Dossier of Discovery: Frightening Fungi

article by Karen Wasson , photo by Alamy

Learning Intention:

I am learning to improve my reading comprehension by responding to text dependent questions in order to increase my perseverance when reading and comprehending challenging texts.


Success Criteria:

  • I can participate in multiple re-readings of the same text looking closely at text, paragraph, sentence and word level choices.
  • I can answer questions of the text using the evidence provided in the text.
  • I can share my opinions and back my interpretation of the text with evidence from the text.


1st reading:

Prior to reading the article, view the photograph that accompanies it. What do you think the items in the photograph are?

How does the photograph make you feel about reading the article? For example, curious, interested, or revolted/repelled.

Read the subheadings. What do you predict the text will be about? (Something scary/interesting due to vocabulary such as, monster)

As you read the text focus on the following words and consider strategies you might use to decode them. Tips, segment the words into syllables, consider words you know that are similar, and look for diagraphs/suffixes you are familiar with:

  • Delicious (Suffix -ous)
  • Fatally (Segment the word into syllables: fa/tal/ly)
  • Wilderness (Segment the word into syllables: wild/er/ness. Tip, try different ways of pronouncing the sound i to find the one that sounds right)
  • Xylaria polymorpha (Xy as in my, segment the syllables la/ria, then segment polymorpha into syllables, po/ly/morph/a)
  • Europe (Vowel diagraph eu)
  • appearance (Segment the word into syllables: app/ear/ance, tip the c is the soft sound here as it is followed by e)
  • Stromata (Segment the word into syllables: stro/ma/ta)
  • Gnarled (G is silent)


Use the context (the overall meaning of the sentence) to identify the meanings of the following words:

  • Xylaria polymorpha (A mushroom common throughout Britain and Ireland, also known as dead man’s fingers)
  • Stromata (Stems that in this case, growing up out of the ground or rotting tree trunk)
  • Gnarled – tip, use the photo to help to find the meaning of this word (Twisted, knobbly, misshapen)


After reading the text, consider the following:

  • What type of text is this? (Informative)
  • What is the purpose of this text? (To inform readers)
  • Who is this text aimed at? (Year 6 students, readers interested in nature)
  • What impact might this text have on readers opinions of Xylaria polymorpha? (It might cause them to be less fearful if they see this type of mushroom in the wild)


2nd reading:

Subordinate clauses are clauses that provide additional information about the main clause, but they do not make sense on their own. They can appear, before, after or between the main clause. Identify examples of sentences in the article where the subordinate clauses appear before and after the main clause.

  • Before the main clause (When the Xylaria polymorpha wants to spread its spores, it grows tufts of stems or stromata, ranging from three to six per mushroom.)
  • After the main clause (Examples include:

Some can be delicious and highly sought after, others can be fatally toxic, and it can be exciting to spot different types of mushrooms on a walk through the wilderness.

They aren’t edible and you probably wouldn’t want to eat one anyway, as it’s their appearance that gives them their horrifying name.)


Locate the em dash (—) in the text. (The clue is in the name, because growing up out of the ground or rotting tree trunk is something that looks like gnarled fingers —sometimes complete with what look like fingernails!)


Why has this been used? (To set apart additional information)

How might you edit the sentence to avoid using an em dash? (You could use a comma, or you could separate the information into two sentences, for example: The clue is in the name, because growing up out of the ground or rotting tree trunk is something that looks like gnarled fingers. These gnarled fingers sometimes come complete with what look like fingernails!)

Locate the exclamation marks. (There are two examples, which are:

  • The clue is in the name, because growing up out of the ground or rotting tree trunk is something that looks like gnarled fingers —sometimes complete with what look like fingernails!
  • Next time you’re taking a stroll through a forest, and someone tells you to run because zombies are popping out of the ground, tell them to look closer. It’s more likely to be a peaceful mushroom than a zombie attack!)

Why has it been used in each instance? (In both sentences the exclamation mark has been used to show the information is shocking/surprising)

Refer to the subheadings. These have been used to introduce the information that follows. What could you replace each of the subheadings with?

(Instead of Finding fingers: Surprising fungi, Finger-like fungi, Is that a finger?

Instead of Mushroom or monster? Is that a zombie? Scary-looking mushrooms, Fingers growing out the ground)

Identify the question in the article. (What do these stromata look like?)

What type of question is this and why has it been used? (It is a rhetorical question, used to pique readers’ attention and to make readers think about this idea)


3rd reading:

Do you think the author of the article likes regular mushrooms? (Yes, most likely)

Identify examples of vocabulary that provides an insight into this. (Interesting, delicious, exciting)

What is their opinion of this type of mushroom? (They find them interesting/ scary looking)

Again, identify vocabulary in the text that enables you to form your opinion. (Terrifying, horrifying)

How would you feel if you saw these mushrooms when out on a walk?

Would your perspective differ if you hadn’t read this article?

What additional illustrations or photographs could be added to the article? (A map of where Xylaria polymorpha are found, a diagram of how they grow)

What further questions do you have about Xylaria polymorpha? (What time of year do they grow? How long do they live for? Are there any animals that eat them? When were they first discovered?)