The Voice

story by John O'Brien , illustrated by Sylvia Morris

Learning Intention: 

I am learning how to use effective imagery so that I can give a more vivid sense of place in my writing. 


Success Criteria: 

I can recognise where an author has used imagery to establish a sense of place. 

I can understand and relate to the importance of place from the stories of others. 

I can write a descriptive paragraph using imagery about a place that is important to me. 


Essential knowledge: 

Information about using imagery in our writing can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Connotation, Imagery and Symbol. 


Read the text to the class, or if you have a digital subscription, listen to the audio recording. Ask students to visualise the location described by the author as they listen to the story. Discuss the sense of place that the author provides with his descriptive writing and ask students to find examples of imagery in the text. These may include: 

‘A winding road leading through bush-covered hills.’ 

‘Just two hundred metres from the sea.’ 

‘The bitumen ended and it became a corrugated and winding gravel track.’ 

‘[The sheep] shone like ghostly images in the beams of the headlights.’ 

‘We were surrounded by an intense blackness, broken only by headlights.’ 

‘Even the sky looked like black velvet. Not a single star could be seen.’ 

‘We wound around tight bends, splashed through fast flowing streams, climbed our way up steep slopes.’ 

‘The trees edging the road curved overhead, trapping us in narrow tunnels of darkness.’ 

‘My uncertain feet dancing over the grass.’ 

‘Gazing out at the wild coast.’ 

‘High sloping meadow, some distance above the sea. The meadow ended in a cliff, a sudden drop of a hundred metres or more.’ 

‘The rocky shoreline far below.’ 

The video Adventures in the South Wairarapa can be viewed to provide visual context to the descriptions, and if you have a digital subscription, you can use the Virtual Tour activity to explore the area with descriptions from the story. Ask students for their opinions on the voice that called out to Thomas in the story and if they agree with his different ideas about where it came from, or whether they have their own ideas. Discuss the connection that Thomas felt to the South Wairarapa coast from spending such a happy time there and bonding with other people. 

Watch the video Who We Are: Country/Place and discuss the connection to country that the young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people talk about when telling their stories. Highlight the feelings they talk about from being on country (e.g. calm, reflective, safe, energised). 

Ask students to think of a place that they feel connected to and reflect on the feelings that it gives them. This may be a lake, a park, a farm or a grandparent’s home. Have them close their eyes and imagine walking through that place, observing the sights and sounds and the feeling beneath their feet. Instruct students that they are to write a descriptive paragraph of their place using imagery. Remind them to write it in a way that vividly describes the features of their place enough that their reader can picture it in their mind.