Meet the Countdown Crew

article by Geoffrey McSkimming , illustrated by Douglas Holgate

Learning intention:  

I am learning to draw on literary texts for inspiration and ideas, when considering characterisation, so that I can create characters with traits specific to them.  

Success criteria:  

  • I can identify information about characters.  
  • I can make inferences about the characters based on the information in a text.  
  • I can discuss which character is best suited to solving a particular challenge based on their traits.  
  • I can compose a postcard entry in character.  

Read the information about the character, Ahab, on page four. Collaboratively compose a brief fact-file about Ahab using what is explicitly stated in Meet the Countdown Crew, and jot students’ ideas on the board. For example:  

  • He is the Captain 
  • He is the size of a dinner plate 
  • He steers the Webweaver on a steady course 
  • He steers from the wheelhouse 
  • He surfs the net to find the best words and ideas  
  • Little is known about his early life 
  • He was raised in the Orinoco Delta in South America 

Discuss inferences that can be made about Ahab based on the information identified. For example, he is a safe and reliable captain, based on the fact he steers a steady course, and that he is passionate about language and cares about what he shares with Countdown readers.  

Place students in pairs and instruct them to repeat this process, listing the attributes for each of the other two characters, Shasta and Bob. Sample responses include:  


  • She has many passions 
  • She adores stories  
  • She is resourceful and is a very capable sailor 
  • She loves reading 
  • She is a great cook 
  • She loves experimenting with new recipes  


  • He is the first mate of the Webweaver  
  • He is good at fixing things  
  • He cares about maintaining the Webweaver 
  • He is practical  

Provide students with the following scenarios:  

  • The Webweaver springs a leak and water gushes in to the galley 
  • The crew realise the fresh food on the Webweaver has been eaten by mice and because of this they are running low on supplies 
  • The next issue of Countdown is about to be published and the editorial team notice the vocabulary needs improvement  

Discuss which character would be best suited to solving each of these challenges, for example: Bob could fix the leak, Shasta could improvise and create imaginative meals for the crew and Ahab could step in and investigate new and interesting vocabulary to include in the next issue of Countdown.  

Inform students that they will be selecting one of these scenarios and writing a postcard to the character’s family about how they overcame the challenge. Ensure students are aware what postcards are. Emphasise that because there is limited space to write on a postcard, messages written on them are usually brief. Inform students that postcards usually include informal language as they are often sent to close friends and relatives.  

Collaboratively compose a brief postcard, in character as Bob, writing about the leak in the galley. Tell students they will include a description of the event and Bob’s reaction to it. Remind students to consider the list of attributes identified earlier when deciding on the way the character might react. Discuss how Bob might react to the leak (e.g. calmly fetching his tools and working diligently to repair the damage).  

A sample response is:  

Hi family,  

Things have been busy around here. Last night I was called to the galley by a worried Ahab, who informed me of a leak. After reassuring Ahab that I would fix it, I set to work. It wasn’t an easy job, I can tell you. I had to check every wooden plank in the galley for holes. Eventually I found the hole and I set to work fixing it. It took a long time to repair. Captain Ahab was relieved when it was complete and I was one happy otter. I slept well that night. I hope you are all well.  

Love from Bob.  

Inform students that they will be experimenting with writing their own postcards. Place students in pairs and instruct them to select one of the scenarios. Instruct students to work with their partner to compose their own postcard in the character best suited to overcoming the challenge. Remind students to outline the characters reaction to the problem and how they overcame it. Students may work individually if they prefer.  

Once complete, match the pairs with another group and instruct them each to share their postcards. Display the following questions for students to discuss when reflecting on the work of their peers:  

  • Does the postcard feature a response to the challenge?  
  • Is it written in character?  
  • It is written in the style of a postcard?