The Leaky Creaky Cottage

story by Belinda O'Keefe , illustrated by Peter Sheehan

Learning Intention

I am learning about the way language can be used to create setting in stories so that I can experiment with sensory imagery when creating my own settings.

 Success Criteria

  • I can discuss the effects of the author’s descriptive writing.
  • I can create descriptions containing rhymes to build sensory imagery for a particular setting.

Essential knowledge

To give students an understanding of imagery, watch the video Connotation, Imagery and Symbol (1:51-3:40).

Understanding text

Read the story, or if you have a digital subscription you may wish to listen to the audio version. Ask students to recall any rhymes the author incorporated into their descriptions to create the setting of the leaky creaky house in the middle of nowhere. Answers should include:

  • one-hundred-year-old leaky creaky cottage
  • gnarly snarly branches of the twisted tree
  • he was burly and surly and gobbled up children with Vegemite on toast
  • the crashing, thrashing waves thundering over the rocks
  • the rickety clickety bridge
  • rumbling, grumbling trolls waiting to burst out of the shed.

Discuss the effect the rhyming words have on building sensory imagery for the readers. Explain that sensory imagery is based on our senses, so the imagery is not just about what we see but also what we may hear, smell, taste and feel. Use the examples from the story to demonstrate this (e.g. leaky creaky makes us imagine an old rundown house because it tells us that there are leaks and it makes creaking sounds).

Oral language

Have students take turns of reading the different examples of rhyming words out loud, experimenting with the tone, pitch and expression. For example, the word ‘gnarly snarly’ may be read out in a low and slow menacing tone. Discuss the ways that the words themselves influence the way we read them.

Once you have worked through these together, discuss their effectiveness in creating the image and feel of the setting. 

Creating text

Take at least 5 sheets of poster paper and ask students to suggest a setting to write on each one. You may wish to model one to help them get started, such as:

  • A small wooden cabin deep in the mountains
  • A busy train station in the middle of a bustling city
  • A lonely lighthouse on the edge of a sharp cliff

Stick the posters up around the room and inform students that their job is to come up with descriptions within that setting that incorporate rhyming words (e.g. the stirring and whirring of the busy street). To do this, they should first brainstorm some adjectives for each setting on the posters and try to come up with rhyming adjectives for as many as they can that also fit the description. An online tool such as rhyme zone may also be used to help students find rhyming opportunities for their adjectives. Students should be encouraged to go back and forth between the posters writing their ideas on each and reading the ideas of others to gain further inspiration and continue brainstorming and adding to the posters.

Once the class has had enough time, have students sit back down, then choose some to read their descriptions from the posters. Discuss the effectiveness of these descriptions in making the settings more interesting by creating sensory imagery.

If possible, leave the posters up to assist students in creating setting in future story writing tasks.

Assessment as learning

Have students complete exit slips using the following prompts:

  • Today I learned that sensory imagery is…
  • Rhyming can be effective in creating imagery because…
  • Three rhyming descriptions from today’s lesson that I may use in my future creative writing are…