Year 8 Picture Books

When I told my Year 8 boys that we were going to be studying picture books I got the typical teenage eye rolls and the “we’re not in kindergarten anymore Miss!” But we they soon discovered that picture books can be an exciting and engaging medium to express complex ideas and current national issues. It is a text type they hadn’t really had contact with since their primary school days so it was interesting for me to establish what prior knowledge they had. We began with the following introduction task:

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We had a discussion and I brought in a range of picture books borrowed from the school library for the students to look through, linking in the idea of related texts and introducing them to the idea of visual literacy. This included famous Australian authors such as Jeannie Baker, Alison Lester, Pamela Allen, Mem Fox and Nadia Wheatley.

As you already know, some of our projects at Parramatta Marist are integrated with other subjects. This project, titled ‘What Matters Nationally?’, was English/Catholic Studies integrated and therefore involved the teaching of various concepts and skills from both subject areas.


For teachers it can sometimes be a challenge to combine content from two entirely different syllabuses so the first step in the project planning process is to flesh out exactly what we want the students to learn during the project and as many ‘contact points’ between the two subjects as possible. These similarities and connections are then translated into the development of relevant formative and summative tasks. For this project, I wanted the boys to focus on their visual literacy skills, knowledge of literary techniques including allegory and symbolism and demonstrate their understanding 0f narrative structure. We incorporated this with a Catholic Studies focus on the concept of reconciliation and forgiveness as taught in the Bible and Catechism.

The formative task for this project was:

Individual Formative Task: Picture Book Proposal

  • Students are to write a 200 word summary of their proposed picture book. This summary must:
      1. Outline the plot and characters
      2. Identify what national issue you have chosen
      3. Suggest how you will incorporate allegory, symbolism and colour
      4. Explain how your story connects with the concept of reconciliation

The summative task for this project was:

Summative Task: Group Picture Book

In groups of 3 or 4 students will be required to submit a 6-8 page picture book that includes the technique of allegory and the various visual features examined in the project. This story will be based on one contemporary Australian issue they have investigated during the project. The story must include the concept of reconciliation.

In order to prepare for these formal assessment tasks students completed a series of activities in class and for homework. Before the commencement of the project these tasks are uploaded and arranged on our online learning platform, ‘Echo’.‘Echo’ is the online learning platform used by teachers to upload assessment tasks, class activities and resources for students to access. This site was specifically designed to accommodate the PBL style pedagogy. The project page that can be viewed below was designed to organise curriculum content into coherent, engaging and sequential tasks targeted at developing the knowledge and skills of students during the 5 week project. 

Each project page is organised into Benchmarks. Benchmarks are the stepping stones that show the logical and sequential pathway leading to the end product. This allows students opportunities for informal peer and formative teacher feedback during the project. These benchmarks include scaffolds, teacher modelling and engaging student activities. I find the Echo project page to be an effective and useful ICT tool to facilitate learning in the classroom, it allows me to meaningfully sequence tasks, upload resources including models and scaffolding and keep track of individual student learning.

The first category in the Project Briefcase is called Project Launch and contains all of the documents and links for students to access the requirements and expectations of the project. This includes the project’s Entry Event, project calendar (allows students to see where the project is heading), Task Notification and Task Rubric, Group Contract and Knows and Need to Knows lists. As an English teacher I also like to include a vocabulary bank that students are gradually introduced to as the project progresses. This is followed by three benchmarks that guide students through new information, engaging class content and skills so that they can effectively complete activities where they demonstrate their learning and work towards their formative and summative tasks.

At the conclusion of each benchmark, students must complete a benchmark reflection where they show their mastery of the knowledge or skills learned in that part of the project. This reflection is uploaded to the Echo page where it can be peer reviewed and teacher feedback can be provided before moving on to the next part of the project.

As part of my own reflection on my personal teaching practices, I also require students to complete a post-project reflection to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the project and provide any suggestions that will be considered when delivering the project in the future.

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Once completing the first benchmark, Information Gathering, students moved on to the Visual Literacy benchmark before completing their formative task. By this point in the project students should have had a thorough understanding of what allegory and symbolism were and had engaged in a close analysis of Shaun Tan’s picture book The Rabbits.


The annotation below was modelled to students before they analysed the remainder of the picture book themselves.


Credit: The Rabbits by Shaun Tan

Their formative task required them to combine their knowledge of narrative structure, visual literacy techniques and the process of reconciliation to come up with an idea for a social issue themed picture book.

Examples of the formative task:

Student Sample 1: Drifting Through The Storm


Student Sample 2: The Winter Flower

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Student Sample 3: At One’s Cost


Once students completed the project and submitted their final summative tasks I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the depth of the stories and the quality of illustrations presented. The English and Catholic Studies teachers arranged for the best picture books to be made into a properly published and bound book. Students and parents could then purchase these online to keep and they were also displayed in the school library for other students in the school to read. I’ve also arranged for other end products from other projects to be gifted to the children at the hospital across the road from our school, therefore creating a real world audience for the tasks.

Examples of the finalised summative tasks can be found below- these were written, illustrated and developed based on the formative tasks shown above.

Student Sample 1: Drifting Through The Storm

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Student Sample 2: The Winter Flower

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Student Sample 3: At One’s Cost

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The Project Development stage of the PBL Process:


Teachers of this project:

Maddison Cleveringa

Sayde Hadchiti

Gina Mari

Jaysree Raniga

Rommel Del Valle

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