story by Ian Nichols , illustrated by Anna Bron

Learning intention

I am learning to understand the difference between main and subordinate clauses and that a complex sentence involves at least one subordinate clause so that I can successfully construct complex sentences when composing texts.

Success criteria

  • I can identify complex sentences in a text.
  • I can discuss the additional information subordinate clauses may provide.
  • I can identify simple sentences in a text.
  • I can add subordinate clauses to simple sentences to create complex sentences.


Essential knowledge

Ensure students are familiar with the following terms:

  • Simple sentence
  • Complex sentence

View the webpage Sentence Structure for further information.

Ensure students correctly identify that a main clause is a simple sentence that makes sense on its own and that a subordinate clause adds more information to a main clause but that it does not make sense on its own.

Prior to reading Library, display the following simple sentences:

  • I went to the shops
  • I went to bed
  • I like ice-cream.

Discuss questions readers might have about the information provided in each sentence. Sample responses are:

  • I went to the shops. (When, with whom, which shops)
  • I went to bed. (What time, where, for how long)
  • I like ice-cream. (Which flavor, how often, how much do they like it)

Discuss way of adding this additional information to the example sentences ensuring students conclude that they could add a subordinate clause. Select the first simple sentence and discuss ideas in response to the questions students generated about it (e.g., when, with whom, which shops). For example, that the narrator went to the shops yesterday, with their uncle, and the shops are on the high street. Collaboratively compose subordinate clauses to add to each of the example sentences, for example:

  • I went to the shops yesterday morning. (Note: draw students’ attention that the subordinate clause can go after or before the main clause, providing the example, yesterday morning, I went to the shops. Tell students that a comma should follow a subordinate clause if it is at the beginning of a sentence).
  • I went to the shops with my uncle.
  • I went to the shops on the high street.

Read Library. Discuss complex sentences in the story and identify what each of the subordinate clause focuses on, such as where, when, how, for example:

This was the only job she’d ever had, and she loved it as much as she loved the town, her husband and her two children, Kelly and Dan. (the subordinate clause adds the information relating to who her children are, Kelly and Dan)

The library was an old building of red bricks, with windows and doorways painted cream. (The subordinate clause adds further information relating to how the library looks, with windows and doorways painted cream)

That was why it came as no surprise to her when a girl came in through the door after school, not long before the library closed, and hesitantly approached the desk where Jennifer was sitting. (The subordinate clause adds further information relating to when the girl came in, not long before the library closed)

Note: in the final example draw students’ attention to the fact the subordinate clause has been included in the middle of the sentence.

Discuss the main idea in the story, ensuring students correctly identify that the story focuses on a girl who has just moved to the town, Amanda, who finds a book and when she returns it she finds it was borrowed in 1939 and that the person who borrowed it was killed in World War Two.

Inform students that they will be experimenting with adding subordinate clauses to simple sentences to create complex sentences. Tell students that any additional information they add should follow the plot and the main idea of the story Library.

Identify simple sentences in the story (you may need to remind students that simple sentences differ from compound sentences, which are simple sentences joined together using connectives such as ‘and’, ‘but’) for example:

The Dalbellup library wasn’t very modern.

The girl shook her head.

Jennifer thought for a moment.

‘You’re the family who’ve moved into the old house in Bandy Creek Street.’

‘And you’ve just started at the school.’

The teacher is really cool.

Amanda looked a little uncertain.

She passed the book to Jennifer.

Discuss what questions readers might have about the information included in the simple sentences, for example:

  • Why the Dalbellup library isn’t very modern.
  • How the girl shook her head.

Collaboratively discuss ideas that might provide information, such as the library isn’t very modern as it was built many years ago and the girl shook her head while looking nervously at the clock. Note these ideas on the board.

Collaboratively compose complex sentences, building on the simple sentences in Library and incorporating the ideas discussed. For example:

  • The Dalbellup library wasn’t very modern, having been built before the Second World War.
  • The girl shook her head, before she glanced nervously at the clock.

Place students in pairs or small groups. Instruct them to discuss ideas they might add to the simple sentences identified in the story Library. Tell them to add their own subordinate clauses to create complex sentences.


Instruct students to refer back to a piece of their own writing. Tell them to identify simple sentences in their work and to add subordinate clauses to them to create complex sentences.