The Webweaver and the Squid Squad

part one of a two-part story by Geoffrey McSkimming , illustrated by Douglas Holgate

Learning Intention:

I am learning to explore how settings influence the mood of a narrative so that I can create settings that match the mood I wish to convey.

Success Criteria:

  • I can identify the mood in a narrative.
  • I can analyse how settings match the mood in a narrative.
  • I can consider elements of settings that represent real-life.
  • I can generate ideas for the next part in the story.
  • I can create a setting to match the mood I wish to convey.

Essential knowledge:

View the video Understanding Narrative from the English Textual Concepts.

Inform students that one important element of narratives is the settings in which they take place. Tell students that crafting a setting that matches the mood and atmosphere of a narrative helps to create rich and engaging stories.



Display the following descriptions of settings:

The bare branches of the trees scratched along the windowpane. The wind whistled, lifting crunchy leaves into the air. Above, an owl hooted before taking flight across a starless sky.

Bright sunshine streamed through the windows and the fragrance of roses floated in from the bushes outside. A table was laid with an assortment of treats and in the centre, a huge birthday cake frosted with swirly blue and yellow icing.

A lone leaf floated on the breeze, until it landed softly on the floor. Heavy clouds loomed above, desperate to shed their heavy cargo of raindrops. The empty house creaked, as if it were letting out one final sigh.


Display the following moods that might appear in stories and discuss which of the settings they might occur in:

  • Longing/morose
  • Spooky and chilling
  • Cheerful and joyous

Briefly discuss any ideas for plots that might occur in each of these settings, using the Think-Pair-Share. Sample responses include:

  • A story about a witch for the first setting
  • A story about a joyful birthday party for the second setting
  • A story about a house about to be demolished for the third setting

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Understanding text:

Read The Webweaver and the Squid Squad up to the end of page 11 or listen to the audio file. Do not read to the end of the story for now. Identify descriptions of the setting. For example:

A day perfect for sailing

THE SKY WAS A PERFECT BLUE, and the sun was shining brightly

…the clear waters of the Bolumfura Sea.

Captain Ahab, that salty old sea-spider, steered the Webweaver gently along.

Just enough breeze to fill the sail and propel the boat smoothly over the waves.

‘Ooh, what a glorious day it be,’ he muttered. ‘I don’t know of anywhere in the world I’d rather be, than here on the top deck of my favourite boat.

Discuss the mood these descriptions evoke (happy, relaxed, calm).

Draw students' attention to where the mood shifts in the story, with the lines:

‘Not many folk know of Excelsior Island,’ Ahab went on. ‘That’s why you haven’t heard of it. Hardly anybody ever goes there.’

‘I wonder why people don’t go there,’ Shasta said.

‘I be wonderin’ that too, Miss Shasta,’ said Bob.

‘Well,’ said Ahab, ‘as I said, not many folk know about it. And those who do know about it ... well, I seem to remember reading about something that keeps intruders away from the island’s shores.’ He scratched his head with one of his feet. ‘But I read about it a long time ago, and for the life of me, I can’t remember the details ...’

Continue reading to the end of the story or listen to the audio file (page 12). Discuss descriptions of the setting in this part of the story. Students should identify extracts such as:

In the outer reefs of the island, one hundred eyes were watching from under the water.

The eyes belonged to fifty creatures whose job it was to protect Excelsior Island from intruders and the outside world.

These fifty creatures stopped at nothing to protect trespassers coming anywhere near the crystal spring of the pure waters.

These fifty creatures enjoyed wrecking ships and boats to guard their territory. These were the very creatures that Captain Ahab had read about long ago, but he could not remember what they were.

Discuss the mood these descriptions evoke, ensuring students identify that these descriptions create an eerie, ominous mood where the reader is fearful of what might happen next.

Ensure students note that the characters are blissfully unaware of what awaits them on the island. Discuss the impact of having readers know more than the characters, ensuring students note that it makes readers fearful of what will happen, and it makes them wish they could tell the characters to turn back.

