Hidden in the Attic

article by Susan Letts , photos courtesy Kerry Stokes Collection and Australian War Memorial

Learning intention:

I am learning to identify the adverbial and prepositional phrases of texts so that I can experiment with creating richer detail in my own sentences.

Success criteria:

  • I can identify the independent (main) clause of a sentence.
  • I can identify the phrases added to a sentence (prepositional and noun groups) to give it more detail.
  • I can create my own sentences with added detail.

Essential information:


After reading the article, display the following extract from the text:

In the dusty attic of an empty farmhouse in France, three large metal and wood chests had been hidden.

Explain that this sentence has a main clause as well as extra detail. Break down the sentence for students to examine the parts as follows:

  1. Ask students what they think the main clause of the sentence is. Encourage students to pare the sentence down as best they can and remind them that only a subject and a verb are needed for a simple sentence. (Answer: Chests had been hidden.)
  2. Ask students to find the subject and the verb of this sentence (Answer: chests are the subject, hidden is the verb).
  3. Have students identify what words describe the subject of the sentence i.e., the chests (Answer: three, large, metal and wood).
  4. Ask students what other detail (prepositional phrase) has been added to the sentence (Answer: the location of the chests – In a dusty attic in an empty farmhouse in France).


Ask students why the text didn’t just say ‘In a farmhouse attic in France.’ Discuss how adding adjectives (details) such as ‘dusty’ and ‘empty’ gives the writing richer detail. If you have a digital subscription, complete the interactive activity Adding Detail to Text.


In pairs, have students find the main clause and the prepositional phrase of the extracts from the article below. Visit NSW Education Department’s page on Prepositional Phrases to give the class some examples for clarification. Remind them to find the simplest sentence that can stand on its own (independently), without any describing words. Encourage them to highlight the adjectives (describing words).


In 1916, after Australian soldiers had fought in Gallipoli for almost a year, they were sent to help defend France.


After many enquiries, it became known that there was an entire collection of photos of World War One soldiers somewhere in that village.


All these years after World War One, many Australian soldiers in the photos can

be identified by their colour patch or medal ribbon.



Sentence one

Main clause: Soldiers were sent.

Adjectives/noun groups: Australian

Prepositional groups: In 1916; after Australian soldiers had fought in Gallipoli for almost a year; to help defend France.


Sentence two

Main clause:  There was a collection of photos.

Adjectives/noun groups: entire; World War One soldiers

Prepositional groups: After many enquires; somewhere in that village.


Sentence three

Main clause: Soldiers can be identified.

Noun groups: many Australian.

Prepositional groups: All these years after World War One; in the photos; by their colour patch or medal ribbon.


Now students have a better idea of adding detail to sentences, write the following on the board:

The drink will be cold.

Dragons sleep.

A ball bounced.

Explain that students need to write the original clauses but add extra detail by including noun and prepositional groups to give the text more meaning.


Answers will vary. Sample answers are below:


In the morning, the fizzy drink in the fridge will be ice cold.

After the great battle of the last century, dragons now sleep in dark caves at the tops of the highest mountains.

Beyond the paddock gate, a giant, blue beach ball bounced gently until it reached the cows.