Elsie and the Fur Coat

story by Paula Thompson , illustrated by Anna Bron

Learning Intention:

I am learning to describe how the influence of cultural experience helps give meaning to a text so that I can explain my personal response to the characters and events.


Success Criteria:

  • I can identify the cultural context of a text.
  • I can use my cultural experience to give meaning to a text.
  • I can explain how my personal response to characters and events are shaped by my experience.


Essential knowledge:

More information about plot structure can be found at The School Magazine’s webpage on Narrative.


Oral language and communication:

Ask students to list the mythical creatures they know, such as dragons, goblins, vampires or werewolves. Query whether students know the country of origin of any of these mythical creatures. Explain that there’s a Norse and Celtic mythical creature called a selkie and ask if anyone’s heard of it before. Introduce students to the topic by viewing BBC Scotland’s video The Story of the Selkie Wife and visiting Wilderness Ireland’s page on selkies. Scrolling down on the Wilderness Ireland page will give the story of Thady Rua O’Dowd and possible origins of the myth.


Understanding text:

Read the first paragraph of Elsie and the Fur Coat then ask students if they can predict what the story will be about. When students recognise the facets of selkie mythology, ask them to consider whether they could have predicted this without learning the cultural context first. Do a think, pair, share where students predict the possible plot points of the story. Having heard The Story of the Selkie Wife and read the story of Thady Rua O’Dowd, students may predict that:

- Elsie will keep the coat and find a mysterious girl

- Elsie won’t know the coat belongs to the girl OR Elsie will keep the coat to keep the girl

- The girl will eventually steal the coat back and return to the sea


Have students write down their predictions. Continue to read the story until the end, either out loud or by listening to the audio recording, with students ticking each plot point they correctly predicted. When complete, compare answers as a class. Ask students what surprised them and what they confidently expected from the story.



Creating text:

Display the following reflection questions for students to answer orally and then in written format:

  1. How many predictions did you get right?
  2. Do you think you would’ve made the same predictions if you didn’t know about selkies?
  3. How do you think the mysterious girl felt when she was looking hungrily at Elsie?
  4. What would you have liked to tell Elsie when she marched angrily away from the girl?
  5. How did you feel when Elsie realised the coat was gone?
  6. What do you think was going through Elsie’s mind when she saw the seal?
  7. How do you think learning about selkies beforehand affect your responses to the characters? Would you have responded the same way if you didn’t know about selkies?


Assessment for/as learning:

Have students compare their answers with a partner and give them time to discuss similarities and differences in their thinking.