Swimming with Sharks: The Story of Valerie Taylor

article by Melissa Salisbury , photo Diving with a Shark by NOAA Ocean Exploration and Research is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Learning Intention:

I am learning to identify modal language so that I can use techniques to persuade the reader.

Success Criteria:

  • I can form an opinion based on the topic from the text
  • I can differentiate between modal language examples
  • I can create a persuasive poster in response to the text


Essential Knowledge:

Check prior knowledge with the students and ask them to discuss the question, “What is persuasive writing?” Write this question on the board and create a mindmap of students’ answers. Students can draw up a mindmap in their workbook.

Further consolidate children's understanding of the characteristics of persuasive writing by exploring this example from the National Literacy Progressions The Best Superpower to have is rewind.  You may need to scroll through other types of text to locate within this pdf.


Explain to the class that persuasive techniques are used in writing to convince the reader to agree with their argument and opinion using language devices.

Language devices include:

  • Using data and statistics to create a logical argument
  • Emotive language to connect with your reader
  • Modal language to trigger a response
  • Repetition of your key message
  • Facts support your argument
  • Opinions that support your argument, eg. I believe that, You must agree that
  • Rhetorical questions are those that do not need answering but allow the reader to reflect.
  • Personal pronouns and inclusive language – I, we, us

As a class, read the text or listen to the audio recording ( digital subscription) and give students time to make notes that will allow them to form an opinion. When you are using the audio recording you may like to pause the reading a particular points in time so that children can record key points.


Suggested questions to organise their thoughts include:

  • Who is the article written about?
  • What sport did they become National Australian Champion?
  • Why did they stop spearfishing and start photographing sea animals?
  • Why was their work on Jaws a problem?
  • Are sharks ruthless man-eaters? Why or why not?
  • Why do sharks bite?
  • List three reasons why people kill sharks
  • Name three things that have changed which allows them to be left in peace.


Forming an opinion

Reflecting on the material they have learnt from the text; students can play a short movement game that allows them to form an opinion in response to a prompt.

Explain to the students that you are going to read out some statements. If the students agree with the statement they move to the front of the classroom, if they disagree with the statement then they move to the back of the classroom, if they are unsure of their opinion they move to the side of the classroom. ( Simple signage may assist with classroom management and movement of students). It is important that students form their own opinion! When students are in their chosen area, ask some students to give a reason and justify why they agree or disagree with it.

  • Statement 1. All fishing should be banned.
  • Statement 2. Sharks should continue to be a protected species.
  • Statement 3. Not all sharks are man-eaters.
  • Statement 4. We need to protect sharks.
  • Statement 5. There should be more Marine Parks in Australia.
  • Statement 6. We should all do something to protect sharks.

Modal language

Explain to the students that they are going to discuss modal language. This is the type of words selected in a persuasive text,that calls the reader to action, gets an emotional response from them or makes them agree with your argument. On the board, draw a line with the words “the least urgent” to the left and “the most urgent” to the right. Read out a modality word and have students nominate on the modality line where they feel the word sits. Discuss responses.

  • the least urgent to the left (low modality)
  • the most urgent to the right (high modality)

Modality words could include:

  • Certainly
  • Maybe
  • Possibly
  • Impossible
  • Must
  • Have to
  • Should not
  • Could not
  • Will
  • Can
  • Might

Ask students to consolidate their persuasive writing by creating a poster.

Students can draw a poster or create a poster with canva’s online poster maker using the topic-


Sharks need to be protected.


Ask students to produce a lead statement on their poster that shows their opinion.

It could be Save the Shark or Protect our Shark Species or More marine Parks Now!

Ask them to use high modality words to encourage their reader to agree with them (we need to, now, we have to)

Include facts from the text that support your statement. (sharks are curious, not all sharks are man-eaters)