The Pirate Academy

play by Steve Taylor , illustrated by Stephen Axelsen

Learning intention

I am learning to experiment with colloquialisms so that I can create realistic dialogue.


Success criteria

  • I can identify examples of colloquial language.
  • I can select a fictional character.
  • I can compose examples of colloquial language that my chosen character might use.
  • I can incorporate colloquial language in dialogue.


Essential knowledge

Ensure students are familiar with terms such as colloquial language (language specific to conversation that may vary depending on the culture) and contractions (where words have been shortened).


Read The Pirate Academy, allocating students to read for each of the parts. Note: students may find some of the abbreviations a little challenging to read.

Identify examples of colloquialisms and their meanings, and contractions and ensure students note that these form a style of piratical speech. For example:

Colloquialisms: Arr, me hearties, yer (your), ye (you), say it proper (instead of ‘say it properly’), the better it be (instead of ‘the better it will be’)

Contractions: Cap’n (captain, o’ (of), ye’ll (you will)

Discuss the impact of using this style in the dialogue (it assists with characterisation, it creates the mood).

Inform students that they will be selecting their own fictional characters and composing dialogue using colloquialisms and contractions. Tell students that first you will be creating an example together.

Begin by discussing examples of fictional characters and list these on the board, for example:

  • Fairies
  • Goblins
  • Wizards
  • Witches

Select one of these characters such as a wizard. Discuss elements to describe them, such as:

  • They cast magic spells
  • They are wise
  • They are courteous but aloof.


Discuss vocabulary that might express each of these attributes, for example,

  • Abracadabra
  • Hey presto
  • Let me consult my oracle
  • I will consider all my knowledge
  • Let me help you
  • We must use magic for good
  • The path ahead may be treacherous
  • You have been forewarned
  • It has been foretold.


Compose a brief interaction between the chosen character and another, incorporating the vocabulary identified. Tell students that they may also make up their own colloquialisms too. Consider the tone the magician may use, for example authoritative. Discuss ideas for what the conversation might be about, such as a conversation about a farmer who has lost some of their sheep and they need advice. Again, consider the tone a farmer may use, for example grateful and polite. A sample response is:


Magician: Well, well, well, what do we have here. A man in need, is a friend of mine.

Farmer: Please sire, I need your help. Some of my sheep have gone missing.

Magician: Ahha, I see. Well, we can’t have that can we. I’ll conjure a spell; consult my oracle and abracadabra we’ll have it all sorted.

Farmer: Can you do that? Oh, thank you, thank you so much.

Magician: OK, step aside dear boy. And magic will be served. Hey presto.


Place students in pairs or small groups. Instruct them to complete the following:

  • Select a fictional character
  • Identify colloquialisms the character might use
  • Consider the tone the character might adopt when they speak
  • Select the topic of a conversation
  • Choose another character and identify their tone
  • Compose a brief example of dialogue between the two characters.

Once complete, students can perform their interaction to another group.