Will Wonders Never Cease? Millipedes to the Max

article by Zoë Disher , photo by Alamy

Learning Intention:

I am learning how to creatively consider my own experiences and imagination so that I can compose my own literary texts.

Success Criteria:

  • I can extract interesting facts from an article.
  • I can combine the information found in the article with my background knowledge and my imagination.
  • I can write a short engaging narrative based on my research and my own ideas.

Essential Knowledge:

  • More information about how thoughts can be organised in a way that a reader can understand can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Narrative.

Read the article as a class. After reading, explain that students will need to extract the interesting facts from the article. Distinguish between the skill of extracting facts from the skill of summarising information. Remind students that a summary requires a reader to distinguish between the main idea, the important details and interesting but less important information. In contrast, extracting facts allows students to choose the details they found most interesting in the article. They do not need to focus on the main idea, or prioritise the important information.

High interest facts that students may focus on include:

  • Millipedes eat rotting plant material.
  • A millipede has 1306 legs (in fact it is the only known millipede with more than 1000 legs).
  • A prehistoric millipede was longer than an alligator.

Read a children’s story about an insect aloud to the class. After reading identify the simple narrative structure (orientation, complication, resolution), the details that are based in facts about the insect and the details that are from the author’s imagination. A suggested text is ‘The Giant Jam Sandwich’ by John Vernon Lord. In this story a town is invaded by four million wasps and the villagers decide to construct a giant jam sandwich to trap the insects. While this story is based on the author’s imagination, it includes the factual information that wasps swarm sweet things.

Explain to students that they will now need to write a narrative about a millipede who causes problems for a group of humans or, conversely, a group of humans who cause problems for a millipede. Remind students that the story needs to be organised in a way that readers can understand (using the narrative structure) and combine details based in fact and details based in imagination.

You may wish to brainstorm lists of possible complications to assist students in the writing process. For example:

  • A mad scientist accidentally reanimates fossils of giant millipedes, and they swarm.
  • A millipede with 1306 legs wishes to run a marathon, but discovers that 653 pairs of sneakers is very expensive.
  • A millipede breaks a leg and needs to ask the radiologist to count 337 legs in to find the break.

Provide students with the option of writing their story with, or without illustrations. You can challenge students to write their narrative as a poem, in the style of ‘The Giant Jam Sandwich’.