Activity 1: Pre-reading
Personal identities are central to the plot and character development in Looking for Alibrandi. The following activities will support student reading and analysis.
As preparation for reading the text lead students to explore the notion of individuals having multiple identities. Discuss how these may depend on context, time, place, and social and familial connections.
Ask students to reflect back on who they were and what was important to them when they were aged about five, which could be:
- a person/people or group
- a place
- an activity.
Students nominate a symbol or something of value to them at age five and consider what these meant to them in each of the following cases:
- amongst closest friends (e.g. at playgroup, in the cubby, playing games with cousins)
- at home with immediate and/or extended family (e.g. on the river, camping, sleepover at the grandparents’ house)
- within a special interest club or group (e.g. mini league footy, at the oval, cooking, first pair of ballet shoes)
- individually (e.g. me, in the living room, cutting , pasting and drawing, Hi5 DVD).
Share Step 2 symbols in groups with a focus on similarities and differences amongst individuals and what accounts for these. This might include such things as where you grew up, family heritage, religion and so on.
Students return to individual contemplation and repeat Step 2 for themselves according to their current age and identities.
- amongst closest friends (eg: in the bedroom, sleepovers, heading out for the day, mobile phone)
- at home with immediate and/or extended family (eg: Grandparents, church at Easter, feasting, dyeing Easter eggs)
- within a special interest club or group (eg: surf life saving club, preparing for a school dance, southern beaches, tennis club)
- individually (eg: shopping with friends, going to the gym, listening to music).
Return to small groups to share what has changed over the years.
Group discussion exploring how identities change over time in relation to friendships, family and culture and why this is so. Students to focus on similarities and differences within their class and how this adds to the complexity and richness of the environment.
Reading the text in print and eBook formats
In this unit, there is an acknowledgement of alternate pedagogies for those teachers and students who are using the ebook of Looking for Alibrandi. Though it is acknowledged that this may a rarity at this time in Australian schools, the rate of decline in print book sales and the increase in sales of eBooks indicates that change is inevitable. Already many school have adopted the use of tablets in middle years classrooms, including Year 9.
The following functions and features of eBooks may be particularly useful for this literary study or others. However, the activities designed for this unit can be also adjusted for those using print copies of Looking for Alibrandi.
For tips and advice for using eBook functions watch this video and see below.
While the authors used a text-only version of the eBook, it may be beneficial for all or some students to upgrade to the ‘text to speak’ function available via Kindle books. This is particularly important for those students who are challenged by the reading of extended print texts.
Students can use the highlighting function within the eBook to select key passages. They can be asked to use different colours for different categories. For example, students might use orange for perspectives on multiculturalism, and yellow for inter-generational tensions/harmony and so on. There is a function in the eBook that will collate all these notes in sequence, according to colour. Finally, students can choose to copy compiled notes to send via email, text to phone, or even to Facebook or Twitter.
In addition to notes, student might add notes to sentences or passages highlighted. These notes can be compiled, used and sent as per the highlighting function above.
Unlike hard copies where one is forced to scan for character or place names, or words or concepts, the search function will immediately collate any references with pages numbers for the key word (eg Michael, wog, St Martha’s, sex).
The authors of this unit are avid print readers but found the eBook readability a bonus – it was quicker to read, could be read in any light, and easy to bookmark and highlight on the go on an iPad or mobile phone. Text size and brightness are adjustable, and whenever the eBook is reopened, the reader is taken immediately to the last page read.
This allows readers to mark key pages, indicate shifts in narrative structure or simply identify a spot they need to return to later to reread. Alternatively, teachers might direct students to bookmark certain pages prior to reading to signal that this is a page demanding special consideration.
If X-ray is available, locate it within the home menu and then tap it to see all passages from the book that mention the idea, character, or topic you’re interested in. This is displayed as a timeline so that the intensity of reference of the idea, character or topic appears across the book. Please note that it is not yet available for all books but if it is available, it will appear in bold.
Other reader responses
Readers will notice that some lines and passages within eBooks are underlined with dots. These lines indicate that the dialogue or passage has been highlighted by many other readers, and provides the number of readers who have highlighted that section at any time since that text was purchased from that company.
As stated, many schools already have class sets of Looking for Alibrandi, so there is no imperative to swap over to an eBook version. However, if it is not already happening in all schools, teachers may begin to consider the cost and pedagogical advantages in using eBooks when extending reading lists for students.
