The Gum Wall

story by Heather Gallagher , illustrated by Jake A Minton

Learning Intention:


I am learning to identify and describe how ideas are represented in literature using genre so that I can use similar representations when creating texts.


Success Criteria:

  • I can identify key ideas through a text.
  • I can emulate structures and representations to make my own writing more sophisticated.
  • I can identify features of different genres.
  • I can compose a story in the genre of a newspaper article.


Essential knowledge:


View the video Genre from The School Magazine. Ensure students note that:

  • Genre is the term used to group texts, based on their similarities in form and function
  • Knowing the genre of a text helps us to know what to expect of it and the patterns it might follow.


Oral language and communication:


Prior to the lesson, locate a recent article on Time for Kids. Display the article and discuss the genre. Ensure students note it is a news article, which is similar in style and that includes the same features as an information report. Discuss patterns and expectations of this genre, using the article to identify examples. Note ideas on the board, such as:

  • Includes factual information.
  • Remains largely impartial and avoids showing an opinion.
  • Includes details such as answering the questions, who, what, where, when and why


Understanding text:


Read the beginning of The Gum Wall, up to the end of page 4. Discuss the following:

  • What type of genre do you predict the story may be? (Students will likely identify that it will be a crime/mystery story)
  • How can the opening of a story help set readers’ expectations about its genre? (It includes mentions of a crime, which makes me think the genre might be a crime story)

Read the remainder of the story or listen to the audio version and discuss the following:

  • What job does mum do? (She’s a reporter for the local newspaper)
  • What genre/style of writing does mum undertake for her job? (News writing/informative writing)
  • What features of news articles are identified in the text? (That newspapers include factual information about events and the fact that journalists, who write news articles, are supposed to be impartial)

Note: Add these ideas to the list of features of news articles on the board

  • What is the genre of The Gum Wall? (Narrative, specifically a mystery, crime story)

Note: If students find it challenging to identify the genre, draw their attention to this extract, on page 8,

‘Wow,’ said Tao. ‘How do you know all this stuff?’

‘Haven’t you ever read a good mystery, Tao?’

Re-read the story then discuss the following:

  • What are some of the features of this genre? (Mystery/crime, includes a crime with clues, a suspect and characters that solve the crime)
  • What further elements specific to mystery/crime stories are included? (Henry says that they need to identify the thief’s ‘modus operandi’, which he explains means – how the thief operates/any special patterns in their approach


Creating text:


Refer to The Gum Wall and discuss the main steps that enable Henry and his friends to solve the mystery of the jewel thief and the result of their actions. Note these on the board for students to refer to later, for example they:

  • Identify a prime suspect, Mrs Crone, due to the following clues, she always looks in the jewellery store but never buys anything, the children notice that she switches which leg she limps with
  • The children see Mrs Crone in the jewellery shop, shout ‘thief’ and surround her with Christos’s dog, Lucy.
  • Mrs Crone backs away from the dog and became stuck in the gum wall.
  • As the police help Mrs Crone unstick her walking stick from the gum wall a diamond necklace and three gold rings slip out
  • Henry, Christos, Tao receive medals for bravery.
  • The developer announces they will keep the wall and the three friends stick gum next to Poppy Star’s gum.

Inform students that they will be composing a news article based on these events. Tell them that they will be adopting the style of the genre, news writing. Refer back to the elements of the genre of news writing identified from the story. (That newspapers include factual information about events and the fact that journalists, who write news articles, are supposed to be impartial) Tell students that for the purpose of this activity they’ll be pretending the plot points from the story are factual information.

Discuss how students might write the information from the plot in an impartial manner, similar to the style adopted in the news article they read. Ensuring they note the following:

  • That they should avoid using any language that provides an opinion, for example: hero, brave, clever and instead state the facts.
  • That they should include information from both sides, including what Mrs Crone may say as her deference (Discuss examples here, for example that she has been framed)

Place students with a partner and allow time for students to write their news articles. Students may work independently for this task if they prefer.

Assessment for/as learning:


Instruct students to swap news articles with another pair. Tell students that they will be peer-assessing the articles. Discuss criteria that could be used to assess the work, using the features of news writing identified earlier. View Stage 3 Assessment and Evaluation Rubric: Informative Text from The School Magazine for ideas.

For example:

  • Includes factual information
  • Remains largely impartial and avoids showing an opinion
  • Includes details such as answering the questions, who, what, where, when and why

Instruct students to use the Two Stars and a Wish strategy, to identify two areas their peers have adopted the features of the genre well and one area where they might develop their work.

For more on assessment, view Assessment for, as and of Learning.