Rat Rod vs Magpie

story by Gisela Ervin-Ward , illustrated by Greg Holfeld

Composes questions to be resolved in a narrative.  

Read the first column of the text, up to the end of the following sentence:  

‘I can’t believe that Dad said no,’ said Grim, squashing ants with a stick.  

Discuss questions students have about what has been revealed so far in the story. Sample responses include:  

  • What has dad said no to?  
  • Why are the characters so desperate to get to the creek?  
  • Why did dad say no? 
  • What are the characters going to do next? Will they go to the creek without dad’s permission or not?  

Discuss the impact on readers of leaving these questions unanswered for now. Guide students towards concluding that it makes them wish to read on to discover the answers to these questions. Inform students that raising questions is one-way authors engage readers.  

Place students in pairs and instruct them to continue reading the text, identifying any questions raised in their minds as they read. These can be noted on a separate piece of paper. Sample responses include:  

  • Why has dad never let them near the Rat Rod before? 
  • Why does Grim and his big brother wish to go to the creek? 
  • Will the boys be tempted to use the Rat Rod?  
  • Will dad catch them if they use the Rat Rod? 
  • Will the boys be able to go fast enough to avoid the magpie? 
  • Will the bike and the helmet be enough to protect them from the magpie? 

Discuss questions students identified, reflecting on which questions students found most interesting or exciting. Sample responses include:  

  • Will Grim and his brother make it past the magpie?  
  • Will dad find out they have used the Rat Rod?  

Consider where each of the questions appeared in the plot, at the beginning, middle or end. Inform students that often the most exciting questions come right before the resolution of a story. Discuss how the answers are revealed in the story, emphasising it seems as though the characters will not make it past the magpie, before they eventually do. Highlight how this adds to the tension. 

Once students have considered the questions in Rat Rod vs Magpie, inform them that they will be generating their own story questions. Display the Story Starter Generator, from Scholastic. Ignore the first spinner, which is used to generate the style of writing. The second spinner generates a theme. Select one at random before focusing on the character and plot elements that are revealed through the remaining two spinners. Spin the wheels and discuss the suggestions. Sample answers include:  

  • A suspicious engineer who has colonized the moon 
  • A giant sailor who is searching for a 100- year-old crown 

If working offline, provide students with a list of characters and plot ideas for them to select from at random, including:  

  • characters (a queen, a fairy, a troll) 
  • adjectives to describe them (mean, scary, kind)  
  • missions they wish to undertake (to save the universe, to take over a chocolate factory, to save their family from an evil prince) 

Discuss questions that could be generated, based on the story elements identified. Sample responses include:  

  • Will the engineer manage to keep control of the moon?  
  • Will the sailor find the 1000-year-old crown? What challenges might they encounter along the way?  

Once you have settled on a question, discuss ways to weave this into a story, without revealing the answer right away. Remind students of the observations they made relating to Rat Rod vs Magpie, that the questions they identified often remained unanswered until later in the story.  

Model composing a brief story, where the answer is raised, and it almost seems it will not be answered before it is finally resolved. A sample response might be:  

The engineer surveyed the scene. All around him his workers were following orders. His nerves began to dissipate, despite a nagging doubt that had been plaguing him, whether he could manage to keep control of the moon, and its rebellious inhabitants. Little did he know, a small team of brave and dedicated workers were meeting in private, plotting to overthrow the engineer. But they had one major problem they could not get past; how to steal the key to unlock the portal that would return their strength to them.  

Place students in groups and instruct them to jointly compose their own story, using the questions they generate to guide the direction the plot takes.