Greenling / After Reading / /

Where on Earth?

Establishing the setting for the story and developing background knowledge about land settlement, farming methods and land erosion

Lesson length: 1 session

Lesson from Greenling teaching sequence

Text potential

  • Background knowledge: Australia
  • Visual language: Colour, line, shape, position
  • Background knowledge: Farms
  • Wider learning opportunities: Geography: Location knowledge
  • Vocabulary: Semantic Field: wasteland
  • Narrative features: Setting


  • Comprehension: Questioning


Greenling is a story of contrasts: barren and fertile landscapes, wild and tame, nature and technology. This wider learning lesson builds on children’s knowledge of land settlement and usage along with their response to the story to consider the global impact of land settlement, the introduction of nonnative species and farming methods on the health of the environment.

The children are invited to reflect on the specific context of the settlement of Australia by Europeans and then consider whether this refines an understanding of Greenling.

Teacher Note: The images show a vast unpopulated landscape. There’s a single house built next to a raised wooden railway. A two-carriage train is travelling along the track to the farmhouse. The land appears to be poorly tended. The fences are broken. There isn’t much growing, just stumpy grass. The land is poorly drained, and a road leading to the house crosses a large culvert. Perhaps there has been a storm? The colour palette is sepia tones and a watery, unsaturated pink, suggesting early morning. Could this reference the old shepherd’s rhyme, ‘red sky at morning, shepherd’s take warning.’  There is some truth in the weather lore; red skies are more common after bad weather as a warm-weather front follows. Although it is useful for you to analyse the text, and it may help you identify prompts to support the discussion, avoid over-explicating or imposing your interpretation as the children build their understanding

Although the exact location of the text isn’t mentioned, for a reader with knowledge of land settlement and farming in Australia, there are direct references that set the story somewhere in rural New South Wales, possibly around the area of Boorowa. Some basic background information will add a different perspective to the story. Some links to useful background information for teachers are included in the resources. Keep to the main points to enhance the story rather than going too deep at this point. If the children show interest, they could conduct further research after reading the book.


  • Download the slide showing the book’s endpapers and title page for display on the IWB. The text has been masked for the purpose of this lesson. If possible, make the image available on the children’s devices.
  • Download the slideshow ‘Farming in New South Wales, Australia.’
  • Bookmark YouTube video on Aboriginal Fire Stick Burning, if using. (check for unsuitable ads before showing the children)
  • Globe or world map for locating Australia and New South Wales


Briefly recap the orientation about Land Use

Annotate the image on the whiteboard using the key vocabulary where appropriate.

Allow time for the children to notice and share ideas. Add annotations to the image on the whiteboard.

Possible supplementary prompts:

  • What questions do you have after looking at this picture?
  • Which do you think came first, the house or the railway? Why do you think that?
  • Where do you think the train has come from? Where do you think it is going?
  • Who do you think lives in the house?
  • What words can you use to describe the land?
  •  As you talk about the picture, incidentally feed in words and friendly definitions from the additional vocabulary list.
  • Add the words to your annotations along with others suggested by the children.
  • If you lived here, what work do you imagine you would do?

Explain that the story you are going to read is set in Australia.

Together, locate Australia on the globe or world map.

Then, find the state of New South Wales.

Now share the slideshow, Farming in New South Wales Australia.

Highlighting key points about changing practices in farming methods and also introducing and using key vocabulary.

Final reflection

Review the annotations with the class and make explicit the point that by looking closely, we can pick out many details that may be relevant to the story.


Key vocabulary

barren, wasteland, parched, desolate, drainage, flooding, desert, dustbowl, erosion


cultivation, agriculture, fertile

Subject-specific and technical vocabulary

water run off, erosion

Academic process words 
Advanced vocabulary 
Morphological investigation 
Etymological investigation 


Farming in Australia

This article provides useful background information about farming in Australia for teachers.

It isn’t necessary for children to know all the details but the basic argument about the effects of farming methods is pertinent to the book.


