First Flight

Author - David McPhail
Illustrator -
Publisher - Koala Books, 1997
Text Features
This text is a fictional recount of a child's first time experience of flying in an aeroplane.  It is written in present tense, contains simple sentences and some complex clauses, for example 'While I'm waiting..' and 'When my number is called ...'. 
Illustrations accompany each experience, and the text and illustrations detail the process of catching a plane from before the flight to after the flight.

Language Features
This recount uses nouns (grandma, airport, ticket), verbs (fly, drive) and adjectives (first flight). 
It introduces the reader to topic specific language related to flight (e.g. security, departure, safety instructions, turbulance). 
The text contains contractions, (I'm, It's, we're) and compound words like passport and seatbelt.

Other textual features (e.g. layout, illustrations)
The colourful illustrations add an extra dimension to the reader's experience in the form of a parallel storyline.  The child is accompanied by his toy teddy bear.  During the flight the child imagines the bear to be a large, cuddly and comforting bear.  The bear's facial expressions add humour and additional interest and information to the storyline.  At the end of the story (if not before), the reader discovers that the bear is really a toy bear.

Junior Primary to Grade 3


Before Reading

Activity 1 - Introduce air travel. 
Create an activity that identifies students who have flown in a plane, helicopter, hot air balloon or never flown. 
For example:
Indicate the 4 corners of the room and give each corner a title, for example;
Corner 1 - those who have flown in a helicopter
Corner 2 - those who have flown in a plane,
Corner 3 - those who have flown in a hot air balloon
Corner 4 - those who have not flown at all
Ask all students to stand and move to their corner. 

Discuss any interesting flight experiences with the group. 

Next ask all students who have not flown before to choose a partner from those who have flown.  Pair remaining students for the next activity.

Activity 2 - Before, During and After Flight -Brainstorm
Divide the pairs into three groups.  One group of pairs can brainstorm things that you do before a flight.  The second group can brainstorm the things you need to do during a flight and the third group of pairs can brainstorm things to do after a flight.

Allow time for students to write down 3 things on their scrap paper, then bring the whole class back together.
Share and discuss each group's contribution and record them on a wall chart with the following headings: Before Flight, During Flight, After Flight.
Discuss the use of compound words, for example suitcase, passport

Activity 3 - Topic specific vocabulary
Discuss and list
the features of airports, aeroplanes and airport jobs and add these to a word wall chart. For example:


ticket office
check-in counter
security areadDeparture/Arrival lounge
TV screens
loud speakers


flight attendants
air traffic controllers


Students as text-participants.
Students relate to their experiences of 'flight' and share with others.

Text-participants: students work in pairs to 'talk' about their experiences of flight and share or imagine what they need to do before, during or after a flight.

Oral language skills used to communicate personal experiences

Activity 4 - Think, Pair, Share
Students can pair up and discuss the types of signs we might see in an airport. e.g departures, arrivals, exit, baggage claim, gate number, security, toilet, row number,
seat number. Discuss these and share with the class.

Show & Tell item - over the coming weeks ask students to bring in an airport sign that they have seen or heard about from TV, in a magazine or brochure and discuss this
with the class for their show and tell item - identifying the purpose of the sign.  All signs can be displayed around the classroom - students can create a sign if they wish.

Activity 5 -  Pretend to be a passenger
Divide the class into three groups.  Each group is to brainstorm the activities that passengers would do either before, during or after a flight
Introduce some of the vocabulary from the text 'First Flight', for example:

Before a flight:
- decide where to go - international or domestic (explore the globe)
- buy a ticket
- get a passport
- pack a suitcase
- travel to the airport
- check in luggage
- find the gate
- wait until  flight is called and then
- get on the plane

After a flight:
- get off the plane
- meet friends of family
- collect luggage
- leave the airport by car or taxi

Visit the library and give students time to read through a selection of books about planes, flying, airports or other people's experiences of travel.
Discuss how students would feel if they were going on a plane by themselves or travelling by plane for the first time. 
Brainstorm a list of 'feeling' words for use in later writing activities.  For example: nervous, excited, scared, happy, tired, sad, lonely, homesick, terrified, anxious, emotional, worried, overwhelmed.

