The Dam by David Almond – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

Last updated

Finding the right book is often a practical starting point when providing engaging lessons for students. Seeing a text with an inviting plot line and relatable characters can encourage active involvement in classroom activities that promote more profound engagement with the text.

Whether you are looking for a detailed novel study or ideas for simple literacy activities, The Dam by David Almond offers teachers and students a captivating story to explore together.

This planning overview will provide critical insights into why this text is so appealing and how you can use it to engage your class in meaningful conversations about fate, friendship, and family ties.

Related: For more, check out our planning overview of Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce here.

The Dam by David Almond

The Dam is a story about two boys, Robert and his friend, who live in a small town near a dam. They spend their days playing around the dam and exploring the surrounding woods.

One day, they discovered that the water level in the dam had dropped significantly. They are fascinated by the sight of the submerged old village when the dam was built. They find an old boat and take it out onto the water as they explore.

As they row out into the middle of the dam, they suddenly hear a strange noise coming from beneath them. They realize that something is wrong with the barrier and might collapse at any moment.

Robert’s friend panics and starts rowing back to shore quickly. But Robert realizes that their whole town could be flooded if they don’t do something to stop it. So he decides to take matters into his own hands.

He jumps out of the boat and swims down to where he can feel the water rushing through cracks in the dam. He plugs up some of these cracks with mud and stones, slowing the water flow.

Meanwhile, his friend has returned to town and alerted everyone about what’s happening. The whole city comes together to help Robert save their homes from being flooded.

In the end, Robert manages to fix enough of the cracks to prevent disaster but not before getting swept away by a sudden surge of water. He survives but is left shaken by his experience.

The Dam is a powerful story about bravery and heroism in the face of danger. It shows how even young people can make a difference when they act with courage and determination.

Themes in The Dam

The Dam by David Almond explores several themes, including bravery, heroism, and the power of community. These themes are conveyed through the actions of Robert, the story’s protagonist.

Robert’s decision to take action and try to save his town from flooding demonstrates his bravery. Despite being scared, he realizes he can make a difference and takes it upon himself. He jumps into action without hesitation, risking his safety to help others.

This bravery is further emphasized by Robert’s persistence in fixing the dam’s cracks. He doesn’t give up even when he gets swept away by a sudden surge of water. He continues fighting until he’s done everything he can to prevent disaster.

The theme of heroism is also present in The Dam. Robert’s actions are heroic because he puts himself at risk for the sake of others. His bravery inspires those around him to unite and work towards a common goal – saving their town from flooding.

Finally, The Dam highlights the power of community. When Robert’s friend alerts everyone about what’s happening with the dam, people come together to help in any way they can. They show that even small acts can make a big difference when people work together towards a common goal.

Overall, The Dam is a powerful story about bravery and heroism that emphasizes the importance of taking action when faced with danger. Robert’s efforts and those of his community show how ordinary people can become heroes when they act with courage and determination.

Characters in The Dam and Their Impact

  1. Robert – The protagonist of the story, Robert, is a brave and determined young boy who takes action to try to prevent his town from flooding. His actions inspire those around him and demonstrate the power of individual bravery.
  2. Robert’s friend – Although this character is not named in the story, he plays a vital role in alerting the town about the danger posed by the dam. His quick thinking helps mobilize the community to take action.
  3. The townspeople – The people of Robert’s town come together to help save their homes from flooding when they learn about the danger posed by the dam. They show that even small acts can make a big difference when people work together towards a common goal.
  4. The old village – Although not a character in the traditional sense, the submerged town impacts Robert, his friend, and the larger community. It serves as a reminder of past tragedies and motivates them to take action to prevent further disasters.
  5. The dam itself – This artificial structure serves as both a source of fascination for Robert and his friend and a source of danger for their town. Its presence drives much of the tension in the story.

Opportunities for Teaching in The Dam

The Dam by David Almond provides several opportunities for teaching essential themes and literary concepts. Some of these include:

  1. Bravery and heroism – The story centres around the courage and heroism of its protagonist, Robert. Teachers can use this to discuss what it means to be brave and heroic and how these qualities can help individuals overcome challenges.
  2. Community – The power of community is a critical theme in The Dam. Teachers can use this to explore how communities come together in times of crisis and the importance of working towards common goals.
  3. Conflict – The conflict between Robert’s desire to explore the dam and his responsibility to prevent disaster provides an opportunity for teachers to discuss internal disputes that characters face in literature.
  4. Setting – The submerged village and the dam provide rich opportunities for discussing settings in literature, including how location can impact character development and plot.
  5. Symbolism – The submerged village is a powerful symbol throughout the story, representing past tragedies and future danger. Teachers can use this to discuss symbolism in literature more broadly.

Lesson Plans Based on Opportunities in The Dam

  • Bravery and Heroism


Students will be able to define bravery and heroism, identify examples of these qualities in the story, and discuss how they can apply them in their own lives.


  • Brainstorm a list of words that come to mind when you think of bravery and heroism.
  • Read passages from the story that demonstrate Robert’s bravery and heroism.
  • Discuss as a class what it means to be brave or heroic, and identify other examples from literature or real life.
  • Have students write about a time when they showed bravery or witnessed someone else being heroic.
  • Community


Students will be able to define community, explain how it is portrayed in the story, and discuss how communities can work together to achieve common goals.


  • Define “community” as a group of people who share common interests, values, or goals.
  • Discuss how the townspeople work together to prevent the flooding caused by the dam.
  • Have students brainstorm ideas for how communities can work together to solve problems or achieve goals.
  • Divide students into small groups and have them create posters or presentations about different types of communities (e.g. school community, local community).
  • Conflict


Students will be able to identify different types of conflict in literature, analyze Robert’s internal conflict throughout the story, and discuss how this conflict impacts his actions.


  • Define “conflict” as a struggle between two opposing forces.
  • Identify different types of conflict (e.g. man vs self, man vs nature) and provide examples from literature.
  • Discuss Robert’s internal conflict between his desire to explore the dam and his responsibility to prevent disaster.
  • Have students write about a time when they experienced an inner conflict similar to Robert’s.
  • Setting


Students will be able to describe how the setting impacts character development and plot by analyzing the significance of the submerged village in The Dam.


  • Define “setting” as the time and place a story takes place.
  • Discuss why the setting is essential for understanding character development and plot.
  • Analyze how the submerged village functions as a symbol throughout the story.
  • Have students draw pictures or write descriptions of their own hometowns or favourite places that are significant to them.
  • Symbolism


Students will be able to define symbolism in literature, identify symbols used in The Dam, and explain their significance.


  • Define “symbolism” as objects or images representing abstract ideas or concepts.
  • Identify symbols used in The Dam (e.g. submerged village) and discuss their meaning with students.
  • Have students create characters representing something important to them (e.g. family, friendship).
  • Display student symbols around the classroom and have classmates guess what they mean.

Website Resources

  1. TES: The Dam – Teachers’ Notes This resource provides a set of comprehensive teaching notes for The Dam by David Almond. It includes an overview of the book, discussion questions, and activities focusing on bravery, community, and conflict themes. There are also suggestions for extension activities and assessment tasks.
  2. Teachwire: The Dam by David Almond and Levi Pinfold KS2 Book Topic This resource is a book topic guide for The Dam that includes ideas for cross-curricular learning opportunities in subjects such as English, science, and geography. It also includes discussion questions and activities related to community, responsibility, and environmentalism.
  3. Reading Agency: The Dam This resource briefly summarises The Dam and suggests discussion questions related to themes such as bravery, community, and symbolism. It also includes activity suggestions and links to further reading materials.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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