A Fright in the Bight

part one of a story by Geoffrey McSkimming , illustrated by Douglas Holgate

Learning intention:  

I am learning to explore how settings shape the events and influence the mood of a narrative so that I can experiment with creating my own setting to match the mood of a story.  

Success criteria:  

  • I can discuss the connection between the setting and the mood in a story.  
  • I can identify the types of stories that might occur in particular settings.  
  • I can make predictions about what will happen in part two of the story.  
  • I can sketch a setting to match the mood of the story based on my prediction.  


Read the beginning of the story (up to the end of page 4). Discuss extracts that describe the setting. Sample responses include:  

There was a good, steady ocean swell this evening… 

The sail was up and it was billowing round and full with the sweet, cool breeze that was helping to guide them on their course.  

Identify how the character Ahab is feeling, evident through the following description:  

And so Ahab was able to relax a little.  

Discuss how the descriptions of both the setting and the way the character is feeling match each other in terms of mood. Discuss the overall mood for this section of the story, ensuring students note that the mood at this point is calm, peaceful and without complication.  

Instruct students to use lines to separate a page in their workbooks into four rectangles. Tell students to label the first rectangle ‘beginning’. Instruct them to sketch what they think the setting they have just analysed might look like. Tell students to add any key words about the feelings evoked by the setting alongside their sketch. Those with a digital subscription may like to play the audio file of the story to assist students when creating their sketch.  

Continue reading up to the end of page 7. Identify descriptions of the setting and the character’s feelings, ensuring students note extracts such as:  

“The splaying lights,” Bob read quietly to himself, “reach silently down from the unidentified objects, which eyewitnesses claim look like gigantic silver phones hovering about silently in the skies…” (page 6) 

Bob looked out into the ever-darkening evening. He smelt the salt on the breeze and felt the cool air ruffling through his fur. Above, the skies were growing darker as the sun was slowly slipping below the horizon. (page 6) 

Everything looked calm and shipshape and peaceful, but Bob couldn’t help feeling a small surge of fear rising up from his tail and creeping into his whiskers. (page 7) 

‘Oh, this here be a very lonely stretch of the sea,’ he observed. (page 7) 

Discuss how the setting (the ever-darkening evening and the lonely stretch of sea) is reflecting the eerie mood of the book Bob is reading. Note how the mood is beginning to change from the opening of the story and that it is becoming more scary and eerie. Instruct students to use the second rectangle in their workbooks to sketch or to note key words about this setting.  

Instruct students to work with a partner and read to the end of the story. Tell them to identify extracts that describe the setting and the overall mood of the story before sketching their ideas and making notes in the third rectangle on their page. Students should identify the following extracts:  

Shasta stood and she and Bob looked out portside. It was quite dark now, and difficult to see much because of the shimmering haze that often comes off the water just before nightfall has fully arrived. But there, in the far distance, the brolga and otter could just make out a dim line stretching across the water. (page 9) 

‘We’re coming into the Great Australian Bight,’ announced Ahab. ‘Ahead of us lies—’ (page 9) 

Bob saw what had caused her explosive outburst. There, high in the skies, above the dark ribbon of the coastline, a medley of bright orange, green, red and purple beams of lights was splaying all across the land.  

‘Aliens!’ blurted Bob, his fur going instantly clammy. ‘We be sailing into unchartered terror-tory!’  

Discuss students’ responses noting how the dark sky adds to the fearful mood when the characters see the lights they assume belong to aliens. Tell students that they will be coming back to the story, A Fright in the Bight, a little later in the lesson.  

Inform students that they will be applying this knowledge to a variety of settings to experiment with story ideas where the character’s feelings and the setting work together to create the mood.  

Display the following list of settings:  

  • a cosy living room with a glowing fire  
  • a deserted forest at night 
  • a sunny beach during the day  
  • a run-down town on the edge of a canal at night  

Discuss ideas for stories that might occur in each of these settings. For example, a warm, feel-good story about a child listening to a bedtime story in the cosy living room or a scary story about a lost child in the deserted forest.  

Instruct students to add their own ideas of settings to the list. Tell them to include the time of day and the season for each location. Tell students to select one or two of the settings from the list and discuss the type of story that might occur there with their partner.  

Tell students that they will be referring back to A Fright in the Bight to experiment with creating their own setting for the next part of the story. Remind students that the story they have read is only part one of the narrative and that the second part will be appearing in the next issue of Countdown.  

Discuss predictions of what might happen in part two of the story. Suggest ideas such as, the splaying lights of the aliens may reach down and lift the SS Webweaver up into the sky, or the crew may realise the lights are from a big party which they are invited to join.  

Discuss settings that would match each of the moods of these predictions. For example: a thunderstorm breaks out in the sky as the SS Webweaver is lifted up, or the sky is flooded with light, the air is filled with delicious smells of food and uplifting music plays in the background as the crew arrive at the party.  

Instruct students to discuss with their partner their own predictions about what will happen next in the story. Once they have decided on their ideas, tell students to discuss potential settings that reflect the mood of their predictions. Instruct students to collaboratively decide on one idea before sketching the setting or settings in the final rectangle in their workbooks. Tell students to note the key ideas of their predictions alongside their sketch.