Grandma Bird / During Reading / /

Dark and Light

Exploring the visual language of light and dark.

Lesson length: 1 session

Lesson from Grandma Bird series

Required reading: Whole book

Text potential

  • Visual language: Light and dark


  • English
  • Reading

Strategies used

  • Graphic Organisers


In a highly visual world, it is crucial to teach children to read images critically. Patterns of light and dark can be used to draw attention to key features in an image, to create mood, or add symbolic meaning. Benji Davies uses dark and light to great effect to convey Noi’s emotions while he hides in the cave during a storm. The drama of the fierce lightning storm is given full force through the lighting effects that Davies employs.

In this lesson, children explore the impact of dark and light on their emotional responses. The discussion provides an opportunity to extend and deepen vocabulary knowledge.


  • Copies of Grandma Bird, at least one between two. Alternatively, projection of the book using a visualiser or tablet.
  • Copies of the ‘Zones of Relevance’ graphic organiser, or an enlarged version for classwork


Share the double-page spread, ‘Noi listened as the sea thrashed….’.

Prompts to support discussion about the use of light and dark:

  • Which parts of the cave are dark?
  • How does this make the cave seem?
  • Where is Noi? What is he doing? You might extend this to say that he appears to be cowering behind the rock. Does this suggest he feels safe or threatened?
  • Can you show how Noi is feeling with your face and body?
  • Where is the light coming from?
  • Which parts of the picture have light shining on them?

Invite the children to suggest words that can be used to describe the dark.

  • Which words fit best with the picture? Use the Zones of Relevance organiser to arrange words from those that are most relevant for the story in the inner circle, to those that are least relevant in the outer circle.

Make explicit that the ‘best fit’ word isn’t always the longest or the most unusual.

Display the completed Zone of Relevance organiser for reference.

Final reflection

Introduce evaluative language.

  • Do you think Benji Davies has used light and dark effectively to create an atmosphere in this picture?

Can the children explain in simple terms the techniques that Benji Davies uses and the effects? Encourage them to look closely at the picture.

Key vocabulary

gloomy, pitch-black, shadowy, dim, dingy, flashing, brilliant, intense

Additional vocabulary

anxious cowering, crouching, shivering, trembling


Zones of relevance

Use this graphic organiser as a vehicle for discussing vocabulary choices. The quality of discussion and questioning is a vital part of this process.

Zone of Relevance organiser


Nikki Gamble

Nikki Gamble
Director, Just Imagine
Nikki has worked extensively in schools across the UK and internationally. She is the author of Exploring Children’s Literature (4th edit) (2019) and co-author of Guiding Readers (2016) which was awarded the UKLA Academic Book of the Year Award 2017. Nikki is KS2 reading advisor and series consultant for Oxford University Press and content creator for the Oxford School Improvement and Oxford Owl websites. Nikki is Associate Consultant at the University of London, Institute of Education and Honorary Fellow at the University of Winchester

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Sam Keeley

Formerly a teacher and local authority advisory teacher, Sam now works with Just Imagine as an English consultant and manager of the year 6 Reading Gladiators programme.

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