The Very Bad Pirates

play by Bill Condon , illustrated by Michel Streich

Learning intention: 

I am learning to identify aspects of folklore so that I can apply this knowledge across different literature. 


Success criteria: 

  • I can use prior knowledge to interpret meaning of language and traditions. 
  • I can use research to broaden my understanding of folklore. 
  • I can organise my information in a way that communicates meaning to the reader. 


Essential knowledge: 

More information about finding commonalities in different stories can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Intertextuality. 


If possible, borrow some books about pirates from the school library (Dewey Decimal number 910.45) and have them available for the students to work with for this lesson. 

Discuss what students already know about pirates, such as how they talk, what they wear and the kind of things they do. Ask for examples of any books, shows or movies they can think of that feature pirates, and talk about any commonalities (e.g. they had beards and eye patches, they made people walk the plank, they had gruff voices). Discuss how this familiarity helps us recognise what pirates look, act and sound like when they appear in different stories.  

Assign roles and act out the play. Discuss the plot with the students, with the focus being on the fact that the pirates are very bad at being very bad. Analyse the reasons for this (e.g. not following pirate traditions, not understanding the meaning of pirate phrases) and why this is causing a problem with The Professional Organisation of Pirates (POOP). Ask students to recall examples of this from the play. These may include: 

  • Not making people walk the plank because they might fall off. 
  • Finding buried treasure but handing it in. 
  • Not knowing what a sloop or ketch is (types of pirate ships). 
  • Not knowing what the phrases ‘Anchors aweigh’ or ‘All hands on deck’ mean. 

 Ask students to find examples of other pirate-related phrases in the text. These may include: 

  • Shiver me timbers 
  • Seven seas 
  • Sea shanty 
  • Me hearties 

Discuss student ideas on the meanings of these phrases, as well as any other pirate lingo they can think of. 

Explain to students that they should pretend to be pirate trainers for POOP and they are to create a training guide for new pirates. This may be written in their exercise books or created as a booklet, either digitally or on paper.  

Students should use their own knowledge to create their guide, as well as available books and educational websites, such as: 

 If you have a digital subscription, our interactive pirate map can be used to get students started with learning some of the lingo and traditions. 

Student guides should include: 

  • A list of pirate words and phrases with an explanation of their meanings. 
  • A list of pirate traditions, such as walking the plank, stealing jewels and burying treasure. 
  • A list of pirate accessories to help them look the part, such as an eye patch, a peg leg, a parrot and a Jolly Roger flag.  

They should also design their own logo for POOP to include on the front or at the top of their guide.