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Teaching with Fantasy: Ambelin Kwaymullina, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf

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  • Before Reading Activities

  • Acitivites and Information Relevant to the Specific Book

  • The activities below are designed to help students tune into important aspects of the series.

  • Activity One: Previewing the Series

    Introduce the three-part series by asking students to visit the series website, The Firstwood. Students can:

    • view a book trailer.
    • scroll through summaries and covers for all three novels.
    • examine the covers closely, focusing especially on framing, shot types and social distance, use of colour, and objects/people visible on the cover.

    Then, working in small groups, students can discuss:

    • Where and when is the story set? What is the series about?
    • What sort of book is this, e.g., social realism, Young Adult, science fiction, fantasy, romance, adventure…?
    • Does The Tribe remind you of other books, films, videogames?
    • What connections do you make with your own world and life?

    • Does this seem like a series you would enjoy? Why or why not?
  • Activity Two : Anticipating Themes

    Start students thinking about some of the key themes across The Tribe series. This can be done through discussing a series of hypotheticals in small groups. Students are to reach a consensus on one, two or all three of the scenarios in the table below; these hypotheticals relate to Books 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Ensure students think through the consequences (both positive and negative) of the choices they make.

    Theme Hypothetical
    Discrimination and Persecution You have a special power (e.g., being able to cause earthquakes, fly, talk to animals, travel vast distances in your sleep) which would makes others in your community feel afraid. They consider would consider you so strange and dangerous, that you could be taken into custody and placed in a detention centre. What would you do? Try to prove the community wrong and come out in public? Keep your power as secret as possible, even from your friends? Leave your friends and family and find a community that accepts you? Something else?
    The Nature of Humanity Your neighbour is a single man or woman whose family lives a long way away. One day, a large box arrives at your neighbour’s house: it’s a human-like robot that your neighbor has bought over the internet. You often see your neighbor in the yard, chatting to the robot as it mows the lawn and helps with the gardening. One night on your way home, through a window you even see them snuggled up on the couch watching a movie. What would you do? Accept (or reject/ignore) your neighbour’s new friend, the robot? Counsel them to get some psychological help? Report him to the police for anti-social behavior? Something else?
    Friendship You and a friend are worried about a third friend who has an enemy and is planning to fight him or her. This friend wants to keep you out of the trouble and has asked you not to be involved – and you know that getting involved could bring a lot of trouble down on your heads too. So, what do you do? Do you do as your friend asks and stay out of trouble? Do you ignore your friend and turn up for the fight, even though you might get into a lot of trouble? Or do you find another way of helping? If so, what?

    As students read, analyse, and interpret each of the books in the series, they can refer to their discussions during this activity, comparing their consensus decisions to what happens to Ashala and other characters in the trilogy.

  • Reading and Immediate Response

  • Suggestions for Reading the Book

  • Activity Three: Reading the Books

    This is a gripping series with adolescent (and child) characters central to the story – and these include some strong female characters. However, some teachers report that students can have trouble ‘getting into’ the first book, centred as it is on Ashala’s experiences undergoing interrogation. The basic complaint by some students seems to be that there is not enough action. It would be a shame if these feelings swayed students not to engage with an excellent series.

    So, some teacher encouragement may be required to ‘kick start’ students reading, including:

    • previewing and explaining the structure, including the short timeline of the book (over four days), the blending of interrogation scenes, flashbacks, etc.
    • discussing the book's underpinnings in Aboriginal culture – and helping students make connections to their own lives.
    • reading the first few chapters aloud (by the teacher, in pairs or small groups).

    • using the Readers Theatre technique, especially for some of the interrogation chapters.
  • Activity Four: Timeline of Events

    The Tribe is a series where past and present are intertwined. As a result, there are numerous events revealed that occur at different points in the past and present, e.g., the history of the Reckoning and its aftermath, Ashala’s plan to release the captives in the detention centre, Ashala’s family history, the story of Ember and her family, etc.

    In order to ensure students understand significant events and their relationship to each other, have students construct a timeline as they read. This could be a single timeline on which events in the lives of different characters are signalled by different colours, or students could construct a number of parallel timelines. Later, students can be asked to form small groups and create freeze frames of key scenes, trying to capture not just what happens, but also character feelings and reactions, and atmosphere.

  • Ways of Encouraging Immediate Response

  • Once students have read the series (or as they reach key moments), students should be asked for their reactions to the setting, the characters and the unfolding situations and events. These can be used as a starting point for further exploration and discussion, e.g., how did the author encourage you to react in that way?

    While there are many ways to extract reactions from students, here are just two that might be useful.

  • Activity Five: Response Similes

    Ask students to react to the series (or moments in the series) by writing a series of similes related to each of the five senses:

  • Here is a model based on reactions to reading The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (not a fantasy novel). These similes capture the book’s atmosphere of menace and foreboding.

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