Asli and the Bear

story by Susan Hall , illustrated by Rosemary Fung

Learning intention

I am learning to investigate how imagery builds emotional connection and engagement with characters so that I can inspire readers to connect with the characters’ experiences I create.

Success criteria

  • I can experiment with using ‘show don’t tell’ to express emotions.
  • I can construct examples of imagery.
  • I can discuss how imagery encourages readers to connect with characters emotions.
  • I can compose a short story about a character who overcomes nerves.
  • I can include imagery in my story.

Essential knowledge

Discuss the term imagery, ensuring students understand that it means to use language to create a description that evokes the senses of readers. For more information on imagery, view the video Connotation, Imagery and Symbol.

Prior to reading Asli and the Bear, display the following statements:

  • I am angry.
  • I am excited to meet my favourite celebrity.
  • I am sad.

For each example, discuss how you might show this, such as, stomping your feet for anger, running up to someone hands clasped in a swoon to show you are meeting a famous celebrity, or miming crying, sniffing and rubbing your nose, to show sadness. Collaboratively compose sentences to describe the actions, for example:

  • The girl stomped her feet, turned her heels and marched out of the room.
  • The boy sprinted towards the celebrity, hands clasped in a prayer and a wearing a wide smile.
  • The girl sniffed, rubbed her nose and dabbed at her eyes.

Discuss which of the two sets of statements created the clearest image in the students’ minds. Most likely they will include that the second set of statements was more descriptive. Inform students that this is called ‘show don’t tell’, where authors show emotions without having to explicitly state them. Tell students that this can be done using descriptions of how the characters act, and through inner dialogue, showing how the characters think. Inform students that using imagery and show don’t tell allows readers to experience how characters are thinking and feeling, which often causes readers to engage more deeply with characters.

Read Asli and the Bear. Discuss how Asli feels at the following points in the story and identify language that reveals this:

Entering the cave: apprehensive, revealed through extracts such as,

His father spoke convincingly, but Asli noticed that he looked around for bear tracks as they walked up the hillside. He tried not to think about bears.

When he sees the paintings: impressed, , revealed through extracts such as,

He was sure he could hear beating hooves and horses neighing. Their eyes were glinting, their legs flashing as they ran.

When the torch goes out and he hears the bear: scared, revealed through extracts such as,

Suddenly there was a roar of anger and pain, a noise that seemed to bounce off the walls and through Asli’s head. Fear shook Asli from head to toe. He panicked and without thinking he started to run back out of the cave.

When faced with the bear: petrified, revealed through extracts such as,

Asli swallowed.

Asli froze as a bear came out of the shadows. It was a young bear, not that much taller than he was.

Asli’s throat tightened with fear, waiting to feel the bear’s teeth crunch down on his fingers.

When Asli faces the bear: Asli and the bear form a connection, revealed through extracts, such as,

Finally, he had the courage to look the bear in the eye. They stared at each other, boy and bear, neither moving. The only sound was their breathing and water dripping down the rock walls.


When he helps the bear: relief and pride, revealed through imagery such as,


He was safe!

And by the fact he paints a bear on the wall.

Inform students that they will be experimenting with composing imagery to create an emotional connection with readers. Compose an example with the students first.

Discuss common feelings experienced by characters:

  • Fear
  • Excitement
  • Happiness
  • Pride

Discuss how each of these emotions might be expressed using show don’t tell and inner dialogue. Collaboratively compose examples of imagery that engages the readers senses to express each of the emotions. Sample responses have been provided in the following table:

Emotion How to express the emotion using show don't tell. Example of imagery
Fear Knees knocking, shaking hands She took a deep breath and tried to stop their hands from trembling. Her throat felt tight. The bear could be here at any moment. She should hide but her knees were like jelly.
Excitement Waving hands around,

dancing on the spot

A bubble pushed against his chest, and he clenched his fists, waving them in the air. This was really happening! Everything he’d dreamed of.
Happiness Smiling She looked around, surveyed the crowd. Laughter filled the air. Everyone she loved here, in one room, sharing a meal. Her cheeks ached from the permanent smile on her face.
Pride Buffed out chest He took his space on the stage, chest puffed out, and held his certificate aloft. He’d done it, all that hard work had paid off.

Refer back to Asli and the Bear and discuss the emotional journey Asli experiences through his interaction with the bear. Ensure students note Asli’s feelings go from fear to pride when he is able to assist the bear. Inform students that they will be composing a short story about a character who is initially nervous about something but who through being able to help is feels relief or pride.

Discuss sample ideas of scenarios and display these for students to refer to if they need support in this area. For example:

  • A character who meets a wolf cub and is nervous initially but realises it needs help with finding its family.
  • A character who stands up to someone at school who is being unkind to their friend and feels proud for helping.

Instruct students to complete the following to compose their own short stories. Students may work independently or with a partner for this task.

  • Decide on a story idea where a character goes from feeling nervous to feeling pride.
  • Experiment with ‘show don’t tell’ to express this emotion.
  • Compose examples of imagery.
  • Includes the imagery in a brief story.

Assessment of learning:

Discuss the following exit ticket question before instructing students to respond to it in their workbooks:

Authors can assist readers to engage with the characters they create by_______ (Using imagery and show don’t tell to express the emotions a character experiences.)

Effective Feedback from the NSW Department of Education has more information on the types of feedback.