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Day 2: Tuesday (Everyone)

Best-selling author Geoffrey McSkimming describes the stories and ideas he uses to encourage readers to discover the wonderful world of words. He’ll unveil some of the secrets of writing his brilliant mystery stories, and why he enjoys creating such mysteries and detective-type tales. Writing and reading, he says, are great ways to experience the magic of travelling into different worlds and times, on rollicking journeys of the imagination.

Vox Pop Video

Top 3 Tips

Download to print Geoffrey's Top 3 Tips!

Read Geoffrey's work in The School Magazine's 'Explore' library page.

Student Activities

Activity 1. Introduce Geoffrey McSkimming to students by watching his Vox Pop Video. Ask the students what aspect of Geoffrey they find most interesting? Why? How do they think this helps him in being a writer? Create a word collage about Geoffrey and his work. There are a variety of word cloud tools:

Activity 2.  Display a collection of Geoffrey’s work by typing his name into the search bar on the Explore page of the website.

Stage 2

  • As a while class, show some stories that reflect the qualities that the students have identified in the previous activity. Read the stories to find a phrase or word that exemplifies those qualities.

Stage 3

  • If students have a device to explore on their own or as a small group, ask students to create a list of stories they think best shows their favourite quality eg Geoffrey could be seen as quirky – so what stories show this quirky side to his writing character?

Activity 3.  Characters in a story are an important part of how the story flows and the journey that the character takes helps build the suspense in a mystery story. Think of some favourite characters in books eg Harry Potter – how would you describe his character? What is he like? What would he do if Hermione turned into a dragon? How a character responds shows his qualities and strengths and weaknesses.

Note: You will need printed copies of the Character worksheets

Stage 2

  • Using the character worksheets look at the picture of the character and write the qualities that are shown in the picture. Students may label these qualities in facial expressions or physical attributes as desired.

Stage 3

  • Using the character worksheet for Mr Erasmus, students identify qualities shown in the picture and then decide how they could change the character. Students could draw their version of Mr Erasmus showing the different qualities or attributes in the picture. Encourage students not to label the qualities and share them with others to see if they can identify the new Mr Erasmus’ character.

Important Note: You may like to use The School Magazine print hard copies—we have listed the following below as a guide to help you locate them.

Story Suggestions

Stage 2

  • Becalmed! (Countdown 5, 2020)
  • Birthday Bob (part one) (Countdown 1, 2019)
  • Birthday Bob (part two) (Countdown 2, 2019)
  • Jools and Vern and the Mystery of Loch MacNurk (part one) Blast Off 1, 2020)
  • Jools and Vern and the Mystery of Loch MacNurk (part two) Blast Off 2, 2020)
  • Jools and Vern and the Thunderous Sweetness (part one) (Blast Off 1, 2019)
  • Jools and Vern and the Thunderous Sweetness (part two) (Blast Off 2, 2019)
  • Phantoms of Madagascar (part one) (Blast Off 6, 2019)
  • Phantoms of Madagascar (part two) (Blast Off 7, 2019)
  • The Mystery of Teardrop Island (part one) (Countdown 7, 2020)
  • The Sirens of Sigsbee Deep (part one) (Countdown 6, 2019)
  • The Sirens of Sigsbee Deep (part two) (Countdown 7, 2019)
  • Webweaver on the Rocks (part one) (Countdown 1, 2020)
  • Webweaver on the Rocks (part two) (Countdown 2, 2020)

Stage 3

  • Mr Erasmus and the Irksome Inkwell (Orbit 8, 2019)
  • The Thwarting of Mr Erasmus (part one) (Orbit 2, 2019)
  • The Thwarting of Mr Erasmus (part two) (Orbit 3, 2019)
  • The Undisturbed guests of Mr Erasmus (part one) (Orbit 2, 2020)
  • The Undisturbed guests of Mr Erasmus (part one) (Orbit 2, 2020)

Activity 4a. Students write a fractured mystery story using elements of Geoffrey’s stories. Students use the 3 story wheels to identify:

  1. The story starter
  2. The cliffhanger
  3. The resolution.

They then have to weave the story around these three statements.

Students can create their own story wheels from the templates or the teacher could create 3 large ones for the class to use.

Activity 4b.

  • Year 6
    Students view the Youtube Video “How to make your writing suspenseful” and edit the story created  from the story starters adventure writing prompt to edit their story to make it more suspenseful.

Extension: Students locate the stories from Geoffrey McSkimming that these story prompts have come from. The teacher could make this a competition for groups in the class to identify all the stories.

Activity 5. Discuss Geoffrey’s Top 3 Tips with your class. Each student then creates their own Top 3 Tips for writing. These are shared in a class brainstorm from which a class set of Top 3 tips for writing stories could be developed. (or Top 5 etc)


More information

Geoffrey McSkimming is the author of the bestselling Cairo Jim chronicles and the new Phyllis Wong mysteries, plus several collections of poetry. He’s worked on TSM for a while, having more than 70 stories and dozens of poems and plays published in its pages. When he’s not writing he enjoys reading, and annoying people. His most recent book, Phyllis Wong and the Crumpled Stranger, was published by 9 Diamonds Press in June.

You can find out more about Geoffrey McSkimming and his writing on his website and about his Cairo Jim and Phyllis Wong books on the 9 Diamond Press website.

Student Gallery

You can view our Student Gallery displaying the work of students who participated in the festival.

Schools are encouraged to contribute to the gallery display. Teachers should submit selected work their students have created as a result of our literary festival to the email [email protected] with the subject line ‘TSMLitFest–SCHOOL NAME—Student Gallery.

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