book cover Runaway Circus
by Gordon Reece

Picture book | 32 pp | Years 24

Getting Started


[ Freedom | Doing Your Best | Responding to Text ]


What would it be like to work in a circus? Record the class responses considering the position of both human and animal circus performers.

Select either a human or animal performer from the book and complete a PMI on what you believe life would be like for that character working in the circus. Use the PMI worksheet to record your ideas. In the 'Plus' column list the good things about working in the circus. In the 'Minus' column list the problems about working in a circus. In the 'Interesting' column identify interesting ways the circus management could improve circus life for the performers.

Form groups that combine a mixture of characters identified in individual PMIs. Identify the issues that relate to individual freedom in terms of having rights and privileges within the circus community. Develop a set of guidelines for the circus management to follow to ensure individual freedom but still maintain the circus community. Publish the guidelines and display them in the classroom.

Read each groups' guidelines. As a class, identify and record the statements that relate to living in any community. Brainstorm further suggestions and add to the list.

Should people have the freedom to behave however they want? List the circus characters from the story and their different behaviours or actions on small cards and then sort them into two groups

  1. those whose actions support the freedom and rights of others within a community
  2. those whose actions do not support the freedom and rights of others in the community.

Do the guidelines already listed cover all the incidents identified? Add further statements to the class list if required.

What conditions are needed in the classroom to maintain both individual freedom and a healthy and happy classroom community? Using the ideas recorded in the whole class discussion, complete a diamond display to identify the most important statements. Join with another group and compare and discuss the two diamond displays. Identify the nine most significant statements and form a new diamond display based on agreement from your discussions. Display your result and read the results from the other groups.

Discuss the contents of each diamond display and identify common statements and areas of difference. Use the findings to develop a set of class guidelines to support individual freedom within the class community.

Make a personal commitment to try to abide by the guidelines in your daily life so that you act freely and also maintain the freedom of others within the classroom community. Design a postcard that illustrates one action that you will take to fulfil your commitment. On the back of the postcard, write a short message to yourself explaining what you need to do to fulfil the commitment. 'Post' it on a display board in the classroom.

Invite another grade to your classroom and share the work you have done, the class guidelines that have been developed and the postcards. Form pairs with your visitors and invite each partner to consider ways that they could support individual freedom within the school community. Have each pair illustrate a new postcard with a written commitment on the back explaining how this action will promote the freedom of all within the school. Display the postcards in a public area for others to read.

Doing Your Best

Brainstorm a list of the human and animal circus performers and the special skills they demonstrate in the story. Add any other circus acts that students may know about.

Work in small groups to plan a series of posters to promote a circus. Identify the most important performers and the range of skills that they display in their performances. Organise the group findings into a mind map and allocate a performer for each person in the group.

Plan and publish a poster promoting your selected act in a circus. Your poster should illustrate the particular skills that this performer applies to demonstrate that they perform to the best of their ability.

In what ways does a circus performer develop and demonstrate their skills? Select one circus performer from the class brainstorm and list the special skills that performer needs to work in a circus. Conduct some background research to add to your knowledge. Write a training schedule for that performer that will maintain and further develop their skills.

Identify one skill of your own that you would like to develop further. For example, physical fitness such as running or long jump, sustained reading, painting, designing computer graphics or mathematics. Conduct some background research by asking people you know who are skilled in that area about how they work at improving their skills. Set a goal for self-improvement and list the strategies that you will use to help attain your goal. Write a schedule to help you include the strategies in your daily life. Collect evidence of your current skill level before you start your schedule, then measure or compare your progress each week.

Responding to Text

What are the most important details and events in the story? Complete a Five Ws chart to identify What, Who, Where, When and Why, and record the details that answer the questions.

Share individual findings recorded in the Five Ws charts amongst your group. Discuss the responses recorded in the Why circle and develop a group response to explain the following.

  1. Why did the performers want to run away?
  2. Why did the performers behave the way they did in Joanna's home and in the school?
  3. What possible consequences could there be for the performers' behaviour?

Imagine that you have been asked to write a sequel to The Runaway Circus. Plan the next story about Joanna and the circus performers. Use the Story Outline worksheet to write or draw your plan for the next adventure. Plan how would act out the story, then rehearse each stage and present your play to the class.

Use your small group's story outline as a guide to write your own sequel to The Runaway Circus. Publish your final copy to share with the class.

© Curriculum Corporation 2006