Cicadas Got Talent

Denise Kirby , illustrated by Christopher Nielsen

Learning intentions:

I am learning to apply other authors’ stylistic choices to my own ideas so that I can experiment with different structures and styles of writing.

Success criteria:

  • I can identify the choices an author has made in structuring their text.
  • I can recognise the theme an author has used to add humour to their writing.
  • I can apply the author’s style to my own piece of writing.

Essential knowledge:

More information about recognising and analysing authors’ styles can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Style.


Watch the Ted Ed video Cicadas: The dormant army beneath your feet to familiarise students with the life cycle and characteristics of cicadas. Make students aware, however, that as the video is from the US the pronunciation of ‘cicada’ is different to the way we say it in Australia. They use a long a pronunciation (as in late), whereas we pronounce the a as an ar sound (as in after).

Assign roles to students to read the play as a class or in groups. Ask students to identify references the author used to real characteristics of cicadas and discuss how this adds to the humour of the writing. This may include the lyrics of the rap, the nymphs shedding their exoskeletons on stage, or the cicada-related banter between the hosts.

Students should then work individually or collaboratively to write their own talent show play based on insects or other types of animals in the style of the author. They should first brainstorm what type of animal their play should be about. To reduce the need for research time, it should be an animal they are reasonably familiar with.

Suggestions may include:

  • Different breeds of dog
  • Different species of sharks
  • Different types of farm animals


Students should consider physical characteristics, typical behaviours, and personality traits of their chosen animals to inform their writing. It may be helpful for them to create a mind map or list of how the author incorporated this into her play using humour so students can adapt this style to their chosen animal.

This may include:

  • Who the hosts would be and what may be the basis of their banter (e.g. a very drooly bulldog and a very stuck up poodle)
  • What characteristics or behaviours each of their performers would have and how that would influence their act (e.g. a megamouth shark may sing opera, but may be very shy doing so as they are deepwater sharks who are not used to being seen by others)
  • How a group would perform together (e.g a flock of ducks may perform Singin’ in the Rain while doing a synchronised swim in a pond)

If working in collaborative groups, they may wish to assign one animal to each person, or work together on all aspects. Encourage students to be as imaginative as possible in the context of a talent show. Their contestants don’t need to be limited to singing – they may perform magic tricks, choreographed dancing, stand-up comedy, or anything else they can think of!

Once the plays have been completed, edited and rehearsed, groups may wish to perform their play for the class.