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Great Missenden Church of England Combined School

An Academy of the Great Learners Trust



Story Writing - Portal Stories


Our next unit of work will look at portal stories. These types of stories transport the characters into a magical world via a gate, wardrobe, magical tree or anything else the author might imagine.

Our portals can take us to many wonderful and magical places so we’ll start this week with some weird and wonderful setting descriptions!


MONDAY: Descriptive Writing- Fantasy World!


We’ll start off our work on these stories with some quick writing to get our creative imaginations flowing. Today we’ll look at ‘setting’. When you step through a magic portal you could end up anywhere!


Step 1: Choose a picture!

My first step is to choose a picture. I’m going to choose one of the pictures below, but of course, feel free to choose your own. You might want to choose a magical scene from your own favourite film! (The pictures are attached in a PDF below.)




Skill Focus: 

My next step, when I’ve chosen my picture will be to collect words. I’m going to collect nouns, adjectives and verbs, but my Are You Nuts?! challenge for everyone today is going to be to explore:


Personification is a great descriptive writing skill which authors use to make their settings come alive. Simply put, it means describing a ‘thing’ as if it was a person. Here are some examples:

The wind whispered through the trees.


The wind is a ‘thing’ not a person. It can’t really whisper, it doesn’t have a mouth, it can’t talk! It doesn’t make sense…but…it works! It makes us think that the wind is making soft, hushed sounds like a whisper. It creates a certain mood, quiet and maybe secretive.


The merry sun smiled down on them.


The sun is a ‘thing’ not a person. It can’t be merry, it doesn’t have emotions like we do. Nor can it smile, it hasn’t got a mouth. It doesn’t make sense…but…it works! By making the sun smile it makes the day sound beautiful and happy, if the sun itself is merry then it must be a magnificent day. It creates a mood of warmth and joy.


If you want some more information on personification check out either the wonderful video or  the more detailed information below:   - Video   - Information


So my ‘Are You Nuts?!’ challenge today will be to include an example of personification in my poem. To help me do this I’m going to collect ‘personification’ words as part of my brainstorm.


Step 2: Collect words!

I’ve chosen this picture. I looked at it carefully and picked out the 4 things that stand out to me the most- the city, the storm clouds, the waterfall and the green hills. Now I’m going to collect words for each. I’ll collect adjectives, verbs and ‘human’ verbs (Things that a person can do, but a thing cannot.) I will use these words to add personification to my writing.




These are the words I collected for this picture. You are welcome to use them if you would like to describe the same picture. There is a blank grid attached below if you would like to use it.


Step 3: Choose my words and write my setting description 

My next step is to choose words from my table and write a brilliant sentence to describe each of the 4 key features. I am going to try and include personification too. As always, I’m going to choose carefully. I want to use my best words, not the first word I think of!


The city clung to the cliff edge, its round domes gleaming in the fading sun.

Clear and cold, waterfalls crashed and splashed into the winding river.

Above the city, storm clouds gathered, marching across the sky.

In the distance the emerald hills called to me peacefully.


I’ve tried to use a range of skills. You might be able to spot alliteration and rhyme and I’ve used some preposition starters too. I was able to use personification three times. The city clung to the cliff. The storm clouds marched across the sky. The distant hills called to me.


Now it’s your turn! Have fun and remember that with this kind of writing quality is much more important than quantity. Take your time and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.


Try using the Steps to Success to include a range of skills:-



Hot and Spicy: Use great adjectives 

Mega Hot: Use similes and alliteration

Are You Nuts?!:  Have a go at personification


I've attached below some word mats for support:



Sentence starters