Dreaming Soldiers

Free lesson plan, writing template and printable word-search puzzles for kids

dreaming soldiers

Best suited to:

K – Year 6

KLAs covered:

English, PDH (friendship), HASS, Indigenous histories and cultures


  • how the lives of Indigenous children differed from – and were the same as – those of non-Indigenous Australian children in the early 1900s;
  • the discrimination Indigenous people experienced in Australia in the early 1900s;
  • why it is important to be inclusive to all people/how it feels to be included;
  • the contributions First Nations people have made to Australia in times of war;
  • people from different cultures are more similar than they are different: we all feel the same fear, loneliness and affection for our friends and family and enjoy doing many of the same things with our friends;
  • how war looks and feels for the soldiers who fight;

Need to know:

  • this is a simple text suitable for younger children, while also providing opportunities for deeper discussion with older primary students about issues such as discrimination;
  • the book tells the story of best mates, Jimmy and Johnno, who grow up together on an Australian outback cattle station and sign up together to fight for their country in World War I;
  • the book shows the different paths the two boys’ lives take as they grow up because of their different heritages;
  • Indigenous Australian Jimmy appreciates being treated as an ‘equal’ during battle but misses his Country and its sky full of stars;
  • this is a book about friendship and the deep connections between Jimmy and Johnno which exist in spite of the the racism and discrimination common at the time;
  • the book shows the effects of war through the eyes of two fictional characters and their families;
  • this text can be used as a starting point for conversations about discrimination, friendship and on what, who and why we remember on days like ANZAC Day;
  • there is further information in the back of the book about the discrimination experienced by Indigenous Australians;

Discussion Questions (before reading):

  • allow a few moments for children to look at the cover and title; 
  • for younger children (K-Year 2): point out the author’s name and discuss the terms ‘author’ and ‘illustrator’;
  • look at the title of the book together and ask: what do you know about dreaming/Dreaming? What do you know about soldiers? What do you think this book might be about?
  • look at the illustration on the front cover and ask: what do you see, think and wonder about this book? Write the children’s responses on the classroom whiteboard;
  • look at the illustration on the back cover and lead a brief discussion about what the children see, think and wonder;
  • read the back cover blurb and add any comments the children might have to the brainstorm on the classroom whiteboard; 
  • tell younger children that this is a story about a war called World War I that happened over 100 years ago, a long way away from Australia;
  • display a world map on the interactive whiteboard and show the children where World War I was fought;
  • explain that the book is about two best friends who liked to do things together but weren’t always allowed to do the same things because one was Aboriginal and one wasn’t;

Discussion Questions (after reading):

  • ask the children what they thought about of the book. Did they like it? Not like it? Why? Which was their favourite page?
  • ask: what do you think this book is about?
  • why do you think the book is called ‘Dreaming Soldiers’?
  • look together at the pictures on pages 1-11. How are Jimmy and Johnno the same in these pictures? How are they different?
  • look together at the pictures on pages 12-13 and re-read the text aloud. Ask the children: what do you think is happening here? How do you think Jimmy feels? How do you know?
  • look together at the picture on page 16. How do you think the boys feel? (happy, proud, excited). How do you know? (body language, grins, playful salute);
  • as a class, create a Venn diagram on the classroom whiteboard to show the things Jimmy and Johnno have in common and the things that are unique to each of them (or you can simply make three lists headed Jimmy, Johnno and Both);
  • ask: what effect do you think Johnno’s and Jimmy’s similarities and differences have on their friendship?


  • children complete a wordsearch using vocabulary from the story;
  • children write and/or draw a response to the story. They can draw or write about their favourite part or write about something they learnt from the story;
  • younger children (K – Year 2) can retell the story orally and/or in writing and by drawing pictures using a first-then-next-finally stucture;

Years 5 – 6

Children investigate the contributions of Indigenous Australians during various wars and the way they were treated before they enlisted, while serving as members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and when they returned home.

They can use laptops to research in small groups, pairs or individually and share their work with the class.

You may like to direct the children to these websites:

Free, printable word-search puzzles

These free printable word-search puzzles for kids are great for building and reinforcing the vocabulary used when you’re discussing Dreaming Soldiers. 

There are three different puzzles in this file to enable you to differentiate the activity according to the needs of your students.

Free writing template

You can download and print our free writing template for use with Dreaming Soldiers here (PDF).

a flamboyance of flamingos
my name is not refugee
bee & me
lest we forget
the peace book