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The Sword in the Stone

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By Brenda Williams — Author and Poet

In Leaflet 1, Brenda Williams retells the famous Anglo-Saxon legend of ‘The Sword in the Stone’ in playscript format. The script has parts for seven main characters, making it perfect for group reading or performance.


These Teachers’ Notes accompany the PRINT ONLY guided reading leaflet in Literacy Time PLUS Ages 9 to 11, September 2009.

Before reading

  • Allow children to scan the text. Establish that it is a play script and recap conventions of script writing in terms of layout and technical terms.
  • If possible, read and/or watch some versions of the Arthurian legends and examples of adaptations of the sword in the stone legend.

Guided reading

  • Read the script as a group, taking different roles. Emphasise the importance of tone of voice and how to use stage directions to influence delivery of lines.
  • Study the language style. How is the ‘ancient’ feel achieved? Look at: “It is Sire. Do you have the babe?” and “Entrust him…”. Why does the writer use this style? Would the script be effective if written in an entirely modern way?
  • Demonstrate how to track a character’s thoughts and feelings as you read. The children can then try it independently, using the activity sheet below as a guide.
  • Compare the play script with another version of the legend. Look at differences in text organisation and detail. Discuss how organisation and language style change depending on the text’s purpose.
  • Investigate how tension is built up. Identify phrases that would help actors to portray the tension.

Further reading

The Sword in the Stone T H White (Essential Modern Classics, HarperCollins Children’s Books, 978 00072 63493). The Legend of Avalon James Riordan Literacy Time for Years 5 and 6, Issue 34, Leaflet 1. Retelling of the Arthurian legend set in mystical Avalon.

Responding to the text

  • Discuss how this script relates to other descriptions/versions of the legend. Which points might have inspired Brenda Williams and helped her write her script? What might the children have done if they had written the script? What would they keep the same? What might they change? Encourage children to explain their likes/dislikes by pinpointing evidence in the text.

Ideas for writing

  • Write a set of director’s notes for the actors playing the main roles. These could be completed in groups with each group writing notes for a different character. The notes could then be passed to a different group (or class) to try out while acting the scene. Evaluate the success/usefulness of the notes and provide feedback.
  • Experiment with updating the script to more modern English. Read it out then discuss how this affects the success.
  • Write the next scene, using play script conventions.
  • Use the Disney film version of the story as inspiration and reproduce the scene, replacing humans with animal characters. What changes would you make to dialogue?
  • Create a fact file about the different characters in the scene/legend.
  • Write a letter to one of the characters – either as themselves or as one of the other characters – using an appropriate language style.

Literacy Framework

See the Using this issue chart here to identify the Learning Objectives covered by these activities, to track progression from Year 4 through to Year 7, and to identify links with Year 5 and 6 Planning Units.

Speaking and listening

  • Role play the scene, and then hot seat the characters.
  • Challenge groups to complete one of the activities on the cards on the activity sheet below.
  • Use the on-screen resource The real Camelot (Literacy Time PLUS Ages 9 to 11, November 2007, Issue 51) which sets up a class debate about the location of Camelot.
  • Play a game called ‘In The Manner Of The Word’. Provide/make together a lucky dip of adverbs and ask a child to pick one out, keep it secret, then move around the room in the manner the adverbs suggests. If they do it well, the rest of the class will be able to guess the adverb. Use these to add more stage directions to the script.


  • Present work produced using the activity sheet below. Invite questions from the audience.
  • Discuss what the hot-seating activity helped you to gain a better understanding of.
  • Ask children to identify the best thing they learned during the lesson. Display these, then take a final vote as to which was the most important. Where might they use their new skills again in the future?
  • Create a glossary or word wall of key vocabulary/skills learned and used.
  • Evaluate the director’s notes and provide feedback. Set targets for improvement.


  1. Melissa cortez
    on 15 January 2016

    The sword in the stone

    Read it


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