Moon Mystery

poem by Beverly McLoughland , illustrated by Matt Ottley

Information on how to set up stations for this lesson plan is under Creating Text.


Learning Intention:

I am learning to use specific terms about literary devices and language features so that I can present an opinion on a poem.


Success Criteria:

  • I can explain how imagery affects my opinions of a literary text.
  • I can identify rhythm and rhyme in poetry and give my opinion on it.
  • I can make judgements about the language used in a text.


Oral language and communication:

Ask students to define and give examples of a metaphor. More information about metaphors can be found on the NSW Department of Education’s glossary webpage. Explain how poetry commonly uses metaphors as a way to explore the world with different viewpoints. Ask students to find what two things are being compared as you read aloud the poem.


Understanding text:

Read Moon Mystery aloud and give students time to study the illustration. Students write what they think the poem is about in their workbooks. When they’ve finished, give some students the opportunity to share their answers with the class. Students should have noticed that the poem is comparing the moon to milk, stars to pawprints (simile) and alley cats to suspects. Questions to prompt further discussion and clarify student’s thinking include:

- How did you choose these assumptions?

- Why are you saying that?

- Can you rephrase that, please?

- Do you agree or disagree that stars are like pawprints?


To encourage students to make considered judgements on the poem, ask the following questions:

- Do you think these are good examples of imagery?

- What did you think of the rhythm and rhyme?

- Was there any word or phrase that particularly caught your attention?

- What rating would you give the poem out of ten? Give reasons for your answer.

- How do you think your judgements of the poem are affected by your opinion on cats?


Creating text:

Instruct students to divide a page from their workbooks into three columns. Put students into groups of three and tell them to decide who will be A, B and C. Explain they will be completing a jigsaw. Each student will become a specialist in one subject and return to explain their findings to the rest of their group at the end.

Create three “stations” in different parts of the classroom and label one “Imagery” (Person A), two “Rhythm and Rhyme” (Person B) and three “Language” (Person C). For each station, set up the following questions/activities for students to discuss in their specialty groups and write in one of their workbooks columns:


- What is the setting of the poem? (Night in the city)

- Using the illustration to guide you, what does “lapping at that milk-white moon tonight” mean? (Drinking from a puddle with the moon’s reflection)

- What does the poem suggest has happened to the moon? (That an alley cat has lapped up the moon)

- Why are the stars described as “telltale”? (They are being compared to pawprints and suggest they are evidence in a crime)

- How are stars like pawprints? (Small trails along the sky, leading from the moon)

- What does it mean that every alley cat has an airtight alibi? (That every alley cat can verify its whereabouts when the moon went missing)

- What actually happened to the moon? (It set)


Rhythm and Rhyme

- Count the number of syllables in each line

- Find the rhyming scheme (ABCDB EFGHIJKH - each line has a corresponding letter of the alphabet, with rhyming lines showing matching pairs; examples of rhyming schemes can be found on the Literary Devices page Rhyme Scheme)

- Does the rhythm work to match up the rhymes? (Yes)

- Why are some words by themselves? (So the reader pauses at certain points)

- What sort of movement in real life does the rhythm of the poem bring to mind? (Answers will vary)



- Every student finds one synonym for milk-white (e.g. cream, egg-white, chalky, snowy)

- Students rank the words, including milk-white, from strongest to weakest in terms of description for the poem

- Students discuss why the phrase milk-white was chosen for the poem

- Do the same for the words “prowling” and “lapping”


Once students have completed their speciality subjects, they return to their original group and share their findings. Students fill out the final two columns of their workbooks with their group members’ findings.


Assessment for/as learning:

Using the information gathered in the activity, students write a review of the poem, giving their opinion. Remind students that reviews are written in first person past tense (“I thought the poem was…”) and have a rating at the end. Students must include an opinion about each of the specialty groups. An example review is below.


I thought the poem Moon Mystery written by Beverly McLoughland and illustrated by Matthew Ottley was a brilliant and interesting look at the night life of a city. Using imagery and vocabulary to evoke cats lapping at the moon the way they lap at milk was a stroke of genius. Comparing pawprints to the stars gives the reader a sense of reflection between the sky and city streets and blurs the line of where the moon really exists. The rhythm and rhyme made me think of an alley cat slinking between skip bins, pausing and scanning the area before sneaking forward again. The fact that I don’t like cats had no impact on my enjoyment of the poem. I give it 5/5.