A Story Like the Wind / Before Reading / /

The Village On a Hill

Using the peritext to focus attention on what has happened and make predictions

Lesson length: 1 session

Lesson from A Story Like the Wind series

Text potential

  • Visual language: Design, layout and typography

Strategies used

  • Discussion and Dialogue
  • Comprehension: Questioning


Stories in contemporary illustrated books often begin before the start of the written text, and this is the case in A Story Like the Wind. The text before the beginning of the story is called the peritext. Children will often skip past these pages, thus missing vital information. This lesson is designed to focus the children’s attention on the details in the peritext, which could impact on their understanding of the story.

There are two possible ways of approaching this task. 

  1. One is to look at the two images in the order they appear in the book, i.e. the village on the hill and then the destroyed village. 
  2. An alternative is to look at the bombed village and invite the pupils to describe what they see. Following this straightforward recall, they can conjecture what has happened. After looking at this page turn to the previous page.

 If you are conducting this session with groups, rather than the class, you might want to try it both ways to see how it affects the pupils’ responses.


  • Scanned images of the two spreads or a visualiser to project them.


Show the title page. Ask:

  • What can you see? This requires pupils to describe what they notice in the pictures. If necessary, draw attention to the shepherd and animals on the left of the page. 

After describing, ask some supplementary prompts. For example:

  • Who do you think lives here?
  • What do you imagine it would be like living here?

Now, look at the second spread. Again start with a simple retrieval question

  • What can you see?

Then consider:

  • What has happened in the time/space between these two pictures?

If it doesn’t arise in the discussion, ask a further question:

  • Does this remind you of anything that you have seen, heard or read about?

Gather information. Allow the pupils to share what they know. Gill Lewis deliberately avoided a specific setting for her story as she was more concerned with its universality, so avoid pushing the children to see this as a particular situation.

Discuss words that can be used to describe the destruction of the village.


Final reflection

Based on the discussion of these two images, ask:

  • What are you expecting from this story?


Key vocabulary

destroy, destruction, eradicate, annihilate


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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