The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

Last updated

Are you planning to introduce the classic novel The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier to your students?

Whether you’re eager for new options for literature units or searching for exciting ways to engage young learners with a timeless work of fiction, this post will provide helpful resources and an overview for crafting meaningful learning opportunities.

From exploration activities that bring the characters alive in imaginative ways to create tasks that foster comprehension skills – I’ve got all the insights teachers need to make teaching this captivating story stress-free and enjoyable!

Related: For more, check out our article on The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe  here.

The Silver Sword

The Silver Sword is a classic children’s novel by Ian Serraillier, set in Poland and Switzerland after World War II. It follows the fortunes of three war-affected children separated from their families and on an epic journey to find them.

The story starts with Jan, Ruth and Edek, three siblings whose parents have been taken away by the German army during the war.

It follows their lives as they try to survive in a war-torn world, ultimately tying together into an adventurous odyssey as they travel across Europe in search of safety and a place to call home.

Along the way, they must face many dangers, such as hunger, cold weather, enemy soldiers and Nazi SS forces. They even make unlikely allies in a group of orphaned refugees from Poland.

Eventually, with the help of a mysterious silver paperknife symbolising hope and courage (the titular “Silver Sword”), they reunite with their parents and get back on their feet again.

The book ends with them acclimating to life after their great adventure has ended—and despite all that has happened to them, it leaves readers feeling uplifted at how love endured through wartime hardships.

Themes of The Silver Sword

The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier is a novel with themes that centre around survival in difficult times.


The children must persevere and find hope, even in despair, throughout their journey. This hope is represented by the silver paper knife, which, despite its small size, provides them with the courage and strength to keep going.

It ultimately proves to be vital in helping them reunite with their parents.


The children face many trials along their journey, but they never give up, relying on each other for strength and emotional support to keep going.

Each time they are pushed back, they find a way to rise above their struggles and continue towards their goal.


Love is a prevailing theme throughout the story as it shows how a family’s love can withstand any trial or hardship between them—even war itself.

They remain connected through the silver paperknife, symbolising hope and faith—and this bond ultimately allows them to reunite again at the end of the story.

Key Characters in The Silver Sword

The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier follows the story of three children, Jan, Ruth and Edek, as they are separated from their parents in the wake of World War II and go on a journey to reunite with them.

Below are the key characters that play an essential role throughout the story.


Jan is the oldest sibling and leader of the group. He is brave and heroic, always putting himself on the line to protect Ruth and Edek.

Though he never gives up hope that his family will be reunited someday, moments of despair still creep in as he faces difficult situations.


Ruth is the middle sibling who displays strength beyond her years throughout their travels.

She wants to learn new things, which helps her gain knowledge to survive their treacherous journey across Europe.


Edek is the youngest sibling who often follows his older brother’s lead but shows incredible bravery when needed.

Like Jan, Edek finds solace by clinging to the silver paperknife, using it as a symbol of hope for better times ahead despite all odds being against them.

Professor Balicki

The professor is an eccentric teacher at Jan’s school who provides valuable advice during their search for refuge and shelter after being separated from their parents.

He teaches them about survival skills such as trapping animals for food or bartering for items during wartime shortages.

Ways to Use The Silver Sword in Teaching

The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier provides teachers with many opportunities to engage their students. Here are some of the ways this book can be used in teaching:

Exploring Hope

This novel is the perfect way for teachers to explore hope and how it can help us overcome difficult times.

Students can analyse how the silver paper knife is a constant reminder of hope throughout the novel, symbolising courage and strength in times of despair.

Understanding Perseverance

Students can use this book to understand perseverance and its importance in achieving success.

They will learn how hard work and determination can prove victorious even when faced with obstacle after obstacle.

Appreciating Family Love

The powerful message of family love that transcends time, place, and distance can be explored through this book.

This is an excellent way for students to appreciate the importance of cherishing those they love most.

Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan 1: Exploring Hope

Learning objectives:

  • Students will understand the concept of hope.
  • Students will be able to identify symbols of hope in literature.
  • Students will understand the importance of keeping their hopes alive, even when facing adversity.


In this lesson plan, we will explore the concept of hope through the novel The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier. This book will show us how courage and strength can help us overcome difficult times.

