Eruption at Lava Falls

story by Angie Schiavone , illustrated by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Learning Intention:

I am learning how to recognise the stylistic features in a text so that I can experiment with them in my own creative writing.

Success Criteria:

  • I can define the following stylistic features: personification, pun and symbolism.
  • I can identify these stylistic features in a text and explain why the author has used them.
  • I can experiment with using these stylistic features in my own piece of writing.

Essential Knowledge:

More information about how authors write with distinctive features can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Style.

To fully understand the stylistic features used by the author, students must have background knowledge on volcanoes. The National Geographic article on Volcanoes provides essential terms and information.

Instruct students to read the ‘Eruption at Lava Falls’ individually or as a class. If you have a digital subscription you might like to listen to an audio recording on The School Magazine website.

After reading, ensure that students understand the story arc and theme/message. You may wish to use a Writing Scaffold (Imaginative) from the Digital Learning Selector website. The story’s message is that it is important not to live in fear of a potential risk (especially if it is unproven or unlikely) but instead we should embrace the joy of life.

Explain to students that this well written story contains many stylistic features. These features help to keep the audience entertained by and engaged in the narrative. They also contribute to the story’s overall theme. While the story contains many stylistic features, including alliteration, rhyme and similes, focus on the following techniques: personification, symbolism, pun.

Explicitly define these terms for students using the terms in the NSW Syllabus Glossary:

  • Personification: Attributing human characteristics to abstractions such as love, things (for example The trees sighed and moaned in the wind) or animals (for example The hen said to the fox ...).
  • Symbolism: Use of a symbol that represents something else, particularly in relation to a quality or concept developed and strengthened through repetition. For example, freedom can be symbolised by a bird in flight in both verbal and visual texts.
  • Pun: A figure of speech where there is a play on words. Puns are usually humorous and rely on more than one meaning of a word to emphasise the point, which may be serious.

Instruct students to go on a technique hunt. In groups, with three colours of post-it notes, instruct them to reread the text closely and record examples of these three techniques. Once completed students stick their post-it notes on a common space in the classroom. If someone has the same example as theirs, stick the post-it note on top of it. Alternatively, this activity can be done digitally using Google Jamboard.

Some examples of these techniques in the text include:

Personification volcano “that loomed”

“fierce lava flows”

“wimpy wisps of gas”

“soft bubbling burps”

“volcano unmoved, unfazed and utterly unfussed”

Symbolism the use of colour in the images (grey indicates mood)

Vee and Velma’s initials (both their names start with V suggesting they are volcano experts)

They live under the “shadow of the volcano”

The townspeople “sulked and skulked about like dark heavy clouds”

“suspiciously sunny day”

Chuck is wearing “bright striped overalls”

Pun Vee’s happiness is “dormant” and “extinct”

“Lolcano theory”

“no laughing matter”

“only things cracked were eggs”

“Because it wasn’t feeling well”


“Eruption of lava”

As a class, choose an example of each of these stylistic features. Explain that this quotation was carefully and deliberately crafted by the author, and they have an intended effect on the audience. Encourage critical thinking and remind students that there are not correct and incorrect interpretations.  Analyse each stylistic feature using the following steps:

Stylistic feature Example Effect on reader Why the author
Personification “volcano unmoved, unfazed and utterly unfussed” The volcano sounds like a human character in the story, with emotions just like the townspeople To show that the townspeople had interpreted the volcanos feelings entirely wrong the whole time
Symbolism The townspeople “sulked and skulked about like dark heavy clouds” vs.

“suspiciously sunny day”

The miserable mood of the townspeople is contrasted with Chuck’s extremely positive mood To show the reader how they feel during different types of weather (cloudy vs. sunny) to understand the emotions of the townspeople better
Pun “Lolcano theory” They will laugh at this clever play on words Including lots of jokes in the story reinforces the theme – the importance of seeing the bright side of life

Finally, explain to students that they are going to choose another landform and use stylistic features to write about the relationship between it and a group of people.

Brainstorm a list of landforms (mountains, coral reefs, forest/bush). Then ask students to attach a complication to this landform. For example, the mountain could be at risk of causing an avalanche; there could be bleaching of the coral reef. Students create a list of quotations and techniques using the three stylistic features of personification, symbolism and pun (if appropriate), collated in a table. For example:

Personification The mountain’s stomach rumbled

It tentatively stretched out its arms

It blew a cold breath all over the town

Symbolism All the townspeople wear white puffer jackets

Everyone’s behaviour becomes impolite and frosty

Cracks start appearing in walls

Pun Not appropriate to the task of avalanche. Students could use another stylistic feature (such as simile) instead

Using their list of prompts, students write a short story containing a range of stylistic features.

Assessment as/of learning:

Imaginative Text Rubrics can be found on The School Magazine website. Students can use these rubrics as success criteria in the crafting of their imaginative writing via anchor charts. The rubrics can also be used to provide structure for peer or teacher assessment.