The Red Tree, by Shaun Tan ~ A Unit of Study (Yr 4 upwards)


Summary of Lesson Plans/Unit of Study:

This lesson plan sequence provides students with the opportunity to develop their literal and inferential comprehension skills with the use of a fictional text. This unit of study includes predicting, discussing and viewing before assessing students’ comprehension abilities. Arts Ideas can also be incorporated into this unit. This unit also links to health as it incorporates resilience, self-esteem and depression topics. The joy in this lesson is the students predictions, impressions and descriptions are so varied it provides evidence to the students how we all interpret differently. This unit could be taught over a week or two weeks, because each time the text is shown something new is seen.

Australian Curriculum Links:

Year 4 English:

  • Discuss literary experiences with others, sharing responses and expressing a point of view (ACELT1603)
  • Discuss how authors and illustrators make stories exciting, moving and absorbing and hold readers’ interest by using various techniques, for example character development and plot tension (ACELT1605)
  • Use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning to expand content knowledge, integrating and linking ideas and analysing and evaluating texts (ACELY1692)

Year 5 English:

  • Identify aspects of literary texts that convey details or information about particular social, cultural or historical contexts (ACELT1608)
  • Recognise that ideas in literary texts can be conveyed from different viewpoints, which can lead to different kinds of interpretations and responses (ACELT1610)
  • Use comprehension strategies analyse information, integrating and linking ideas from a variety of print and digital sources (ACELY1703)

Lesson Plan Sequence:

Introduction/Warm up:

LESSON 1.  Prediction of the text, students record in Reading Journal. Read text to students, students then reflect and write about the text ~ including comments or questions they have about the text.


LESSON 2.Read the text to students – just READ!

Discuss impressions they had / messages the illustrations convey / students feelings – record on whiteboard or paper, ask them what they think the book is about. Brainstorm these suggestions on the post-it notes/poster for later reference.

Suggestions about what to talk about

  • Life and it’s ups and downs
  • The impact of positive thought and the influence of negative thought.
  • The power of imagination.

Ask students to think about a time where they found hope or something positive happened at a time when they least expected it ~ record in Reading Journal (Link to Life Connection).

LESSON 3. Read the text to students ~ Activity:  

Get students to fold a blank piece of paper in half.On one side of the paper get your students to think of a sad or overwhelming moment in their life and to draw a picture or image which represents this moment. (The picture does not have to be literal it can be anything that they feel represents their thoughts).

Talk to students about how certain different things in the girls life made her scared or sad but like the girl experienced things can also remind us of happiness and to never forgot our hope or happy moments.

LESSON 4. Read the text to students – Hands On – Independent Activity

Show You Tube Clips:

Give each student an A3 sheet of paper and create a storyboard by folding it into 8 rectangles. Ask them to retell the story in the style of Shaun Tan- through visual images and few words in the 8 spaces. They may need to make a rough plan first so that they include the most pertinent details. Students may choose to draw or cut and paste images to make a collage. Invite students to share their storyboards with each other as a listening and speaking exercise and create a class display from the work.


LESSON 5, Read the text to students one final time (without questions or discussion) and in test conditions students answer the Independent Comprehension Questions. Mark as a class and discuss differing opinions.


Literal (Right There) (worth 1 marks)

  • What was right in front of her that is bright and vivid when she walked into her room at the end of the text? A. Red Tree
  • What is the main character in on the main cover? A. a boat.
  • What purple object is on her hand when she feels like “she doesn’t know what she is supposed to do”? A. puppet.

Inferential (Think and Search) (worth 2 marks)

  • What illustration relates to “all your troubles come at once” that features a significant moment in history. A. Titanic
  • Why are the leaves black at the beginning of the text? A.
  • Why is wearing a helmet inside the bottle? A. She doesn’t want people to hear her.
  • How does the dice relate to terrible fates are inevitable? A. Inevitable fates are bound to happen and about chance, six sided dice, she has no chance.

Evaluative (On Your Own) (worth 3 marks)

  • What could be wrong with the girl to make her think she doesn’t know who she is meant be, or where she is?
  • Why is there a red leaf on every page and what does the Red Tree symbolize?
  • What strategies could you use to help when times feel like “they are going from bad to worse”?
  • What does “Darkness overcomes you” mean to you? Explain and illustrate.

Full Sentence Answers (worth 2 marks)

Optional / Extension Ideas (Art Activity)

Photocopy the template of a large leaf shape onto the red paper (enough for each student to have one leaf each). Discuss with students the way the red leaf was used as a symbol of hope in the production and that you are going to make your own red tree in the classroom. Ask the students to think of 3 people in their life that they can talk to if they feel sad or lonely and write their names on each finger of the leaf. On the other side of the leaf ask students to think of a hope or dream that they have and write it down. Place a hole in the stem of each leaf and make a class display. String them to the roof.


  • Anecdotal notes from student participation
  • Independent Comprehension Questions





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