Main teaching points/activities:

  • Introduce students to the silver paperknife, a constant reminder of hope throughout the novel—symbolising courage and strength in times of despair.
  • Ask students to reflect on what forms of hope they have encountered in their own lives (they can do this as an individual exercise or a class discussion).
  • Introduce students to critical phrases and sentence structures related to expressing hope, such as ‘I still have hope that…’ or ‘We must never lose hope’.
  • Show students examples from different media, such as movies, books, television shows etc., where characters express and demonstrate hope.

Grammar and language advice:

Encourage students to use connectors such as ‘despite’ and ‘despite’ to emphasise why we should never give up even when faced with adversity.

Additionally, ask them to practice using modal verbs with solid adjectives to illustrate further their points (e.g. We must never give up!).

Reflection/critical questions:

After completing the lesson activities, ask the students some reflective questions related to the theme, such as ‘Can you think back on a time when you felt hopeless?’ or ‘What do you think is the most important thing about never giving up?’ This can be done individually or in a class discussion format, depending on your preference/time constraints.

Lesson Plan 2: Understanding Perseverance

Learning objectives:

  • Students will understand perseverance and its importance in achieving success despite obstacles. – Students will learn how hard work and determination can help us succeed against all odds.


In this lesson plan, we will learn about perseverance by exploring The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier.

This timeless novel demonstrates how anything is possible with hard work and dedication, regardless of what life throws at us!

Main teaching points/activities:

  • Recall critical events from The Silver Sword and discuss how those events demonstrate perseverance (the family’s journey in search of each other; Jan’s decision not to give up his job even after being fired).
  • Ask students what qualities they think to contribute to their success (determination, resilience, hard work etc.).
  • Talk about everyday examples where perseverance has helped someone succeed (encourage personal accounts from students, if any).
  • Give out worksheets with tricky challenges where they must persevere until they solve them (consider providing group challenges too).

Grammar and language advice:

Ask students to pay special attention to verbs when talking about skills needed for persevering, such as endure, continue etc., so that they are more accurate with their language usage while talking about this topic.

Reflection/critical questions:

After completing all activities, ask some reflective questions related to perseverance, such as ‘Do you ever feel like giving up?’ or ‘What would you say are some common obstacles one has when trying to persevere?’

Again this could be done individually or collectively depending on available resources/time constraints.

Lesson Plan 3: Appreciating Family Love

Learning objectives :

  • Students will understand the love between family members transcends time and place regardless of distance.
  • Students will appreciate why it is essential for us to cherish those who are most important in our lives.


In this lesson plan, we will explore love between family members through reading The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier.

This book highlights how much stronger family bonds become with the distance between them due to the enduring love shared within families.

Main teaching points/activities :

• Have a class discussion on why family relationships are so meaningful; provide context with quotes/scenes from The Silver Sword if needed.

• Do a writing activity where each student has 10 minutes to write down the three most important things from a family relationship.

• Conduct an open floor discussion where students can share one point from their list.

• Remind students that despite differences, the family should always come

Website Resources

  • Twinkl  offers various resources related to the novel, including worksheets and activities.
  • Teacher of Primary has multiple lesson plans and ideas that teachers can use to engage their students in discussions about the book’s themes and characters.
  • TES provides a complete unit of work for teaching The Silver Sword, which includes an in-depth analysis of the novel and its themes, activity ideas and assessments for students to complete by the end of the unit plan.

Teaching the classic novel, The Silver Sword, to your students can be a rewarding experience for both you and your students.

With the right resources and an understanding of how to craft engaging learning activities, this timeless work of fiction can be brought to life in your classroom to enhance comprehension and sparks creativity and curiosity.

Remember, the goal is not just to teach the story but to create an immersive learning experience that allows students to connect with the characters and themes on a deeper level.

By using exploration activities and creative tasks, as outlined in this post, you can facilitate this connection and make reading and studying The Silver Sword a memorable journey of discovery for your students.

As educators, we aim to inspire lifelong learning and foster a love for literature in our students.

By introducing them to classics like The Silver Sword, we can achieve this goal while equipping them with valuable skills and insights.

So, don’t hesitate to embrace the resources and strategies provided here to ensure a smooth and successful teaching experience.

After all, isn’t it fascinating to see how a well-told story can open up new worlds, ignite imaginations, and provide valuable lessons for our students?

And isn’t it even more rewarding to know that we, as teachers, have played a part in facilitating this magical journey?

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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