The Runaway Dinner
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Murray Gadd Reads “The Runaway Dinner” for Year 3 – 6 students

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In this episode of ‘Building Excitement, Motivation and Achievement in Writing with Dr Murray Gadd’, we watch Murray reading and writing from “The Runaway Dinner” by Allan Ahlberg.

This video is primarily aimed at Year 3 – 6 students, though some Year 7-8 students may enjoy it as well. 

Dr Murray Gadd has generously made this video available free to the public. However, if sharing this video with a group or class, please could you use the links below to Vimeo or YouTube – Thanks!


Usually, we ask you to share the video lessons with your class – either face to face in the same space, or via zoom / skype at the same time. The main reason for this is because we feel it is best used as a Teacher Aid.  We highly recommend that you schedule a class / group zoom session and share the video with your zoom group so that you can talk to it and provide first hand discussion topics.

However during Covid lock-downs, we know that some tamariki find it difficult to attend the classes at the time you are giving them, therefore making it harder for those students to be able to participate in the video lesson.

For this reason, during lockdown, for a limited period, we will make this video available to share via the shareable links below.  Some like to use YouTube and others prefer Vimeo which may have fewer distractions for students. We have made links available for both.

Scroll down for the video or click here


“The Runaway Dinner” – Purpose:

The purpose for this lesson is to plan and write your own narrative about a runaway dinner, involving your favourite food.  Students are to be as imaginative as possible as they describe the characters and tell what happens during their runaway dinner.


Teacher Notes

I move through eight set steps of writing instruction in this lesson:

1) Introducing the topic: 

  • I briefly introduce the book that I am going to read by letting the students know how ‘hysterically funny it is’.  I introduce the main characters and general plot-line, and read from the back cover about who the book is intended for.  This is all about engaging students into a reading of the text. 


2) Developing content for writing

  • I read the text with students, asking the occasional question (e.g., ‘I wonder where they’re going to go?’; ‘I wonder what’s going to happen?’) and making the occasional comment (e.g., ‘I’ve got a feeling that Banjo’s going to eat Melvyn’) along the way.  I read mainly for enjoyment.


3) Developing a task for writing

  • Having stated that I love the author’s ‘vivid imagination’, I ponder the possibilities of writing about my own runaway dinner and wonder what it might be like: ‘What might I be eating?  Who might be with my food?  Where might they go?  What might happen to them?’
  • I also suggest that my writing would be a narrative (just as the book is) and remind myself of the components of a narrative: characters, setting, problem, series of events, ending or resolution.


4) Demonstrating how I get ready to write

  • As I ‘think aloud’ the task, I record a flowchart (as a plan) on the board: what might happen in my narrative?  My flowchart indicates that my story will feature Percy the pork chop, Kim the kumara, Paul the potato, Sammi the spinach, Trixie the cat and Baxter the dog.  It will involve them going to the beach down the slide, meeting two tuis (Peter and Pam), and being confronted by a bus and a bulldozer.  I have an outline for writing my own narrative. 


5) Establishing criteria

  • I think-aloud and record the two writing skills I will need to use in my writing (placing events in the right order; adding sufficient detail) but I remember my main goal which is to entertain or amuse the reader by making him/her laugh.   


6) Modelling the writing task

  • Instead of undertaking shared writing, I share a text that I have begun to write about ‘my runaway dinner’ (receptive modelling).  See below for a transcript of my text.
  • But I go further than this.  I then re-read it and indicate what I have done as a writer to begin to create my narrative, e.g., use some of the language that Allan Ahlberg has used in his text, especially in terms of describing my name, including quirky content and using similar colloquial phrases and repetition.
  • Note that I also return to the criteria and check/look for examples in my text of how I have addressed them.


7) Differentiating the group

  • Although I don’t differentiate in this lesson, I probably would in a ‘real’ classroom. I would invite students to either move off to begin writing their own texts independently (having told me what food was going to feature in their runaway dinner story) or to remain with me to ‘help them get started’.  This is the group that I would do my shared writing/modelling with.  It may be that we just continue writing together a few more sentences to my text (on ‘what I did’).


8) Encouraging students to have a go

  • This includes a final reminder of the task with an emphasis on students remembering to think about the food that will run away in their story, where will they go, what will happen to them, and especially what will happen to them in the end.    


My Text:

There once was a boy called Murray.  Yes, Murray was his name.  He lived in a two-storied house by the sea and wore all sorts of interesting clothes.  His favourite was a lime green and purple tee shirt that he wore in summer and a pair of zebra-skin trousers that he wore in winter.

Murray loved his tucker and every night he loved to munch a big fat pork chop.

Well, one night the pork chop he was about to munch thought to himself, “I’ve had enough….He’s eaten all my brothers and sisters so why should I be the next one….Yes, I’ve had enough”.

So Percy – for that was the pork chop’s name – leapt from the plate on to the floor and scuttled toward the door….


Tips for using this lesson

  • This lesson may be undertaken over several time periods, not necessarily following each other.  It may be, for example, that you read and discuss the text on one day, but return to it for analysis, discussion and writing the next day. 


You might want to use this video in several ways.

  • You might want to use it just to give yourself a good idea for a writing lesson, or just to remind yourself what you need to do in an effective writing lesson.
  • Or you might want to share all or part of it with your students to motivate them as writers.  
  • You might then want to collect each student’s text and publish them as a class book on ‘Our Private Worlds or Places’. 


download the pdfDownload the Teacher Notes PDF (subscribers

Watch The Video Lesson

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