Mr Erasmus and the Irksome Inkwell

story by Geoffrey McSkimming , illustrated by Gabriel Evans

Learning intention: 

I am learning to pay close attention to action and dialogue in texts so that I can better interpret character roles and interactions when reading and writing stories. 


Success criteria: 

  • I can identify which parts of a text relate to my character. 
  • I can interpret character speech and actions from the quotes and information of a text. 
  • I can work with a group to act out the roles of a story. 
  • I can adjust reading rate to suit the purpose of the reading. 


Essential information: 

For information on differentiating character and narrator point of view of a character, watch The School Magazine video for the English Textual Concept, Point of View. 

Allow students to read through the story independently, or if you have a digital subscription, you may wish to play the audio version while the students follow along. Once the students have read or listened to the story, divide them into groups of three. Explain that they will read through the text for a second time. It will be a group reading with each student adopting a character from the story: 

  • Narrator 
  • Mr Erasmus  
  • Sylphie Quicksilver 

Tell the students to imagine they are performing the story as a play in front of an audience and should think about what their character would be doing throughout the story. Explain that the narrator may be standing to the side as they read the story out loud for the audience, while Mr Erasmus and Sylphie would be centre stage during their appearances in the story. Ensure students understand that the narrator’s job is to tell the story, while Mr Erasmus and Sylphie’s job is to act out what the narrator is saying and to say their lines as they appear in the story. Read the following out to students as an example: 

‘What in tarnation?’ he gasped. ‘Oh, upon my word, what’s been happening here?’  

Explain that the student playing the role of Mr Erasmus would say the words ‘What in tarnation?’ and ‘Oh, upon my word, what’s been happening here?’ while the narrator would say the words ‘he gasped’. 

Select a few lines at random and ask students to demonstrate how they may act them out while the narrator is reading them. Suggested lines include: 

  • ‘He dropped his peach gathering basket and started shuffling about among the trees.’ 
  • ‘Sylphie was battling her way through clouds of ever-shifting buzziness: clusters of tiny, annoying insects.’ 
  • ‘He got out of his chair and began making his way to the shelf where he kept his big bottle of ink.’ 

Once students understand the activity, have them break into their groups and begin reading and practicing together. Allow students to take their time to ensure they are effectively performing their roles as they become more familiar with the text. Following the group activity, some students may wish to perform a scene in front of the class if time allows. 

Assessment for/as learning: 

The Fluency assessment tool enables teachers to gain an insight into the oral reading fluency ability of their students. The tool has been designed to identify areas of strength and need in order to support decision making when developing teaching and learning programs.  Click on the hyperlink for full details of the Fluency assessment tool. You will need to download the document via the Universal Resource hub.