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This task is about using evidence to visualise and make inferences about a character and his setting.

You will read some extracts from 'Memory' by Margaret Mahy, one extract at a time.

After reading each extract, answer the questions that follow.

The first extract is:

A night wind, patrolling the city, rushed at him, its paws on his chest, slapping his face with an icy tongue. Jonny, revived, got to his feet and pushed against it out into the main road opposite yet another intersection. Street lights looked down at him from long, slender necks of concrete, curving over at the top as if light were too great a burden to be held. Factory fonts were illuminated. Fences warned that they were protected by electronic devices, security services, or guard dogs. Fingered by light, Jonny felt ______________________  and _______________________ and _______________________ .

a)  Suggest three words that describe how Jonny could have felt in this scene:

  1. ____________________________

  2. ____________________________

  3. ____________________________


To infer what Jonny felt, you used evidence from this text. You might also have used evidence from your own experiences, or from other texts you've read or seen.

b) In the chart below, give details about the evidence you used for knowing and understanding each of Jonny's feelings:

Feelings from a) i) Evidence you used from this text. ii) Evidence from your own experiences and/or other texts, e.g., books, video clips.



The second extract is:

The wind idly stirred rubbish in the gutter. Brittle paper twitched, scuttled, grew still. Jonny watched it, then lifted his eyes to the street sign, and nodded as if, somehow, he had expected to find himself there, the only man in a _______________________ world.

c)  If you were Jonny, and had the feelings you described in the first extract, what sort of world would you see in your mind?

     Suggest two words to describe it:

  1. ____________________________

  2. ___________________________


The third extract is:

He crossed the road and set off down the opposite street, which was lined with buildings, loading bays, fences of steel pipe and wire mesh. A beach or a hillside might be deserted and still seem completely itself, but an industrial street depended on cars and people. Without them it became both ____________ and ____________,  its true function lost until morning.

d)  Suggest two words that the author could have used to judge this scene:

  1. ____________________________

  2. ____________________________


e)  In the chart below, give details about the evidence you used for judging this scene:

from d)
i) Evidence you used from this text. ii) Evidence from your own experiences and/or other texts, e.g., books, video clips.
Task administration: 
This task can be completed with pencil and paper.
  • This task uses three short extracts from 'Memory' by Margaret Mahy, published by J. M. Dent and Sons, London, 1987.
  • Print the extracts and ask students to read each extract and complete the relevant questions.
  • This task could be done individually or in groups, with students sharing and building on their interpretations of the text.
Curriculum info: 
Key Competencies: 
Description of task: 
This comprehension task assesses student ability to identify and justify evidence used to visualise and make inferences about a character and setting.
Curriculum Links: 
Links to the Literacy Learning Progressions for Reading:
This resource helps to identify students’ ability to:
  • reflect critically about character
  • infer ideas and information that are not directly stated in the text
  • recognise and unpack figurative language
as described in the Literacy Learning Progressions for Reading at:
Learning Progression Frameworks
This resource can provide evidence of learning associated with within the Reading Learning Progressions Frameworks.
Read more about the Learning Progressions Frameworks.
    Y10 (10/2005)
Extract 1a) Any 3 of:

  • insignificant/small/inferior/swamped/vulnerable/overwhelmed/watched/unprotected
  • alive/alert/awake
  • alone/isolated/alienated/lost/excluded/shut out
  • frightened/scared/afraid/insecure/intimidated
  • cold/frozen/wet
  • tired/weak
  • worried/apprehensive
  • excited
very easy
b) i) The evidence, listed below, matches the sequence of feelings above. Student correctly matches 3 pieces of evidence.

