Tiny Tarni Turtle

story by Helen Edwards , illustrated by David Legge

Learning Intention:

I am learning about why authors use a range of language features in their imaginative writing so that I can experiment with using imagery in my own compositions.

Success Criteria:

  • I can identify the use of similes and personification in a story.
  • I can begin to explain why an author uses imagery in imaginative writing.
  • I can experiment with similes, metaphors and personification in my own writing.

Essential knowledge:

More information about how an author appeals to our senses to create vivid imagery can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Connotation, Imagery and Symbol.

Guiding question:

How can we use descriptive writing to build imagery for the audience?

Prior to reading the story explicitly teach or revisit the following terms (definitions have been taken from the Australian Curriculum Glossary):

  • Explain that imagery is an umbrella term. It refers to the use of figurative language to represent objects, actions and ideas in such a way that they appeal to the senses of the reader or viewer.
  • Personification is a type of imagery as it appeals to the sense of sight. It is a description of an inanimate object as though it were a person or living thing (for example, ‘the last chance he had just walked out the door’).
  • Simile is another type of imagery also appealing to the sense of sight. It compares two things using like or as.

Then provide students with example of imagery from the story. Ask students to identify whether the quotation is a simile or personification. Students should then either verbally describe the image conveyed through the figurative language or draw their interpretation of the image.

“For three days, she propelled herself towards the beckoning light, towards the calling sea…” – personification

“She waved her tiny wings back and forth like wings.” – simile

“She wriggled her tiny body, round and round like a corkscrew.” – simile

“… for the first time, she saw the pale-yellow face of the moon, smiling down upon her.” – personification.

Throughout this activity, reinforce the idea that the purpose of imagery is to create rich, sensory description that creates a clear picture for the reader. To add additional challenge to this activity, you can include examples of auditory imagery, such as onomatopoeia (“CRACK! CREAK! CRUMBLE”) and alliteration (“tiny temporary tooth”; “shifting shafts”).

Then read the story twice. The first reading should be purely for comprehension and enjoyment. During the second reading, ask students to locate all the examples of the imagery studied in class (similes, personification, metaphors, onomatopoeia, alliteration etc.).

As a class, plot the events in the story. An example of a suggested sequence is as follows:

Tarni cracks out of her egg, she climbs to the surface of the beach, she sees the stars which navigate her to the water, she rushes to the shore, she avoids predators – sharks and crabs, she makes it into the sea.

Discuss what students note about its structure. Students should notice that the story takes place over a short period of time (less than one evening) and that only a few events happen. These events are described in great detail. Explain that the purpose of the author is to create the sensory experience of a hatchling, rather than to tell a long and complicated story.

Show students a clip of an animal conducting its ordinary business. An excerpt from the clip I Put Cameras on ALL of my Animals will allow students to see how a farm animal interacts with their environment through the use of a GoPro. Explain that students will experiment with a piece of imaginative writing that focuses on using imagery to describe only a small number of events. It should contain several stylistic features of ‘Tiny Tarni Turtle’ Provide the following success criteria to guide responses:

  • Is written using a third person limited perspective through the eyes of the animal
  • Uses a range of examples of imagery, particularly personification and simile
  • Focuses deeply on each event and provides vivid description.

A suggested response, based on the runner duck in the clip I Put Cameras on ALL of my Animals (timestamp 2:56 – 4:45) is below:

The runner duck stood tall and still as a tree, alongside his flock as numerous as a forest. A noise caused one to spring to action. Then another. They charged like a heard of wildebeests down the ramp and into the mud. Its chocolatey ooze hugged their feet as it welcomed them into the pen.

Assessment as/of learning:

Imaginative text rubrics can be found on The School Magazine website. Students can use these rubrics as success criteria in the crafting of their persuasive texts via anchor charts. The rubrics can also be used to provide structure for peer or teacher assessment.