Treason – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

Last updated

Are you in search of an engaging, thought-provoking piece of literature to use for your English classroom? Look no further than Treason by Berlie Doherty!

This powerful story dives deep into themes like identity, trustworthiness and rebellion, making it ideal for stimulating conversation with your students.

With its complex characters, suspenseful plot and riveting climax, this book will surely be a hit with readers.

In this article, we will provide an overview of how you can plan activities around Treason by Berlie Doherty so your class can get the most out of reading this novel.

Related: For more, check out our article on The Girl Of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave  here.

Story Overview

Title: Treason

Author: Berlie Doherty

Plot summary:

The book “Treason” is set in England during the reign of Elizabeth I. It tells the story of a young boy named Will, who lives in a small village with his family.

Will’s father is a Catholic and has taught Will to follow the Catholic faith as well. However, during this period, it was illegal to be Catholic in England, and anyone found practising the religion could face severe punishment.

One day, Will’s father is arrested on suspicion of being involved in a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I.

Will is devastated by his father’s arrest and decides to do everything he can to prove his father’s innocence. He sets out on a dangerous journey to London, hoping to find evidence to clear his father’s name.

In London, Will meets several people sympathetic to his cause, including a kind woman named Meg, who takes him under her wing. With Meg’s help, Will begins to uncover clues about the plot against the queen and eventually discovers that the real mastermind behind the conspiracy is someone very close to him.

As Will races against time to stop the assassination plot and clear his father’s name, he must also confront difficult questions about loyalty, faith, and being true to oneself.

Themes and Characters



The theme of loyalty is central to the story. Will is loyal to his family and his Catholic faith. Still, he has to navigate conflicting beliefs as he tries to clear his father’s name and stop the assassination plot against Queen Elizabeth I.


Faith, particularly in the context of religious persecution, is another important theme in “Treason.” Will and his father were Catholics when it was dangerous to practice their religion openly. This puts them at odds with the Protestant majority in England and leads to Will’s father being accused of treason.


Betrayal is a central theme in “Treason,” as Will discovers that someone very close to him is involved in the plot against Queen Elizabeth I. This revelation forces him to question who he can trust and what it means to be loyal.


Justice is another important theme in “Treason.” Will is determined to clear his father’s name and bring the actual conspirators to justice, even if it means risking his own life.


Finally, courage is a recurring theme throughout the book. Will must summon all of his courage as he travels from his village to London, uncovers evidence of the conspiracy against Queen Elizabeth I, and confronts those responsible for it.


  • Will – The protagonist of the story. Will is a young boy devoted to his Catholic faith and family. After he is arrested for treason, he sets out on a dangerous journey to London to clear his father’s name.
  • Will’s Father – A devout Catholic arrested on suspicion of being involved in a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I.
  • Meg – A kind woman who takes Will under her wing in London and helps him uncover clues about the conspiracy against the queen.
  • Sir Francis Walsingham – The queen’s spymaster determined to root out any plots against Elizabeth I.
  • Queen Elizabeth I – The queen of England faced numerous assassination plots during her reign.

Courage In Treason

Courage is a recurring theme in “Treason” by Berlie Doherty and plays a crucial role in the story. Will, the protagonist, must summon his courage as he faces numerous challenges throughout the book.

Firstly, Will shows immense courage when he sets out on a dangerous journey to London to clear his father’s name after he is arrested for treason. He has to leave behind everything he knows and risk his safety to uncover the truth about the conspiracy against Queen Elizabeth I.

Secondly, Will demonstrates bravery as he uncovers evidence of the plot against the queen. He puts himself in danger by sneaking around London, talking to suspicious characters, and gathering information that could kill him.

Finally, Will shows incredible courage when confronting those responsible for the plot against Queen Elizabeth I. He risks his own life to ensure justice is served and that innocent people are not punished for crimes they did not commit.

Overall, “Treason” highlights courage’s importance when facing difficult situations or standing up for what is right. Through Will’s experiences, readers are reminded that sometimes we must take risks and face our fears to achieve our goals or protect those we love.

