The Third Wish by Joan Aiken

Teacher Guide by Becky Harvey

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The Third Wish Lesson Plans

Student Activities for The Third Wish Include:

The Third Wish by Joan Aiken is a play based on the fairy tale structure where a character is granted three wishes, and things wind up going very wrong. In this delightful twist of a three-wish tale, Mr. Peters saves the Forest King, who happens to be in the form of a swan, and is granted wishes as a reward.

The Third Wish Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Plot Diagram | The Third Wish Summary

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A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.

Example The Third Wish Plot Diagram


Mr. Peters saves a swan who turns out to be the Forest King. Mr. Peters is rewarded with three wishes.


Mr. Peters must decide what to wish for using his three wishes. He does not know whether to use the wishes on himself or for his loved ones.

Rising Action

Mr. Peters wishes for a beautiful wife, and one magically appears. They are wed, and seem to be live very happily.


Mr. Peters realizes that his wife used to be a swan, and that though she loves him very much, she’ll never be truly happy as a human because she was born to be a swan.

Falling Action

Mr. Peters uses his second wish to return his wife to swan form.


Mr. Peters decides to live out his life in the company of his two favorite swans (his wife and her sister), and not use the third wish because he believes that he should be happy as he is.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of The Third Wish.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  3. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  4. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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The Third Wish Character Map Graphic Organizer

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As students read, a storyboard can serve as a helpful character reference log. This character map allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. When reading a story, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

You can click on this map and create a copy on your teacher account. Feel free to use it as is, or to edit it for the level of your class. Printing it as worksheets for your students to use while reading, is a fast and easy way to incorporate this character map into your classroom. Or, if you prefer, create a blank template for your students to complete!

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.

  1. Identify the major characters in The Third Wish and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in the Textables for Character Traits, How Does This Character Interact with the Main Character, and What Challenges Does This Character Face.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Main Ideas in The Third Wish Graphic Organizer

Learning how to identify the main idea in a selection of text is an important skill for students to master. If readers are not careful, they can miss important information, plot advancements, or more. In this activity, students will identify main ideas and symbols from the story, and support their choices with details from the text.

Give your students selections from the text to illustrate. Using the grid layout or the traditional storyboard, students will recreate the text with a picture and one or two sentences that capture the main idea of the selection.

Three main ideas from The Third Wish are:

  1. Mr. Peters frees the swan from the thorny tangle. This is the task he completes to “earn” his three wishes.
  2. Mr. Peters realizes that it is hopeless to expect that Leita will ever become truly happy as a human. He decides to wish her back to being a swan.
  3. The mournful sound of two swans is Leita and her sister. They are singing because Mr. Peters has died.
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Frayer Model | The Third Wish Vocabulary

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Another great way to engage your students is through the creation of storyboards that use vocabulary from The Third Wish. A Frayer Model can help expand on an important and complex word or phrase that is integral to the work being read.

For example, an essential vocabulary word is extricate. Mr. Peters must extricate a swan from a bush after the swan gets tangled in the thorns. It is important for students to be able to distinguish extricate from contrary ideas, like attach or combine.

Other key vocabulary words are: composure, presumptuous, rash, remote, and malicious.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a Frayer Model for one of the vocabulary words from The Third Wish.

  1. Choose a vocabulary word and type it into the center title box.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary and enter it into the description box under Definition.
  3. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the Definition cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  4. Quote the use of the word from the book, and recreate the scene.
  5. Provide written and visual examples of the word.
  6. Provide written and visual non-examples of the word.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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The Third Wish Summary

Mr. Peters is out driving along a pond when he hears a horrible splashing and crying sound. He decides he must help whatever or whoever is making the racket. It turns out to be a large swan caught up in some thorny bushes. Mr. Peters frees the majestic bird and is surprised when it magically transforms into a mean-looking little king. Mr. Peters feels that since this is a magical being which he has freed, he deserves to be rewarded with three wishes, no more and no less.

The Forest King grants him his request and hands him three leaves. He says that all he needs to do is to release the leaf and make a wish. He also warns him that men often don’t have very good luck with wishes. Mr. Peters contemplates his wishes very carefully, remembering stories of wishes granted gone horribly wrong. He sets aside two of the leaves in his briefcase. He make his first wish for a beautiful wife, and then he goes to sleep in the woods. When he awakes, he finds a gorgeous woman who says she is to be his bride. They marry.

Time passes, and Mr. Peters and Leita are happy. They live by a river, and Leita spends more and more time by its bank. Leita loves Mr. Peters very, very much, but she is desperately sad. She eventually tells Mr. Peters that she was once a swan and that she misses the water, but even more, she misses her sister, another swan. More time passes, and Leita spends more time crying by the riverbank. One night, Mr. Peters sees Leita at the water, hugging a large swan and crying. He decides then and there, despite how much he loves having her as his wife, he is going to use his second wish to undo his first. When Leita goes to bed that night, he takes a leaf from his briefcase and lets it free out the window. He wishes for Leita to be a swan again.

Lieta, lying in their bed, takes the form of a swan. Mr. Peters gently carries her, sleeping, to the river and places her in the water. He wakes her and she lovingly lays her head on his shoulder, then flies off into the woods. The mean Forest King appears behind Mr. Peters to heckle him and his wasted wishes. Mr. Peters says that he will not use his third wish because he wants to remain faithful to his wife, but swans should be swans and humans, human.

Mr. Peters lives out the rest of his life quietly. He is always visited by two lovely swans. On the night that he dies, the whole town can hear the sad song of two mournful swans.

Essential Questions for The Third Wish

  1. Which is more important to you: being happy or having your loved ones happy?
  2. If you were granted three wishes, what would you wish for? Why?

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•   (English) The Third Wish   •   (Español) El Tercer Deseo   •   (Français) Le Troisième Souhait   •   (Deutsch) Der Dritte Wunsch   •   (Italiana) Il Desiderio più   •   (Nederlands) The Third Wish   •   (Português) O Terceiro Desejo   •   (עברית) המשאלה השלישית   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) وأتمنى الثالث   •   (हिन्दी) तीसरे इच्छा   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Третье Желание   •   (Dansk) Den Tredje Ønske   •   (Svenska) Tredje Wish   •   (Suomi) Kolmas Wish   •   (Norsk) The Third Wish   •   (Türkçe) Üçüncü İstek   •   (Polski) Trzecie Życzenie   •   (Româna) A Treia Wish   •   (Ceština) Třetí Přání   •   (Slovenský) Tretia Vôľa   •   (Magyar) A Harmadik Kívánságot   •   (Hrvatski) Treća Želja   •   (български) Третото Желание   •   (Lietuvos) Trečiasis Pageidavimų   •   (Slovenščina) Tretja Želja   •   (Latvijas) Trešā Wish   •   (eesti) Kolmas Soov