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Captain Scallop is Scuppered

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By Peter Riley

Children will love reading or performing this short, amusing play script – and it’s one to revisit on International Talk Like a Pirate Day which takes place on 19 September every year.

These teachers’ notes accompany the PRINT ONLY guided reading leaflet in Literacy Time PLUS for Ages 7 to 9, January 2009.


Before reading

Discuss and list the images that come to mind if you say the word ‘pirates’. Explain that our image of a pirate is called a ‘stereotype’. Can the children name any famous real or fictional pirates? (See Leaflet 2.) How well do they match the stereotype? (Eyepatch, hook, wooden leg, parrot, vocabulary, name, etc.)

Previous learning

Children should be aware that, when reading scripts, the names of characters are there to alert performers as to who is speaking, but are not read out aloud.

Key learning outcomes:

  • To read/perform plays, using appropriate expression, tone, volume, voices, other sounds;
  • To discuss performances;
  • To develop/use specific vocabulary in context;
  • To use word structures/origins to understand word meanings;
  • To explore how plays are presented;
  • To present events/characters through dialogue and write plays, using language imaginatively to create humour.

During reading

  • Together, read the cast list and discuss the characters’ names. What do they have in common?
  • Ask the children to read through the whole script, individually or in pairs.
  • Discuss how mateys and bilge rats reflect their meanings – the friendly use of the diminutive (mate > matey) and the negative implication of the term for enemies.
  • Look at the word larboard (left) and compare with the word starboard (right). Ask the children why they think that the use of larboard was replaced by port for left. Ask them to imagine a noisy sea battle and crashing waves as a captain shouts orders to the sailors. How easy would it be to distinguish larboard from starboard?
  • Underline words such as ee (thee/you) and be (is/are) and ensure the children understand the meaning. Point out the use of the proposition ‘em (them).
  • Highlight some unusual words and ask the children to investigate their meaning. Can they define scuppered (ruined/foiled) and oggin (the sea) from their context? Explore the use of amspteads – Cockney rhyming slang for teeth.
  • Divide the class into groups of four to read the script aloud in role. Remind them to concentrate on using expression, varying pace and tone of voice.


  • Hear individuals reading their favourite passage aloud in character. Invite comments on use of appropriate accent, phrasing, tone, etc. How well can they demonstrate the contrast of voice in Captain Scallop with, and without, his teeth? Explain the importance of this to the humour of the story.
  • Discuss the technicalities of performing this play. Can the children think of other ways to animate the parrot character? What backdrop would the scene require? How could this be achieved? Why would the actor performing Captain Scallop have to avoid grinning or showing his teeth to the audience before the end of the play?
  • What information might appear in an accompanying programme? (Cast list; actors’ biographies; producer’s name; performance time, and so on.)

Useful resources

Create a cartoon strip! Written and illustrated by David Parkins (Poster 1, Literacy Time PLUS Ages 7 to 9, November 2008, Issue 62). Abandon hope all ye who enter this official website for International Talk Like A Pirate Day! – Useful dictionary for teacher reference on Cockney rhyming slang.

Ideas for writing

  • Invite the children to retell sections of the story in narrative, using speech marks, or as a strip cartoon, using speech bubbles.
  • Challenge the children to invent more sailors’ names, combining alliteration and sea-related words, such as Porpoise Pete.
  • In groups, brainstorm ideas for another humorous story involving the same characters as in the script. Use the activity sheet below to help develop a plot.
  • Invite the children to improvise their planned stories as a short performance then develop these into a written script.


Listen to the children’s ideas for pirate names, and share their story plans. Discuss how effective they are and any elements of humour used.



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