  • The wind is getting at him, like a dog/he has to push against it./The lights are towering over him.
  • It says that Jonny is revived.
  • It seems like a cold, hard, and empty place/has concrete, fences, and warnings.
  • It's night/there are guard dogs.
  • It says the wind is icy.
  • It says that Jonny was "opposite yet another intersection"/He had to push against the wind.
  • It sounds scary when it says he was "fingered by light".
  • It says that Jonny is revived/the wind (being like a dog/it played with him), made him get up and go/made him move on.
Gave evidence for: 2-3 feelings: moderate;

1 feeling: easy

b) ii) Student matches each feeling identified in a) with evidence from their own life and/or other text/s. 1-3 pieces of evidence: moderate
Extract 2c) Student suggests 2 words that are an appropriate description of the world, are consistent with the text, and link to Extract 1, e.g.,

  • desolate
  • man-made
  • alien
very easy
Extract 3d) Student suggests 2 words that are linked to evidence and consistent with the text, e.g.,

  • meaningless/pointless
  • empty/barren/lifeless
  • eerie/ghostly
very easy
e) i) Student matches each word suggested in d) with appropriate evidence from the text, e.g.,

  • the contrasts between this scene and a beach and rural scenes.
  • "it's true function lost"/it was night/there were no cars or people/it was deserted/it was not "completely itself"/it "depended on cars and people"
  • the scene seems two-dimensional, because it has no life, it was not "completely itself".
very easy
e) ii) Student matches each word suggested in d) with evidence from their own life and/or other text/s. very easy
Diagnostic and formative information: 
Common response Likely misconception
b) Some trial students, who had suggested that Jonny felt scared at a), gave, as evidence from text at b), that "light [from the street lights was] too great a burden to be held". These students made a literal interpretation of the text, i.e., that Jonny was scared because the lights were going to fall on him. They did not see it as a metaphoric use of language.
Next steps: 

Making comparisons 


In everyday language, we describe things by comparing them with other things.

She was as brave as a lion.

...The words "as" or "like" tell us comparisons are being made. The technical name for these comparisons is similes...


We can make comparisons without "as" or "like".

Her gaze was icy.

This is a hidden comparison, and the technical name for it is a metaphor. We distinguish between literal meanings and metaphorical meanings.

The footpath was icy. (literal meaning)Her gaze was icy. (metaphorical meaning)He couldn't digest anything the nurse gave him to eat. (literal meaning)He couldn't digest anything the nurse told him. (metaphorical meaning)

We use metaphors all the time in everyday language. Often we are probably not conscious that they are metaphors.

The whole enterprise had a fishy smell.Your letter was buried under my papers.That salesman was a shark.

Many experiences, feelings, and ideas are difficult to express in words. Therefore we try to describe them by using comparisons, such as similes and metaphors.They are frequently found in poetry:

My love is like a red, red rose That's newly sprung in June: My love is like the melodie That's sweetly played in tune.

Robert Burns

They are also used in academic writing.

Those people were at the bottom of the social heap.Plants are complex chemical factories.Light is trapped by a special pigment in the leaves.The xylem seems to be the main piping system for water in the plant.

To understand the full meaning of some academic writing, it is necessary to "unpack" the metaphors.


An aspect of metaphor is personification (Latin persona: "character", "person").In personification, the non-human is identified with the human or given human characteristics.

Cricket has been good to me.The New Zealand dollar had a quiet month.Life dealt him a heavy blow..

Personification is very common in poetry.

Slowly, silently, now the moonWalks the night in her silver shoon.Walter de la Mare: "Silver"Death be not proud, though some have called theeMighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so,For, those whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrowDie not, poor death [...]

John Donne: Holy Sonnets, X

It also appears in children's books.

"There are the trees," said the Beaver. "They're always listening. Most ofthem are on our side, but there are trees that would betray us to her; youknow who I mean."

C. S. Lewis: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Exploring Language: A Handbook for Teachers, page 54-56.

Exploring Language: A Handbook for Teachers, Ministry of Education, Learning Media, (1996).For resources about figurative language:
ARBs with a focus on personification are: Making comparisons II, Interpreting poems.