Introducing literature to students can be challenging and inspiring, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. Ice Palace by Robert Swindells is an extraordinary novel that allows teachers to explore complex issues with their students and encourage them to think about their lives differently.
This comprehensive planning overview offers all the information you need to guide your class through this exciting literary journey.
Related: For more, check out our article on King Kong by Anthony Browne here.
Ice Palace’s Storyline
Ivan’s journey was filled with danger. He braved through the cold and treacherous terrain to find his brother, taken by Starjik in the dead of night. Robert Swindells had set the scene from page one, painting a vivid image of Ivan’s homeland – a land where summer was as pale as celandine flowers and winter was as harsh as an icicle.
On his quest, Ivan faced three challenges. He confronted fierce wolves that lurked in the forest’s shadows and almost plummeted down a crevasse. Starjik tempted him with a captivating illusion of children dancing and singing joyously in village life. However, each time he was rescued at the very last moment.
At last, Ivan met an older woman who had been collecting his tears in a jar. She warned him to use them against Starjik when they were face-to-face. Finally, Ivan reached the cave palace and encountered the evil creature head-on. Inside, he discovered all the children frozen inside ice blocks – including his brother staring out in front of them all.
Themes In Ice Palace
Theme of Adventure
Ivan’s mission is filled with adventure – he braves the cold, treacherous terrain and faces three challenges on his quest. Ferocious wolves attack him, almost fall a crevasse and are lured into an illusion of happiness in a village. His bravery saves him each time and brings him closer to finding his brother.
The theme of Family Loyalty
Ivan’s primary motivation for travelling through the dangerous land is to find his brother, who had been taken away from the village under mysterious circumstances. He demonstrates loyalty to his family no matter the danger or hardship he must face.
The theme of Good Versus Evil
The story opposes Ivan to Starjik – the evil beast lurking at night, taking children away from their families. It also warns against trusting attractive illusions at first glance as Starjik attempts to trick Ivan with a false paradise. In true fairytale fashion, Ivan overcomes this challenge with courage and ultimately defeats Starjik using only tears!
Main Characters of Ice Palace
Ivan is the story’s protagonist and is driven by loyalty to his family to find his brother, who had been taken away. He faces numerous trials and tribulations on his quest and demonstrates courage and bravery to overcome them. In the end, he defeats the evil Starjik using only tears.
Starjik is the story’s antagonist, a sinister beast lurking in the night stealing children away from their families. He attempts to trick Ivan with an enticing illusion of a village filled with joyous children, but Ivan ultimately defeats him through courage and clever use of his tears.
The older woman collects Ivan’s tears throughout his journey in a jar and tells him how he can use them against Starjik. She serves as a wise mentor who helps Ivan achieve his ultimate success in saving all the captured children from Starjik’s icy prison.
Teaching Opportunities from Ice Palace
- Exploring themes of adventure, family loyalty and good versus evil.
- Discussing the importance of courage and bravery in the face of danger.
- Thinking about how to approach complex tasks with resilience and belief in oneself.
- Practising empathy for someone who is facing a daunting challenge.
- Developing creative strategies for defeating ‘monsters’, both natural and metaphorical.
- Pointing out the consequences of not trusting our instincts or following through on promises made to others.
Lesson Plan 1
- Students can identify and explore themes of adventure, family loyalty, and good versus evil in a story.
- Students will be able to discuss the importance of courage and bravery.
- Students can think about approaching complex tasks with resilience and belief in themselves.
This lesson plan focuses on the short story Ice Palace by Vladimir Sorokin. In this story, we follow Ivan on his quest to find his brother, who has been taken away. Along his journey, he faces excellent danger but ultimately triumphs using only his courage and understanding of good and evil. We will explore these themes and the importance of believing in yourself when faced with daunting challenges.
Main Teaching Points
- Introduce the characters and plot of Ice Palace.
- Identify themes related to adventure, loyalty, bravery, empathy, creativity and trustworthiness.
- Explore each piece with discussion questions or activities encouraging students to think about their beliefs and values.
At the end of this lesson plan, a group discussion should be based on the main topics discussed. Please encourage students to reflect on what they have learnt from exploring these themes through literature and how it relates to their lives outside of school.
Provide some critical questions for them to consider during their reflections, such as: What was the most crucial lesson Ivan learnt on his journey? What could we learn from Ivan’s example? How can family loyalty impact us positively?
- What themes were explored in this story?
- How did Ivan demonstrate courage despite facing difficult obstacles?
- What values do you think are essential when dealing with difficult situations?
- How does trusting our instincts help us make better decisions?
Lesson Plan 2
Students will be able to develop strategies for facing both real-life ‘monsters’ and symbolic ones. Students will also understand why it is essential not to break promises made either explicitly or implicitly.
This lesson plan focuses on two specific teaching opportunities presented by Vladimir Sorokin’s short story Ice Palace – developing creative strategies for ‘defeating monsters’ (both real life or metaphorical) and understanding why it is essential not to break promises made either explicitly or implicitly.
We will explore these ideas further using various activities which aim at engaging critical thinking skills among students.
Main Teaching Points
- Discuss what represents a monster in everyday life (e.g. fear/failure/loneliness) – Brainstorm ways to overcome personal challenges.
- Practising writing out resolutions aimed at tackling monsters, both real-life & metaphorical
- Learning why following through on promises made either explicitly or implicitly is vital for successful relationships & respect amongst peers/people.
At the end of this lesson plan, a group discussion should be based on the main topics discussed.
Please encourage students to reflect on what they have learnt from exploring these ideas through literature as well as brainstorming activities throughout the lesson; how it relates to their lives outside of school; how knowledge gained within the class can help them tackle personal challenges; and why being honest & accurate to your word is essential for building relationships & gaining respect between others/peers etc.
Provide some critical questions for them during their reflections, such as:
- What strategies were discussed within class today that could help tackle personal challenges?
- In what way(s) could knowledge gained within this class contribute towards helping someone face their fears/challenges within everyday life?
- Why do you think keeping promises made is so essential for building respectful relationships between people?
- What kind of ‘monsters’ exist in everyday life & how do they present themselves?
- What strategies can we implement when faced with personal challenges/fears?
- How does knowledge gained from discussions/activities in this class contribute towards tackling real-world problems outside?
- Why are promises (explicitly/implicitly) made necessary for forming successful relationships between people?
Other Books with Similar Themes
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis
- The Chronicles of Narnia Series By C.S Lewis
- Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The TES Teaching Resource page is an ice-themed teaching resource based on the short story Ice Palace by Robert Swindells. This page includes activities and teaching notes to help students engage with adventure stories in KS2 classrooms.
Literacy Shed Plus offers a variety of activities for teachers and parents looking to develop their children’s literacy skills. The Ice Palace resource consists of a selection of activities, materials, discussion points and ideas that help explore themes such as courage, resilience and family loyalty through the short story by Robert Swindells.
[The Teaching Ideas Website](https://www.teachingideas.co.uk/reading-fiction/ice-palace