Literacy topic study - A possum skin cloak

Year 7/8

Suggested duration: Two lessons


In this literacy unit, students will explore the online exhibition, A Possum Skin Cloak, which is featured on the AIATSIS website. They will engage in a topic study which will promote greater understanding of the tradition of cloak-making among some Aboriginal cultures. This unit will provide students with comprehensive practice in working with paragraphs and recognising the effects of paragraph structures (such as topic sentences and connectives) upon the cohesion of texts. It will also provide students with an opportunity to consolidate their literacy knowledge in these key areas in preparation for the NAPLAN literacy test.

We as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples exercise self-determination every day through simple acts of maintaining our cultural traditions, speaking language, living and getting back on Country, taking young people fishing and hunting, and establishing livelihoods that continue to connect us to our social and cultural practices (The Little Red Yellow Black Book, p. 163).

Our artists make art for sale and the styles are as diverse as the cultures and histories of the artists. To teach outsiders about our spirituality we draw on ceremonial arts (The Little Red Yellow Black Book, p. 94).

Learning outcomes

  • Students will be able to demonstrate literacy knowledge of paragraph structures in their writing tasks.
  • Students will be able to discuss and write about the importance of possum skin cloaks.
General capabilities Cross-curriculum priorities
Literacy Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures
Critical and creative thinking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures organising ideas: 5, 9
Intercultural understanding  

Australian Curriculum content descriptions

Year 7 English

  • Understand how language is used to evaluate texts and how evaluations about a text can be substantiated by reference to the text and other sources (ACELA1782)
  • Understand that the coherence of more complex texts relies on devices that signal text structure and guides readers, for example overviews, initial and concluding paragraphs and topic sentences, indexes or site maps or breadcrumb trails for online texts (ACELA1763)

Year 8 English

  • Understand how cohesion in texts is improved by strengthening the internal structure of paragraphs through the use of examples, quotations and substantiation of claims (ACELA1766)
  • Understand how coherence is created in complex texts through devices like lexical cohesion, ellipsis, grammatical theme and text connectives (ACELA1809)

Provisions for differentiation

Learning support

Students with learning difficulties may need some additional lesson time to complete these activities. They may find it helpful to discuss their impressions of the material with a partner, then have a scribe note down their oral response for their reference later on when they attempt the Activity worksheet activities.


Students could develop a series of analysis questions based on the website material.


For teachers

Ensure that the guidance notes included in The Little Red Yellow Black Book teacher resource have been considered.


  • Cloak

Preparation: Make copies of the Activity worksheets - one per student.

Ensure that you have internet access and a means of projecting the digital artwork image and the AIATSIS online exhibition material.

Lesson one

Step 1.

Begin by presenting an image of William Barak’s artwork, Figures in Possum Skin Cloaks. You will find an image of this artwork on the website of the National Gallery of Victoria.

Step 2.

Discuss the mood and other features of the image with the class. Aim to secure the students’ first impressions before they are given any information about the possum skin cloak tradition.

Step 3.

Show students the AIATSIS online exhibition, A Possum Skin Cloak.

Step 4.

Discuss the William Barak artwork again, in the light of the information from the online exhibition. Ask the students how their ideas have developed and changed now that they have this new information.

Step 5.

Distribute the Activity worksheets and model the expectations of the task. Ask students to complete Activity 1 working through the material on paragraph structure and using the scaffold to record their responses to the William Barak artwork.

Lesson two

Step 1.

View the AIATSIS Online Exhibition, A Possum Skin Cloak for a second time. It is important that the students are given time to digest the material and develop a personal response. Brainstorm some ideas with the class.

Step 2.

Ask the students to jot down some point form notes in which they identify two key details of any type that most impacts their emotive response to the material.

Step 3.

Ask students to complete Activity 2 on their Activity worksheets. Direct their attention to the scaffolded structure which they encountered in Activity 1. They should use this approach to complete Activity 2.

Step 4.

Collect the Activity worksheet 2 for marking.

Assessment ideas

  • Completed Activity worksheet 2
  • Q and A to check for understanding
Last reviewed: 8 Nov 2019