The Treasure of Red Nelly

story by Simon Cooke , illustrated by Sylvia Morris

Learning Intention: 

I am learning how narratives can be structured to include a plot twist so that I can plan my own highly engaging narratives. 

Success Criteria: 

  • I can define a plot twist and explain why authors use them. 
  • I can use prediction strategies to identify the stages of a plot twist in a model text.  
  • I can plan my own narrative that incorporates a plot twist.   

More information on the conventions of narrative form can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Narrative. 

Prior to reading the story, revise the basic features of narrative structure (beginning, middle, end; orientation, complication, resolution). Brainstorm ways that composers alter this basic structure to engage their audience, such as use of flashbacks, an unresolved ending or a plot twist.  

Read the story as a class, or if you have a digital subscription you may wish to listen to an audio recording. Read the story in sections. A suggested list of sections are:  

  1. Page 14 before the dinkus (***). 
  2. Page 15 after, “I need a pile of what Red Nelly had.” 
  3. Page 15 after, “Pop around tonight and we’ll have a look.” 
  4. Page 16 after, “The book fell onto his lap as he drifted off.” 
  5. Page 17 before the dinkus (***). 
  6. Page 17 after, “under the nose of the Law.” 
  7. Page 17 after, “inside was a pile of…” 
  8. Page 18 before the dinkus (***).  
  9. Page 18 after, “a treasure preserved in ink on a single piece of paper.” 

At the conclusion of each section, pause reading and ask a series of prediction questions: 

  1. What happened in this section? Did it match your prediction, or did it surprise you?  
  2. What do you think will happen next?  
  3. What clues suggest this?  

After reading, identify the main points in the narrative where students made incorrect predictions. It is likely that these will include section 8 (students will not predict that the box contains pebbles) and section 10 (students are also unlikely to predict that Red Nelly’s treasure was a jam recipe).  

Explain to students that the story uses a plot twist to maintain audience engagement. Define the term plot twist: an unexpected change in the direction of the story that surprises and entertains the reader. You may create a class list of texts that employ a plot twist (the Harry Potter series, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back). You may also wish to read a range of picture books that showcase a plot twist:  

  • The Monster at the End of this Book (Jon Stone) 
  • I Want My Hat Back (Jon Klassen) 
  • Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (Mac Barnett) 
  • Baghead (Jarrett J. Krosoczka) 

Finally, challenge students to write their own narrative with a plot twist. Use some of the following strategies to help prompt student thinking: 

  • Extended brainstorm. After students have worked out their characters, setting and problem, ask them to brainstorm ten possible endings. Instruct them to discard the first five (the obvious ones) and then direct their peers to select the best ending from their remaining options.  
  • Mislead the audience through red herrings (a distracting clue or piece of information). Identify the red herring in ‘The Treasure of Red Nelly’ – when the audience hears about pirates and treasure they expect gold. Instruct students to plant red herrings throughout their story.  
  • Use foreshadowing (warnings or indications about a future event). Identify foreshadowing in ‘The Treasure of Red Nelly’ – Red Nelly gave her victims her famous peach and mango jam; the greedy man was the only customer in the café. Also suggest that students plan where they will use foreshadowing in their story.  

Provide students with a narrative planner. Ask them to plan their narrative incorporating a surprise ending, red herrings and foreshadowing. Students must colour code these elements within their plan.  

Assessment as/of learning:  

Imaginative Text Rubrics can be found on The School Magazine website. Students can use these rubrics as success criteria in the crafting of their imaginative writing via anchor charts. The rubrics can also be used to provide structure for peer or teacher assessment.