Grandpa's Zoo Story

story by Mike Craig , illustrated by Tohby Riddle

Learning intention

I am learning to describe language features in texts that reveal the genre and how to use this vocabulary when composing a brief narrative so that I can create well thought-out characters using specific vocabulary.

Success criteria

  • I can examine texts to identify vocabulary that reveals the genre.
  • I can identify how characters develop in stories.
  • I can develop a character so that they change through events in a story.
  • I can include vocabulary specific to the genre.

Essential knowledge

View the video on Genre from the English Textual Concepts. Introduce students to different genres of narratives, and for each discuss its features, such as:

  • Fantasy (features made-up elements and settings, such as dragons or wizards)
  • Historical fiction (features historical elements and settings, such being set during World War Two)
  • Realistic fiction (features realistic elements and settings, such as a story set in a school)

Focus question

How is the genre of a text shown through the author’s language choices?

Prior to reading Grandpa’s Zoo Story display the following paragraphs:

Nonda exhaled smoke through her nose and flapped her wings. These knights were a real pest. Ever since they’d come to her home in the Enchanted Forest, they’d been out to capture her. They wanted to use her scales in their medicine and that made her very scared.

Sam fired up the engine of the plane. The propellers spun to life. This was to be his first mission since he had been posted to France. He wishes he was back at home, with his brothers and sisters. They said the war should be over soon, but he couldn’t see an end in sight. It was so hard to focus when all he could think about was home.

Identify vocabulary in each extract that reveals the genre and jot examples on the board such as,

  • Paragraph 1: genre = fantasy, revealed through vocabulary such as, exhaled smoke through her nose, wings, knights, Enchanted Forest, use her scales in their medicine
  • Paragraph 2: genre = historical fiction, revealed through vocabulary such as, engine, plane, propellers, mission, posted to France, war

Discuss further examples of genre-specific vocabulary and add these to the lists on the board for students to refer to later, for example,

  • Fantasy: evil queen, wizard, goblin, unicorn, mermaid
  • Historical fiction: objects from the past such as pocket-watch, horse and carriage, bowler hat, grandfather clock, wireless, carrier pigeon

For each of the displayed paragraphs discuss how the characters are described, e.g.,

  • a dragon simmering over attempts to capture it in extract one
  • a fighter in the war, contemplating their mission and all that they are missing at home.

Read Grandpa’s Zoo Story. Discuss the genre, providing options of genres for students to select the correct one, for example, fantasy, historic fiction, realistic fiction. Ensure students correctly identify that the genre is realistic fiction. Identify vocabulary that allowed students to identify the genre, for example:

advert in the paper, curator, office, school holidays, zoo, gorilla, vets, money, work, monkey, special suit, Hollywood

Discuss descriptions of Grandpa throughout the story, revealed both through what he says and by his behaviour:

  • at the beginning: desperate for work, willing to do anything
  • when he is confronted with the lion: frozen in the terror
  • draw students’ attention to the fact the author did not reveal Grandpa’s reaction when he realises the lion is in fact a person in costume, but that it can be inferred he is most likely relieved.

Emphasise that Grandpa’s thoughts and feelings change throughout the course of the story, beginning by willing to do anything, from fearing for his safety to being relieved he is safe.

Inform students that narratives often feature characters going on a physical and emotional journey that causes a change in them just as the emotional journey Grandpa went on. Tell students that this is called character development.

Inform students that they will be developing one of the extracts displayed earlier to show the character developing in some way. Discuss examples of how each of the characters might change, for example:

  • Nonda may become braver and challenge the knights
  • Sam may put thoughts of his family to one side so he can focus on his mission.

Select one of these examples and discuss how this might be incorporated into a brief narrative. Inform students that they should include the following:

  • How the character behaves at the beginning (afraid of the knights)
  • An event that makes them change their behaviour (meeting a brave dragon)
  • A description of their new behaviour (she becomes brave and scares away the knights)

Collaboratively compose a brief extract from a narrative, for example:

Nonda sighed, releasing huge plumes of smoke from her nostrils. Those knights wouldn’t stop trying to attack her. They must think it made them look brave. She’d hear them approaching up the mountain and she’d scurry deep in the cave, out of sight and cower in fear.

One day, as she sat, snout resting on her front legs, she saw the most brilliant dragon flapping through the sky. It was blasting fire from its nostrils. She peered over the mountain at where the knights were camped. The knights were running this way and that, desperate to avoid the dragon and its fire. What a sight.

If that dragon could scare away the knights, so could she. She blew hard through her nose, nothing. She had to really mean it. She thought of how angry it made her when the knights attacked her. She blew again. Huge flames jetted from her nose. This was it; she’d got it. She flapped her wings and swooped over the knight’s camp. They scampered as fast as their legs could carry them. Finally, Nonda was free of those knights and their attacks.

Instruct students to compose the next part of a brief narrative to add to one of the displayed paragraphs. Remind students that their narratives should show how the character develops through the story.