Ocean Secrets

poem by Diana Murray , illustrated by Rosemary Fung

Learning intention:

I am learning to identify opportunities to make writing more descriptive so that I can enrich my texts through language features such as noun groups and verb phrases.


Success criteria:

  • I can recognise opportunities to improve written texts using language devices
  • I can make vocabulary choices that enrich my writing
  • I can apply my writing to the poetic structure of a mentor text


Essential knowledge:

Further information about using language to create imagery in writing can be found in the video Connotation, Imagery & Symbol.

Ask students to raise their hands if they have a pet. Choose one student and ask what kind of pet they have, then write it on the board (e.g. Charlie has a dog). Ask the student what their dog likes to do and write it underneath the first sentence (e.g. She likes to go to the park). Discuss the fact that although these sentences give us information, it is quite limited and not particularly interesting to read. Using noun groups and adverbs, begin collectively adding to the sentences to make them more interesting. For example:

Charlie has a small, black, fluffy dog with pointy ears. She likes to dart through the long, thick grass at the busy park and chase spotted orange butterflies.

Discuss the way this type of descriptive writing creates imagery in our minds and the reasons authors use these techniques to make their writing more interesting to their readers.

Before handing out the magazines, read the poem aloud to students, but with the descriptive words and phrases removed:

Ocean, what secrets you hold
Under your waves.
I gaze out and wonder what’s hidden…
Do sharks dart from caves?

Do schools of sardines glide
As cuttlefish dash?
Do eels slip through cracks
of a pirate ship?

In the distance, the dolphins leap out
In what seems like a dance.
But they’re gone in an instant, back down.
From our boat, I catch only a glance.

Are they twirling beneath me?
Do the marlins and rays hurry past?
I gaze out and wonder what’s hidden…
In the ocean

Discuss what students find interesting about the poem and the imagery it conjures up for them, then distribute the magazines and read the real version of the poem together. Discuss how the addition of the descriptive language enriches the poem and allows us to visualise things more vividly.

Have a class brainstorm to come up with other things that may be happening in the ocean. Consider what other animals, plants and objects may be found. Discuss ways to add description to some of these by using their appearance or the way they move or behave. Students should then use this brainstorm to write their own stanza to add to the poem by following its rhyme scheme (ABCB). Model a stanza on the board, such as the following:

Do penguins zoom like water-powered rockets?
Do they rush back and forth playing chase?
I wonder about the sea turtles swimming
Do they speed along in a deep-sea race?