The Wisest Fool

traditional tale from the Middle East, retold by Emma Heyde , illustrated by Michel Streich

Learning intention:

I am learning to edit for sequence, effective choice of vocabulary, opening devices, description, humour and pathos so that I can create coherent texts.


Success criteria:

  • I can use agreed criteria to edit my own and other’s work.
  • I can identify narrative techniques such as opening devices, humour and pathos.
  • I can publish a coherent, edited text.


Essential information:

  • More information about thematic statements can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Theme.


After reading the story, ask students what they think the story is trying to teach us. Watch The School Magazine’s English Textual Concepts video Theme for prompting if necessary. Discuss the theme of The Wisest Fool. Answers may include making careful judgements, not making assumptions about other people or only speaking when you are sure of what you’re saying.


Ask students what opening device the author used in the text. Students might note that the sun getting hot later gives clues to the setting being a warm place and that the story immediately begins with action.


Ask students to find elements of both humour and pathos in the text (ensure students understand that pathos means evoking pity or sadness). Depending on how they’ve interpreted the text, students might find Nasreddin’s final line humorous, and the traveller’s frustration either pitiable or humorous.


Students are to handwrite a first draft of their own brief fable using the same themes they identified from the text. They can use any characters and setting they like.


Once complete, students swap stories with a partner and use the following criteria to edit and make suggestions:


  1. All punctuation is correct.
  2. The story is sequenced in a logical order.
  3. The opening device hooks the reader. (Editors must make two alternative suggestions for how the author can start the story. Remind students that opening devices include onomatopoeia, beginning in the middle of action, describing setting and using dialogue.)
  4. Vocabulary is correct and precise. (Editors must find at least two words that can be swapped out for more precise words e.g., walked changed to wandered, laughed changed to guffawed.)
  5. Humour is set up in the most effective way.
  6. Pathos is explored by examining how a character is feeling.


Students swap work back and rewrite their stories based on the edits. Authors do not have to take editors’ suggestions for vocabulary, opening devices, humour and pathos on board, although encourage them to think about what serves their story best.