The Children of Yesterday

part two of a two-part story by John O'Brien , illustrated by Queenie Chan

Learning Intention:

I am learning to use a range of strategies for interaction in role play scenarios so that I can appropriately adjust levels of formality and social distance.

Success Criteria:

  • I can understand the relationships between characters in a text.
  • I can compose a series of conversations between characters based on details in the story.
  • I can use the appropriate language register and tone based on the relationships of characters.

Essential Knowledge:

More information about how an author constructs a character through dialogue can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Character.

Read the story to the class, or if you have a digital subscription you may choose to listen to the audio recording. It may also be a good idea to reread and review the events of part one prior to reading part two.

At the story’s conclusion, write a list of all the characters that appear. They include: Matthew, Jacques, Lisa, Charlotte, Charlotte’s mum (only mentioned in passing), Matthew’s family (only briefly referred to). Then provide students with a Character Map: one large circle in the middle with three circles positioned around the outside. Ask students which character should be placed in the middle (Matthew as he is the narrator and protagonist). Then ask students to arrange the remaining three characters in the outside circles.

Students complete the character map in two steps. First, inside each circle they should list all the key details of characterisation about each character. For example:

  • Matthew: appears as a 12-year-old and 52-year-old in the story. Interested in time and time travel. Highly educated.

There should be arrows connecting each of the circles to one another. On these arrows, students write the relationship each character has with the character in the neighbouring circle. For example, in the arrow drawn between Matthew and Lisa, the relationship would be father/daughter. In the arrow drawn between Matthew and Jacques, the relationship would be close friends who spent January 6, 1974, together. In the arrow drawn between Lisa and Jacques, the relationship would be never met, but Matthew may have spoken about him.

Once students have created a Character Map, introduce the concept of formality and social distance. Explain that we modify the language (verbal and gestures) based on our relationship with the person we are communicating with. Factors include: how well we know the person, the relative power of the two people in the conversation, the age difference and the purpose of the communication. For more information, refer to the BBC Bitesize webpage: Knowing when to use formal or informal language.

Finally, divide students into groups of four and assign each member a character. Provide a list of scenarios. For example:

  • The conversation Matthew and Jacques have while surfing.
  • Jacques asked Matthew’s family for more pancakes. (Group members will need to adopt additional characters.)
  • An adult Matthew talking to Charlotte while he cooks pancakes.
  • Charlotte and Lisa talk about horses.

Students must adopt their character and use the appropriate degree of formality in the conversation. Students can rehearse and present their conversations to the class. Alternatively, students can write their conversations as a script, using ‘The Great Granolo’ (this issue) as a model text.