Themes in The Lion Who Wanted To Love

Themes in The Lion Who Wanted To Love

This assignment will critically examine the underlying themes present in the children’s book “The Lion Who Wanted To Love” by Giles Andreae and its appropriateness for use as a pretext for Process Drama.

I have chosen to examine literature in the form of prose for the reason that I believe literary language development to be of particular importance with the pre-reading age group that I teach and I find stories an excellent way to expose my students to a wide range of vocabulary, visual stimulus and the natural rhythm and intonation of language. Children aged 2-6 are in what Maria Montessori describes a “Sensitive period” for language. This describes a particular openness of their brain development to particular stimulus, in this case language, and identifies the ease at which certain stimuli is absorbed during this critical and temporary period after which such things can only be learned through the expense of conscious effort (Montessori (1963), p.38) For this reason, introducing preschool aged children to books at an early age is of crucial importance if this theoretical ‘window’ is to be taken advantage of.

The particular book I have chosen for the purpose of this assignment relates to our curriculum unit on “Animals” and sub-theme about “The Jungle”. It is a book that the children in my class are very familiar with and a story that they always enjoy reading. The purpose of literature, especially that intended for young children, is to allow us to connect with a variety of human experiences through the means of symbolic code. Almost all definitions of the word describe ‘literature’ as something that entails an element of pleasure. According to a study by Storey et al, 86% of P1 students in Hong Kong report to love reading. However, surprisingly this figure drops to only 18.9% by the time they get P6 (Storey et al 1997). This shocking statistic demonstrates the difference in children’s attitudes once they stop reading for pleasure and start reading for academic purpose.  It is for this reason that I try to include as many lively and enjoyable activities that are associated with reading books at this early level, in the hopes of forming a healthy attitude towards reading and literature at a young age that they can carry through the rest of their lives.

Major features of the Text

The book itself is a narrative poem with an ABCB rhyming pattern. The value of hearing this style of writing being read out loud is that children become very engaged in the rhythm of the language and follow the story’s events with great focus. This story has a very clear introduction of the main character in the beginning of the story, who he is, where he comes for and what he stands for.

What I found it particularly interesting in this book was the lack of acceptance the mother has for her cub’s vegetarian eating habits in the beginning of the story, making their relationship in fact the complication in the story that required resolving at the end According to Freytags plot pyramid[1], the mother banishing Leo from his pride acts as the inciting incident for the story leading to the climactic event., which occurred when he fell in the river. The catastrophe denouement is seen when the animals rescue Leo from the river and all is resolved at the final resolution when Leo’s mother finally accepts him and his choice not to hunt by making him the King of their pride as a result of his acts of kindness.

  • Literary language is patterned language and it is the rhythm and rhyme in this story that provides pleasure and allows the listeners to be carried along. Also, when read aloud in a lively, enthusiastic and animated way, young listeners are much more likely to engage as well as be exposed to great phonological content.

Rhythm, especially when repeated consistently throughout a text is also a very useful way of embedding language. Below are a few key phrases and some new vocabulary within this text that the children might not be familiar with and that could potentially cause confusion.

  • “Hunting for prey
  • “African heartlands” (Ss have only ever heard African terrain described as desert or grasslands but “heartland” is relatively unusual and harder to define.)
  • “Sternly” (the mothers expression describes this word quite well and so even if they have not heard of the adjective they might still grasp the meaning through the imagery)
  • “Kill all the beasts in the land”
  • “got caught on the tide
  • “He’d learn to cope in the animal world”
  • “he licked their wounds clean”
  • “rushed to the bank straight away” (might get confused with THE Bank!)

The story also has some excellent description of sound and image for example

  • “the thunder of hooves” or “thick clouds of dust” as well as examples of onomatopoeia like “squeal”, “splash”, “crashing” and “yelp!”.

However students might incur problems understanding the overall moral of the story as it is quite abstract.

