TEACHER’S NOTES FOR THE BIG GAME

Prepared by Anne-Maree Liddelow

 

The Big Game, the second in the football trilogy by Wendy Jenkins, is a fast moving and action packed novel suitable for the middle schooling years. It will have special appeal for children interested in sport stories, boys and reluctant readers.

Within the classroom it is useful vehicle for exploring the action-adventure narrative and sport commentary language conventions. It may also be used to explore issues such as:

  • Grief/loss
  • Hero worship
  • Human relationships with pets/animals
  • The internet

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


PRE-READING ACTIVITIES

 

The Big Game is set in Western Australia where the two main characters are dedicated Australian Rules football players. To assist students’ entry into the novel’s setting teachers may wish to complete some initial activities on this football code:

 

1.     Some suggested topics for research for individuals or groups might be:

·       Great players, past and present (provide them with names that appear in the book such as Bill Dempsey, Craig Turley, Tony Lockett)

·       Australian Rules – positions and rules for play

·       The history of the Australian Football League.

·       Great goal kickers – vital statistics and biographies

·       The Fremantle Dockers

·       The West Coast Eagles

 

2.     More challenging research projects might ask students to consider finding the answer to the following:

·       How has Australian Rules football changed since when your parents were children?

·       Should Australian Rules football be considered a National sport?

·       Why is Australian Rules football unpopular in other countries?

·       What are the differences between the Fremantle Dockers and The West Coast Eagles?

·       Do football stars deserve our admiration?

 

3.     Read/view/listen to a range of commentaries and reports and develop a football glossary of terms and phrases.

 

In the novel the moods of the two main characters are often conveyed through their physical/body feelings. The following activities are designed to develop student vocabulary of anatomical terms that appear in the novel and develop body awareness that will help them relate to the characters:

 

4.     Divide the class into groups of 4 or 5 and give each group a list of words, written on separate cards, associated with body parts used in athletic activity (biceps, quadriceps, hamstring muscles, cruciate ligament etc.). Ask students to make sure that everyone in their group learns the spelling and meaning of each. Students in the group should help each other to find good ways to understand and remember each word.

After 15-20 minutes of learning time, give each student in the group a number from 1-5 and collect the cards. Test students on the meaning or spelling of the words by using a dice and nominating the person with the corresponding number in each group to write down their answer on a piece of paper and bring it to the front. Keep a tally of correct answers for each group on the board.

After the activity is complete ask students to reflect upon strategies that they used to help them remember the meanings and spelling of the words.

 

 

5.     As a follow up activity you may wish to play ‘Simon Says’ using these terms instead of the traditional names for different body parts i.e. ‘Simon says flex your biceps’

 

6.     Using the vocabulary of terms students can make up a meditation or dance and teach it to others.

 

A prediction exercise may direct students to activate their knowledge of different genres to read the novel as an example of either a sport story or an action adventure story.

 

7.     Provide students with a chart like the one below and ask them to draw on their viewing and reading experiences to fill in the spaces. Then examine the front cover and the blurb inside the book to consider some of the following questions:

·       What genre/s are suggested by the pictures?

·       Which pictures/words/phrases suggest this might be a sport story?

·       Which pictures/words/phrases suggest that it will be an action adventure story?

·       What stories/settings/characters are you already forming in your mind?

·       What do you imagine the characters are doing?

·       What do you think will happen in this story?

·       What do you think the characters will be like?

 

Genre

Typical events

Typical characters

Typical settings

Props

Language

Sport

 

 

 

 

 

Action/adventure

 

 

 

 

 

Science fiction

 

 

 

 

 

Romance

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.     Extend the above activity to encourage a discussion of reading purposes and how we use texts. For example, you might ask the students to consider how they would read the text differently if they were:

·       Asked by the teacher to find and read an Australian story?

·       In a science class?

·       A football coach?

·       About to teach it to someone?

·       Given it by a friend?

 

 

DURING READING ACTIVITIES

 

1.     Prior to reading give students the list of events below. Discuss: In what order do they expect the events to occur? Where in the novel they will take place?  Who will be involved in each event?

·       A dog is given a poison bait

·       A person is kidnapped

·       A dog is killed

·       Someone is arrested by police

·       A car tries to run down someone

·       Someone attempts to ‘fix’ a football match

·       Two people are threatened on the phone

·       Someone makes another pass a ‘test’ before they will give them information.

·       Someone assists in the rescue of another

Review and revise their predictions during reading.

Upon completion of the book examine the sequence and time order of the events. Extend this discussion with an examination of action/adventure elements in the story such as ‘hero’ ‘helper’ ‘villains’ etc. You may wish the class to debate, at the end of the novel, who the real hero of the story is.

