How to Wash Your Sheeps

story by E J Delaney , illustrated by Tohby Riddle

Learning Intention:

I am learning to experiment with narrative structures and conventions such as unpredictable endings as a way of engaging the reader and demonstrate my own growing control of these techniques creatively in my own writing

Success Criteria:

  • I can engage with a mentor text, analyse elements such as humour, unexpected endings by identifying and discussing the techniques used by the author and trying to emulate them.
  • I can brainstorm Tier 2 word pairs that sound similar but have different meanings, and use these to craft a narrative focusing on humour and creativity.
  • I can share my writing and receive feedback which I can use to develop the clarity of the twist, effectiveness of the narrative structure and overall creativity.

Understanding text:

Read the text as a class, pausing before reading the final letter addressed ‘Dear Me’. Ask students how the writing made the instructions for washing sheep interesting and funny to the reader. Points may include:

  • Not to put sheep in the washing machine (or any animals – even rabbits!) even though there’s a wool setting
  • Not to use detergent because the oil will come out of their wool and they won’t be waterproof anymore, then they’ll soak up too much water and fall over
  • Wash them in colour order because white sheep reflect the light, but brown and black sheep absorb heat, so they dry faster
  • Use warm water because even sheep don’t like cold baths!

Read the final letter from EJ, then discuss the way this ending changes the point of the whole text and makes it funny in a different way. Explain the concept of a ‘twist ending’ and ensure students understand that this is a technique that authors use to create a surprise that completely changes the direction of the story from what the expected outcome was. Ask students what the cause was of the twist in this text. They should identify that it was the confusion from EJ writing sheeps instead of sheets. As a point of reference, you may like to share the text published in Countdown Issue 8, 2023 Scooter for Sale, which is another excellent example of a text with a twist ending.

Creating text:

Explain to students that they are also going to write a set of letters asking for help with something but will apply the same concept of mixing up similar words. To do this, build a word list on the board together of words that are either pronounced the same but have different meaning, or sound similar but aren’t quite the same (like sheeps and sheets). Use this list to get started and have students build on it:

  • flower / flour
  • class / glass
  • meet / meat
  • night / knight
  • fairy / ferry
  • jam / jamb
  • storey / story
  • break / brake

Have students use this word list to discuss ideas that they could use for a mixed-up instruction letter. For example, they may write a letter asking for advice on how to catch a fairy when they really meant to ask how to catch a ferry. Encourage students to make their ideas as silly and funny as possible.

Students should brainstorm their ideas by choosing their word pair and creating a mind map on how they might get mixed up, and what instructions may be given in the mixed-up situation. Using this information, they should then write their three letters:

  • The first asking for the instructions
  • The second giving the instructions
  • The third correcting their original error.

Assessment for/as learning:

Once their letters are written, students share their work and conduct a peer review so they can assess each other’s work using the warm and cold feedback method.

Model this type of feedback strategy if you have not employed it previously in your classroom.

Allow time for students to take on board the feedback they have received and incorporate it into their compositions if time allows.