“You’ve got to be strong to be different.

And when you’ve got love on your side,

You got the most valuable gift that there is.

We want you to be king of our pride!”

  • This final stanza is a deeply conceptual message about accepting people regardless of their differences and I’m inclined to believe that although the under 5’s will understand the phrasing, they might not receive the deeper message since being relatively young, their experiences in feeling ostracized might be limited.

Personal reaction to the Text

  • I loved “The Lion Who Wanted To Love” the very first time I read it and have always had an affinity for lions! In my opinion, there are several interesting themes that I see as being appropriate and interesting to explore with a class of 3-5 year olds. This text could be taken in the direction of any one of these themes for an interesting lesson.
  1. Adhering to rules and expectations. This can often been an area of contestation for young ones. Conflict often arises when they do not do what their parents ask them to do. This is something they can all relate to emotionally and giving them an opportunity to clarify their feelings, voice them and act out potential resolutions could prove to be a very useful learning tool for avoiding/dealing with conflict in the future.
  2. Using initiative to help others. Helping others around you when you see they are struggling is one of the key features of a mixed age Montessori classroom. This social interaction between more able and less able children is a part of their daily lives and something they are familiar with in practice but perhaps not in theory. Exploring this idea of helping through the use of dramatic techniques in the context of a story helps to reinforce this desirable attitude.
  3. Cooperation. Working together to solve a problem is something that comes across at the end of the story when the animals come together to save Leo. Again, a great theme to explore through dramatic activity by giving the children tasks that require them to work together as a group, come up with solutions to problems in the story that involve all the characters
  4. Emergency. The situation Leo gets himself into when he falls into the river is an emergency and the cheetahs behavior in that situation was extremely fast thinking and desirable. He ran to get help instead of panicking. This is definitely something we encourage the children to do when someone is hurt or in danger and this could be a very dynamic theme to use in a drama lesson that reinforces solution-orientated behavior in urgent situations. This is a Student Sample ORDER YOUR PAPER NOW
  • In a kindergarten setting where children are first learning to interact socially and responsibly, we as teachers are often responsible for overtly teaching moral life lessons and emphatically highlighting appropriate social conduct. We often remind the children of what it means to be a “good friend” and I found that the moral in this story helped to stress the ethos that we have in our classroom. It is for that reason that the children in the class are so familiar with it as it serves as a reminder to help those in need and look out for one another. This is a skill especially important in a mixed age Montessori classroom that relies on older children to take responsibility for younger ones.

