Something Comes

play by David Hill , illustrated by Althea Aseoche

Learning Intention:

I am learning how to consider the connotations of particular verbs so that I can build my understanding of literal and inferred meaning.

Success Criteria:

  • I can describe the difference between a connotation and denotation. I can also explain why it is useful to consider the connotation of a word.
  • I can identify significant verbs in a story and consider their connotations.
  • I can link the connotations of words to the overall mood and tone in a story.

Essential Knowledge:

More information about the ideas we associate with certain words can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Connotation, Imagery and Symbol.

A suggested learning sequence for introducing the concepts of figurative language can be accessed NSW Government’s webpage Connotation, imagery and symbol Stage 2.


Focus Question:

How does figurative language help us connect ideas in a text to our own knowledge?

Before reading the text, analyse the image as a class. List the components of the image: the boy in the foreground and his bedframe, cat in the light of the moon and series of eyes all featuring in the background. Also consider the use of salience (either the bright moon or the boy’s face) and use of dark colours. Discuss the overall mood of this image (one of anticipation, dread and fear). Then, using a ‘Think Aloud’, explain how you reached this conclusion about the image. (More information on using ‘Think Aloud’ refer to the NSW Government’s Comprehension page.) An example ‘Think Aloud’ is below:

“The first thing I notice about this image is the colour scheme. It uses mostly dark blues, greys and blacks with a few little pockets of bright lights. This tells me that it is nighttime. I also know that dark colours are used because they make the reader feel negative feelings, either sad or scared. The overall effect of these colours is that I am worried about a possible threat in this image. The next thing I notice is the bright moon at the back of the picture, the salient image. The moon has created a spotlight for a dark figure, which looks like a cat, although I can’t be certain. I then use the vectors created by the windowpane which takes my gaze down to the bedspread in the foreground and over to the boy’s face. His facial expression confirms my suspicion that this is a text about being afraid, as he looks terrified. My eyes then travel across to the far left of the picture. There is another window with many sets of eyes looking straight at the boy. These figures are in complete darkness, and I have no idea what they are. Looking at this picture I am left wondering what this boy is afraid of, and is the threat the creature by the moon or the creatures by the window?”

After deconstructing the image, explain to students that they will now use a similar process to consider the language used. Provide the difference between denotation and connotation:

Denotation: the plain and direct meaning of a word. The meaning you would find in the dictionary.

Connotation: the implied meanings of a word. These meanings can be positive, negative or neutral.

Read through the play once to understand the overall meaning of the text. Then inform students that the aim of the second reading is to extract and analyse the verbs used by Voice 1 and Voice 2 in the play. As you read, display a list of the verbs used by the Voices in the text: moves, creeps, slinks, slides, reaches, growls, comes, sits, climbs, crouches, stares, jumps, opens, speaks.

Once the list of verbs has been compiled, explain to students that they will consider their connotations. First, students must work out whether they have positive, negative or neutral connotations. This can be recorded in a table, such as the example below:


Word Positive, negative or neutral? Links to...?
Moves Neutral
Slinks Negative
Growls Negative

Next, ask students to think of the first creature that comes to mind when they hear that verb. This is called association. They should record this information in the third column of the table. Alternatively, this step could be completed as a modified version of a word association game, with students yelling out the creature after you announce the word, or students entering the creature into interactive software such as Mentimeter. These can be generated into word clouds.

Word Positive, negative or neutral? Links to...?
Moves Neutral Any living thing
Slinks Negative A vampire
Growls Negative A bear

Finally, ask students how the verb choice links to the overall tone of fear and dread. Students should be able to identify that the number of words with negative connotations and associations create a threatening mood. The mood lifts at the end of the play when the words have neutral connotations.

Extension: Students rewrite the play but change the time of day to the morning. The plot remains the same, Jeb’s cat is returning to his bedroom after being outside. Students need to choose verbs with a range of positive connotations and create an image that uses bright, rather than dark hues.