Go to page Content

7 — Using the setting of ancient Rome in fictional writing

The cover of 'The Assassins of Rome' by Caroline Lawrence from The Roman Mysteries series, depicting a hooded person with a sheathed sword on their back, crouching on a high parapet overlooking a Roman city square

Above: Cover from The Assassins of Rome by Caroline Lawrence, Orion Children's Books, London, 2002 reproduced with permission of Orion Children's Books.

This is the first in a three sequence series that focuses on The Assassins of Rome by Caroline Lawrence. The sequences focus on how the author has developed and described the setting of ancient Rome, and how she has developed and characterised the citizens of ancient Rome.

It is essential that the whole book is read, either via a mixture of modelled, guided and independent reading both in class and through homework, or that you read it aloud to the class. Time should be allowed for the novel reading to take place outside of the lesson sequences.

This sequence enables students to deconstruct two different techniques used in the novel to describe settings and then gives them the opportunity to produce their own writing (which will scaffold the production of their fictional text in Assessment task 2).

Introduction: Fact or fiction?
A reflection on re-imagining the past

In order to orientate the students to the change of focus from factual texts to fictional texts, they will begin this sequence with the guided reflection on page 9 in their reflective journals, in which they will review the factual texts they have studied and reflect on the role the author plays in interpreting and presenting information.

Activity 1: How can settings from the past be described in writing?

The first setting, on page 1 of the text, is in a triclinium. Read the first two paragraphs then, in groups, students write down which senses the text appeals to and which descriptive phrases or clauses link to them (for example, for the sense of touch: ‘one hot morning’, ‘sat on cushions around a low octagonal table’). They then independently carry out the same activity using the first three paragraphs from the beginning of Chapter 7. Discuss their answers as a whole class. ACELT1622ACDSEH039,   ACELY1722ACELY1723

Activity 2: How can descriptions of the setting be constructed?

Revise the definition of a noun group with the students. Show them the Noun group table on an interactive whiteboard and ask them to create a noun group to describe something around them (for example, ‘those four chewed writing pencils’).

Introduce (or revise) the concept of a qualifier, which usually takes the form of an embedded clause or prepositional phrase (see Resources). Ask the students to add a qualifier to their noun group (for example, ‘those four chewed writing pencils on the edge of the table’). Elicit further examples from the students. Read the Quote from The Assassins of Rome describing ancient Rome. In groups, the students identify the noun groups then use the noun group table to analyse them. ACELA1534ACELT1621

Activity 3: How can you use the same techniques to create your own setting?

Watch the videos of ‘Rome Reborn’ or the video hosted on Scootle (access requires log in). Pause at any point or choose one image to work from. Model writing a description of the chosen scene, focusing on language that appeals to the senses and that features rich noun groups. In small groups, students jointly construct a descriptive paragraph to describe their chosen scene. Scan or type the student work so it can be displayed on an interactive whiteboard, and jointly deconstruct it, focusing on the use of effective noun groups as explored in the previous activity. ACELA1534ACELT1625,   ACDSEH039

Student reflective journal

Students should spend 5–10 minutes responding to the reflection questions for this sequence, either in written form or orally, and then assess their responses against the success criteria using the rubric provided.