Teaching Treatment

  • In Hong Kong, the Curriculum Development Council clearly state that school teachers should focus on “Enhancing learning and teaching through greater use of language arts to promote creativity” (CDC, English Language Education KLA Curriculum Guide p.6) and so I for this lesson I have decided to use drama as a means of expanding and exploring this literary text.
  • I have chosen to design a lesson plan using Process Drama (See Appendix B) in order to delve deeper into the theoretical underpinnings of this engaging improvisational teaching method and better familiarize myself with it. The method offers the themes in this text to come alive and be explored by the students under the guidance of the teacher. Since most of the children I teach are pre-readers, any kind of text-based literature (poetry, songs, prose etc) is always experienced by the children via the teacher, thus creating a filter between them and the authentic text.
  • The method of Process Drama “offers learners the chance to participate through creating shared fictitious worlds. It proceeds without a script, employs elements of both spontaneous play and theatre and involves the teacher weaving an artistic experience together and building a work in the process.” (Cremin et al (2006) pp.275-276). Thus by awarding the students agency in the drama, I hope to educe a story from them that they can emotionally connect with, take ownership of, reflect on and analyze afterwards. The text will act as a starting block and stimulate the children’s interest and ideas as well as create opportunity for recollection of prior knowledge relating to our theme on Animals.
  • Dorothy Heathcote and Gavin Bolton, pioneers for drama-in-education, laid the foundations for Process Drama as a teaching methodology in the 1960’s (Heathcote and Bolton 1995). Evidence for the linguistic and cognitive benefits of this increasingly popular teaching method are now widely documented in the field of academic research. According to Pellegrini and Galda, acting in roles directly effected preschoolers ability to retell stories and researchers found that “training preschoolers in social dramatic or thematic fantasy play had positive effects on their performance on standardized measures of language production and story comprehension” (Pellegrini and Galda (1982) pp.443-444). Similarly, a paper by Aram and Mor from the Tel Aviv University outlined an approach for enhancing students comprehension of theatrical performances through what they called “theatre semiotics preparation” (Aram and Mor 2009, p.391). Their findings concluded that children who had a better understanding of the components of theatrical performance (i.e music, props, costumes) were not only able to reconstruct the story and vocabulary but also had a better understanding. Therefore drama education
  • When engaging the children in process drama a teachers role as facilitator is to determine what human experience we want the students to engage in as drama is a tool for language, cultural, moral and spiritual development (Bowell and Heap 2001, p.128). Therefore it is our goal when planning a lesson in this format, to first establish learning objectives (See Objectives in Appendix B).
  • Out of the themes outlines previously I chose to make the concept of emergency one of the main focuses of the Process Drama lesson that I designed because of the fact that it would allow for a lot of tension, suspense, dramatic stress and exciting interactions to take place. Di Petro recognized that the essential theory behind Process Drama involves Strategic Interaction which in addition to creative language included “dynamic tension; the motivating and challenging power of the unexpected; the tactical quality of language acquired under the stress of achieving a goal; the linguistic and psychological ambiguity of human interaction; the group nature of enterprise; and the significance of context” (Di Pietro, 1987 cited in Liu 2002, p.5).

The teaching treatment begins with a reading of the text itself followed by comprehension questions regarding the story’s sequencing and recalling vocabulary from the last lesson. Hopefully in this scenario the children’s responses, which outline events occurring in the beginning, middle and the end of the story, will lay groundwork for the terminology they will be introduced to in consequent lessons (which will be introduction, complication and resolution). The question itself subtly encourages them to begin thinking of stories as having 3 distinct parts.

There is much more Teacher lead class discussion in a class of this age group than perhaps with older groups since eliciting answers from the students takes a lot more questioning and many more verbal/visual cues such as pictures (See Appendix C). Group discussions also tend to be more plentiful as the class is small and young children don’t always raise their hands to take turns talking, making it a much more open style of conversation which is conducive to sharing ideas

Being amongst their first dramatic experiences, this lesson plan involves a lot of teacher lead demonstration of role-play in order to scaffold their learning. Plenty of examples need to be given for them to draw upon when asked to act, think, follow, invent, lead, react and improvise all at the same time. The Teacher-in-role activity allows them to interact with a character as opposed to the teacher and shows students how one remains in role and adopt and alternative perspective and point of view.

It is only then that you lead in to Student-in-role activities and allow them to be characters that react to the first initial “emergency” acted out by the teacher. Their reactions, once in character will be authentic reactions to a problem, to tension created by the teacher. Heathcote had the idea of a play being something that “crystalizes a problem” (Heathcote (1971) in “Three Looms Waiting”) She recognized that tension was vital to drama, and it is to be placed into the process initially by the teacher as a means of provoking responses from the students as a group. These “emergencies” that the Lion (teacher) can put themselves into, if acted out strategically can elicit all kinds of prior knowledge as a means of resolving the story.

