Display the artwork for Agreed, by Katie Ponder. Ask the children to work in pairs and write down as many questions they may have about the picture.
Teacher notes - possible questions might include:
- The illustrator’s use of colour and texture
- Who the person is
- Why she might be crying
- The relevance of the moon/stars
- The destination of the three boats
- The meaning of the title Agreed
Ask the children to write down two potential answers A and B, for each of the questions from the opening activity. Model potential answers which could be used to explain the identity of the mysterious woman.
A: She is a goddess looking down from the heavens on her people, who are fleeing from a natural disaster.
B: She is a wife and mother, waving sadly as her husband travels by boat away from his family, in order to find work.
Encourage the children to search for original and alternative explanations for each of the questions.
Return to the artwork for Agreed. Explain that this is a newly commissioned piece of art, based on a new opera that has three main themes: love, loss and divided lands.
Based on this new knowledge of the opera, ask the children to identify the best predictions of what is happening in the illustration from lesson one.
Read the story summary below as a class and explore some of the higher level vocabulary. Ask the children to look up any unknown vocabulary in a dictionary/thesaurus and make any connections with prior reading or knowledge.
Alex, leader of Orientis, has divided his people, casting out many to live on the island of Aquila. This includes Maya, his own mother. In the wake of a murder, the two communities are brought together again and Maya returns. In fear, Alex is driven to new extremes and a forbidden boundary is drawn through the water. Yet Alex’s daughter Elin has fallen in love with Korimako from Aquila and in a quest to be reunited with him and her grandmother, she attempts the dangerous journey. From what follows, unrest spirals and the conscience of the people and their leader is forced to the surface.
- Casting out - outcasts, bible stories (casting out demons), exile, division.
- Forbidden boundary - prohibited barrier, border and frontier. Ask the children to name as many boundaries as possible: physical, emotional/psychological and geographical.
- Unrest spirals – disturbance, agitation, name any public demonstrations. How might they escalate?
- Conscience – sense of right and wrong, moral compass.
Ask the children to read the synopsis independently, and highlight the names of the four main characters and any words, which might reveal what type of person they are.
Discuss the results of the starter activity and ask the children to add two additional adjectives to each character, based on their assumptions.
Teacher notes - evidence from text and suggested adjectives:
- Alex: Elected leader, wants control, casts out own mother, terrified to lose Elin. Educated but proud?
- Maya: Mother to Alex and grandmother to Elin. Wise and protective?
- Elin: Volunteers to help, brave, falls in love, then heartbroken. Brave and innocent?
- Korimako: Falls in love, begs others to rescue Elin. Idealist and caring?
Group children into teams of four and ask each of them to plan a character description for one of the main characters, using this template. Plan should be written in note form and include details in the following categories:
- Physical description
Ask the children, in their teams of four, to firstly share just the physical description and backstories from their character description plans with each other.
The children can take it in turns to hot seat/act out their ‘show-not-tell’ homework, whilst their teammates try to guess which adjectives they are ‘showing-not-telling them.’
Ask ‘Alex & Maya’
- To improvise a conversation between them when Alex is 14 years old and studying hard to become a leader.
- To improvise the conversation when Alex tells his mother she will be cast out to Aquila.
Ask ‘Elin & Korimako’
- To improvise a conversation when they first meet and realise they have much in common.
- To improvise a telephone conversation between Elin (whilst in Orientis) and Korimako (in Aquila.) Elin insists on being together and Korimako warns her of the dangers.