The Headhunter

story by Rose Lilian , illustrated by David Legge

Learning intention:

I am learning to make inferences about ideas in stories so that I can experiment with this in my own writing.  


Success criteria:

  • I can make inferences about ideas in a text.  
  • I can consider when a character’s inferences may be incorrect. 
  • I can develop a story to show a character making an incorrect inference.  


Read The Headhunter, up to the end of page 28, or listen to the audio file. Jot the word ‘headhunter’ on the board and discuss clues in the text about what a headhunter might be. Request any students who know the true meaning of the word to keep this to themselves for now. Examples from the text include:  

They spoke in the way that grown-ups do when something serious is going on.  

‘The headhunters are after me, Connie. They won’t stop until they get me. They’ve been trying for weeks.’  

I didn’t know much, but I knew that being headhunted was not good.  

This girl, Kaitlyn, attended our school until a year ago. One morning, she told us her dad was being headhunted. A week later, Kaitlyn and her whole family just disappeared.  


Ensure students note at this stage that according to the inferences made by the main character a headhunter appears to be something scary and dangerous.  

Read page 29 with the students. Again, discuss any clues about what a headhunter might be, for example:  

Our teacher said they had moved, but Billy never wrote to us.  

At school I kept watching the clock. What if Dad was meeting the headhunter today? What if the headhunter was cutting off his head right now? Which company would his head be sent to? What were all these companies doing with all these heads?  


Pose the following question:  

Are there any clues that might imply the character’s inference about what a headhunter is are incorrect? (For example, the fact the teacher told them Billy had moved makes it seem likely and that it’s unlikely his father really would have his head cut off) 


Discuss whether students believe the main character is correct with their assumption about what a headhunter is. Continue reading to the end of the story. Identify the real meaning of a headhunter (that they are someone who helps companies find the right person for a job). Instruct students to reread the story and to identify where they began to question the main character’s assumption about the meaning of the term ‘headhunter’ (this may be when the main character describes the teacher, a trusted adult, saying that Billy had moved). Tell students that this is the reveal moment, where the fact the inference made by the character is incorrect.  


Discuss the following questions:  

  • How does revealing the inference made by a character impact engagement, especially when they are incorrect? (It makes the reader feel like they are in on a joke that the main character isn’t privy to) 
  • What might this tell you about characters you create in the future? (I might use this technique in stories I write in the future) 

Tell students that they will be experimenting with revealing inferences made by a character proving are incorrect. Refer students to Wullus, found on pages 4 and 5 of this issue of Blast Off. Read the story and discuss the main character’s interpretation of the great big shadow. Ensure students note that the character finds the shadow irritating and that they want to get rid of them. Tell students that they should imagine the character has made an incorrect inference about the great big shadow. Discuss other explanations for the shadow’s presence, for example that they are there to take care of and watch over the main character or that they are a visitor from another planet, here on Earth to be the main character’s best friend. Inform students that they will be developing the story to include the fact that the main character’s inferences about the great big shadow are incorrect. Gradually release responsibility by constructing an example of how to develop the story together first. Discuss the following:  

  • What might be a reason for the shadow’s presence? (That it is there to watch over the main character)  
  • When might this be revealed to readers? (At the point when the main character runs to the hardware store to purchase the flashlight) 
  • How might the shadow’s true purpose be revealed? (It could prevent the main character from being injured) 


Collaboratively compose a paragraph that could be added to the story to reveal the reason behind the great big shadow’s presence, for example:  

I ran as fast as I could. The hardware store was in sight. It wouldn’t be long now, and I could be rid of this ridiculous shadow forever. Suddenly, without warning, I was falling through the air and hurtling towards the pavement. This was going to hurt! Just as the pavement was a centimetre from my face, I felt something swoop under me, pushing me back to standing. It was the great big shadow helping me! I stood upright and shook myself down. Maybe this shadow wasn’t so bad after all.  


Place students in pairs and instruct them to complete the following:  

  • Decide on a reason for the great big shadow’s presence. 
  • Discuss when to reveal this and how.   
  • Compose a paragraph to add to the story.  


Allow time for students to construct their paragraphs before sharing them with another group.  


Assessment as/of learning:  

Prior to the end of the lesson, discuss the following question and instruct students to create an Exit ticket, noting their responses in their workbooks:  


  • How might authors play with inferences made by characters and how can this impact reader engagement?