The Visitors

play by Bill Condon , illustrated by Queen Chan

Learning Intention: 

I am beginning to understand the textual device dramatic irony so that I can explain why a text is humorous. 

Success Criteria: 

  • I can identify examples of humour and jokes within a text. 
  • I can explain the concept of dramatic irony and apply it to the text 
  • I can identify examples of dramatic irony in unseen texts.  

Essential Knowledge: 

  • More information about the characteristic writing styles of authors can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Style. 

Read the play as a class. After reading, ask the class to identify the tone of the play (humorous). Then ask students to locate examples of jokes in the play. Examples include:  

  • That Sam and Bess don’t find the names Zoog, Zertz, and Ziggle unusual.  
  • Mishearing interstellar as interstate.  
  • Confusing the planet Mars with Ma’s All You Can Eat Café and Marsden Gardens. 

Explain that there is a common theme linking all these jokes: that Sam and Bess don’t realise that Zoog, Zertz and Ziggle are aliens because they strongly believe that nothing unusual ever happens in their town.   

Next, explain that the reason that the play is humorous is because the audience are in on a secret. They know more about the situation than the characters Sam and Bess, specifically that there has been an alien invasion in their boring town. This is funny because, no matter how obvious the aliens are to the audience, Sam and Bess can’t recognise them.  

Show the Ted Ed clip In on a secret? That's dramatic irony to the class. After viewing the clip, ask the following questions to assess students’ understanding:  

  • What is the confusion or misunderstanding in the play? (That Zoog, Zertz and Ziggle are aliens.)  
  • How does this confusion lead to tension and suspense? (The audience is waiting for the moment that Sam and Bess realise they are aliens.) 
  • Usually, the confusion is cleared up and the characters eventually understand a situation. Does this happen in the play? (No, Sam and Bess are still confused at the end of the play, which makes the situation funnier.) 

Finally, show students a range of unseen picture books that contain dramatic irony. Text suggestions include: “The Hat Trilogy” by Jon Klassen and “Sam and Dave Dig a Hole” by Mac Barnett.  

Display a double page spread to students. Ask them to identify the example of dramatic irony in the text and images and to explain why it has been used. For example, in “Sam and Dave Dig a Hole” there are illustrations in which the audience can see both the two protagonists digging and a range of diamonds in the cross section of the soil. Sam and Dave keep changing the direction of their digging and therefore just missing the diamonds. This is only obvious to the audience, who can see underground, unlike Sam and Dave. Students should be able to explain that the author has used dramatic irony to build tension, as the reader wonders if they will ever find the treasure when they are so close. It also adds humour as the reader can see how many near misses Sam and Dave have to finding treasure.