An Educational Review of
Swallow Me, NOW!
Author Melissa Gijsbers http://melissagijsbers.com/
Publisher Lilly Pilly Publishing http://www.lillypillypublishing.com/
Swallow Me, NOW! is a book, I wish was published when I taught Year 5 girls. Although, it is a fictional book set in Green Oaks Primary School, it leads itself to discussions about the real concept of bullying in schools. Incorporated into the Swallow Me, NOW book, are the cause and effects of bullying and gives parents an insight into communication with your child if they are a victim of bullying.
I would categorize Swallow Me, NOW as an early chapter book. Lilly Pilly Publishing has excelled in their layout of the book. Swallow Me, NOW has an easy to read format with differing fonts, short chapters, familiar language and illustrations to break up longer passages. Children are given a good understanding of how the main character, Sam, feels with the author describing why Sam feels nervous, worried or happy throughout the book.
The author, Melissa Gijsbers, has thoughtfully chosen the text and subject matter wisely. Children reading the book do not have to struggle with unknown words while dealing with the complex issue of bullying. Discussions on bullying whether at home or school can be broached during or after the reading of Swallow Me, NOW.
I have based my educational activities on Year 4 students as the main character, Sam, is a Year 5 student. Younger students tend to look up to those in older grades, therefore, watching Sam grow throughout the book gives younger students a good role model. Activities are easily modified to suit younger children who are capable of processing information about bullying, or, by older children who read Swallow Me, NOW as a high interest, low ability chapter book.
If I was a teacher of a Year 4 class the opportunities to use this book would be endless. Once you had an understanding of the students in your class both their literacy levels and their understanding of the bullying concept, you could use Swallow Me, NOW in a variety of ways.
- Whole class, with the teacher reading Swallow Me, NOW aloud at the beginning of the year. This would then allow for whole class discussion on bullying and the expectations for your class for the year.
- A mixed-ability literacy group focusing on the theme rather than the language. Roles could be allotted within the group so those children not confident at reading aloud are assigned other roles. Mixed-ability groups provide the teacher with a chance to choose students they would like to work together rather than base it on literacy ability.(See Civics and Citizenship activities below)
- A same ability literacy group. Children can read independently and discuss set questions after each chapter. (See English activities below)
- Swallow Me, NOW also gives an opportunity for parents to be involved. If a child is struggling with the bullying issue, whether they are a victim or displaying bullying behaviours it may be a chance to send the book home as a Take Home Reader. This may open up discussion in the household. You would need to communicate with parents first to ensure of what your concerns for their child are.
Questions/Groups would need to be monitored to ensure everyone is respected and that proper guidance is given to students’ emotions during bullying discussions.
Although the main theme is bullying, the book also leads itself easily to other areas of the Curriculum. I have based my curriculum activities on the Year 4 National Australian Curriculum.
Year 4 Australian Curriculum – The location of the major countries of Africa and South America in relation to Australia, and their main characteristics, including the types of natural vegetation and native animals in at least two countries from both continents (ACHGK020)
Sam spent time in Nepal before starting at Green Oaks Primary School. Due to the vast differences between life in Nepal and life in Melbourne, Australia Sam often feels lost and alone. This is a great opportunity to study another country.
Even though Nepal is not in either Africa or South America you can use Geographical Inquiry and Skills to investigate Nepal.
Year 4 Australian Curriculum – Develop geographical questions to investigate (ACHGS026)
Similar to those the students would have used to investigate Africa and South America.
Biological Sciences. Year 4 Australian Curriculum – Living things have life cycles (ACSSU072)
One of the areas Sam felt lost in was an assignment on Australian Animals. Sam might have had to investigate the life cycle of an Australian Animal.
Students could be asked like Sam to focus on an Australian Animal and focus on their life cycle.
Historical Skills Year 4 Australian Curriculum – Sequence historical people and events (ACHHS081)
There are two areas which you could cover here. As a class you could find out about the historical events which formed the connection between Nepal and Australia. This will cover the area of missionaries which was discussed in the book Swallow Me, NOW.
As an independent activity, like Sam, students could create their own family tree. (You could then map where ancestors from students in your class came from if you wanted to tie it into the Geography strand)
Civics and Citizenship
The bullying issue can be covered in the curriculum area Civics and Citizenship, either as individuals, small groups or whole class activities. Once again, it depends on the goal of your activity and the students you are working with.
Citizenship diversity and identity . Year 4 Australian Curriculum – How a person’s identity can be shaped by the different cultural, religious and/or social groups to which they may belong (ACHCK014)
Sam came to the school from a very different school setting and environment. Discuss how this would have affected her inclusion such as knowing current songs, tv programs, how to dress etc.
Problem Solving and decision making Year 4 Australian Curriculum – Interact with others with respect, share views and recognise there are different points of view (ACHCS018)
Set up a box in the classroom where students anonymously can place questions/comments about bullying. In small groups, give students a questions which they have to solve and present to the class. The Civics and Citizenship curriculum area allows for a large scope of discussion on this area.
There are many activities which could be based on the English curriculum. Some great questions and ideas have been designed by Lilly Pilly Publishing and can be found at the Green Oaks Primary School official website.
I have listed a few different ideas here.
Write a letter to the author or the main character Sam. Find words which differ in spelling from American spelling to Australian spelling. Change the ending of the book. Re-write a chapter from the perspective of Felicity.
And lastly, as a teacher, parent, educator when opening up discussions about bullying always ensure that children have many, many options available for them if they need it. List agencies in your area such as Kids Help Line, parents, teachers, relatives. Swallow Me, NOW is a great book for letting children know they are not alone.
Bullying is not just a problem for children, as an adult either as a parent or teacher, discussing bullying may bring up issues you wish to discuss with someone. Ensure you and other adults have options available if you need them.
Educational Review and activities created by Jenny Graham, founder of AbcJenny.
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