How to Trick a Thief

play by Philippa Werry , illustrated by Aśka

Learning intentions:

I am learning to identify the way obstacles and goals influence characters so that I can create more complex characters in my writing.


Success criteria:

  • I can identify the main character’s goal and obstacles in the text
  • I can recognise how these factors influence character behaviour
  • I can create my own imaginary text based on the author’s idea that clearly shows the goal, obstacle and behaviour of my character


Essential knowledge:

More information about creating well-rounded characters can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Character.

Read the play aloud as a class. Following this, discuss the idea that as readers, we know that Diamond Jack is a jewel thief, but the students in the story do not, and believe him to be their relief teacher. Ask students to identify Diamond Jack’s goal (to escape with the jewels) and the obstacle preventing him from achieving this (he is having to hide in a classroom full of children as the police close in on him), as well as how these things impact his behaviour in the story. Discuss the clues the author has written that help the students in the story figure out Jack’s secret.

Students should work in groups to come up with an idea of another person who may hide in a school disguised as a relief teacher. Discuss ideas for what kind of character this may be and offer suggestions such as:

  • An art thief
  • An elderly escapee from a local nursing home
  • A lion tamer who has run away from the circus


Creative decision that students will need to make as authors include:

Why are they hiding?

Who are they hiding from?

How does this affect their behaviour?

What could they teach their kids?

What clues might be given in the story that helps students figure out their true identity?

Would students give them up or protect them when the people searching for them came to the classroom?

Using their own answers to these questions, students should identify their character’s goal and obstacles. They should then use this information to plan and write a play, using the structure of the text to assist them. Remind students that plays are written like a script with lines written for each character beside their name, and scene notes or stage directions written plainly in brackets. A brief description of the setting should also be written at the start of the play. Students should retain a copy of the magazine to refer to the text as needed.