Jools and Vern and the Mystery of Loch MacNurk

part two of a two-part story by Geoffrey McSkimming , illustrated by Peter Sheehan

Learning Intention:

I am learning to identify effective examples of descriptive language, dialogue and character actions in a model text so that I can use these in my own imaginative writing.

Success Criteria:

• I can identify key features in a model text
• I can discuss the impact of word choices, dialogue and characterisation on meaning
• I can plan and write an imaginative piece of writing.

Essential knowledge:

For more information about teaching figurative language, take a look. the Reading - Literary Devices resource on the NSW Department of Education website.

Understanding text:

If you have a digital subscription, you can complete a True/False interactive to check student understanding and analysis of the text.

Look closely at the following extract from page 4:
As the sunlight filtered across the shadowy parts, Jools and Vern could see, fleetingly, a pair of glinting eyes—as blue as the water in the Loch—and a long, sturdy set of jaws. These jaws appeared to be opening and closing, gaping widely and then snapping shut, in a hungry, savage way.

Ask students to use a highlighter to locate the following in the extract:
• A simile (as blue as the water in the Loch)
• -ing verbs (glinting, opening, closing, gaping, snapping)
• Adjectives (long, sturdy, hungry, savage)

After locating these features in the extract, discuss the following as a class:
• Which words in the description of the ‘beastie’ make it seem frightening? (suggested answer: hungry, savage)
• Why has the author used a simile to describe the eyes of the ‘beastie?’ (suggested answer: It helps the reader visualize the eyes – but in this instance, we find out later that this is not a real ‘beastie’, so it is a hint that when Jools and Vern see the blue eyes, they are actually just seeing water.)
• Why are so many -ing verbs used in the description of the ‘beastie?’ (suggested answer: these active verbs show the ‘beastie’ doing frightening things, and show the creature as an active being, actively chasing the airship.)

Look closely at the following extract from the story from page 4:
‘It’s a beastie!’ cried Vern, jerking up and down as he tried to steer the airship steadily. ‘It’s an underwater serpent, the likes of which you were telling me about!’ Jools peered over the side, her eyes wide, her fur tingling. ‘Oh, my spots!’ she gasped.
For each character identify one piece of dialogue and one physical reaction. Use the table below to record answers:

Vern Jools


Physical response  


Discuss the following questions with your class:

  • What kind of punctuation is used to show panic and fear in the dialogue? (suggested answer: each piece of dialogue has an exclamation mark.)
  • When Jools gasps ‘oh my spots!’ what does she mean? (suggested answer: this could mean ‘oh my goodness!’ it is a general expression of alarm or surprise).
  • When the author describes how Vern and Jools speak, which words are used? Why are these words better than ‘said.’ (suggested answer: ‘cried’ and ‘gasped’ – both of these words are better than ‘said’ because they give a more specific description of how the dialogue is delivered by the character and therefore is better at expressing emotions).
  • Looking at the physical responses by both Jules and Vern, what do they show about the characters reaction to the ‘beastie?’ (suggested answer: both show fear – Jools experiences fur tingling – like goosebumps while Vern is almost panicking jerking up and down.)


Creating text:


Explain to students that they are now going to plan and create their own ancient monster lurking in the depths of a Loch in Scotland.

If students require some inspiration, they might like to take a look at a woodcut showing sea monsters, created by Sebastian Munster in 1550 on the State Library of NSW website.

They can use the table below to plan their ancient monster.

Physical appearance Actions/beaviours Sounds




Next, students will need to think about how their main character responds when they see the ancient monster. They will need to include dialogue and physical responses to show the character’s reactions. Use the table below to plan this.

Dialogue Physical response




Students are now ready to write a short story in which there is a sighting of the creature by the main character. The emphasis of this piece of writing should be using descriptive writing to help readers visualize the creature. They should include the following in their story:

A description of the creature – what it looks like, sounds like, how it moves – encourage students to use similes or other figurative language techniques to describe their creature.

A description of how the main character responds to the sighting – try to show rather than tell the emotional response – allow the reader to infer what is being felt rather than saying “He was frightened.”


Assessment for/as learning:

Use the Stage 2 Assessment and Evaluation Rubric: Imaginative Text found on The School Magazine website.