Birthday Bob

part two of a two-part story by Geoffrey McSkimming , illustrated by Douglas Holgate

Learning intention:

I can experiment with creating mood through descriptions of settings and characters so that I can create specific moods in a story.

Success criteria:

  • I can identify how descriptions of settings create mood
  • I can reflect on how descriptions of characters create mood
  • I can discuss language that helps create this mood
  • I can experiment with describing settings to convey the mood I wish to.



Prior to reading Birthday Bob display the following extract:

Ahab, Shasta and Bob walked through the jungle on Fondue Island. From out of the jungle emerged the Komodo gang. The leader of the gang—the biggest lizard of them all, named Owen Ethur—stopped, and signaled for his gang to do likewise.

Discuss the mood in the extract, using the following questions to guide discussions:

  • What mood does the description of the setting evoke? (The description is fairly neutral, without much information to identify a specific mood)
  • Do you think the Komodo gang are friendly or scary? What language in the extract makes you think this? (There isn’t much information about what the members of the Komodo gangs’ personalities may be like)
  • What do you predict might happen next? (Responses may vary, ranging from that the Komodo gang might become friends with Ahab, Shasta and Bob to the idea that the gang may attack the main characters)

Read the beginning of Birthday Bob with the students (up to the end of page 6). Discuss the same questions as earlier. Sample responses have been provided.

  • What mood does the description of the setting evoke? Provide examples of descriptions from the text. (A sinister, scary mood, with a sense of foreboding, created through descriptions such as, ‘misty fog’, ‘dark jungle’, ‘Up ahead, more fronds rustled and began to quiver’, ‘shadowy jungle’)
  • Do you think the Komodo gang are friendly or scary? What language in the extract makes you think this? (Scary, shown through descriptions such as, ‘Four pairs of glinting, greenish-yellow eyes watched’, ‘These lizardacious fellows did not take kindly to trespassers’, ‘They watched, with drooling jaws and rumbling, scaly tummies’)
  • What do you predict might happen next? (Most likely students will conclude that the Komodo gang with attack Ahab, Shasta and Bob)

Discuss the fact that much of the mood is created through the adjectives that are selected, providing examples such as ‘misty’ to describe the fog, and ‘dark’ and ‘shadowy’ to describe the jungle. For each example, reflect on how using different adjectives would change the mood, such as the difference in mood if ‘light’ is used instead of ‘misty’ to describe the fog, or ‘sunny’ or ‘lush’ is used to describe the jungle.

Inform students that they will be experimenting with using adjectives to create settings that convey a clear mood. Tell students that to do this they will first be compiling a list of settings and moods to select from.

Place students in pairs and provide them with four slips of paper. Tell them that they should think of two different settings and note these on different slips of paper. Provide examples such as a playground, a bathroom, a car. On the remaining two slips of paper tell students that they should write moods or feelings. Provide examples such as sinister, excited, scary, happy, uplifting, inviting.

Once students have written on their four slips of paper, tell them to fold each of them in half. Place the paper into two bowls, with one bowl for the settings and one for the moods. Jumble the papers. Tell students that they will be selecting one slip of paper from both the settings bowl and the moods bowl. Inform students that they will be using these as stimulus for a brief description of the setting that captures the mood they have selected. Inform students that when creating vivid settings, they should aim to engage multiple senses through their descriptions. Complete an example together first, before instructing students to work independently. For example, if you select a bathroom for the setting and the mood inviting, you might compose the following extract:

The gleaming bathroom smelt of citrus. Fluffy towels were placed neatly over a heated rail. The water in the bath lapped softly and light glinted off the bubbles.

Keep the same setting and this time select a different mood. Collaboratively compose a new description, evoking the mood selected. For example, if this time the mood is sinister, the description might be:

The door creaked as it swung open. A cloud of dust lifted from the towels when touched and spiders scuttled across the bath. The door slammed shut behind them. The only light in the room, a candle, flickered and then went out, plunging the room into darkness.

Place students with a partner. Instruct them to select a setting and mood from the bowls. Allow time for students to compose a description of the setting they selected in the mood they chose. Tell students that they will be working with a buddy pair to peer assess each other’s work.

Place students with another pair and instruct them to share their descriptions first by reading them aloud and then by providing the other pair with their written work. Instruct students to reread the descriptions written by their buddy pair. Tell them to identify the mood before underlining descriptive vocabulary in the buddy pair’s work that allowed them to identify the mood. Discuss responses.