Inform students that authors might choose to base their stories in realistic settings or to adapt real life settings into fantasy locations. Refer back to the settings identified in The Webweaver and the Squid Squad, and discuss the following:

  • Which of the settings in the story remind you of a real place? (The boat, at sail on the ocean)
  • Which feel like they have been adapted/developed to be more like a fantasy setting? (The island with the eerie feature of the eyes watching out for unwanted visitors)

Refer back to the settings and discuss the focus question:

  • How can we combine our own worlds with imaginative elements to compose a story?

Authors can draw on settings they have experienced in real life or that they have read or viewed in texts when constructing settings.


Creating text:

Draw students' attention to the fact that this is part one in the story and that another part will follow in next month’s issue of Countdown. Discuss the following questions:

  • What do you predict will happen next in the story? (For example, the characters will be attacked or captured by whoever is watching them as they approach the island)
  • What type of mood should the setting evoke? (Eerie, scary, threatening)
  • What might the weather be like? (Cloudy or rainy rather than blue skies and sunshine)
  • What might the environment be like, for example, the landscape and the plants and trees? (Thick, thorny trees that stretch their branches as if they are trying to pull the characters in and trap them, dark, looming mountains, grey clouds that darken further as the characters approach)

Note: Encourage students to draw on the settings they have experienced in real-life or in texts. Tell students to think back to the opening activity for inspiration.


Discuss places students have been or that they have read in texts that might assist with the creation of the setting for this next part of the story. Share examples such as, a dark cloudy evening, a stormy night, a forest that is thick with spiky and scratchy plants. Note students' responses on the board.

Inform students that they will be creating a setting to base this next part of the story in. Tell students that first, you will be creating an example collaboratively. Refer students back to the first illustration that accompanies the story (page 7) and to the final illustration (page 12). Discuss the following:

  • Describe the setting in the first illustration. (It features a calm sea and a bright, smiling sun)
  • What mood does this illustration evoke? (Warm, happy, peaceful)
  • Describe the setting in the final illustration. (The sky is a deep shade of blue, the waves are larger, and the coral reef can be seen under the water)
  • What mood does this illustration evoke? (Turbulence, a sense of foreboding, and the coral reef being visible implies more is happening out of sight of the characters)


Ensure students note that each of these illustrations match the mood of the story at each of the sections.

Select one of the predictions students made about what might happen next in the story (for example, that the characters will be captured). Discuss a setting that will match the mood and feeling of the event and sketch it on the board. For example, dark looking mountains, spiky trees and thick clouds in the sky, and a campfire.

Tell students that once they have sketched their own setting that they will then be required to compose a brief description of it. Discuss how the setting you have sketched on the board might be described, by first discussing vocabulary that matches the mood, for example:

  • Clawing
  • Scratchy
  • Overbearing
  • Looming
  • Spikey
  • Foreboding
  • Intimidating

Use the vocabulary discussed to jointly construct a paragraph describing the setting, for example:

The dark clouds loomed above, threatening to release heavy raindrops at any moment. Scratchy trees bordered the clearing and clung to the creatures' clothes as they were shoved towards the campfire. Behind, dark mountains towered above the area, as if they were the walls of a prison.

Inform students that they should describe their prediction of what might happen next in the story under the descriptions of the setting.

Place students with a partner and instruct them to work together to compose their own settings to reflect mood by completing the following steps:

  • Predict what will happen in the next part of the story
  • Decide on a setting that matches the mood of the story
  • Sketch the setting
  • Identify vocabulary to describe the setting
  • Compose a description of the setting using the vocabulary you identify
  • Note your prediction of what might happen next in the story under the description of the setting

Provide students with coloured pencils and paper for sketching their settings. Alternatively, they can use design programs such as Microsoft Paint.


Assessment for/as learning:


Discuss criteria that might be used for students to self-assess their settings, for example:

  • Sketch features elements that evoke a specific mood
  • Uses descriptive vocabulary
  • Includes the prediction of what might happen next
  • Mood created in the prediction matches that evoked by the setting

Instruct students to view their illustrations and to re-read their work, using the criteria for self-assessment. Tell students to award one mark for each element of the criteria. Allow time for students to edit their work based on what they identify through the self-assessments.

Display the students' images alongside each of the edited descriptions. Students should conduct a gallery walk to view each other’s work and to identify how ideas have been represented.