Dan's Superpower

story by Jill Jackson , illustrated by Anna Bron

Learning Intention:  

I am learning to work with a range of writing techniques so that I can create more interesting stories. 

Success Criteria: 

  • I can use parts of a story to help identify a theme 
  • I can write a story based on the theme of a text 
  • I can use techniques such as showing, telling and dialogue in my story writing 


Essential knowledge: 

More information about understanding the theme of a story can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Theme. 


After reading the story, ask students to consider what they think its theme is, using evidence from the text. Some suggestions may include: 

  • Perseverance (Despite knowing he wasn’t very good at diving or swimming, Dan decided to go to the pool and practice so that he could improve before the carnival) 
  • Trying new things (Regardless of his lack of confidence, Dan still signed up to the swimming carnival and he also tried something new by playing on the soccer team) 
  • Personal strengths (Although he struggled with swimming, Dan found that he excelled at soccer) 

Discuss the concept of ‘show, don’t tell’ in story writing, and how the author shows the reader how Dan is feeling at different times, rather than telling. Ask the students how they think Dan was feeling about the swimming carnival (e.g. stressed, nervous, worried, scared), then ask them to find descriptions in the text that show us these feelings. Answers may include: 

  • Dan clenched his jaw 
  • (He) stumbled from the line 
  • Dan’s gut turned 
  • A knot formed in his belly 
  • (He) flopped on his bed 
  • He buried his head in his pillow 

Discuss how Dan was feeling when Mr Batten asked him to play on the soccer team and praised his ability (e.g. shocked, flattered, proud, excited), then ask students to find descriptions in the text that show us these feelings. Answers may include: 

  • Dan’s face burnt 
  • He stammered 
  • Dan quivered 
  • Dan was almost lost for words 
  • Dan blinked a couple of times 
  • The knot in his stomach was loosening, and he even puffed out his chest a little 

Explain to students that there are also parts of stories that we do need to tell because this can help inform our reader about the circumstances and setting of the story or scene, so that they understand the context of what is happening. Read the example from the opening of the story: 

One minute Miss Black was telling the class about the swimming carnival and the next minute Felix and Harvey were bugging him to put his name down. 

Then also read the example from the beginning of the pool scene: 

Sunday came and Mum drove them to the aquatic centre. Stripping down to their bathers, they put on goggles and slid into the warm water. 

Explain to students that information that the reader needs to know can also be given through dialogue, when the characters talk to each other. An example of this is: 

‘When’s the swimming carnival?’ she asked.  

‘In just over a week,’ said Dan. ‘Not next Monday but the one after. I’ve got a permission note.’ 


Using the methods of showing, telling and dialogue, students should compose their own story based on the theme of the text. For example, this may be about finding their very own ‘superpower’, persevering through something challenging, or trying new things that take them outside of their comfort zone. 

If time allows, willing students should read their story to the class to facilitate discussion about their interpretation of the story’s theme.