorm the best and fairest ways groups can have a lively debate. Ask questions like:

  • How can we ensure everyone has their say? (Turn-taking, no interrupting, giving each student a set time that they’re allowed to talk for, with time afterwards for questions from the other group members)
  • How can we clarify someone else’s opinion? (Ask questions such as “What about when you have to vomit up rat bones?” if someone suggests an owl as their animal of choice)
  • What strategies can we use to convince the group our choice is best? (Use Swimming in Soup as a guide – it looks at things like the animal’s habitat, physical features, diet and behaviour)
  • How can we make a decision fairly as a group? (Be a good sport, have a vote, listen carefully to other people’s points of view)


Give groups enough time for each student to have their say. When everyone’s finished their discussion and groups have chosen a single representative animal, explain that the groups will be presenting their opinion to the class. Each person from the group must say something about the animal. Encourage groups to include a counter argument with a rebuttal, such as “Yes, you live in cold waters as an orca, but you have blubber to keep you warm.”


Ask students how their discussion in a group context will be different to presenting to the class. Answers might include using more formal language, having a speech prepared instead of speaking on the fly and changing volume so everyone can hear.


Give students time to rehearse. After each group has presented, have a class vote to decide which animal would be the best to turn into. (Don’t let groups vote for themselves, to make it a fair vote.)