A Story Like the Wind / During Reading / /

To Go or Stay?

Using small group improvisation to explore a dilemma.

Lesson length: 1 session

Lesson from A Story Like the Wind series

Required reading: Pages 14-21

Text potential

  • Inference opportunities: Elaborative inference
  • Narrative features: Plot: dilemma

Strategies used

  • Drama Strategies: Improvisation
  • Drama Strategies: Spotlighting


Improvisation can be used as a vehicle for exploring a context, allowing children to bring their knowledge and emotional experience to bear on a story. In this instance, it is used to deepen their understanding of the reasons that the refugees would choose to leave their homes and travel in a precarious dinghy, without knowing whether or when they will arrive at their destination.


  • Although this lesson can be conducted in a classroom if necessary, an open space, such as a hall or studio, is preferable.


Small-Group Improvisation

Explain that now we know a bit more about each of the characters, we are going to imagine what their lives might have been like before they were compelled to leave their homes.

The characters are from 4 different family groups. Write the names on the whiteboard.

Consider with the children what significant people these characters may have had to leave behind. We have some information from the text, but this is also an exercise in imagination and children can draw from their own experience of friendships and family.

The children will be working in small family groups, so a few examples are needed for each.

The following table is for exemplification only

Nor, Mustafa, Bashar and Amani  grandmother 
Youssef and Hasan  Mother, sister 
Mohammed  Neighbour, old work colleague that he has known since childhood 
Rami  Mother and father 

Working in small groups (3 – 5), ask the children to imagine they are at a gathering of family or friends. They are having a meal together. Everyone is talking about the current situation. Someone mentions that they have heard that if you can pay there are boats that can take you away from the troubles to safety.

  • Should they or shouldn’t they leave?
  • Is it better to stay where you have lived all your life, where you have all your memories? 
  • Or is it better to leave for safety, even though you may not know what you will find when you get there?  
  • Perhaps the journey will not be safe. Will it make a difference if there are young children in the family? 
  • What about older relatives who may not be able to travel? Could you bear to leave them behind? 
  • Some members of the family will have different opinions. Would these differences of opinion be resolved or not?

Briefly discuss this with the children so that a range of views can be taken into account, but don’t exhaust the discussion. Leave some ideas to be discovered through the drama.

Give out the prompt card and allow five minutes for groups to talk about the characters and how they might react. 

  • What sorts of opinions and arguments might the different families have?

After 5 minutes, gather the groups and tell them that they will now improvise the scene. This means acting it out rather than talking about it. Point out that we know from the story which characters leave, so their short improvisation should end at the point that the decision is made about who goes and who stays.

The improvisation should be no more than 5 minutes. Tell the groups to practise until they are satisfied with their scene.

Challenge the children to work authentically. Partway through the lesson, stop to share work in progress. Invite reflection, posing questions,

  • Would this character say this? 
  • How would you feel if someone said that to you? 
  • How would you respond? 
  • Might some characters be saying one thing but thinking something else? Why might that be? Perhaps an older relative is saying, ‘You should go’ but is thinking, ‘I might never see you again.’.

When the groups have had sufficient time to practise, stop and ask them to sit in a space. Explain that you are going to use a spotlighting technique. This means that you will walk around the room, and as you get closer to each group, that group will stand up and show their performance. As you move off towards the next group, they will stop the drama and quietly sit down again so that they can watch other groups. 

Combine the spotlighting technique with thought tracking. Stop at pertinent moments to probe a character’s thoughts. Ask questions that prompt more in-depth consideration of the issues such as:

  • Why did you say that?
  • What do you want to say but feel that you can’t?
  • What are you feeling?
  • What are your fears?
  • Who are you most concerned about?
  • What do you not want to leave behind?
  • What do you think the place you are travelling to will be like? 
  • What are your hopes?

Final reflection

Prompts for final reflection:

  • What did you learn by improvising this scene?
  • What did you learn from watching another group?

Teacher’s note:  ‘What shall I take with me?’ is a good follow on from this lesson.

Key vocabulary



Nikki Gamble

Nikki Gamble
Director, Just Imagine
Nikki has worked extensively in schools across the UK and internationally. She is the author of Exploring Children’s Literature (4th edit) (2019) and co-author of Guiding Readers (2016) which was awarded the UKLA Academic Book of the Year Award 2017. Nikki is KS2 reading advisor and series consultant for Oxford University Press and content creator for the Oxford School Improvement and Oxford Owl websites. Nikki is Associate Consultant at the University of London, Institute of Education and Honorary Fellow at the University of Winchester

Read more