Christmas Surprise

story by Duncan Richardson , illustrated by Stephen Axelsen

Learning intention:

I am learning connect the experience of characters to my own so that I can understand and explore my own feelings and those of others.


Success criteria:

  • I can identify challenges faced by characters in a story.
  • I can relate aspects of characters’ experiences to my own.
  • I can reflect on my feelings and actions when faced with challenges.


After reading the text, discuss the challenges the family in the story faced in having a proper Christmas tree. These should include:

  • Mum and Dad being too busy
  • The narrator of the story making a cardboard Christmas tree, but it was too small and flat
  • The road being flooded when they tried to go to the shops
  • The rain continuing for days on end
  • The family no longer had their old plastic tree
  • They were only able to find a small gum tree.


Discuss the ways they made the best of the situation, including:

  • Decorating the gum tree, including lights and a homemade cardboard angel
  • Finding joy in watching the caterpillars munching on the leaves
  • Waking up on Christmas eve and hurrying outside to see the caterpillars in their bright, shiny chrysalises
  • Looking forward to the caterpillars becoming butterflies

Ask students to think about a time they faced challenges and how they managed to make the best of the situation. Like the family in the story, this may be related to Christmas or an important event, or it may be something completely different, like not making it onto a team or missing out on something due to an injury or other circumstances.

Discuss the idea of disappointment and how some challenges are able to be overcome, while other times in life we need to make the most of the situation we are in. Ask students to quietly consider their own experiences and feelings and have them write a reflection about a time they faced this kind of challenge, how they handled it and how they feel about it now.

Students may wish to share their reflections or keep them private.