Boy Overboard

I had a request for a resource on Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman and so here it is!

If you want to ignore the explanation behind the resource and how I’ve designed it for you to pull bits and pieces from, scroll down to the bottom and you can find where to download the resource.

Otherwise, permit me a couple of minutes to explain my method.

A lot of the resources I’ve made are based on the first chapter or two of novels because, regardless of what is in my book room, I know I can find the chapter preview online, or in my local library.

But I also use this method as a way of introducing kids to a range of books that they might decide to read themselves. The final reason is to produce a model that other teachers can follow – its kind of like stealth professional learning.

So, as an overview, this is what is included.

Library of sentences

I’ve gone through the first two chapters and found models structures that you can choose to focus on, depending on the needs of your class. I’ve tried to save you time by listing some examples for you. This is not exhaustive, but it is a good beginning.

Here is a selection of the different models that you can teach kids from the first two chapters of this text. The grammatical term is not the focus and I have only included it here and in the document for your knowledge.


  • Panting, she gives me a proud grin.
  • I climb up out of the gully and up onto a sand dune, peering into the wind.

These are easy to teach kids and immediately improves the visual detail of their writing. As an aside, grammatically these belong to the non-finite clause category…and guess what the higher bands in NAPLAN want? They want a variety of clause structures, including non-finite clauses.


  • She’s only metres away from us now, eyes glinting as she dribbles the ball with her bare feet.

There are not a lot of examples in this chapter of the absolute, although that is partly because I am not familiar with all the various structures they take. The most common is the NOUN + ING, or NOUN + adjective. And guess what…another non-finite clause…you know what that means…

Delayed adjectives

  • It’s a great shot, low and hard.

There are a couple of these examples. I often teach this concept to my year seven kids within the first week. I want them to stop using 3 or four adjectives in a row and start to think about where to place them, that is, they can go after the noun. I’ve seen lots of Primary teachers show kids from Year 3 and up how to do this.

Adjectival/Relative clause

  • I hurry towards my ball, which is lying against one of the tanks huge caterpillar tracks.

I don’t reach the grammatical name to kids, just how to write a sentence which extends the visual detail. I want them to have whole lot of tools to draw from when writing. This is a nice example which shows more detail from the scene. (*Ahem…variety of clause structures and that test…)

Subordinate clause

  • ‘Bibi,’ I yell as I scramble up the side of the rocket crater.
  • Zoltan is looking at me as though an American air strike has hit me in the head and scrambled my brains.

There are many examples of this structure, and unfortunately, this is the basic structure that NAPLAN refers to when it talks about subordinate clauses. I use the acronym AAAWWUBBIS when teaching this.

As an aside, here is a little activity I regularly do to embed this structure and teach the grammar in context. l get kids to write a chapter titles of any material we’ve read using this sentence part. Here are some movie/book titles using this structure:

  • After the Fall
  • Although the Day is Not Mine to Give
  • As Good as it Gets
  • When in Rome
  • While the City Sleeps
  • Until Day Breaks
  • Because of Winn-Dixie
  • Before Sunrise
  • If Looks Could Kill
  • Since Vietnam

You can do this activity with any book. I’ll probably make this into a post itself.

Action verbs

  • I slither into the gully.

To be honest, revising and choosing better verbs is an accessible activity for kids. I haven’t listed many from this text because…well…I ran out of time.

Pre reading activities

A simple story impressions activity. I wrote about this activity in this post, if you need more information.

Post reading activities

3 Level Reading Guide (Here, Hidden Head)

Again, this is to try and save you some time – you choose what is right for your class.

3 Level Reading Guides (Here, Hidden, Head) are a great way to get students discussing their reasoning. I think it is one of the good ways to develop inferencing skills.

Comprehension Questions

Maybe you want some full sentences answers written in their book – then comprehension questions are a good choice.

