Two Gun Tess - Pride of the West

play by Pauline Hosking , illustrated by Aska

Learning intention:

I can recognise how language features such as idioms can contribute humour to written and spoken texts in a variety of ways so that I can use them to help shape the story, characters and settings in my own writing.


Success criteria:

  • I can identify the way the author has used idioms to shape the story’s setting
  • I can use different strategies to decode and interpret idioms
  • I can combine interpretive meaning with creative and humourous phrases to form my own idiomatic expressions


Essential knowledge

Ensure students are familiar with idioms by using the Idiomatic Expressions explanation in the Australian Curriculum glossary.


Assign roles to students and read through the play. Discuss the ‘wild west’ setting with students and ask them to identify features that demonstrate this based on prior knowledge through other literature. Some answers may include:

  • The presence of a Sheriff
  • Place names mentioned, such as Coyote Canyon and Wilson’s ranch
  • The use of cattle
  • The outfits and buildings depicted in the illustrations.

Students may also identify the use of unusual language and idiomatic expressions in the dialogue, such as:

  • Quicker than a rattlesnake down a rabbit hole (extremely fast)
  • Reckon he couldn’t wallop a racoon if the critter had one paw tied behind its back! (He couldn’t fight very well)
  • I’m plumb tuckered out! (I’m exhausted)
  • The jig’s up (I’ve uncovered your lies)
  • Quit yammerin’ and vamoose! (Stop talking and hurry along)

Discuss students’ understanding of what these phrases may mean and have them explain their reasoning (e.g., surrounding context, interpretation of the phrasing). Reflect on whether this had any impact on the way that the students in these roles read their lines. For example, did the person read in a particular accent or say these phrases in a more animated way?

Discuss how idiomatic expressions can vary between places and social groups and ask for any examples that students have come across in real life or in literature. Give them examples of Australian idioms and ask them to interpret the meaning. Some examples may include:

  • Flat out like a lizard drinking (busy)
  • Big note (to brag)
  • She’ll be right (it’ll be OK)
  • Pull the wool over someone’s eyes (to fool someone)

Further explanation of idioms can be found in the video Idioms for Kids. Inform students they are going to come up with their own idioms.  To do this, they should first consider what they are trying to express (e.g., rushing, sleeping, hunger, friendliness) and think of a phrase that can demonstrate this in a humourous way.

Students may work independently or with a partner for this activity and should aim to come up with a list of five idioms each. Once completed, students should share their list with the class and have other guess the meaning. To increase the stakes, challenge students to come up with the funniest idiom possible to make their classmates laugh!