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Day 59 - Piranhas (creative ideas for home schooling)

For anyone new to this blog, the idea is simple - each day my boys (Joshua - 9 and Archie - 8) choose a stimulus that drives the learning. We hope that you enjoy the blog and can take some inspiration from what we love doing - making learning as engaging as possible!



Ever since seeing Steve Backshall get bitten by a piranha on Deadly 60, the boys have been intrigued and fascinated by these predators. They are a superb stimulus for writing as they are so iconic.

We hope you enjoy!



  • List poem (including expanded noun phrases / figurative language)

  • Turning poetry to prose

  • Turning poetry into information writing

Today's blog showcases the true essence of Talk for Writing. It demonstrates the power of poetry and how it drives the vocabulary and mood; how narrative can be born out of poetry; and how we can manipulate language for a desired effect and purpose. Fundamentally, today's lesson is what I believe writing is all about.

We began by looking at photos of particular, the red-bellied piranha.

Then, by focussing in on parts of this fish in isolation, we brainstormed all of the key vocabulary we could think of. The idea here is to let the imagination run wild and free. We want to reactivate dormant vocabulary, whilst also looking for new, fresh combinations that break cliche.

In the brainstorm below, we initially brainstormed the adjectives (on the left) and then pushed for similes and verbs (on the right). I also used the opportunity to introduce the boys to a few new words, including ornamental and insatiable.

Once the brainstorm was complete, we then set to writing our poems. As in previous posts, the method here is simple:

  1. Look at the piranha as a whole and describe what it is doing.

  2. Then focus in on an interesting detail and describe it, either through the specific detail, imagery or action.

  3. Continue this as you look at the different parts / features.

Here is my model for the boys:

The Piranha

The piranha waits

like an ornamental doll.

Its feverish eyes fixate and stare.

Ravenous teeth twinkle like pearled stars,

poised to pierce, tear and shred.

Its sunburnt belly

swells like a bruise,

the insatiable appetite

plaguing from within.

An electric tail

propels with precision

and it strikes.

© Jamie Thomas 2020

With the poem created, the trick is then to 'hang' the narrative on top. An easy way is to put yourself into a scene when you are seeing something either for yourself, or through the eyes of a character. The trick is to raid the poetry. Here is the shared writing I did with the boys:

TJ pressed his nose against the thick glass and stared in. There they were, one of the world's greatest predators, waiting like a shelf of ornamental dolls. Rows of feverish eyes all fixated upon the empty tank, the tank that would soon become a frenzied banquet. Under the fluorescent lights, TJ noticed how their ravenous teeth twinkled like pearled stars, poised to pierce, tear and shred their next victim. Their sunburnt bellies swelled like a bruise. He had read about the insatiable appetite of the red-bellied piranha and could see how this plagued them from within.

A sudden splash and the tank erupted. Electric tails propelled each fish with precision as the water turned to red.

The final stage is to then draw upon all of the vocabulary and word work to manipulate the text and create a short information text. I explained to the boys that this would be the sort of information you may find on a plaque next to the tank, highlighting some of the key interesting features. Here is the model I showed the boys.

The Red-Bellied Piranha

Would you know a red-bellied piranha if you saw one? Most of them have feverish red eyes that fixate and stare at their victims. Furthermore, their ravenous teeth twinkle like pearled stars, poised and ready to pierce, tear and shred. It is a well known fact that this type of piranha can be spotted in the murkiest waters due to its sunburnt-red belly that many compare to a swelling bruise. The majority of piranhas have an insatiable appetite that plagues them from within. Finally, the most amazing thing about this mighty predator is their electric blue tail that propels through the water with graceful precision and power.

I hope that you can see how the initial poetry helps generate the language that then enriches and drives both the narrative and non-fiction. We call this short-burst writing, and it lies at the very heart of Talk for Writing.

Here are the boys' efforts. These are all initial drafts as I wanted them to focus on the flow and manipulation of language, rather than the odd transcriptional mistake.


The Piranha by Archie

The piranha hides.

Its bloodshot flaming eye glares.

Vicious teeth rip, tear, shred and pierce.

Its sunburn belly glows.

Its graceful tail erupts like a fiery volcano.

Archie gazed through the glass at the shoal of hiding piranhas. Their bloodshot flaming eyes glared. The zoo keeper threw the food in and their vicious teeth ripped, tore and pierced. Then they showed their sunburnt bellies, they glowed. Graceful tails erupted like a fiery volcano. then they vanished.

Would you know a piranha if you saw one? Nearly all of them are shy but when something goes in the water, vicious teeth rip, tear and pierce. Additionally, its bloodshot flaming eye glares. Finally, the most amazing thing about piranhas is that its graceful tail erupts like a fiery volcano.


The Piranha by Joshua

The piranha attacks.

Bloodshot, swollen eyes glare.

Jagged, vicious teeth munch, rip,

tear and bite.

Its red hot belly grows.

Spectacular tail fins slash like colourful coral.

I saw the piranhas attack. Their bloodshot, swollen eyes glared at their dinner. A feeding frenzy of jagged, vicious teeth munched and bit. From down below, I could see their red hot bellies glowing and their coral tails slashing.

Would you know a red bellied piranha if you saw one? Nearly all of the have a robin's belly. However, don't put your finger in the piranha's mouth. Furthermore, the red eyes on a red-bellied piranha are red as lava. Finally, the most amazing thing about the piranha is their coral tail.


If you are enjoying this blog, please do share it and spread the word. Thank you to all of you who have got in touch and shared some of the outcomes from what you have tried - we love to hear from you.

Do tune in tomorrow, where we exploring:


My thanks to Pie Corbett, Julia Strong and the Talk for Writing team for inspiring many of the ideas explored in this blog.

This blog is copyright. All materials herein, texts and supporting resources are copyright to Jamie Thomas & Talk for Writing. They may be used to support children/staff/parents in home-learning ONLY and not for commercial gain or for training or sharing widely, in their original form or any variations. They must also not be shared online or on any social media platforms without prior permission.

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