Download the lesson notes and student worksheets to use with the picturebook 'The Promise' by Nicola Davies. There are links in the lesson notes to a video interview with the illustrator, Laura Carlin, and a video readaloud of the book by the author, Nicola Davies.


The lesson notes and student activities for this picturebook have been developed by Gail Ellis and Tatia Gruenbaum. This lesson is part of a series of four plans that each address the theme of hardship and resilience. 

The picturebooks that have been chosen for this lesson series discuss social issues such as experiencing homelessness, relying on foodbanks and turning to crime and bullying to survive or save face.

They link to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (#1, #2) and The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (#9, #19, #24, #26, #27, #40).

Information about the teaching notes

In order to offer teachers clear guidance and a comprehensive overview of each picturebook, the notes have been divided into four parts A - D. See below for more information.

Part A: Picturebook information

Part A provides general information about the  picturebook such as the publisher’s synopsis and background about the authors / illustrators and the teacher is  invited to share selected information with their pupils  as appropriate

Part B: Lesson information

Part B provides lesson information about age/level suitability, lesson objectives, cross-curricular links and links to children’s rights and world-event days.

Part B also includes an A-Z or vocabulary for each picturebook.

Teachers are encouraged to share the lesson objectives with their pupils to make learning explicit and purposeful.

Part C: Lesson plan

Part C comprises 5 key-steps and pupils are invited to participate by responding to questions with their own personal interpretations and opinions. 

To add a metacognitive dimension in order to make learning visible, pupils are encouraged to systematically reflect on, review and evaluate their own learning and decide on their personal action.

This reflection also inspires pupils to transfer their newly acquired awareness and knowledge from inside the classroom to informed involvement with the world outside the classroom.

Part D: Extra activities

Part D provides suggestions for supplementary activities and links to additional resources.

Pupils are invited to choose from the extra activities according to their needs and interests.

Story-based methodology

The lessons are informed by a story-based methodology (Ellis and Brewster, 1991; 2014) and a story-based e-methodology for video picturebook read-alouds (Ellis and Gruenbaum, 2023).

In addition, the lessons are embedded in a children’s rights perspective and comprises three categories: protection, provision and participation. This threefold categorisation is referred to  as the ‘3Ps’ which  we have applied to our picturebook-based English Language Teaching (ELT) lessons to create a pedagogical framework (see below). This framework enables teachers to create a relationship of shared control with their pupils and allows pupils  to exercise their agency and participate  fully in their own learning.

The following table offers an outline of the ‘3Ps’ in picturebook-based ELT:


Teachers set up a safe space in a positive, inclusive classroom climate where all pupils are respected and learn with and from each other. Pupils may encounter social issues for the first time in the classroom which provides a window into the lives of people different to their own or may offer children who are experiencing difficult circumstances the opportunity to understand that they are not alone. It is especially important, therefore, to ensure a learning environment conducive to exploring such topics and to encourage empathy and understanding.


The lesson sets provide a structured plan and clear guidelines for pupils  to engage with an authentic piece of children’s literature, a picturebook, in which both the words and the pictures create meaning. Individual differences in primary and lower secondary pupils are especially marked, but picturebooks can be interpreted on many levels and thus satisfy pupils  of different ages and at different points in their English language learning. The lessons provide activities which teachers can select according to the age, language level and interests of the pupils  in their classes and provide pupils  with stimulating activities to develop their critical thinking as well as their English language skills. 


The lessons are structured around four parts which facilitate pupils’ agency and active participation. The activities offer opportunities for decision-making and respect  pupils’ right to an opinion. In return, listening to pupils’  views, offers teachers the opportunity to discover pupils’ feelings and lived experiences. 

We would like to point out that it is not necessary to complete every activity and / or include all the vocabulary and expressions. Teachers are encouraged to adapt the lessons to suit the needs of their learners. However, we recommend completing the book-cover-based activities  to encourage pupils to make predictions about the story from the title and cover illustrations, and to appreciate the picturebook’s different features.  


The Promise by Nicola Davies

Publisher's synopsis

On a mean street in a mean, broken city, a young girl tries to snatch an old woman’s bag. But the frail old woman says the thief can’t have it without giving something in return: the promise. It is the beginning of a journey that will change the girl’s life — and a chance to change the world, for good.

Age and level

This lesson is suitable for use with secondary learners with a pre-intermediate level of English and beyond.

Lesson objectives

The general learning objectives for each lesson are to empower pupils to:

  • engage with social issues as presented through picturebooks to broaden their outlook of marginalised groups in society
  • develop English language skills 
  • develop critical thinking
  • raise awareness and understanding of the UNCRC and of their rights and responsibilities
  • understand the importance of individuals and the community showing kindness 
  • make responsible decisions when taking action in order to make a difference

Cross-curricular links

Maths, Economics, Social studies, Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education

Links to children's rights from The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

  • 19. Protection from violence
  • 24. Health, water, food, environment
  • 26. Social and economic help
  • 27. Food, clothing, a safe home
  • 40. Children who break the law

Relevant World event days

28 January: Global Community Engagement Day 

12 August: World Planting Day

Downloadable materials

The downloadable PDF includes the following material:

  • General teaching notes
  • Learning objectives
  • Picturebook information
  • Picturebook overview
  • Vocabulary and expressions featured in the picturebook
  • Student material and worksheets

Copyright and permissions

Text & Illustrations © 2014 Nicola Davies

Illustrations © 2014 Laura Carlin

Permission to reproduce the front and back cover image of the book has been granted courtesy of Walker Books

All rights reserved.

Other resources in the series

Click or tap on the title to go to the resources.

It's a No-Money Day - Picturebook lesson for primary-aged learners

A gentle, poignant and powerful exploration of foodbanks and life below the poverty line. 

Still a Family - Picturebook lesson for primary-aged learners

A little girl and her parents have lost their home and must live in a homeless shelter. Even worse, due to a common shelter policy, her dad must live in a men’s shelter, separated from her and her mom. Despite these circumstances, the family still finds time to be together.

Lunch Every Day - Picturebook lesson for secondary-aged learners

Every day Jimmy takes ‘Skinny Kid’s’ lunch at school. No way will he be seen in that FREE LUNCH line. When he’s sent to the office, Jimmy shrugs, “Whatever.” Until a surprising act of kindness stops him in his tracks. For a split second a door cracks open into Jimmy’s heart.

Resource book containing all four lessons 

This resource book has been developed by Gail Ellis and Tatia Gruenbaum. It contains guidance on how to use the lessons based on the methodology developed by Gail and Tatia. 


Submitted by florauwineza3 on Thu, 02/29/2024 - 13:27

This content is very helpful for it helps the students get creative and familiar with this advanced language skill of writing.

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