Outline of key elements of the text (notes for teachers)
- The story of a seventeen-year-old schoolgirl on scholarship to a wealthy Catholic school.
- Family dynamics, friendships and identity all have an impact on how Josie, the central character, sees herself and how she navigates relationships.
- Ultimately this is the story of the emancipation of a girl as she reaches beyond childhood.
- Josie; Kristina, her mother; Michael, her father; Katia, her grandmother; her small group of female school friends; and two male friends, John and Jacob.
Some key themes
- Family secrets
- Inter-generational relationships
- Developing a sense of purpose and agency for self.
Activity 2: Narrative development
Students draw chapter timelines or line graphs representing the highs and lows of Josie’s relationships with her father, her grandmother and mother. Follow-up with how these relationships shift and change:
- How do these ups and downs represent the development of the narrative within the novel?
- What can the reader conclude about the value or strength of these relationships, as well as the pressures upon them?
- How might these relationships continue beyond the end of the novel’s narrative?
Activity 3: Adolescent lives in the 90s and now
As students work their way through the text, they highlight issues/language/dilemmas that might have been important twenty years ago, but are no longer so significant in most adolescent lives now. At the same time, students highlight what remains as important to young people. Finally, students address the following with reference to the novel:
- Reconsider the narrative development of a chapter if mobile phones or Facebook were part of the lives of characters.
- How is this text similar to, and different from, contemporary representations of adolescent life in Australia today?
These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community. We are thankful of their contributions and encourage you to make your own.
The novel follows 17-year-old Josephine Alibrandi, who lives with her single mother of Italian background, as she evolves through her final year of high school. She is introduced as a typical teenager, with issues of insecurity, peer pressure and maintaining relationships with those around her. The opening portrays Josephine as arrogant, as she is challenging the authority of Sister Gregory in religious education class of St Martha’s High School, a wealthy Catholic private school which Josie is attending on a scholarship. She feels isolated due to her illegitimacy and Italian family history, and greatly dislikes her strict grandmother Nonna. Josie’s father, Michael Andretti, whom she has never met, has just moved back to work in a Sydney law firm, adding to the drama in her life.
Josie’s friends, Anna, Sera and Lee, can relate to her as they all don’t come from wealthy families. However, Josie is slightly resentful about this and intensely envies Ivy Lloyd, the school captain, also known as Poison Ivy.
Chapter 4 introduces us to John Barton, who Josie wishes would accompany her to the first regional dance as it would make the entire school envious. However, at the dance, Josie becomes reluctantly attracted to Jacob Coote, who gives her a ride home on his motorcycle even though Josie risked getting into trouble with her mum. She learns about the death of Jacob’s mother, and how he dealt with it. Soon after, John Barton invites her to coffee, which she declines due to her budding romance with Jacob.
In Chapter 6, Josie meets Michael for the second time. Michael shows little interest in becoming acquainted with his daughter, telling Christina “I don’t want her”. Josie overhears this, and later expresses her anger towards Michael for leaving her mum when she was young, and not contacting them since. She warns Michael not to hurt her mum.
When Josie stays with Nonna for a night, she learns about Nonna’s life as a young woman in Sicily and how she was forced to move to Australia. As Nonna shared that her decisions meant that she would never see her family again, Josie finds herself connecting with her grandmother on a more intimate level.
In Chapter 8, Josie has a confrontation with Carly Bishop, one of the beautiful girls in school, which eventuates in Josie hitting Carly across her face and breaking her nose. Josie phones Michael’s office when Carly’s dad Ron insists that she is represented by her lawyer. Michael shows up to defend his daughter, and settles the ordeal in favour of Josie, who feels grateful towards Michael as he came to her rescue even though she previously told him to stay away.
The novel deals with the serious issue of suicide. In chapter 28, Josie finds out from Ivy that John took his own life. Both Josie and Ivy are deeply affected by this tragedy, and bonded over the common care for John.
Throughout the rest of the novel, Josie learns to appreciate and love her father more. She also acknowledges her deep love for her mother and grandmother, as well as an appreciation of her familial and cultural background. She accepts the differences that keep her and Jacob apart, yet is optimistic about overcoming these hindrances. She holds hope for the future, and recognises her incredible journey of love and learning.
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