Visit resource

Blog by a Boorowa Farmer

In this blog, a Boorowa farmer talks about how he has changed his farming methods to cope with problems caused by extreme weather.

Visit resource

Coping with water Run off in New South Wales

Government advice for how farmers can cope with water erosion on their land by using appropriate farming methods.

Visit resource

Return of Indigenous Farming Methods

A blog from the World Wildlife Fund on returning to indigenous farming methods to protect the Australian landscape.

Visit resource

Indigenous People Fire Stick Burning

A short film about Aboriginal fire stick burning.

If showing this film, bookmark and ensure there are no unsuitable ads before sharing it with the children.

Visit resource

Endpapers and Title Page

Greenling Setting

Farming in new South wales, Australia

This slideshow can be used to introduce the changing farming methods in New South Wales, Australia.

Australia has been farmed for thousands of years. The indigenous population of Australia were early farmers as well as hunter gatherers.

They made use of native plant species.

Slide 1 Kangaroo Grass

The Aboriginal people of New South Wales harvested the seeds and ground them with stones to make flour to make porridge. They also chopped the grass into small pieces and boiled it in water to make medicine to relieve sore throats and cure colds.

Slide 2 Native Cherry

The flesh is eaten when very ripe. The wood and leaves are burnt, and the smoke is used as mosquito repellent. The wood is used for making woomeras (spear throwers)

They eat the swollen fleshy pedicel when it is very ripe. The wood and leaves are burnt, and the smoke produces an excellent mosquito repellent. The wood is used for making yam digging sticks and for woomeras (spear throwers).

Slide 3 Eucalyptus Trees

Different species of Eucalyptus trees were used to treat the symptoms of stomach problems and as an antiseptic.

Slide 4 and Slide 5 Spiny-headed Mat Rush

This plant made excellent baskets.

You might like to tell the children about stick-burning practices here or share the short film (see resources)

Slide 6 European farmers

Free settlers arrived in Australia from Europe in the early nineteenth century. They started to farm the land using European methods of cultivation. Growing wheat meant removing large swathes of native species.

Slide 7 Old railway line

Farm stations were isolated, and railway lines like this one in New South Wales were built to connect communities. Does this remind you of anything? (the children should recognise the similarity with the images they have seen from the book.)

Unfortunately, this railway was discontinued in 1942. What effect do you think this might have on farming communities?

Slide 8 A Farm affected by drought

The land in this picture is barren and parched. The native grasses that once grew here would have helped the land to retain moisture but they were removed for farming.

Slide 9 The Effects of Water Run Off

Without the native plants, there is nothing to hold the moisture. So, after a dry period, the water runoff sweeps the topsoil away when it rains. This leads to land erosion. It also makes the land less fertile. So it becomes more and more difficult to grow things, and there is less and less pasture for cattle and sheep.

Slide 10 Further examples of erosion.

You can see further land erosion here.

Draw attention to the culvert. Does that look similar to something that you have already seen?

The problem here is that the topsoil that has washed away is clogging up the culvert, so it doesn’t drain properly. This leads to water pooling, and it can become stagnant.

Slide 11 Windmills

Farmers have traditionally used windmills like this one to drill for water during dry periods when you can’t surface water. They are not really windmills, they are water pumps. Today these wind pumps are being replaced by solar pumps.

Slide 12 Regenerative Farming

Farming methods are changing in Australia, Here is a farmer taking care of the soil quality using new farming techniques. People are learning from the Aboriginal methods too. Fire stick burning is now used to control wildfires in some areas of Australia.





Nikki Gamble

Nikki Gamble
Director, Just Imagine
Nikki has worked extensively in schools across the UK and internationally. She is the author of Exploring Children’s Literature (4th edit) (2019) and co-author of Guiding Readers (2016) which was awarded the UKLA Academic Book of the Year Award 2017. Nikki is KS2 reading advisor and series consultant for Oxford University Press and content creator for the Oxford School Improvement and Oxford Owl websites. Nikki is Associate Consultant at the University of London, Institute of Education and Honorary Fellow at the University of Winchester

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