Sky: Focus Area 1 English, Yr 7

Setting the Scene: Personal Tragedy and Farmed Animals

Primary Resource

Voiceless Resources

Additional Resources


Inquiry Questions

  • Personal tragedies shape a person’s life. In what ways do the characters of the novel cope with tragedy?
  • In what ways does the chicken meat industry operate, and what impact does factory farming have on chickens?


Suggested Learning Activities


It is assumed that students have already read the novel Sky prior to the commencement of the unit.




Ask students to write their own responses to the following questions:

  1. What is a bildungsroman novel?
  2. If a bildungsroman novel is a ‘coming of age’ story, what do you think the narrative will entail?

Direct students to Lit Chart or use a teacher reference to explore the genre.

Focus on the ‘Typical Structure of Bildungsroman’ and ask students to write these into their books. As below:

Pair – Share

Students to discuss this structure with a partner. This task will be a good indication as to where students are in terms of reading the text.

  • How is this structure indicative of Sky’s experience in the novel?



Epigraph – A Secret to Understanding

Read the epigraph to the novel and ask students to write this into their books.

‘You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make’. Jane Goodall.


  1. What is an epigraph?
  2. Who is Jane Goodall? Spend some time researching. What contributions has she made to the science community and the environment?
  3. Why do you think Sherman has chosen this quote to open her novel?
  4. What key word/s give a reader an indication as to what the main theme of the novel will be?


Class Reading

Read page 1-2 together as a class. Teacher may choose to read if students are not confident readers themselves.

Students to complete the following questions.

  • What are your first impressions of Aunt Paula and Sky?
  • Write down 3 adjectives to describe each character and their attributes.
  • How would you describe the relationship between the two characters?
  • A personal tragedy has occurred – how does Sky begin to process her grief?
  • Sky narrates, ‘The concrete barrier framing the highway whooshes past, occasionally lowering to reveal a poor scraggy gum tree; a lone survivor, like me’. What language technique has Sherman used here and what does it tell the reader about how Sky views her current situation?

Annotating this short section with your students, before answering the questions, would be useful. 



Comprehension and Discussion

1. The novel is told from the perspective of Sky – Why do you think Sherman decided upon 1st person narrative voice, as opposed to 3rd?

2. On page 3 the narrative falls into a memory.

Read from: ‘Let’s convince Macca’s and those big chains to switch to free-range eggs’, Mum had said a year ago.

to page 5: ‘Now those dreams, like everything else, are shattered.’

  • Sky’s mother is described as a ‘strange woman with long bohemian plaits interwoven with shells and beads’. What kind of stereotype is created here?
  • What is special about Sky’s bond with her mother?
  • What do you learn about Sky from this memory?

3. Sky is interested in animal protection issues. What do you already know about the chicken, egg and meat industries? Perhaps take this time to have a short discussion in order to give students the opportunity to share.

4. Watch the Voiceless video:
“How are Chickens Raised for Meat in Australia? Chicken Welfare in the Meat Industry” (approx. 2 minutes).

5. Students then complete the cloze passage which accompanies this video.

6. In pairs, students read through the infographic on broiler chickens. Students compile a list of 5 facts they have taken from the infographic which surprised or shocked them.

Some students may struggle with the vocabulary in the cloze passage worksheet, take time to discuss the following terms:

  • Intensive (see factory farming);
  • Slaughterhouse;
  • Sentient; 
  • Stocking density; 
  • Selective breeding. 

Refer to the Glossary and Quizlet



What do you think? 

Facilitate a discussion around the issues that have arisen. Use the following points as a guide:

  • What is your opinion on factory farmed chickens? What makes you say that?
  • Why is it important to consider different perspectives?
  • Sky and aunt Paula must both endure a personal tragedy as they lose a loved one. What do you learn about how people deal with grief in the opening chapter of the novel?

Both topics (personal tragedy/grief and the chicken industry) should be discussed with sensitivity at hand.



Read and Answer 

Read the opinion piece; ‘Don’t get eggs-cited about free range: the realities of poultry production’ from The Conversation, written by Clive Phillips.

  • What is the writer’s point of view? How do you know?
  • Why does the writer open with an anecdote?
  • What are the three options for egg production discussed by Phillips?
  • What is the tone of the writer? Which words help to convey this?
  • What is the NASAA?
  • Give three examples of where the writer uses persuasive devices.

Additional Reading

How are Chickens Raised for Meat in Australia? – Voiceless Factsheet.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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