Will Wonders Never Cease? Stinging Trees

article by Zoë Disher , Small plant at Crystal Cascades near Cairns, Queensland, June 2021 photo by Steve Fitzgerald is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Learning Intention:

I am learning how the meaning of sentences can be enhanced using noun groups so that I can understand how objects sometimes do not match their stereotypical representation.

Success Criteria:

• I can define the term stereotype.
• I can explain the stereotypical representation of a common thing (a tree).
• I can analyse how the article uses noun groups to create a different representation of the same common thing.

Essential Knowledge:

More information about how there are individual depictions of a word can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Representation.
An explanation of noun groups can be found on the NSW Education site Nouns.
The Collins Dictionary entry on Stereotype provides a good foundation for introducing the idea in Stage 2.
Prior to stationery reading the article, complete a modified version of the activity in the English Textual Concepts Representation video. Using mini-whiteboards, interactive presentation software such as Mentimeter, or simply on paper, ask students to record their impressions of trees using the following categories:
• Colours associated with trees
• Words associated with trees
• Feelings associated with trees
• An image of a tree.
As a class, or in groups, students should compare their personal depiction of a tree. Note elements of difference but also identify and emphasise common trends in the depictions. These may include: associations with lush green colours, words like fresh, shady, cool, and feelings like peace and optimism.
Explain to students that these trends in representation reflect stereotypical ideas about trees rather than reality. You may then wish to show students the Google Image or YouTube search results for the word ‘tree’ or ‘tree + nature’ to confirm that in the popular imagination, trees are a symbol of shelter and relaxation.
Read the article as a class. Observe the difference between the class’s stereotypical representation of trees to the representation of stinging trees in the article. Students may notice that stinging trees: are aggressive (they inject venom), the venom is extremely painful, the pain can last for months.
Explain that the author has used noun groups to enrich her description of stinging trees. Find examples of noun groups in the article:

“tiny, sharp hairs found on their leaves and stems”
“like hot acid and electric shock”
“highly-venomous leaves, covered with stinging hairs”

Finally, introduce the activity of Word Chains so that students can write their own sentences about stinging trees, containing a rich noun group. Start with the noun phrase ‘stinging trees’. Place this word in the middle of a page, ideally accompanied by a picture. Students then surround the image with adjectives to describe the noun. For example: emerald + spade + spiky + crowded.

This chain of words can be turned into a rich sentence containing a noun group:

The emerald, spade-shaped, spiky leaves crowded the stinging plant.

Assessment as/of learning:

Imaginative Text Rubrics can be found on The School Magazine website. Students can use these rubrics as success criteria in the crafting of their imaginative writing via anchor charts. The rubrics can also be used to provide structure for peer or teacher assessment.