My Bed's a Boat

poem by Heather Kinser , illustrated by Cheryl Orsini

Learning Intention:

I am learning to identify verb tense and to analyse the impact of using present tense verbs so that I may create a desired impact with the texts I compose.

Success Criteria:

  • I can identify suffixes that denote tense.
  • I can analyse two versions of a poem and note differences.
  • I can discuss the impact of using the present tense.
  • I can compose a poem that features present tense verbs.


Essential knowledge:

View the video from the English Textual Concepts, Understanding Narrative.

Discuss the structural elements of narratives, ensuing students note that they usually feature:

  • An orientation
  • A complication
  • A resolution


Display the following list of verbs:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Ran
  • Ate
  • Swam
  • Hopped
  • Danced
  • Eating
  • Walked
  • Swimming
  • Hopping

Sort the verbs into past and present tense, either on the board or by noting the words on post-it-notes and grouping them according to tense. Discuss the suffixes that allow students to identify the tense, such as -ing, or -ed, and draw students’ attention to any verbs that do not use these suffixes to denote the tense, such as ran, ate and swam.


Understanding text:

Prior to reading My Bed’s a Boat, inform students that poems can be used to tell a story, just as a narrative does. Display the following edited version of the poem:

The water spread rapidly.
It filled up the floor.
It’s rushed down the hallway

and it flowed through my door.


I thought my bed was a boat
‘cause I heard an awful thud.
I floated through a moat

‘cause my homes became a flood.


I swished through a window

and it wasn’t because of rain.
It was all because my mum forgot

to pull the bathtub drain.



Read My Bed’s a Boat and discuss the following questions:

  • What are the main differences between the two poems? (The one displayed uses past tense verbs whereas the version in the magazine uses present tense verbs)
  • In which version do the event described feel more immediate? (Most likely students will conclude that the version in the magazine feels more immediate and that the event is happening in real time)
  • Which version feels more urgent? (Most likely students will conclude the version in the magazine feels more urgent, as if the floor is occurring now and that it needs immediate attention)
  • What impact does changing the tense of the verbs have on readers? (Most likely students will conclude that using present tense verbs makes events feel more immediate and urgent whereas using past tense verbs creates the idea the events happened a while ago so in this case, the flood, does not require urgent attention)

Note: Students may require more scaffolding here. Refer them back to the previous two questions and remind them the impact changing the verbs has on immediacy and urgency)

  • Which version did you find more engaging? (Responses may vary)


Creating text:

Inform students that they will be composing their own poems that feature present tense verbs. Gradually release responsibility by collaborating on an example first. Discuss times students may have had a mishap at home, for example when they have lost something, left the tap running or dropped a cup. Share an example from your own life, such as losing your car keys. Break down the process into the stages when you realise something is missing and you begin to look for it. Note the ideas on the board, for example:

  • Reach for the keys on the kitchen counter and discover they are not there
  • Look on the floor
  • Check your bag
  • Look at the clock and realise you will be late for school
  • Check other rooms in your home, beginning to panic
  • Finally find your keys under your bed

Discuss how you might feel at each stage, for example, nervous initially, panicked when you cannot find the keys after searching your home, relief when you finally find them. Discuss verbs you might use to describe this process and note them on the board, for example:

  • Searching
  • Hunting
  • Panicking
  • Quickly
  • Desperately

Emphasise how often we can use real-life challenges and experiences when creating complications in narratives. Collaboratively compose a poem as if this process is happening in real time, for example:

Compose a poem to express this happening in real time.

For example:

Searching, searching everywhere,

But my door keys are just not there,

Where can they be,

I have to know,

Without my keys,

I cannot go.

Panic now bubbles in my chest,

Oh, how I wish to rest.

Not under the bed,

Where can they be,

Oh, this is futile,

I must find my key.

Desperate searching,

If only I knew

Perhaps in my bag,

Away they blew.

Place students with a partner and instruct them to compose their own poem by completing the following steps:

Note: students may work independently if they prefer

  • Identify a time when you have encountered a mishap (If students prefer, they may use a fictional idea of their choosing)
  • Discuss the steps involved
  • Consider the emotions you felt/would feel as you encounter the mishap
  • Note present tense verbs you might use to describe the process
  • Compose a poem that features the ideas and the vocabulary

Assessment for/as learning:


Students should respond to the following exit ticket questions in their workbooks:

  • What impact does changing the tense of the verbs have on a text? (It can increase urgency and make events feel like they are happening in real time)
  • How might you use this knowledge when constructing your own texts, for example, when might you use the present tense, when might you use the past tense? (I will experiment with writing in the present tense if I wish to create a sense of urgency)
  • How can we use real life challenges to create complications when crafting a narrative? (We can draw on real life challenges, such as mishaps we might encounter at home)