Unit three

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In the old days before people could read or write, stories were told by word of mouth.
The storyteller would:

  • tell long tales of heroes and monsters, of battles and victories

  • make up story poems about big events

  • tell the tales as poems because the rhythm and the rhyme made them easier to remember.

Now read the poem on the next page…


Once upon a time, children

there lived a fearsome dragon …
Please, miss,

Jamie’s made a dragon.

Out in the sandpit.
Lovely, Andrew.

Now this dragon

had enormous red eyes

and a swirling, whirling tail …

Jamie’s dragon’s got

yellow eyes, miss.
Lovely, Andrew.

Now this dragon was

as wide as a horse

as green as the grass

as tall as a house…

Jamie’s would JUST fit

in our classroom, miss!
But he was a very friendly dragon…
Jamie’s dragon ISN’t miss.

He eats people, miss.

Especially TEACHERS,

Jamie said.

Very nice, Andrew!

Now one day, children,

this enormous dragon

rolled his red eye,

whirled his swirly green tail

and set off to find…

His dinner, miss!

Because he was hungry, miss!

Thank you, Andrew.

He rolled his red eye,

whirled his green tail,

and opened his wide, wide mouth

Please, miss,

I did try to tell you, miss.
Judith Nicholls

  1. I
    magine you are the Headteacher of the school where this poor teacher gets eaten. Write a paragraph about what this Headteacher might say to the rest of the staff to calm them down. Make sure that you:

  1. Explain calmly what happened. You do not want to worry them. Play down the event.

  2. Advise the teachers what to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

  1. Imagine you were in the class and saw the teacher get eaten. You want to tell your story to a group of friends who were not there. You want to scare them!

    1. Choose three details in the poem to exaggerate.

For example, instead of just telling them about the ‘yellow eyes’ you could say that the dragon had ‘twenty-five blood shot eyes the size of footballs’.

  1. W
    rite a paragraph about what you would say to your friends. You can make the ending as horrible as you like!

  • What are the differences between the way the Headteacher described the dragon, and the way you described it to your friends?

Think about:

    1. the words you used

    2. the details you used

  • Which paragraph did you enjoy the most? Can you say why?

  • Do you ever change the way you speak? When? Why?

The story in the poem ‘Storytime’, is told by two people.

With a partner, read the poem aloud. One of you read the poem, while the other listens very carefully.

  • Which words tell you when the teacher is speaking?

Which words tell you when the pupil is speaking?

  • Make a list of the words which:

  1. give away that the teacher is speaking

  2. give away that the pupil is speaking.

Use a table like the one below:

Words that tell you the teacher is speaking

Words that tell you the pupil is speaking


Lovely, Andrew

Please, miss

  • In your experience do teachers sound like the teacher in this poem? What else do they tend to say?

  • With your partner, read the poem aloud again. This time, one person read the part of the teacher and the other read the part of the pupil.

  • How old do you think the pupil is in this poem? Which words give you clues about his age?

This poem is about a nine year old boy who is enjoying pretending that he is playing football for England.

Sometimes the poem sounds as if a real game of football is being played, but there are clues which suggest that it is not a real football game.
Good afternoon and welcome, This is the welcome.

This is Danny Markey your commentator

Welcoming you to this international

Between England and Holland,

Which is being played her this


At four Florence Terrace. This is where the scene is set.

And the pitch looks in superb condition

As Danny Markey prepares

To kick off for England;

And this capacity crowd roars

As Markey, the England captain,

Puts England on the attack.
Straight away it’s Markey The action starts.

With a lovely pass to Keegan,

Keegan back to Markey,

Markey in possession now

Jinking skilfully past the dustbin

And a neat flick inside the cat there,

What a brilliant player this Markey is

And still only nine years old!

Markey to Francis, Things get tense.

Francis to Markey,

Markey is through…

No, he’s been tackled by the drainpipe;

But he’s won the ball back brilliantly

And he’s advancing on the Dutch

keeper now,

It must be a goal, A shock.

He comes off his line

But Markey chips him brilliantly

It’s a goal

It’s gone into Mrs Spence’s next door. A problem!

And Markey’s going round

To ask for his ball back.

The Crown is silent now.
If he can’t get the ball back

It could be the end of this international.

And now the door’s opening The problem gets bigger.

And yes, it’s Mrs Spence,

Mrs Spence has come to the door,

And wait a minute, she’s shaking her


She is shaking her head,

She is not going to let Markey

Have his ball back.

What is the referee going to do? It looks bad.

Markey looks very dejected here,

He’s walking back, hanging his head…
What’s he doing now?

He seems to be waiting

And my goodness me A brave move.

He’s going back,

Markey is going back for the ball,

What a brilliant and exciting move;

He waited until the front door was


And then went back for that lost ball.
He’s searching now, Things get better

He’s searching for that ball

Down there by the compost heap

And wait a minute,

He’s found it!

He’s found that ball

And that’s marvellous news

For the hundred thousand fans

gathered here,

Who are showing their appreciation

In no uncertain fashion.

But wait a minute, A setback

The door’s opening once more;

It’s her, it’s Mrs Spence!

