The Toe Magnet

story by Sheryl Gwyther , illustrated by Craig Phillips

Learning Intention: 

I am learning how to use noun groups so that I can add depth to description in a narrative. 

Success Criteria: 

  • I can explain what a noun group is. 
  • I can experiment with constructing noun groups using a range of adjectives, adverbs and adjectival phrases and clauses.  
  • I can use a range of noun groups to provide information about the hidden treasure in the story and also hidden treasures that I have invented.  

Prior to reading, revise the concept of a noun group: a group of words relating to or building upon a noun. Remind students that noun groups should not be seen as a string of individual words, but rather are a chunk of information. See the NSW Government’s guidance on Noun Groups for more information. 

Explain that noun groups are a useful way to add description to important items in a story. Come up with a class list that explains why description is important. Some points may include:  

  • It provides specific details about a crucial character, object, or event. 
  • Description that incorporates the senses can bring an event or object to life. 
  • It allows the writer to show off their vocabulary and craft.  
  • It helps to create a vivid picture in the reader’s mind.   

As you start reading the story aloud to the class instruct students to pay attention to any details or descriptions about the stone in the story. Some of these details will require inference. For example: as it rolls down the stairs it breaks the final step; this allows us to infer it is very heavy.  

Students may notice it is extremely hard, it has fluro-pink writing on it, it has uneven surfaces.  

Explain that the author does not give a visual description of the stone; if the author included these details it may give away the story’s twist (that it is actually a fossil). However, noun groups could be used in the final paragraphs to add a vivid description of this wonderful item.  

Break students into pairs. Provide each pair with an image of a stone with a fossil embedded (suggested image: Fossils) to the class. Have a series of images of fossils to show students. Using a two-minute interval timer, instruct each pair to look at the fossil in front of them and write adjectives, adverbs, and adjectival phrases around the image. After the two minutes has elapsed, students pass their image to the next pair, receive their next image, read the words and phrases already surrounding it and add their own.  

After students have annotated a series of images, return their original image. Students must write a short paragraph using a range of noun groups that provide chunks of information about the fossil in the story. For example: 

The toe-magnet did not glitter in the sunshine; it was dark and unremarkable. However, underneath the fluro-pink nail polish were lines, bumps, hollows, and grooves forming a remarkable pattern. I suddenly realized that this was a rock with truly unique properties 

adjective (Bold)

adjectival phrase (italics)

adverb  (Bold italics)

Extension: students brainstorm a list of hidden treasures that could be hiding in their own house. Students bring in a photograph of the item or find an equivalent photo on Google images. They then write a short paragraph filled with noun groups about that item. The item then becomes a starting point for their own ‘hidden treasure’ story. This activity can be done as an interactive on The School Magazine website.