In an older class one could split the class into 2 groups and have them come up with their own emergency situations to perform for each other. However the children in this class are too young to be left unguided and in two groups the teacher could only assist one group at a time. Having the whole class involved also adds to the realness of the setting since everyone is in character. However if many dialogues occur simultaneously the teacher needs to stay attuned to the students responses and make sure they are each heard and feel as though they are responsible for the drama’s movement. “While engaging in a role in the event, the teacher will be able to diagnose the students’ language skills and understanding, support their communicative efforts, model appropriate behaviors and linguistic expressions within the situation, question their thinking, and extend and challenge their responses in the entire process”  (Lie (2002) p.6). To create a unified version of the story the teacher needs to continually recount the whole story as it moves in order to encourage collaboration, clarify the sequence of events in the children’s mind and help them to stay on the same page.

This lesson plan involves constant change in activity at least every 10 minutes to avoid students getting agitated or unfocused. However due to the fact that a large portion of this lesson is discussion based and teacher lead, you might have a few children who seem restless, tired, or who lack the desire to talk and participate. This is to be expected. A lesson in drama is not going to be enjoyable or meaningful for the children if they are forced to do it. Montessori pedagogy encourages free choice and therefore one would have to provide alternative activities (examples in AppendixB) for those whose attention wanes. The best option however is to invite the child to observe the process with an option to join in at any time. A child may not actively join discussion but might still benefit form listening to the responses of others. These responses might even trigger their own ideas and so the teacher should try not to pressurize or force children to participate in something that they are not naturally excited about. (See appendix D-The Story of William).As a teacher one must recognize a broad spectrum of learners (visual, auditory, kinesthetic…) as well as respond to the needs of children in the class who might be a lot younger than others and therefore be less able to concentrate for long periods of time. This is a Student Sample ORDER YOUR PAPER NOW

At the end of the class the children will draw a picture of their experience in order to develop their skills for representational imagery. According to Piaget, children as young as 2years old develop a capacity for representation and can differentiate between real and pretend (Piaget 1951, Wright 2003) and so this closing activity ritualizes the end of their drama and concludes the lesson with a take-away reminder of their story.



  • Bowell, P and Heap, B.S (2001) Planning Process Drama, London: David Fulton Publishers
  • Chaplin, A. (1999). Drama (5 to 7). Leamington Spa: Scholastic.
  • Heathcote, D, & Bolton, G. (1995). Drama for learning: Dorothy Heathcote’s mantle of the expert approach to education. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Falvey, P., & Kennedy, P. (Eds.). (1997). Learning Language through Literature: A Sourcebook for Teachers of English in Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
  • Maley, A., & Duff, A. (1978). Drama Techniques in Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Montessori, Maria (1963). The Secret Of Childhood. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 38
  • Phillips, S. (1999). Drama with Children. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.
  • Piaget, J. (1951), Play, Dreams and Imitation in Childhood, London; Routledge & Keagan Paul Ltd
  • Wright, S. (2003b). Children, meaning-making and the arts. Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Education


  • Cremin, T et al. (2006) Connecting Drama and Writing: Seizing the moment to write in Research in Drama Education, Vol.11, No.3, November 2006, pp.273-291
  • Dorit Aram & Smadar Mor (2009): Theatre for a young audience: how can we better prepare kindergartners for the experience?, Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 14:3, 391-409
  • Liu, J. (2022), Process Drama in Second- and Foreign-Language Classrooms Gerd Bräuer (Ed.): Body and Language. Intercultural Learning Through Drama. Westport, Connecticut & London 2002. S. 51-70; Ablex Publishing. Cited from website http://www.europeanmediaculture.org/fileadmin/bibliothek/english/liu_processdrama/liu_processdrama.pdf
  • Pellegrini, A.D and Galda, L. (1982), The Effects of Thematic-Fantasy Play Training on the Development of Children’s Story Comprehension, American Educational Research Journal, Vol. 19, No. 3, pp. 443-452; American Educational Research Association
  • Storey, P., Yu, V., Luk, J., Ma, A., Pang, M., Wong, C., & Wong, W. (1997). Feasibility Study on extending Extensive Reading in Chinese and in English to all levels of Primary and Secondary Schools. Final Report. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Institute of Education.
  • Cited from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1162724



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