Review + Teachers’ Notes: ‘Heads and Tails: Insects’

Home » Review + Teachers’ Notes: ‘Heads and Tails: Insects’

Title: Heads and Tails: Insects
Author/Illustrator: John Canty
Publisher: Berbay Publishing
Age Range: early childhood
Themes: animals, animal classification, animal characteristics, clues, guessing.
Awards: 2018 Speech Pathology Awards: Winner in the birth – 3 category

My first thought upon opening this book was ‘oh glory me! Just look at that beautiful white space!’. I love it when an illustrator is confident enough in their sense of design and their skills that they let the main image speak for itself and leave all this beautiful white space rather than fill it with distraction. It doesn’t work for all books of course, but when used in the right context, white space on a page is almost an exercise in mindfulness  – allowing the child to take the time to focus on the one image, free of distractions. John Canty has used watercolour images to depict animals as diverse as a tiger, a kangaroo, a rabbit and a goldfish. At first we see only their tail and the text gives us a few clues to the animal, before the entire animal is revealed. It’s clever, visually beautiful and just darn good fun – who doesn’t love an animal book! Our teachers’ notes for home, library and classroom use are below.

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Follow it Up in the Home, Classroom or Library

Teachers’ Notes prepared by teacher Melissa Kroeger for Children’s Books Daily in context with the Australian Curriculum.

Title: ‘Heads and Tails: Insects’
Author/Illustrator: John Canty


  • English


  • Critical and Creative Thinking
  • Literacy
  • ICT Capability
  • Personal and Social Capability
  • Critical and Creative Thinking



  1. Ask students to point to their head. Now point to their tail! We don’t have one, but if we did where would it be?
  • Does a dog have a tail? Yes!
  • Does a cat have a tail? Yes!
  • Does a butterfly have a tail? No, if it did, where would it be?

2. Introduce the title of the book ‘Heads and Tails: Insects’. What two insects are shown on the front cover? A bee and a dragonfly.

  • Where is the dragonfly’s head? Where is the bee’s tail?

3. This book refers to insects’ heads and tails – tails meaning the lower part of their body. Brainstorm different types of insects.

Whilst reading…

  1. Notice the picture clues on the right hand side of the double page? They’re helping you to guess the answer.

2. Note the detail in the illustrations.

3. Note that some writing is in black. Other is in colour. The black writing starts with ‘I live, I make, I can, I have, I am, I visit, I buzz, I look, I crawl, I build’ etc. The coloured writing goes on to describe more about the insect.



Creating Texts

Content Description: ACELY1651
Create short texts to explore, record and report ideas and events using familiar words and beginning writing knowledge

Content Description: ACELY1661
Create short imaginative and informative texts that show emerging use of appropriate text structure, sentence-level grammar, word choice, spelling, punctuation and appropriate multimodal elements, for example illustrations and diagrams

Content Description: ACELY1671
Create short imaginative, informative and persuasive texts using growing knowledge of text structures and language features for familiar and some less familiar audiences, selecting print and multimodal elements appropriate to the audience and purpose

Content Description: ACELY1652
Participate in shared editing of students’ own texts for meaning, spelling, capital letters and full stops

Content Description: ACELY1662
Re-read student’s own texts and discuss possible changes to improve meaning, spelling and punctuation

Content Description: ACELY1672
Re-read and edit text for spelling, sentence-boundary punctuation and text structure

Content Description: ACELY1654
Construct texts using software including word processing programs

Content Description: ACELY1664
Construct texts that incorporate supporting images using software including word processing programs

Content Description: ACELY1674
Construct texts featuring print, visual and audio elements using software, including word processing programs

The following activity will cover the above Content Descriptions, however you will need to vary it accordingly to each Year level.


Making a Class Book!

After reading the book ‘Heads and Tails: Insects’ discuss how each insect had three special ‘things’. What could three special ‘things’ be about each of your students? Do you have blonde, black, brown hair? Can you climb really high? Can you run very fast? Can you read really well? Can you write very neatly? Are you a super good listener? Are you a great friend? Can you play soccer?

Ask students to come up with one thing about themselves starting with ‘I can, I live, I make, I have, I am…’ Sit in a circle and ask them one at a time what their’s is with everybody listening. Encourage them to come up with something that is individual.

Depending on year level/ability ask students to write three things about themselves starting with the above sentence-starters or alike and completing with the description. Make sure they come up with things that are unique about them.

Have students type up their three sentences using two colours – just like in the book ‘Heads and Tails: Insects’. You may choose students to write more than 3 sentences depending on their year level/ability.

Then have students paint /draw/use a computer-generated drawing program to design part of themselves on the page with their sentences. Don’t draw all of themselves – just enough to give a hint! Then on another page continue their picture with their name written on it.

You could mix this up and ask students to do the above activity about someone else in the class – maybe draw names out of a hat but keep it a secret so no one knows who is writing about and drawing them! Obviously only positive sentences can be written. If students don’t know a lot about that person, then they will need to do some investigative work and talk to their friends to find out more information!

Then place all the pages together to make a class book. As a class, think of a catchy title to name it!


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Megan Daley Bio

Looking for more great book reviews and recommendations? I’m Megan Daley and you can find out more about me here.

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