Dragons in the Pantry

part one of a two-part story by Katie Aaron , illustrated by Sarah Davis

Focus question:

How do situations shape characters behaviours and dialogue in stories?


Learning Intention:

I am learning how to investigate the strategies authors use to engage readers so that I can utilise these in my own writing.

Success Criteria:

• I can identify language features used to build characters.
• I can explain the relationship between characters using evidence from the text.
• I can explain how authors develop characters as a method of engaging readers.

Essential knowledge:

Teaching strategies and resources relating to characterisation in narratives can be found in the NSW Department of Education’ Stage 2 Reading resource Exploring Characters.


Understanding text:

Have students complete the table below to analyse the character of the Pantry Dragon. Some examples have been included below:

Pantry Dragon
Character description (name, age, occupation, relationship to other character, personality description)  



What they say (dialogue) in the chosen scenario  



Their actions - verbs  



Read the following extract as a class:

Ben peered closer. When he saw what was splashing about in his breakfast, he nearly choked; he’d only just swallowed the mouthful of muesli. He leapt out of his seat, spluttering. Clutching the back of the chair, he stared at the chaos in his cereal bowl. ‘Don’t just stand there!’ screamed the green thing. ‘Can’t you see I’m drowning? Get me out!’ (page 4)

Discuss the following:

  • How does Ben react to the appearance of the Pantry dragon? Does the Pantry Dragon react to Ben in the same way? Why or why not?
  • In the relationship between Ben and the Pantry Dragon, who has all the power? Why?
  • If Ben met the Pantry Dragon in a different circumstance, do you think that the dragon would behave in the same way, or do you think he would behave differently?


Divide the class in half. Assign one half of the class Ben and the other half, the dragon. Direct the groups to skim read the story once more to locate and create a list of the verbs used to describe the actions of their assigned character. Suggested verbs included in the table below.

Ben Pantry Dragon











nostrils flared




Pair up students with one person in the partnership coming from the group that investigated Ben and the other partner being from the Pantry Dragon group. Have the pairs compare the types of actions demonstrated by the two characters.

Ask pairs to answer the following questions:

  • On the whole, which character engaged in bolder, bigger more vigorous actions?
  • Which character was more passive?
  • How would you respond to finding a pantry dragon in your breakfast?
  • How does having two different characters acting in different ways make the story more interesting?


Creating text:


Show students the following list of scenarios. Students are to choose a scenario and then write a description of how two characters respond in completely different ways.

Scenario list:

  • A cat is stuck in a tree.
  • A truck filled with chocolate bars crashes on the freeway.
  • An elephant appears in the school playground.
  • An asteroid falls to earth landing in a car park.
  • A plane is delayed by 4 hours.
  • A new school bus arrives filled with so many indoor plants there is not enough room for students.
  • A tornado suddenly appears.
  • A pet rabbit starts talking to its owner.
  • A parent accidentally puts salt into their child’s birthday cake instead of sugar.
  • A monkey escapes from the zoo and find its way to the local supermarket.


To help students plan their writing, they can use the following table:

Chosen scenario:

Character 1: Character 2:
Character description (name, age, occupation, relationship to other character, personality description)
What they say (dialogue) in the chosen scenario
Their actions - verbs


Once students have planned their scenario and have written the description, have some volunteers share their writing with the class.

After each discuss the impact of the two opposing characters responding to the scenario. Ask students to identify the mood created in each scenario. Some students may have created a comical situation, others may have created a very tense situation.


Assessment for/as learning:


Give students the following task as an exit ticket:

  • Explain why creating two contrasting characters reacting differently in different situations is an effective way to engage a reader.