Examples Of A Plot Against Elizabeth I

  1. Will discovers a coded message in his father’s room, which he believes relates to the plot against Queen Elizabeth I. He manages to crack the code and realises it contains information about a meeting between conspirators.
  2. Will overhears a conversation between two suspicious men in London discussing their plans to kill the queen. He manages to follow them and learn more about their plot.
  3. Will finds a letter from one of the conspirators confirming their intentions to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. The letter details the planned attack and mentions several other people involved in the conspiracy.
  4. Will meets with Francis Walsingham, an advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, and shares his suspicions about the plot against her. They work together to gather more evidence and identify all those involved in the conspiracy.

Teaching Opportunities

There are several opportunities for teaching grammar, descriptive language features, and other literary devices through “Treason” by Berlie Doherty. Here are a few examples:

  1. Grammar: “Treason” contains many examples of complex sentence structures, which can be used to teach students about sentence variety and how to create more sophisticated writing. Teachers could also focus on grammatical concepts such as verb tenses, pronoun usage, and punctuation.
  2. Descriptive Language Features: The book is rich in descriptive language, particularly regarding the setting of Elizabethan England. Teachers could use this text to teach students about descriptive techniques such as imagery, simile, metaphor, personification and hyperbole.
  3. Literary Devices: “Treason” includes several literary devices that can be used to enhance student understanding of literature. For example, teachers could focus on foreshadowing in the story or discuss the symbolism of particular objects or characters in the plot.
  4. Character analysis: The symbols in “Treason” are well-developed and provide ample opportunity for character analysis exercises. Students can explore how Will’s actions change throughout the book or compare and contrast different characters’ motivations.

Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan 1:

Sentence Variety and Structure Objective: Students will be able to identify and use different sentence structures in their writing.


  • “Treason” by Berlie Doherty
  • Writing prompts
  • Whiteboard and markers


  1. Begin by reviewing the different types of sentence structures with students (simple, compound, complex).
  2. Read excerpts from “Treason” aloud, identifying examples of each sentence structure.
  3. Have students work in pairs to find additional examples of sentence structures in the text.
  4. Provide writing prompts that require students to write using each type of sentence structure.
  5. After writing, have students share their work with the class and identify which types of sentences they used.

Lesson Plan 2:

Descriptive Language Features Objective: Students can identify descriptive language features such as simile, metaphor, personification and hyperbole.


  • “Treason” by Berlie Doherty
  • Whiteboard and markers


  1. Review various descriptive language features such as simile, metaphor, personification and hyperbole.
  2. Read an excerpt from “Treason” aloud and ask students to identify any descriptive language features present.
  3. Have students work in pairs to find additional examples of descriptive language in the text.
  4. Provide writing prompts requiring students to use descriptive language features in their writing.
  5. After writing, have them share their work with the class.

Lesson Plan 3:

Character Analysis Objective: Students will be able to analyse characters from “Treason”.


  • “Treason” by Berlie Doherty
  • Graphic organisers for character analysis


  1. Introduce the main characters from “Treason”.
  2. Hand out graphic organisers for character analysis, including spaces for physical traits, personality traits, motivations, etc.
  3. Have students read assigned sections or chapters independently or as a group.
  4. Students fill out a graphic organiser for the assigned character(s).
  5. After finishing reading and filling out the graphic organisers, have a class discussion on similarities or differences between characters’ motivations or personalities etc.

These lesson plans can be modified according to grade level or classroom needs. Still, they provide a starting point for teaching grammar rules, defining language features and various literary devices while engaging students with a thrilling historical tale set during one of England’s most fascinating periods – The Elizabethan era.

Website Resources

This website provides a range of resources to support the teaching of “Treason” by Berlie Doherty, aimed at children aged 9-11. The resources include video clips, discussion points, writing prompts and activities that explore themes such as loyalty, betrayal and friendship. The website also offers guidance on using the resources effectively in the classroom.


This website offers comprehensive planning and resources for whole-class guided reading of “Treason”. It includes lesson plans, worksheets and activities covering different text aspects, such as character analysis, setting descriptions and narrative structure. The resources are designed to support teachers in delivering engaging and challenging lessons that meet curriculum objectives.


The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) provides an overview of “Treason” by Berlie Doherty on their website. The page highlights key themes, characters and plot points from the book, along with suggestions for how it can be used in the classroom. There are also links to related books and resources that teachers may find helpful.


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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