Loves me, loves me not

[Episode 17 | 1848: Johanna]

Johanna reads a letter from her uncle to her grandmother. She plays a practical joke on one of the Owen boys by putting a frog in his chamber-pot. Johanna and her grandmother visit the grave of her mother. Johanna asks about who her father was.


The Australian curriculum: History

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The Australian Curriculum: History aims to ensure that students develop: 

  • interest in, and enjoyment of, historical study for lifelong learning and work, including their capacity and willingness to be informed and active citizens 
  • knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the past and the forces that shape societies, including Australian society 
  • understanding and use of historical concepts, such as evidence, continuity and change, cause and effect, perspectives, empathy, significance and contestability 
  • capacity to undertake historical inquiry, including skills in the analysis and use of sources, and in explanation and communication.

History activities [2]

Activity 1: Graveyards
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Subtheme(s): Beliefs; Culture; Historical events

Visiting the graves of relatives was a common part of life in Johanna's time (1840s). In the mid-19th century mortality rates were much higher than today, particularly due to accidents, illness and childbirth. Graves are important sites of family history and can provide valuable historical information.

  • Ask students to research examples of 19th century family gravestones in Australia. To assist this task, arrange a visit to a historical cemetery in your area. Ask students to consider how the inscriptions found on the graves can be used to interpret history and help us to learn about how someone might have lived and died. For example, if the child's date of birth and the date of the mother's death are the same, this most likely implied death due to complications of childbirth.
  • Students could collate images and inscriptions on gravestones.
  • The following websites may be helpful:
  1., 'Toowong Cemetery',
  2. Websites for Genealogists, 'Cemetery Records - Australia',
  3. White Hat, 'Melbourne General Cemetery',
  4. City of Sydney, 'Old Sydney Burial Ground',

  • Using their research as inspiration, ask students to create a fictional gravestone for Johanna's family or an imaginary 19th century family. The gravestone would tell the story of the family through the dates and inscriptions.
  1. How old were the people when they died?
  2. Who were their relations?
  3. Did their death occur naturally or was it caused by accident or illness?


  • Students could create a graveyard by combining gravestones made by other members of their class. Students take a tour of the class graveyard, reading the inscription on each gravestone to deduce its family history.
  • Students could reflect on the reasons why unmarked graves exist in a cemetery. Ask students to research the reasons why a person might not have been given a recognised burial. Students could look at graveyards from the perspective of Australia's Indigenous and non-white population.


Activity 2: Reading
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Subtheme(s): Culture; Social order and education

In this clip, Johanna reads aloud a letter from her uncle addressed to her grandmother who is illiterate. In Johanna's time many people could not read or write as they had no access to formal education.

  • As a class, ask students to consider what it would be like to be a person who is unable to read or write. Ask students to research what school was like in 19th-century Australia and who went to school.
  1. AllExperts, 'What was education like in Australia in 1850?', 
  2. Aussie Educator, 'History of Australian Education',
  3. National Archives of Australia, Documenting a Democracy, Education Act 1872 (Vic),,
  • Provide students with the literacy rates in various countries. Ask students which ten countries have the highest literacy rates and which have the lowest.  As a class, ask students to discuss why literacy is high in these countries. Ask students to find out where Australia is ranked on the list.
  • Ask students to create a Y chart about going to school in the 19th century based on the following questions:
  1. What did going to school look like?
  2. What did going to school feel like?
  3. What did going to school sound like?

  • Ask students to complete the fishbone graphic organiser about what types of literacies children need in the 21st century. On one side of the diagram students list the types of literacies children needed in the 19th century. Have students provide reasons why we need to be more literate today.


Student Activity Sheet H17.4: Reading

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