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Where it all began

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By Teresa Saunders — Educational Consultant and Writer

Two on-screen texts: one fact and one fiction, offering views on how human life began.

This resource presents two texts: one fact and one fiction, but both explain the same major event – how human life began. The resource can be used to stimulate argument and debate and provide opportunities for persuasive writing, in which children argue which text (if any) they believe or has most merit.

The resource also provides an ideal chance to explore the two different genres. The fictional text is presented in a traditional story format, with illustrations. It is a retelling of an African folk tale called Mama Africa. The factual text is presented as a screen-by-screen presentation, with diagrams and photos. It is called What scientists believe.


Shared learning and teaching

Introducing the texts

  • Ask the children how they think the world began. Elicit stories which attempt to explain how the world was created. Why are there so many different variations of this story? Discuss beliefs, drawing upon what the children have learned in RE. Consider whether any of the stories offer facts to suggest that the stories are true.
  • Introduce the on-screen resource after eliciting that creation stories belong to the fictional genre. What sort of people might believe they can prove how the world began? Elicit scientists. Show the first screen. Ask the children to vote whether they prefer fiction or non-fiction, giving reasons for their preference. Explain that they will read and compare both texts but decide, as a class, which to read first.

Previous learning

Children should understand the difference between non-fiction and fiction texts and be able to state features of each text type. They may also be aware of ‘creation stories’ and perhaps have their own views on how the world began.

Text features

  • Read the texts and identify the features of both text types. Compare the way each text is presented – eg, use of diagrams and maps to support the non-fiction text; illustrations to complement the fictional text.
  • Look carefully at the text structure and use of paragraphs. Reread each paragraph, summarising it in one sentence. How is it different to the one preceding it? Use this to revise when a writer should start a new paragraph.
  • In the fictional text, look at the range of punctuation used, using the sentences with semi-colons, dashes, etc, to extend higher ability children.
  • Ask the children to identify sentence types. Locate sentences that use embedded clauses – eg, _‘But the great sky god, who created… something missing.’_ What job do the embedded clauses have here? (Adding extra information.) Rewrite the sentences without them to understand their impact. Replace the embedded clauses with different ideas, or play around with the sentence order, discussing the difference in meaning. Eg, ‘Mama Africa loved them all, whatever their colour…’

Group work

  • Look at the non-fiction text. Comment on its structure. Which phrases or words link ideas? Scan the text and identify connectives – eg, as a result, before long. Could any be substituted?
  • Read stories detailing how the world began. Ask groups to prepare a class presentation to persuade the audience to believe in one story.
  • In groups, think up new creation stories. Make notes about the plots then act out in front of the class.

Key learning outcomes:

  • To tell a story, using notes;
  • To present a spoken argument and take part in whole-class debate, analysing persuasive language;
  • To use evidence to explain ideas/events;
  • To compare information and narrative texts;
  • To write fiction and factual texts;
  • To construct sentences in different ways;
  • To use punctuation in complex sentences.

Independent work

  • Give the children complex sentences to rewrite, inserting an embedded clause to add to the meaning.
  • Invite the children to write their own stories called ‘How it all began’.
  • Use the activity sheet below to rewrite the myth as a scientific explanation and vice versa.
  • Ask the children to write down which of the two texts in the on-screen resource they would prefer to believe, justifying their responses.


  • Invite the children to perform their sketches. Which ideas did the audience find particularly interesting? If they were to write the same story, how could they expand on the idea?
  • Debate which text to believe. Display useful language and phrases (on the contrary, on the other hand, however).
  • Write these sentences on the board:
Mama Africa made herself children because she was lonely.
The two humans looked at the world around them.
Can the children suggest an embedded clause to add more detail or meaning to each one?