'Diary of a Wombat'

Author - Jackie French
Illustrator - Bruce Whatley
Publisher - Harper Collins Publishers (2003)

Diary of a Wombat

Overview of the Text
A day by day account of the activities of ‘Mothball’ the Wombat.  Written in diary (recount) format, it introduces children to the days of the week (Monday to Sunday) and times of the day (Morning, Afternoon, Evening, Night) as Mothball goes about his wombat business.  The daily goings-on of Mothball the wombat are described in brief, one word sentences, (e.g. slept) with the illustrations providing much of the humour and additional meaning.  How does Mothball train his humans to do what he wants them to do?  Do humans make good pets?

Language Features
Descriptive and visual language. 
Use of metaphorical nouns, e.g. ‘Flat hairy creature’ – used to describe the welcome mat. 
Use of Australian colloquialisms, e.g. 'For Pete’s sake - give her some carrots!’ 
Use of short sentences, often one-word, and inclusion of compound works like 'dustbath'
Language of diary writing is used as pages have headings for days of the week and different times of the day. 
Simple recount format.

Other Textual Features (Format, Illustrations)
Illustrations are clear, colourful, entertaining and accurately illustrate the descriptive language used throughout.  For example, ‘Found the perfect dustbath’ is colourfully depicted to aid student comprehension of the term ‘dustbath’.  Illustrations add humour to the story. There are minimal words to a page and all text is well supported by illustrations.  Readers can infer meaning using the illustrations. 

Junior Primary students - through to Year 3


Before Reading Activities

Activity 1. Whole group: look at the front and back cover
Raise your hand if you have seen a Wombat in real life? 
With the person sitting next to you, take a minute to talk about what you know about Wombats.  
Activity 2. Whole group discussion
What do you notice about the Wombat from this picture?  
What do you think this Wombat has done? 
Can you tell us what Wombats might like to eat? 
Can anyone predict what this story will be about?
Where do Wombat’s live?  Are they Australian?

Responses: Wombat is sleeping, he's bashed up the rubbish bin, clothes line has fallen, likes carrots, about a wombat in Australia

Activity 3. Identify the author and illustrator.

Activity 4. Picture Flick
Before you commence - ask the students to look at the pictures to see what Wombats like to do and what they like to eat. 
Remind - ‘Hands down until we get the end of the book’.

Activity 5. Discuss the images
What do the pictures tell us about Wombats?
Where does this Wombat live?  Does he have a family?
What does this Wombat like to eat?
What does he like to do?


Students as text-participants: relate topic to students’ lives and experiences. 

Engage in and interpret the illustrations.
Students predict what they think the story may be about.

Code-breakers: students use the illustrations to identify some of the characteristics of Wombats and to confirm previous predictions about what the story may be about. (graphophonic cues)

During Reading Activities

Activity 6. Whole class reading
Read through the entire story first – without pausing.  

Activity 7. Guided Reading - read the story a second time.  This time pausing at various points to ask questions.

Stop after first two pages. 
Q. What do you notice about diary writing? Reponses: days of the week and moments in time like ‘Monday’ and ‘Morning’. 
Q. What punctuation has been used? Responses: colon, full-stop, capitals

Stop after Wednesday’s entry.
Q. What is a dustbath?  How do you know this?  (Text partcipant)
Q. What do you think the family is thinking? – How can you tell?

Stop after next double page spread.
Q. What is Mothball describing as a ‘flat, hairy creature?’ Response: The doormat. (Text participant)
Q. What do we know that Mothball doesn’t?  Response: the door mat is not real. (inferring)
Q. Does Mothball think the 'flat, hairy creature' is alive?  How do we know this?

Continue reading - give students a purpose.  i.e. ask students to look for and explain the things that we know, but Mothball doesn’t. 

Q. Why is the door resistant to Mothballs paws? 
Response: It’s been boarded up.
Q. Why does Mothball think it is raining? Responses: Because the sprinkler is on.
Q. What does Mothball describe as ‘wet things flapped against my nose’? Response: the washing
Q. Whose point of view has this story been written from?
Response: Mothball's
Q. Is Mothball speaking out loud?  Response: No - we are reading his thoughts
Clarify meanings - What do the words ‘curiously resistant’ mean?


