Will Wonders Never Cease: A Slippery Slope

article by Zoe Disher , photo by Alamy

Learning intention:

I am learning to embed descriptions of setting, mood and tension in my nonfiction writing so that I can better engage readers.


Success criteria:

  • I can recognise the way the author engages and informs the readers using language to create setting, mood and tension
  • I can expand my vocabulary by using comprehension strategies to understand unfamiliar words
  • I can use these tools to compose my own text on an insect of my choice.


After reading the article, discuss the facts students learnt from the text. These should include:

  • Antlions are the young stage of some lacewing insects
  • They look like flat, spiky beetles with enormous jaws
  • They spiral around in the sand to dig their pitfall traps
  • They bury themselves at the bottom to wait for victims
  • Antlions and their pitfall traps are fairly common
  • Antlions like to build them in areas with fine, dry sand.


Reread the first section of the article and discuss the way the author has used this to create:

  • Setting (It’s like a scene from a science fiction movie / In the sand is a crater with steep sides)
  • Mood (One false step and you’re sliding down an avalanche of sand)
  • Tension (At the bottom, a monster waits, its jaws open, ready to inject you with a lethal venom/ Is this the end?)

Discuss the meaning of key words, particularly those that are likely to be unfamiliar, and how they help create imagery for the reader. These may include:

  • Crater
  • Avalanche
  • Lethal
  • Venom
  • Lacewing
  • Spiral
  • Pitfall


Watch the video This Antlion is a Devious, Cold-Blooded Killer. Discuss the way the narrator also used language to create these same storytelling aspects in his introduction (A sandy wasteland. Its savage ruler lies hidden beneath the sand. Its presence was revealed only by catapulted corpses. The grisly remains of discarded victims). Throughout the discussion, familiarise students with the meaning of any unknown words and phrases used in the video, so that students can develop a deeper understanding of the way they are being used.


Inform students they will be choosing an insect to research and write a short text about. In their writing, they should use language to create imagery of their insect, its behaviour, its habitat and its prey or predators. If possible, provide students with access to thesauruses so they can strive to learn new words to use in their texts.


Students should create an introduction paragraph setting the scene and mood and creating tension where possible. This should be followed by a paragraph with further facts about their insects. If time allows, have students share their writing with a partner or the class.