I am investigating how contextual detail is represented in a text so that I can develop a deeper interest and understanding of the story.
- I am beginning to develop an understanding of the term context.
- I can recognise contextual details in a text.
- I can conduct research on contextual details and select contextual details that aid in the comprehension of the text.
- I can design ‘hyperlinks’ explaining key contextual details to enhance the interest of the text.
- More information about the way that the historical factors, background, setting, events and environment influence a text can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Context.
Prior to reading, provide students with a simple definition of the literary term context. You might like students to think about context in the following way: ‘Their world (as in the world of the text) vs our world’ (as in the world of the reader).
Using the image on the front cover and the opening paragraphs, model how to recognise contextual details. Identify these using highlighters and sticky notes. Some contextual details include:
- A stone bath without taps, heavy wooden door and old-fashioned windows
- The unusual word: ‘Eureka’
- The opening line: ‘A long time ago’
- The names of the setting and characters: Mediterranean, Sicily, King Hiero
Differentiation: students can include a prediction about the significance of these contextual details, or an observation about how the context of the text is different to the context of the reader. For example:
- The bath, door and windows suggest this is an ancient dwelling without modern technology.
- The setting for the story, in Sicily, and the appearance of the guard, suggests that this is set in Ancient Greece or Rome.
Then, ask students to read or listen to the story and examine the illustrations, including the image on the front cover of the magazine. As they read the text, ask students to pay attention to contextual details and clues.
After reading, explain to students that this story is based on a real scientist, Archimedes, who lived in Ancient Greece and really did discover the density of an object while he was in the bath. (You might wish to mention that the extra details of the story – the golden crown and the cunning goldsmith – are legend, rather than fact. More information can be found in the TED Ed lesson: The real story behind Archimedes Eureka!)
Outline the task for students: in groups of 2-3 they will highlight key contextual details in the text and using sticky notes, provide additional information to enhance both the interest of the reader and improve their understanding of the story. Use the Kiddle page Archimedes facts for kids to explain the concept of how a hyperlink provides more information. Explain that they will use sticky notes to create short ‘hyperlinks’ to provide the context of the story. Provide students with an example: King Hiero is highlighted and the information on the sticky note states, ‘the Tyrant and King of Syracuse in Sicily from around 270 – 216 BCE.’
Students create their ‘hyperlinks’ in groups, using the Internet to research contextual details. You may wish to provide a list of web resources on Archimedes and Ancient Greece; a good starting point is the ‘Dig Deeper’ section of the TED Ed lesson.
Before concluding the activity, as a class discuss why an understanding of context makes a text more engaging. Students may identify that it makes a text easier to understand, that it is interesting to learn how other people and cultures live and that it can help readers understand elements of truth and fiction in stories.