For students’ enjoyment and love of reading

Students as text-participants and code-breakers

Provides an example of diary writing for later use by the students in their individual writing task.
Clarify language use and features of diary writing, and to point our the use of punctuation.
Point out the use of headings and punctuation for diary writing. (e.g.  Morning: Slept.) 
Discuss use of capital letters, colons and full-stops.

Clarify meaning of words (e.g. dustbath) and check for understanding using both words and illustrations (graphophonic and semantic)

Identify descriptive (and metaphorical) language used and clarify meaning.

Text-participants: Questions aid students in their understanding, help clarify meaning of words, link the words to the illustrations and assist students to infer additional meanings from the text and images. (Use of  reading cues)

After Reading Activities

Note: These activities would take place over the course of a week
Activity 8 - Whole class group
Create a timeline of events by listing mothball’s activities under each day’s heading. Display the list in the classroom.

Activity 9 - Explicit teaching/Joint Construction (The 'colon' and 'lists') Review the use of punctuation in the story, i.e. capital letters, colons and full-stops. 
Introduce the Colon and explain its function, purpose, and how it is used (e.g. for lists). 
Model the use of a Colon when creating a list.  Model an example of my daily routine during the week. Example:
    Early Morning: Wake up, prepare children for school and myself for work, 
    drive to work
    Morning: Teach in the classroom
    Lunchtime: Meet with children and eat my lunch
    Afternoon: Finish teaching, collect children from school and drive home
    Evening: Prepare and eat dinner and then get the family ready for school
    the next day, read stories and bed.

Activity 10 - Individual Task (Independent construction of text)
Ask students to create a list of their morning routine before school - incorporating the use of a colon.
e.g. When I wake up in the morning I:
- eat breakfast
- get dressed for school
- clean my teeth
- make my bed
- Pack my school bag
- walk/ride/drive to school

Activity 11 - Small Groups
Ask students to discuss the story 'The Wombat Diary' in their groups, with reference to the class timeline (displayed), and identify Mothball's main motive in life, then describe how he achieves it.
Responses should indicate that Mothball's main focus is finding carrots to eat and he does this by digging for carrots in the vegetable garden, bashing up the rubbish bin until he is given carrots, finding carrots in the shopping bags in the car etc. 

Activity 12 - Joint Construction of list
Bring all groups back together then create a class list which describes all of the ways that Mothball finds carrots to eat.  Again model the use of a colon to create a list.  For example:
Mothball's main motive in life is to find carrots to eat.  He does this by:
- sitting at the back door
- chewing a hole in the door
- bashing up the garbage bin
- finding carrots in the shopping bags
- digging up carrots from the garden
- eating boots, boxes, flower pots and chairs until carrots arrived

Activity 13 - Individual Task: Pet Diary Writing
1. Explain Task:  Students are going to imagine they were a family pet. (of their choice) and write a diary account of one day in the life of this pet. 
They will research their pet (animal) and find out about it's daily activities and habits, (what it likes to do), it's diet (what it eats) and how it lives with humans.   Notes: Books and information about domestic animals are available in the classroom for students to use in their research.  They can choose whatever pet they like, and must refer to the criteria sheet when completing their diary writing.  (see below)

2. Develop Criteria Sheet for Diary Writing exercise with the whole class - through discussion and revision of 'Diary of a Wombat' and previous lessons.

- Title of the diary, e.g. Flippy's diary
- days of the week as headings
- different times of day, e.g. morning, afternoon, evening and night
- correct punctuation including colons.
- Written in first person and present tense (from pet's point of view)

Fast finishers can illustrate their diary entry.

Activity 14 - Class competition
In small groups students can read aloud their diary entries and select the best one (peer assessment)  to go forward to the class competition, based on the agreed criteria above. 
Whole class sharing  - the selected student from each group can read aloud and share their diary writing. 

Whole class judges the best diary entry based on the selected criteria.


Text-users: create a 'list' to illustrate that diary writing is like a 'list' or 'recount'.  

Review and introduce new punctuation – the colon.  Model the use of a colon in a list.

Text-users: students creat a list

Text-participants: checking student comprehension using oral language skills. 

To check comprehension and understanding and re-model the creation of a list incorporating a Colon.

Students as text- users: researching information and producing a text for a purpose - i.e. diary writing

To review 'lists' jointly constructed in previous lessons and ensure students know what they need to include in their diary writing.

Student practise their oral language skills, firstly in small groups and then in front of the whole class.

Students practise identifying relevant criteria to justify why a particular piece of writing has been chosen as the winning diary entry.