Free Conrad Crayfish

story by Wendy Graham , illustrated by Peter Sheehan

Learning Intention: 

I am exploring the stylistic features of an author in their narratives so that I can include well written dialogue in my own creative writing. 

Success Criteria: 

  • I can recognise the reasons why an author includes dialogue in their narrative writing and analyse specific examples in the model text.  
  • I can compose a short anecdote written using the stylistic features of the model text: first person, past tense, colloquial, and realistic.  
  • I can include a range of dialogue in their anecdote which enhances the narrative by advancing action, creating tension and conveying characterisation. 

Essential knowledge: 

  • More information about applying our own ideas to elements and features of another author’s text can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Style. 


After reading the story, provide students with a simple definition of dialogue: the exchange of spoken words between two or more characters in a book, play or other written work. Then, ask the class: Why do authors commonly use dialogue in their writing? (Answers may include: it helps us understand characters better when we hear how they speak, it can make conflict between characters or tension intensify, it breaks up description and makes a text more exciting to read.)  

Explain that there are three main reasons that dialogue is included by an author: 

  • To advance action: when characters talk about events it drives the action forward in a more interesting way than the narrator always stating what happened next.  
  • To create tension: conversations between characters in dangerous or frustrating situations are exciting to read. Tension can be created by short sentences, interruptions and combined with the character’s actions (such as shouting).  
  • To convey characterisation: the words used to describe how a character speaks and the actual words chosen by the character help to create a clear description of their personality.  

Ask students to reread the story and highlight the dialogue written by the author, Wendy Graham. (You may wish to remind them of the punctuation markers to help them identify the dialogue.) Lead a class discussion on the fact that a lot of the story is written as dialogue and the role dialogue plays in driving the action forward at a quick pace and also characterising a laidback dad and a frustrated mum.  

Create an anchor chart featuring a table and the three reasons why dialogue is used. As a class, populate the table with quotations from the text. Suggested examples include:  

  • To advance action: “‘Dad,’ I call. ‘Are you going to Keon Chase today?’” and “’could everyone give me money instead of presents?’” 
  • To create tension: “Mum groans. ‘Not more fish,’” and “Mum sighs. ‘All right.’”   
  • To convey characterisation: “‘I suppose it’s lucky we got to eat first,’ Dad says. ‘And I thank my lucky stars I didn’t order the cray!’”  

To consolidate understanding, ask students to write a short anecdote in the style of ‘Free Conrad Crayfish’. It should be a humorous recount of one of their own birthdays and a significant present that they received, or wished to receive. It should also contain Wendy Graham’s stylistic features: be written in the first person, past tense, using colloquial language, and realistic content.  

Instruct students to include a range of examples of dialogue in their anecdote. The dialogue should serve the three different purposes:  

  • to advance action  
  • create tension   
  • convey characterisation.  

Provide additional support as required, such as scaffolds to explain the ‘speech sandwich’ (dialogue punctuation rules) and alternate words for said.  

After writing their anecdote, students should highlight and annotate their dialogue to ensure that it follows the dialogue rules, rather than being included for no reason or containing irrelevant ‘waffle’.