A Palace for Opal

story by Katie Aaron , illustrated by Queenie Chan

Learning intention:

I am learning to reflect on how I can connect my own life to characters so that I can form a deeper understanding of feelings, reactions and relationships in stories.


Success criteria:

  • I can identify how character traits and personalities are portrayed through behaviours and interactions with others.
  • I can discuss my views on characters’ behaviours and situations and listen to the opinions of others.
  • I can write a reflection on how characters could have behaved with more kindness in specific situations.


Read the text, or if you have a digital subscription, you may wish to listen to the audio version. Afterwards, ask students to give one word to describe Opal the Mermaid (e.g., spoiled, selfish, rude) and textual evidence, such as a quote or description, to support their claim. These points may include:

  • She told anyone who would listen that she deserves better than a cave because she’s an ocean princess.
  • She summoned Boris Octopus (ensure students know that this means he was ordered to be there).
  • ‘Oh don’t be so boring’ / ‘They wouldn’t dare mess with me.’
  • Boris had heard that she was bossy and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
  • ‘When Opal checked the progress, she screeched, ‘Higher spires! Bigger rooms! Work faster!’
  • Boris Octopus decided to teach Opal a lesson because he was sick of being bossed around.
  • Opal gave orders and never said please or thank you.
  • ‘Yes, that’s more like it. Why didn’t you do this in the first place? Hurry up and finish it.’
  • ‘Now I’m going to get some beauty sleep. You can all stay and admire my palace but be very quiet and don’t disturb me.’

Discuss how Opal could have been kinder to the sea creatures around her, especially Boris Octopus. Guide this discussion towards how the way we treat others can impact their feelings and relationships.

Watch the Little J & Big Cuz episode ‘Big Plans’ which you can access for free using your Google education account. After viewing, ask students to identify the behaviours that they felt were unfair or hurtful in some way. These may include:

  • Little J repeatedly turns away from the old dog when he wants to play.
  • Big Cuz locks Little J out of their room.
  • Big Cuz and Sissy don’t go and play the game Little J has created and also leave him out of their game.
  • Big Cuz doesn’t let Sissy have a turn in their game.
  • Big Cuz rejects Sissy’s suggestions that they go and play with Little J.
  • Big Cuz gets annoyed that Sissy is playing with Little J instead of her.
  • Big Cuz acts bored and annoyed when she is included in the game.

Discuss how these issues were resolved by Little J playing his game on his own, Sissy joining him and Big Cuz eventually having fun with them once she also joins in.

Ask students to think about how the situations in both stories could have been avoided with more kindness. Students should then choose either the magazine text or the video to write a short reflection about what they think the characters should have done differently to avoid unnecessarily hurting the feelings of the others.

If time allows, have some students share their reflections to encourage further discussion of different views and ideas.


Assessment as learning:

Ask children to specifically focus on the success criteria used for this learning experience.

Ask children to reflect on their ability to work towards the learning intention through the success criteria. Using the Traffic light reflection that is available digitally or can be shared with the children as a hard copy gauge which children you will need to provide further explicit, guided, or independent learning experiences with.