 

2.     Suspense is a prominent feature of action/adventure stories and thrillers. Examine the way the author has developed suspense in the references to the brown car on pages 30, 38 and 54.

 

3.     Ask students to draw a film sequence of the attempted poisoning incident on p52 and describe the kinds of music they would use.

Before drawing, view short film extracts of suspenseful scenes and demonstrate the filmic conventions used to create suspense:

·       framing of the different shots esp. use of close-ups and extreme close-ups.

·       editing and sequencing of shots i.e. cut-aways to create simultaneous actions, juxtapositioning

·       camera angles to create impression of ‘victim’ and ‘aggressor’

·       music or sound effects.

After drawing, discuss:

·       how the descriptions in the novel encouraged them to sequence the action the way they did

·       why they chose to frame particular shots they way they did.

·       why they chose the angles they did

·       the person attempting to poison the dog is not named or described. When drawing this, did you show the person or not? Why/why not? If you did, where were you getting your information from to draw them?

After reading the novel discuss the identity of the person attempting to poison the dog. Was it directly stated in the text?  What clues did they use to decide who did it?

 

4.     To develop the relationship between Matt and Greg the author often uses parallel scenes involving these characters to encourage readers to compare and contrast them. A useful section of the text to demonstrate this is early in the book where both Matt and Greg take their dogs out for a walk p21-32. 

 

5.     To encourage students to compare and contrast the two main characters and prompt discussion of them, construct a Venn diagram and discuss how these characters are similar or different in terms of:

·       The way they act

·       The way they think

·       The way we see them

 

6.     Discuss conventions used in cartoons to demonstrate different points of view such as speech bubbles and thought clouds and some of the conventions that they have noticed that prose writers use to achieve similar effects in stories. Read a scene such as that on ps 27-30 and get students to draw the scenario as a comic sequence showing the dialogue and the thoughts of all the characters that appear in the scene.

 

7.     Choose a scene such as the capture of Pulman on p146-147 to consider how the third person narration is limited to the perspectives of some characters and excludes others. Direct students to consider whose thoughts, feelings and motives we are provided with and whose we are not. Then get students to write the incident from Pulman’s point of view. You may direct students to complete this as a first person narrative or as a third person narrative

 

8.     Encourage students to discuss the attitudes or beliefs expressed by the characters at different points in the novel. For example, read aloud Toggo’s thoughts about Shane McGurkin on p128 where he says “Doing your knee was cruel….having some maniac on your wheel was no big deal’.

Have students discuss whether they agree with Toggo in this instance.

·       Is Shane’s sport injury worse than his own dilemma?

·       Why would Toggo think this way?

·       Do you agree with his attitude?

 

 

AFTER READING ACTIVITIES

 

1.     The novel has been structured into four major sections titled ‘first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, final quarter’ and then follows with a short ‘time-on’ chapter. Construct a timeline of the novel, dividing it into the five sections and ask students to place major events that occurred in the novel into the relevant sections. Use this as a stimulus to discuss

·       the structural elements in the novel such as the distinctions between the main plot and sub-plots

·        the purpose of the time-on chapter.

·        progression of conflict in the narrative.

 

2.     Have students complete a post-match summary for the novel similar to that found on pages 177-178.

 

3.     Use the post match summary on 177-178 to stimulate discussion on bias in sport reports and summaries.

 

4.     Present students with a series of statements like the ones below and have them tick those that they think the writer is most likely to agree with. Ask them to share their responses with a partner using the examples from the text to provide reasons for their opinions.

·       Australians are too obsessed with sport

·       Boys are as ‘body conscious’ as girls

·       People take sport too seriously

·       Girls should not play Australian Rules Football

·       Modern sport heroes have to pay a high price for their fame.

 

5.     Construct a questionnaire like the one below to encourage the students to reflect upon the text and evaluate it. Students discuss their opinions in groups to compare with others and justify their responses.

Tick the following statements you agree with:

This text:

q      Is true

q      Has nothing to do with ‘real life’

q      Can only be read for entertainment

q      Assumes boys are more into sport than academic success

q      Teaches us that ‘crime doesn’t pay’

q      Would only interest Australian readers

q      Assumes that physical strength always wins

q      Would only appeal to boys

 

 

OVERVIEW

The following provides an overview of how the activities suggested may be matched to the Student Outcome Statements in the Curriculum Framework for Western Australia.

It is important to note that these are the Target Outcomes. The extent to which students demonstrate the different levels within the Outcomes will vary according to

·       The individual abilities of the students

·       The way that the activities are implemented within the classroom.

Many of these activities can be extended to encompass other Outcomes.

