Reading and writing activities: past perfect and narrative tenses

Carlos Román
Note by Carlos Román, updated more than 1 year ago
Carlos Román
Created by Carlos Román about 1 year ago


This resource proposes a reading activity based on the description of Ms Trunchbull by Roald Dahl and a writing activity using the past perfect and other narrative tenses, including descriptions of characters.

Resource summary

Page 1

Reading and Writing activities

The Description of Miss Trunchbull, by Roald Dahl. "Miss Trunchbull, the Headmistress, was something else altogether. She was a gigantic holy terror, a fierce tyrannical monster, who frightened the life out of pupils and teachers alike. There was an aura of menace about her even at a distance, and when she came up close you could almost feel the dangerous heat radiating from her as from a red hot rod of metal. When she marched – Miss Trunchbull never walked, she always marched like a storm trooper, with long strides and arms swinging when she marched along a corridor you could actually hear her snorting as she went, and if a group of children happened to be in her path, she ploughed right on through them like a tank, with small people bouncing off her to left and right. She was above all a most formidable female. She had once been a famous athlete, and even now the muscles were still clearly in evidence. You could see them in the bull neck, in the big shoulders, in the thick arms, in the sinewy wrists and in the powerful legs. Looking at her, you got the feeling that this was someone who could bend iron bars and tear telephone directories in half. Her face, I’m afraid, was neither a thing of beauty nor a joy for ever. She had an obstinate chin, a cruel mouth and small arrogant eyes. And as for her clothes...they were, to say the least, extremely odd. She always had on a brown cotton smock which was pinched in around the waist with a wide leather belt. This belt was fastened in front with an enormous silver buckle. The massive thighs which emerged from out of the smock were encased in a pair of extraordinary breeches, bottle green in colour and made of coarse twill. These breeches reached to just below the knees and from there on down she sported green stockings with turn up tops, which displayed her calf muscles to perfection. On her feet she wore flat heeled brown brogues with leather flaps. She looked, in short, more like a rather eccentric and bloodthirsty follower of the staghounds than the headmistress of a nice school for children." Extract from Matilda by Roald Dahl.

1. Find one example of past perfect used in the text. 2. What other tense is this text mosty written in? 3. Look up any words you don't understand or used the technique explained at the beginning of the unit. 4. Make a list of adjectives the author uses to describe physical appearance and another for personality. 5. Find sentences that portray exaggerated features of the headmistress. How does the author manage to convey his exaggeration?

Page 2

Write your own story

Work in pairs. 1. Use a combination of all the past tenses you know (as well as the present, if you want to) to make up a story. 1.1 This story must contain at least 10 new words you have learned in this unit. 1.2 You must try to describe, at least, one of the characters in a detailed way.   2. Exchange your text with another group/pair. Read their text and choose a suitable part of the text to make narrative changes to. Change the story in the parts you like and give it back to the original authors. They will try to spot the parts you have changed and they will decide whether they like the original story or the modified one better.

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