The Coat Swap

story by Katie Aaron , illustrated by Sarah Davis

Learning intention:

I am learning to make connections between the ways different authors present similar themes so that I can think of how best to communicate themes in the stories I write.

Success criteria:

  • I can identify the theme in a story.
  • I can consider stories that have a similar theme.
  • I can discuss which story I feel best communicates the theme.
  • I can write a statement to explain my opinion about the best portrayal of the theme.


Focus question:

How do themes help us connect ideas between different texts?


Essential knowledge:

View the video Theme from The School Magazine. Ensure students note that a theme provides a lesson about life to the audience.

More on Theme can be found on the English Textual Concepts site.


Read The Coat Swap. Identify the theme by discussing the following questions:

  • Who does Leopard expect will win the challenge of fooling everyone? (Leopard)
  • Why does Leopard think this? (Leopard thinks it will be easy as Zebra is always in a dream)
  • Who wins the challenge? (Zebra)
  • What lesson does this teach the leopard? (To not assume he will win)
  • What lesson could readers learn from this? (To not underestimate others)

Instruct students to sum up the theme (the lesson that can be learnt from this story) in a sentence with a moral stance, for example:

  • Never underestimate the underdog.
  • Superior potential is no rival to hard work.

Discuss other stories that have a similar theme. Students may need some prompting here. Provide a summary of the fable The Hare and the Tortoise, informing students that Hare makes fun of Tortoise for being slow and he challenges Tortoise to a race. Hare is so confident he will win he stops for a rest during the race. The tortoise plods along and eventually win the race due to his ongoing commitment.

Inform students that they will be discussing which story they think portrayed the theme best, The Coat Swap or The Hare and the Tortoise. Tell them that they will need to provide reasons for their choices. For this task, complete the following:

  • Place students in groups
  • Instruct them to decide which story they believe portrayed the theme best.
  • Tell students to discuss reasons for their choices (E.g., The Hare and the Tortoise portrayed it best as you do not expect Tortoise to win, or The Coat Swap portrayed it best as the idea of animals swapping coats is surprising and unexpected)
  • Invite each group to share their ideas.

Instruct students to write a brief statement explaining their view on which story portrayed the theme best by responding to the following questions:

  • What was the theme? (Never underestimate the underdog)
  • Which story portrayed the theme in the most interesting way? (The Coat Swap as it was an interesting idea)
  • Which story made you think about the lessons of the theme? (The Coat Swap as Zebra wasn’t even trying to win, he just wanted to play with his friends)
  • How might the lesson in the story impact your behaviour in the future? (I might think carefully before underestimating someone)

Tell students to combine their ideas into a brief statement. Collaboratively compose an example before instructing students to complete their statement based on their personal responses to the questions. A sample response is:

Both The Coat Swap and The Hare and the Tortoise deal with the same theme, never underestimate the underdog. In my opinion, the story which portrays the theme best is The Coat Swap. This is because the idea of animals swapping coats is unusual and unique. I think I learnt most from this story as it reminds me never to assume I will win and to always try my best in case I get beaten unexpectedly.