Molly's Magic Garden

story by Paul Malone , illustrated by Anna Bron

Learning intention:

I am learning to make inferences about the mood of a story based on connotations the vocabulary evokes.

Success criteria:

  • I can identify vocabulary that inspires positive connotations
  • I can analyse an extract from a narrative to identify words with negative connotations
  • I can write a brief narrative
  • I can select vocabulary to include in my narrative based on the connotations it inspires

Prior to reading Molly’s Magic Garden, view the video Connotation, Imagery and Symbol from The School Magazine, from the beginning up to 1 minute and 50 seconds. Ensure students observe that ‘connotation’ means the feeling inspired by a word in an individual.


Play a brief game of ‘Name that Connotation’ similar to that played in the video. Place students in groups and instruct them to discuss connotations (what the word makes them feel) for the following words:


  • Rain (some students may suggest the word inspires feelings of misery as it causes people to be stuck inside while others may identify that it inspires feelings of hope with the promise of new life or as if the world is being washed clean)
  • Flower (some may feel it inspires happiness while others may think of melancholy due to the fact flowers are used to commemorate somber events such as a funerals)


Inform students that connotations associated with specific words help to create the mood of a story and that they can provide an insight into the way characters are feeling. Tell students that words can have positive connotations (e.g. sunshine, love, warmth) or negative connotations (e.g. lightning, hatred, freezing). Remind students that the connotations evoked by particular words are subjective and that responses may differ between individuals.


Read the first page of Molly’s Magic Garden (page 15). Instruct students to identify vocabulary in the extract, used to describe Molly and her home, that has positive connotations. Tell them to discuss the feelings each word evokes with their partner using the think-pair-share strategy. Sample responses include:


  • she sings out (implying joy)
  • Molly’s Magic Garden (providing connotations of mystery and magic)
  • potter (with connotations of ambling at leisure)
  • amazement (evoking feelings of wonder)
  • bright beam (inspiring connotations of light, joy and sunshine)
  • safe (evoking feelings of comfort)


Discuss the impressions readers have of Molly and her home based on the connotations of the vocabulary used (that Molly is warm and happy and that her home is a comforting, joyful place). Note how vocabulary that inspires positive connotations has been included in variety of story elements, such as the detailing of the main character’s actions and in the description of the setting.


Continue reading to the end of page 16 drawing students’ attention to the three stars at the end of the text on page 15. Highlight that the stars note that time period has changed in the following section (page 16).


Tell students that they will be identifying vocabulary that has particular connotations. Instruct students to work with the same partner as before. Tell them to work together to identify vocabulary on page 16 that inspires negative connotations. Sample responses include:


  • gazing wistfully
  • she was like a weary seabird
  • drizzle
  • eyes downcast
  • flaky paintwork
  • her mantle of rust


Discuss how this changes the mood of the narrative, emphasising that the mood changes to melancholy and the setting feels less homely and comforting.


Read the remainder of the story. Inform students that they will be using their new-found knowledge about connotations to construct a brief extract of a narrative that creates a clear mood. Tell students that they can choose whether to make their narrative feel positive or negative. Instruct students to use the vocabulary they have identified through each of the earlier activities to create the mood.


Tell students to include the vocabulary they select to describe the following elements in their story:


  • A journey to a new place
  • A character who reflects the mood provided in the narrative
  • A brief description of their surroundings


Allow time for students to compose their narratives. Match groups together and instruct the students to share their stories. Instruct the pair not sharing at the current time to identify the mood of their peers’ narrative based on the connotations of the vocabulary they have used in their stories.