Bo Peep's Lost Sheep

play by Steve Taylor and Kevin Densley , illustrated by Kerry Millard

Learning Intention: 

I am learning how to discuss my understanding of the effects of using the literary technique: idiom so that I can share my appreciation of the text with my peers. 

Success Criteria: 

  • I can define the term idiom and recognise a range of examples within a text.  
  • I can explain how idioms have been used humorously in a specific text. 
  • I can incorporate idioms into a humorous text.   

Essential knowledge: 

  • More information on how figurative language (such as idioms) has an effect on meaning can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Connotation, Imagery and Symbol. 

Prior to reading the play, and using the NSW K-10 Syllabus Glossary, define the terms ‘idiom’ and ‘idiomatic expression’. Students must understand that an idiom is a culturally specific phrase with a figurative, rather than literal meaning. Then as a class, brainstorm a list of idioms. You may wish to visually collate this list using software such as Mentimeter or Padlet 

In groups, students read the play. While reading, they underline examples of idioms in the text:  

  • grass was greener on the other side 
  • every cloud has a silver lining 
  • beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing 
  • a stitch in time saves nine 

After reading, ask groups why the authors have used these idioms in the text. You may wish to provide questions to scaffold their discussion:  

  • What is the purpose of this text? (To entertain) 
  • Is this text dramatic or humorous? (Humorous) 
  • How do the idioms make you feel? (Like laughing) 
  • Read the text around the idioms. Why are the idioms funny? (Because Susan the Sheep are using the idioms literally so they really mean what they say.) 

Students should recognise that the authors have included idioms in an unusual way – literally – as a way to include jokes in the play. For example, the sheep truly believe that a wolf is wearing sheep’s clothing, and if nine sheep started knitting their problems would be solved.  

Ask students to select 1 – 3 idioms (suggested resource: Idioms for Kids) to insert into the play. They should follow the steps below:  

  1. Susan the Sheep introduces the idiom 
  1. Another sheep asks why she has brought the topic up  
  1. Susan explains how the literal meaning of this idiom can be applied to their situation, as a group of lost sheep 

For example:  

SUSAN: I thought finding Bo would be a piece of cake. 

SAMPSON: How is cake supposed to help us?  

SUSAN: Well, Bo often drops the crumbs, so I thought it would create an easy path to follow. 

Finally, to emphasise the humour in using idioms in a literal way, ask students to deliver their new lines of dialogue to their peers/class. However, instead of saying their idiom, they act it out. (This is a modified version of idiom charades.) After they have acted out their script, the class guess which idiom featured in their new section.