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Poppy, Waldo and the Giant: Share This Pie Corbett Story and Then Try His Writing Toolkit

Enjoy sharing Pie Corbett’s ‘meeting story’ with your class, take it apart to see what makes it work, then let children use the parts to create their own fiction (and non-fiction) masterpieces...

  • Poppy, Waldo and the Giant: Share This Pie Corbett Story and Then Try His Writing Toolkit

Download this as a free PDF resource here.

The day that Poppy thought she saw a giant was the first day of the summer holidays.

It was walking down the alley at the back of the house. At first, she noticed the shadow. Then she felt the ground shuddering. Finally, she heard the heavy crunch of giant footsteps.

Poppy stood on tiptoe and peeped out of the bathroom window. She caught a glimpse of the giant’s head. Amongst its hair, bushes grew and tiny trees sprouted. She could see bird’s nests and several crows cawed as they circled round.

Poppy froze, ducked down and waited. The giant thudded past and made its way towards the park. When she dared to peek over the windowsill, it had disappeared.

Of course, nobody believed her. Her mum thought she was telling tales. Her dad didn’t even hear what she was saying. Only Waldo believed her.

That summer holiday they often saw the giant: standing in the park, rooted to the ground like a vast oak tree; sleeping in a hedge; wandering at night when the coast was clear. People up and down the street complained about their gardens being trampled and trees uprooted. Strange dents appeared on car bonnets. Dustbins were overturned and allotments raided. Everyone had a story.

How do you get rid of unwanted giants? Poppy and Waldo went to the library. There they discovered it was probably a hedge giant or perhaps the lesser-known tree giant. They designed traps and discussed digging deep pits.

One night, when the rain lashed the streets, something woke Poppy up. Something tapped on the window. Something scratched against the glass. She crept out of bed and peered into the night. A muddy voice whispered, “Poor Tom’s cold and so alone.” She heard a great sigh and the shadow outside shuddered.

Poppy blinked but dared not open the window any wider. The darkness hissed and the cold air slithered in. Then she heard the thud of giant footsteps. She could just see a vast, hunched shadow move down Park Road, round the corner and forever out of sight.

Perhaps the strangest thing was that the next day Waldo had a similar tale to tell. He too had been visited. Perhaps the giant had visited other children? Everyone they passed in the street seemed to have closed faces as if they were holding a secret, but no one dared breathe a word.

Let’s get started

Ever met a giant? Ever looked at hillsides, outcrops of rocks or great trees and thought that you might be looking at one? Since the BFG hit the screens, giants have been all the rage. And in this ‘meeting’ story, two children discover a giant and even get to meet it! The model would suit any year group at Key Stage 2.

Getting immersed in the story

Draw story maps and use actions to retell the story as a carousel, perhaps with small groups working on different paragraphs. Discuss any vocabulary or expressions that might present a barrier to understanding, eg alley, shudder, peeped/ peered/ peeked, glimpse, crows cawed, ducked down, dared, windowsill, oak, the coast was clear, car bonnet, allotments, lesser-known, out of sight, breathe a word.

Ask the following sorts of questions:

  • In the first three paragraphs, which words or phrases suggest that the giant is frightening and Poppy is scared?
  • Describe what is unusual about this giant.
  • Discuss possible reasons why no one else seems to see the giant
  • Give the five reasons why the giant is ‘unwanted’.
  • Why do Poppy and Waldo go to the library?
  • What are the two ideas for getting rid of the giant?
  • What atmosphere is suggested in paragraph seven and how does the author create this effect?
  • Why does the giant leave?
  • How does the author suggest what the giant feels in paragraph seven?
  • Describe Poppy’s feelings throughout paragraph eight.
  • What is the effect of the image, ‘the darkness hissed and the cold air slithered in’?
  • What is the effect of using ‘a’ rather than ‘the’ in the line, ‘a vast, hunched shadow…’?
  • Why do you think that ‘no one dared breathe a word’?
Explore the story through drama

Use drama to help the children experience and emotionally engage with the story at a deeper level, as if they were the characters:

  • Hot seat Poppy about the first sighting of the giant.
  • Draw the first three paragraphs as a simple cartoon and use ‘thought bubbles’ to suggest what Poppy is thinking.
  • Role play the scene between Poppy and her parents.
  • In role as local people, ‘gossip’ about what has been happening (‘everyone had a story’).
  • Produce a local news bulletin about the events, including an exclusive interview with a local gardener.
  • Role play Poppy and Waldo discussing the giant, what they know and what to do, after their visit to the library.
  • Role play Poppy and Waldo meeting the next day.
  • End by spreading ‘rumours’ about what has happened with the children, commenting on how Poppy and Waldo have changed and what might have happened.
Put grammar in context

Use the story to teach a relevant ‘grammar for writing’ focus. For instance, notice the presence of the colon and semi colons in the fifth paragraph and tease out the use of these.