And she is waving his fist

And shouting something

But I can’t make out what it is.
She’s obviously not pleased. A punchline

And Markey’s off,

He’s running round in circles

Dodging this way and that

With Mrs Spence in hot pursuit,

And he’s past her,

What skills this boy has.

The ending

Gareth Owen

  • Read each section carefully. On a copy of the poem, use a coloured pencil to shade over every word that tells you that it is not a real match.

For example:

At four Florence Terrace’ because this sounds like someone’s address and not the name of a famous football ground.

Dustbin’ because you would not skilfully pass a ball around a dustbin.

  • In a different colour shade in the words that tell you that it sounds like a real match.

For example:

As Markey, the England captain, puts England on the attack.’

  • How should the poem sound? Have you heard sports’ commentators? Discuss how they speak.

  • Read the poem aloud as you think it should sound.

Choose an event to write about.
If you are stuck, you may like to choose one of the following:

  1. Sports’ Commentator

Start like this:

Good afternoon and welcome.

his is__________ your commentator

welcoming you to this ____________

between __________and ________…


  1. Brit Awards Presenter

Start like this:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

welcome to the ________Brit Awards,

an evening of fabulous entertainment

to celebrate British Music.

Tonight we are privileged to have with

us all your favourite bands…


Use the help words from the poem ‘The Commentator’ to build up a story:

The welcome

The scene is set

The action starts

Things get tense

A shock

A problem!

The problem gets bigger

It looks bad

A brave move

Things get better

A setback

A punchline

The ending

This story of a ship called the Mary Celeste is a true story and a great mystery. Even today no one really knows what happened.

Known facts about the Mary Celeste:

  1. On 5 December the ship was found drifting on the ocean with no one on board.

  2. The ship was in good condition and there was no sign of a struggle.

  3. Some papers and the ship’s boat were missing. However, clothes and other personal objects had been left including a rushed note from the mate to his wife.

  4. There were ten people on board including Captain Briggs, his wife and baby daughter.

  5. The ship had left New York on 7 November 1872.

  6. The ship was sailing to Genoa, Italy, with a cargo of alcohol.

  7. The last entry was written in the log book on the 25 November.

  8. It is known that there was a storm on the afternoon of 25 November.

  • What do you think happened to the Mary Celeste?

  • What happened to the people?

  • How many explanations can you think of? Which do you think is the most likely.

Judith Nicholls wrote a poem about the story of the Mary Celeste. She used some of the facts that you have read. She also invented some details to make the poem more interesting.

You will find Judith Nicholls’ poem on the next page.


Only the wind sings

in the riggings,

the hull creaks a lullaby;

a sail lifts gently

like a message

pinned to a vacant sky.

The wheel turns

over bare decks,

shirts flap on a line;

only the song of the lapping waves

beats steady time…
First mate,

off-duty from

the long dawn watch, begins

a letter to his wife, daydreams

of home.
The Captain’s wife is late;

the child did not sleep

the breakfast has passed…

She, too, is missing home;

sits down at last to eat,

but can’t quite force

the porridge down.

She swallows hard,

slices the top from her egg.
The second mate

is happy.

A four-hour sleep,

full stomach

and a quiet sea

are all he craves.

He has all three.
Shirts washed and hung, beds

made below, decks done, the boy

stitches a torn sail.
The Captain

has a good ear for a tune;

played his child to sleep

on the ship’s organ.

Now, music left,

he checks his compass,

lightly tips the wheel,

hopes for a westerly.

Clear sky, a friendly sea,

fair winds for Italy.

The child now sleeps, at last,

head firmly pressed into her pillow

in a deep sea-dream.
Then why are the gulls wheeling

like vultures in the sky?

Why was the child snatched

from the sleep? What drew

the Captain’s cry?
Only the wind replies

in the rigging,

and the hull creaks and sighs;

a sail spells out its message

over silent skies.

The wheel still turns

over bare decks,

shirts blow on the line;

the siren-song of lapping waves

still echoes over time.

Judith Nicholls

The poet has invented details about the people on board – this helps us to picture them more easily.

  • Choose three of the characters and write down four things you are told about them. Here is an example:


  • he has done the washing

  • he has made the beds

  • he has cleaned the decks

  • he is mending the sails

The other characters are –

the Captain

his wife,

his child,

the first mate,

the second mate.

Read the first two verses again.

  • List all the sound words in these verses eg sings, creaks.

  • Make another list of all the words suggesting emptiness eg vacant.

  • Make another list of all the words suggesting peace and calm eg lullaby.

You will have picked out many words: this shows you how rich and descriptive the writing is. The poet, Judith Nicholls, has chosen her words very carefully.

ow it is your turn to do some writing about the Mary Celeste.

Choose one of the following assignments.

Imagine you were one of the people on board. Write a paragraph about what you could see and hear. Describe your thoughts and feelings.
For example:

What is that strange noise?

It is only midday and the sky has gone black…

Imagine you are a radio reporter.

Interview one of the sailors who found the ship.

For example:

Interviewer: What made you suspicious when you first saw the ship?

Sailor: The ship was leaning strangely and seemed to be drifting.

Interviewer: Did you notice anything else unusual?

The Mary Celeste

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