Max and the Invisible Tiger

play by Peter Friend , illustrated by Christopher Nielsen

Learning Intention:

I am learning how modals represent feelings and positions so that I can use vocabulary to express a range of thoughts and opinions.

Success Criteria:

  • I can explain what modality is and how to use modal verbs.
  • I can form an opinion about events in the play.
  • I can use a range of modal verbs to express an argument about the text.

Essential knowledge:

More information about how to present views in a sensible and persuasive manner can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Argument.

More information about how the reader controls the meaning of a text can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Authority.

Before reading the ‘Max and the Invisible Tiger’, explain the concept of modality to the class. Modality refers to the ‘mode’ in which something exists or happens. Modality indicates how necessary something is, how probable something is or how much authority an argument has. Modal verbs (a form of auxiliary verb) change the mode of the sentence by indicating obligation, possibility, ability or prohibition. Further explanation and suggested activities can be found on the NSW Education’s site on Modality.

Next, explain to students that while modality may influence their opinions about text, they as the audience have the final say in how they interpret its meaning. Therefore, while everyone in the class might read the same text, the opinions about events in the text might differ from student to student. (See the ETA Textual Concepts website on Authority for a detailed description of this concept and how it relates to the Stage 2 skills and content).

Read the play. Pause reading at the following sections:

MAX    Oh, dear. You can’t see it. It’s a huge TIGER! It’s … it’s invisible.

MAX    You don’t understand. These things keep happening to me!


ADELE Ahh! So did I! And a tooth!

As you pause hold a class vote on whether the tiger is real. Record responses and how they change as the play progresses. Opinion is likely to change over the course of the play. At the beginning most students will think that the tiger is imaginary, however, by the end of the play many will think that the tiger is real. Explain to students that the author has been deliberately ambiguous; it is uncertain whether the tiger (who is invisible and heard only through sound effects) is real and Max’s behaviour can be understood in a variety of ways. Then hold a class discussion about whether the tiger is real and how students’ opinions may have shifted as more information was revealed.

Finally, project a modality cline (a line that indicates a spectrum of words, from weakest to strongest). Students should place the nine most common modal verbs on the cline, ranking them in order of strength. Suggested order is can, could, may, might, should, shall, will, would, must, have.

Return to the four sections of the story where the class had paused during the reading. Create and project a cline for each of these sections. The heading for each cline is: How likely is it that Max’s tiger is real? For each of these sections, students should write a sentence, expressing their opinion. Their argument should be formed around a modal verb. This activity could be done on Google Jamboard, which allows students to place digital Post-It notes on the appropriate section of the cline. For example, at the beginning of the play, a students’ answer could be:

I think that it might not be possible that the tiger is real, because Max has no proof.

However, by the end of the play, students should be using different modal verbs. For example:

I think that Max’s tiger will be real because other students felt its fur, ears and teeth.