Ruby Talks in Her Sleep

story by Nora Nickum , illustrted by Gabriel Evans

Learning intention

I am learning to connect to the emotions and experiences of characters so that I can create characters readers engage with.

Success criteria

  • I can identify the character arc in a story.
  • I can create an arc for a character.
  • I can create a story that features the character’s arc.


Display a copy of Ruby Talks in Her Sleep and read up to the end of Page 15 or listen to the audio file. Discuss the following questions:

  • What does Ruby want? (To sleep over at her friend Sofia’s place)
  • What is preventing her? (Fear of sleep talking and embarrassment)
  • What does she decide to do? (To spend the next few nights practising not talking in her sleep)

Continue reading or listening to the story, up to the end of Page 16. Discuss the following:

  • How does Ruby feel when she is first at Sofia’s place? (She is distracted, having fun and forgetting about being nervous)
  • How does she feel when bedtime approaches? (She becomes nervous)

Read or listen to the end of the story (end of Page 17) and again discuss the following questions:

  • How do we know how Ruby feels when Sofia asks her if she was talking in her sleep? (She tried to cover it up by making an excuse and her face goes pink so we can infer that she feels embarrassed)
  • How does Sofia react when she lands on the floor in a pile of blankets? (She makes the excuse she was doing some stretches when it is obvious that she fell out of bed)
  • How does Sofia feel about falling out of bed? (Embarrassed)
  • What does Sofia’s embarrassment make Ruby feel? (She feels less embarrassed as she realises she is not the only one with unusual nighttime habits. This causes her to confess to the sleep talking)

Draw a semi-circle on the board. Inform students that this is Ruby’s character arc, the way her character changes over the course of the story. Note how she feels about sleep talking at the beginning of the story and why on the left side of the arc (worried about her friend Sofia finding out she sleep talks). Discuss how she feels in the middle of the story and the event that causes her to feel this way (embarrassed when she sleep talks while staying at Sofia’s place). Discuss how she feels by the end of the story and why and note this on the right-hand side of the arc (she feels less alone when she discovers Sofia falls out of bed in her sleep. This makes her comfortable enough to confess to sleep talking).

Discuss times when students may have felt embarrassment. Provide an example such as failing a test. Inform students that sometimes negative emotions can inspire us to work harder. Refer back to the previous example and inform students that failing a test might make students work harder next time. Note: Students may be uncomfortable discussing personal matters. In this case, use fictitious scenarios, such as a dog embarrassed to be scared of cats. Plot examples of character arcs based on the scenarios discussed, for example, a dog who is embarrassed to be afraid of cats until it meets a dog who runs away from a mouse, and it feels comfortable enough to share its fears with the other dog.

Inform students that they will be composing a story that features a character arc when the character changes from embarrassment to being more comfortable based on finding others with similar feelings. Compose a brief story collaboratively before instructing students to work independently/with a partner. For example:

Fred heard the hiss of a cat and sprinted as fast as his legs would carry him. There was no way he was risking being scratched by one of those scary creatures. As he rounded the corner he saw the local dogs, hanging out. He slowed his pace, pretending not to be scared. He walked as slowly as he could bear while he passed the dogs, checking over his shoulder as he went in case that scary feline had followed him. Once safely behind the fence, he exhaled and hung his head. It was just so embarrassing. But every time he tried to be brave, he ended up running away in fear.

A commotion made him turn around. A giant bulldog was sprinting along the pavement, a mouse in pursuit.

“Help, help, please,” the bulldog called.

Fred stepped up. “Shoo mouse, go!” The mouse ran off.

The bulldog exhaled. If a big bulldog was scared of mice, maybe it wasn’t so embarrassing to be scared of cats.

“Wow, you’re so brave!” the bulldog said.

This was his moment. “Actually, I’m scared of cats.” It felt so good to say it out loud.

Place students with a partner. Alternatively, they can work independently for this task. Instruct students to compose stories by completing the following:

  • Consider a character who is embarrassed about something
  • Create a character arc that includes an event that causes them to change
  • Feature the character arc in a brief story

Assessment for/as learning:

Match pairs/students together and instruct them to swap stories. Instruct students to peer assess the work of their peers against the criteria identified earlier. Instruct students to provide oral feedback to their peers, sharing what they did well and areas for development.

Effective Feedback has more information on the types of feedback.