During Reading

Activity 6 - Reading of  'First Flight'
First examine the cover - name the author and illustrator.
Question students:
What do you notice about the illustration on the cover?
Where in the library would we find a book like this - Junior Fiction or Non-Fiction section?  How do we know?
Read the story 'First Flight' to the whole class, focussing on the illustrations and the humour embedded, along with the parallel story line.
Check for clarification on any words that students may not know.
Refer to the First Flight word wall.
Question students:
Do you think the bear was a real bear?  How do you know?
Class discussion:
Who would like to share a 'first time' experience? e.g. loosing your first tooth, first time playing soccer, first time boogie boarding, first day at school, first time at the movie cinema etc. 
Record some 'first time' experiences on a sheet of paper

Text-participants and text-analysts: what signs might we see at an airport and what is their purpose?.


Students as code-breakers and text participants

After Reading

Activity 7 - Model writing about first time experiences
Using the examples discussed, model the process for writing about a 'first time' experience.
The first time I went to the dentist,
I felt scared.
I was 6 years old

Activity 8 - Student writing about 'First Time' experiences using sentence starters.
Provide each student with a small booklet of 4 pages.  The cover is titled '1st's'
Each of the 4 pages contains the following sentences and students need to complete  the blanks:

The first time I ______________
I felt _____________
I was __________ years old

The first time I went to school
I felt nervous
I was 5 years old

Remind students to refer to the 'Feelings' word wall to help them decide how they felt
at the time of each first experience.

Activity 9 - Model teachers' own first time experience using pictures.
Picture 1 - Teacher pregnant (The first time I was pregnant)
Picture 2 - Teacher more pregnant (I loved eating for two)
Picture 3 - Very pregnant (I put on a lot of weight and felt very happy and excited)
Picture 4 - Teacher with her baby (I was 31 when my baby was finally born).

Activity 10 - Model a student's first time experience in front of the class using an A4 piece of paper drawn into 4 rectangles. 
Number the rectangles and call for a student volunteer.
e.g. First time bungy jumping. What would be in your first picture? (and so on)
Drawing 1 - Being strapped into the safety equipment
Drawing 2 - Stepping on to the platform 
Drawing 3 - Jumping off the platform
Drawing 4 - Doing a forward summersault

Activity 11 - Ask students to draw and sequence one of their own first-time experiences
that students will be drawing four pictures that tell the story of one of their 'first time' experiences.  They will use the same graphic organiser from the previous activity, i.e. A4 divided into 4 rectangles
Ask students to draw 4 pictures that describe a first time experience - putting as much detail into the pictures as possible. e.g. first time on a plane, first time playing netball, first time bungy jumping.
Conference with students and discuss their drawings, helping them to add any missing details.

Activity 12 - Model the writing sequence to match the student drawings.  For example:
Picture 1 - On the weekend I went to Australia Zoo with my family.  It was my first time and I was excited. 
Picture 2 - When we arrived we paid our money and walked inside.
Picture 3 - We had a great time seeing the animals walking around the grounds.  I patted some animals.
Picture 4 - It was a really good day but I fell asleep in the car on the way home.

Remind students of the conjunction word wall and ask for student volunteers who can identify conjunctions in the modelled writing above.  e.g. and, also, but.
Remind students to use action words in their writing.  e.g. arrived, paid, walked, walking, patted, seeing

Activity 13 - Prepare for individual writing task
Encourage students to share their ideas for their writing. 
Pair students and ask them to share their first time experience with a partner and talk about what they will write to go with their pictures/drawings.

Activity 14 - Model the process for making a 'first time' booklet.
Hold up the 8 page booklets. 
Demonstrate how to cut out their 4 pictures and glue them into their booklets in the correct sequence.  Students are to leave the front page blank for their title, then glue one picture onto the top of each page, leaving enough space to write underneath.  The last page is left blank - to leave space for a personal comment about their first time experience.

Activity 15 - Individual writing
Students write about their first time experience using the booklets and drawings they prepared earlier - with reference to the the modelled writing sample.  
Remind students to:
- include information about who, what, where, when and why
- refer to the 'feelings' word wall and the 'conjunctions' word wall
- 'edit' their work

Activity 16 - Discuss how this work could be published and shared.
Brainstorm student suggestions on how they would like to share their work, e.g. in pairs, on display around the classroom, read-aloud.

Note: This same activity could be repeated as an assessment item at the end of the unit.  Students can just select a different first time experience to write about.

Some of the ideas for these activities came from Whittle, S. (2011)


Students as text-participants and text users.  Sharing, talking and writing about their first time experiences using a modelled format.

Students as text-users as they share and then write about their own first time experiences.

Students as text-users