Language activities

I’ve written a few activities based on the sentence models. I haven’t designed this so that you would ask a student to do every single one, but you select the activity pertinent to your students. It might be as simple as find the structure in the text (you’ve got the answers in the sentence model library), or it might be a simple unjumble or sequence. You could use add them to the comprehension section, or you could project an activity on the board for the students to complete as a ‘Do Now’ task when they enter your classroom

Let’s write

I’ve made a simple writing task where students respond to an image. I usually ask for one to two paragraphs, but I ask them to include the structure(s) that we have been looking at in class. It means that we get to continually practice and reinforce these key focus areas.

I make it a points system which means that we are focusing on the mechanics and style and not the ideas. The added bonus is that students assign the points themselves and I do a check validate. This is rapid marking, and it can be done in class as your review their short paragraph. I think this is one way of working smarter.

I’ve taken this concept from Harry Noden’s work which I wrote about in The Art of the Sentence. You can adapt this to include peer review, and it is a peer review task that works because the criteria is so explicit and focused.

You can preview the resource here:

Or you can download it from the resource page.

I’ll aim to keep releasing something I think is classroom ready and applicable each week, so if you’d like, subscribe by email and you’ll get it direct to your inbox. As always, feel free to leave a comment.

Teaching inference through writing and sentence structures

Everyone knows that inference is one of the weakest skills identified by NAPLAN. I’m not pretending that what I outline below is the only way to teach inference, but one tool for teaching this skill to struggling students. The way I have found success is through combining reading and writing skills.

So, in this post you will get a tool to help teach inference and a slide deck to support that instruction.

Essentially, we use sentence models to show students how authors craft inferences and get student to imitate those models with their own compositions.

In this strategy you need to be familiar with some of the sentence structures I outlined in The Art of the Sentence. These are the participle, action verbs, and the absolute. If you are not familiar with this, the link above will open in a new tab and you can download the slide decks for those concepts.

When we say to kids “show” don’t “tell”, often we are asking them to write in such a way so the reader needs to infer something about the setting or character.

Crafting inferences

These are the model sentences used in the slide deck, pulled from a range of novels:


  1. Pinching his nose, Harry drank the potion down in two large gulps.
  2. “Hello,” said Ben, squeezing his bottom lip.
  3. The camera crews, perched like buzzards on rooftops, only add to the effect.


  1. Lockie cooked inside.
  2. The father glared at his daughter with deep suspicion, but said nothing.
  3. The man strode along the platform
  4. Rain-rotten shingles drooped over the eaves of the veranda; oak trees kept the sun away.
  5. The remains of a picket drunkenly guarded the front yard.


  1. Ben stood, walked quietly out of his bedroom and tiptoed up the hall, heart keeping time with his footsteps.  
  2. Radley had been leaning against the wall when I came into the room, his arms folded across his chest.
  3. Fingers trembling slightly, he opened the white envelope.

Using a few targeted sentence structures and models is a powerful way to get kids to notice how writers make us infer detail about the text, and how it can transform how a student writes.

In the very first example, a typical student composition would be:

Harry drank the foul smelling and tasting potion in two large gulps.

They have gone into tell mode. JK Rowling, however, includes the participle phrase at the beginning of the sentence.

Pinching his nose, Harry drank the potion down in two large gulps

Harry Potter

JK Rowling makes us infer something about this potion; it’s smell by the visual detail conveyed by the participle phrase ‘pinching his nose’.

We can get students to learn how to craft an inference by imitating the style and structure of this sentence.

For example:

Scratching his head, John looked at the examination paper.


If you have taught these structures already, you have the opportunity to reinforce the grammatical element. It’s the authentic way of teaching grammar in context. If you have taught a kid to use the participle phrase in their writing, it is likely that they are starting to write some examples where the reader needs to infer meaning. This opens up opportunities to discuss inference on a daily basis using any text.

Look through the slide deck below to see how the other sentences can be used to support students to identify inference but also create their own in sentences.

You can download it as well.

And if you really want, drop me a comment below to motivate me to keep sharing resources. In a future post I’ll show how to authentically teach grammar in context.