 

OUTCOMES

Pre-reading activities

During Reading Activities

After Reading

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

1

2

3

4

5

R. Use of Text

ü     x

X

 

 

 

 

X

 

X

 

X

X

X

 

 

X

X

X

X

X

X

R. Context Under.

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

X

X

 

 

 

 

 

X

X

 

 

X

X

X

R. Conventions

 

 

X

 

 

 

X

 

X

X

 

X

 

X

 

 

X

 

X

 

 

R. Process & Strat.

X

X

X

X

 

 

X

 

X

X

 

X

X

 

 

 

X

 

X

 

 

S&L Use of Text

 

 

 

 

X

X

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

S&L Context Unde

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S&L Conventions

 

 

X

 

 

X

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S&L Process & Str

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

V Use of Text

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

V Context Under.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

V Conventions

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

X

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

V4 Process & Strat

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

W Use of Text

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

X

 

 

X

 

 

 

W Context Under.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

W Conventions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

X

 

 

X

 

 

 

W Process & Strat

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JOURNAL REFLECTION SUGGESTIONS FOR STUDENTS

 

As you are reading through the novel, you might wish to keep a journal to record your reading experiences and help you understand the text.

Here are two examples of reflections that show you how you might approach this:

 

Students were asked to find a part of the story that they thought was strange, took them by surprise or annoyed them and to describe their reactions and what they did as they were reading. Here is an example of a reader’s reaction to a scene from Killer Boots, also by Wendy Jenkins, where the character of Matt suddenly karate kicks a cigarette out of the hand of a man who had been giving him a hard time in a restaurant:

 

At first this scene took me by surprise just like it did the character of Matt. The writer tells us that Matt was shocked by what he did but I found it really hard to believe that he could all of a sudden just become this karate champion so I went back to look for clues where the writer might have shown us that Matt had learned karate as a kid or done it as part of his training. I couldn’t find any mention of him learning karate at all and that really bugged me. I thought it was really silly of the writer to just have him act like this stereotypical action hero all of a sudden and I couldn’t understand why she had done it, but then I thought about who she was probably thinking of when she wrote the book. Since the book is probably meant for boys, I figured she put this scene in to make Matt more like the film action heroes they like to watch. Even though I could see why she had done it, I didn’t really like it!  I like characters to act more ‘real to life’. I just couldn’t imagine a football star becoming this big action hero all of a sudden and, if they did, I would probably think they were a real jerk!

 

 

Students were asked to write about where they found they were relating to a character as they were reading and what they were learning as they were doing so:

 

I felt really close to Toggo when he kept saying to himself ‘Remember this’ when he was thinking of his dog. I have a pet cat called ‘Misty’ who I have had since I was really little and she is getting really old. My mum says she is in a lot of pain now and that I should have her put down but I can’t bear to think about it. I know I should try to do the best thing for her but I really don’t want to lose her. So, when Toggo is saying to himself that he must just keep the memories and storing them, I think it is telling me that I have to just keep remembering the good times I’ve had with her and accept that I wont have her for much longer.

 

 

 

The following are ideas to help you get started – these are just prompts, you can respond in other ways if you wish!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.     As you are reading, what do you know is helping you to understand the story? What might you need to know more about to understand more of the story?

 

2.     Whilst you are reading, what are you imagining might happen next? Draw pictures or scenes or construct timelines or flow charts that show how you think the story might develop.

 

3.     As you notice a conflict in the novel, predict how it might end. You might draw this or construct a flow chart, diagram or map to demonstrate.

 

4.     Keep a record of clues that you are given to the personalities and appearance of the characters. You might want to devote a page to each of the following characters: Matt, Greg, Chris, Nick, Rowan, Pulman, Chugga, Constable Rennie. Collect headlines, pictures, drawings and quotes from the text that you think represent the character - write explanations of what made you choose these items.

 

5.     Reflect on some of the incidents in the novel and describe how you felt about the characters at this point. For example, how did you feel about Greg when he was almost run over? Why? Have you ever experienced guilt like Greg did when Toggo’s dog was killed? Explain how this was similar or different to the way Greg was feeling?

 

6.     Consider vital scenes in the narrative and how the story might have changed if they hadn’t occurred. For example, how might the story be different if Toggo had not decided to go down to the river to see the poster that had been erected in memory of his dog? If Toggo had not been missing Alison so much, how might this have changed his decision to skip training and try to meet her? How might we have read the story differently if the writer had not drawn our attention to the brown car prior to the attempt to run down Greg?

 

7.     Discuss stories, articles, poems that you have heard about, watched or read that remind you of this story, characters or incidents in it? Explain how.

 

8.     What kind of reader do you think the book was written for? Who do you think the author had in mind as she was writing?