Then use this as a model for writing, imagining a different mythical creature, eg a goblin, dwarf, or elf. For example:

They often saw the elf: swinging through the trees in the park; hiding behind parked cars; riding on the back of night-time cats.

Story structure and innovation

Box up the story with the children to find the underlying pattern they will eventually use when writing their own ‘meeting’ story. Complete the planner, with the class giving ideas for a new story. The children can then create a planner for their own story.

Create a writing toolkit

This can focus on learning to build suspense using similar techniques to the story, eg

  • Use empty words: something, it, a shadow.
  • Hold the scene in the dark – night time or a dark place.
  • Make it cold and use bad weather – snow, storm or fog.
  • Use sounds rather than seeing the creature – tap, scratch, whisper, sigh, hiss, slither, thud.
  • Show the main character’s feelings by her reactions – crept, peered, blinked, dared not.
  • Keep the creature/threat hidden so that the reader has to use her imagination.

Use shared writing to create a class version of the story, with the children planning and then writing their own. Either stretch this over a number of days so that their stories gradually emerge or let them write their tale in one go.

From fiction to non-fiction

There are several places in the story that could be used as a springboard into other forms of writing. When they go to the library, Poppy and Waldo discuss different ways to get rid of the giant. This could lead into writing a set of instructions, ‘How to trap a giant’.

The class might then debate and write a balanced discussion, ‘Should giants be captured’? Finally, they discover from a reference book that their giant is either of the ‘hedge’ or ‘tree’ variety.

This could lead into children creating entries for ‘Giants of the British Isles’. To do this, every child creates a different type of giant – from storm giants to rainbow giants.

Brainstorm with the class the different sections needed in the writing such as – description, habitat, diet, life-cycle, strengths/weaknesses, special features, etc.

Here is a model information report about a tree giant:

The Tree Giant

Tree giants have become very rare and can be difficult to recognise. Like most giants, they have long legs, the body of a large man and a huge head. Typically, they are about the size of a house and are often mistaken for an oak tree as they are similar in stature. However, a few have been spotted that are much smaller and may easily be mistaken for bushes. The main feature of the male tree giant is that its skin peels rather like the bark of a rough tree.

Female tree giants, however, are slender with silvery skin and pale green hair. For this reason, they often hide amongst willow trees. This allows them to blend in without being seen. Furthermore, these delicate female giants have amazing teeth that are like small millstones and are used for grinding their food. Fascinatingly, they scatter thousands of skin scales as they move along, rather like autumn leaves.

Like the common giant, tree giants lives in small groups. They are very shy. During the daytime, they sleep in forests or small clumps of trees. However, at night, dusk and dawn, tree giants emerge and, if you are lucky, can be seen trimming hedges and tending to their gardens. They are easy to detect because they make a low rumbling sound as they breathe. However, if they think they have been sighted, they freeze and become indistinguishable from trees.

Tree giants have a fairly limited diet. They live on the following: all green and succulent leaves; the silvery bark of the willow tree; hedgerow and garden flowers and other forms of vegetation that they cultivate in the wild. However, they can also be tempted with various fruits and are fond of nuts and garden vegetables. Be careful if you come across a tree giant in case it mistakes you for a large form of turnip!

The most amazing thing about tree giants is that if you meet one, it may grant you a magical wish. For this reason, they have been hunted across the world. This has led to them becoming almost impossible to find.

Other ideas for writing include: listing the contents of a giant’s sack; discussing whether they make good pets; instructions on how to tame a wild giant; creating the perfect giant’s menu or writing an alphabet of giant past times.

Click here to download more great free Pie Corbett stories, poems and resources.

Pie Corbett is an English educational trainer, writer, author and poet who has written over 200 books. He is also known for promoting creative approaches in the classroom and has experience as a teacher, headteacher and Ofsted inspector. Follow him on Twitter at @PieCorbett.

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