Beach Bottle

poem by Monty Edwards , illustrated by Tohby Riddle

Learning intention:

I am learning about real world facts to help generate ideas for narratives.


Success criteria:

  • I can identify reasons people send messages in bottles
  • I can create my own message in a bottle based on real world events or literature
  • I can use my message in a bottle as inspiration to write a narrative


Read the poem aloud to the class without reading the last line. Stop at ‘what was written within’ and ask students to finish the poem with their own idea. Ensure students recognise the rhythm of the poem – the last line will need eleven syllables and the last word must rhyme with ‘within’. Students can use a rhyming dictionary to help them.


Once students have shared answers with partners and with the class, read the poem from the line ‘I found it not empty’ all the way to the end. Ask students what they thought of the last line, and why it’s funny. Ensure students understand that a message in a bottle is a common trope in literature and has even happened in real life at times. Ask students what sort of messages are normally found in bottles. Answers may include treasure maps, letters asking for help from a deserted island, letters from other countries, letters from sinking ships. Visit ABC’s article on Ten Most Famous Message in a Bottle Discoveries to get more ideas (hint: spend extra time on number nine to give students an idea of the real-life power of a message in a bottle).


Ask students to imagine what message they would wish to find inside a bottle floating in the ocean. They can use the ABC’s article as inspiration, stories they’ve read in the past, or come up with their own ideas, including the one they thought of when writing the finishing line to the poem. Encourage students to be creative, as they will be writing a story based on this message.


Students write or draw their message on a piece of paper then use techniques to make it look old, such as staining it with tea bags, singing the edges or rubbing with dirt.


Once their message is complete, students roll it up and either stick it in a bottle or tie it up with string/ribbon.


Extension: Students write a story based on their message. They can have themselves as the main character – either sending the message off or receiving it years later – or it can be a completely fantastical story set in a different world. When complete, students share their story with a partner.