Eggs for tuppence

[Episode 16 | 1858 : Ben]

After foraging in the forest for plover's eggs, Ben competes with Leck to sell them to the local populace. He then gets into trouble with his father after he repeats an ugly stereotype about Chinese people that he learnt from Mr Wilson.


The Australian curriculum: English

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The Australian Curriculum: English aims to ensure that students:

  • learn to listen to, read, view, speak, write, create and reflect on increasingly complex and sophisticated spoken, written and multimodal texts across a growing range of contexts with accuracy, fluency and purpose
  • appreciate, enjoy and use the English language in all its variations and develop a sense of its richness and power to evoke feelings, convey information, form ideas, facilitate interaction with others, entertain, persuade and argue
  • understand how Standard Australian English works in its spoken and written forms and in combination with non-linguistic forms of communication to create meaning
  • develop interest and skills in inquiring into the aesthetic aspects of texts, and develop an informed appreciation of literature.

English activities [2]

Activity 1: Character relationships
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Subtheme(s): Character; Currency; Relationships
  • As a class, watch the clip, Eggs for tuppence, and list each of the characters that are included in this part of the story.
  • Create a word wall filled with words and phrases from the clip that are not often heard today. For example, Joss House, tuppence, threepence, shilling and plover.
  • As a class, examine the first part of the clip carefully and ask students to describe what each person seated at or near the table is doing. For example, Ben is counting his money, his mother is sewing and his father is asleep in a chair. Describe the house as well, noticing in particular any examples of simple or complex technology, such as the candle for light, a lantern, iron frypans and pottery containers. Encourage use of rich descriptive vocabulary, for example, carefully counting his money; rustic table and chairs. Add these phrases to the word wall.
  • Discuss what the audience learns about the currency used in 1858 by watching this clip. Ask students to note down all the information they can about money, and any messages the clip conveys about it, such as how precious it is. Look closely for clues in the dialogue and action, such as Ben hiding his money from his father. Have students research the currency of the 1850s using the internet and reference books in the library. They could name the coins used in the scene, and find out their value today using currency converters on the internet.

  • Ask students to think about and to suggest how the lives of these people might be similar to or different from their own lives. The following questions can help to guide the discussion:
  1. Why might the family have a candle burning?
  2. Do you think the family is wealthy? Use evidence from the clip to explain your ideas. 
  3. What might be some reasons why the father is sleeping? 
  4. What type of money is Ben counting? What does it tell you about when the film is set?
  5. Why do you think Ben might be working to earn money? 
  6. Why do you think young children are not allowed to work today?
  7. Why do you think Ben's mother might have warned Ben not to let his father see his money?
  • Have each student use Student Activity Sheet E16.3 Character relationships to write three sentences describing relationships in the clip. Students might explore various relationships, for example, between Ben and his father, Ben and his mother, Ben's parents, Ben and Leck, the children and their customers. Ask each student to read their sentences to the class, providing an example from the clip to support the ideas contained in their sentences.
  • Place the students in groups of three. Ask each group to select three characters from the clip, and then have them improvise a short role-play that demonstrates the chores they think each character would do. Have students focus on the roles of different genders, and on the relationships between the characters.


Activity 2: It's not fair
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Subtheme(s): Currency; Multiculturalism; Social order and education
  • Introduce students to the concept of social class. Have them research and discuss factors that contributed to the divisions of society during the 1850s, looking at the backgrounds of the people who flocked to the goldfields: Europeans, Americans, Chinese, South Americans, etc. Play the clip, Eggs for tuppence, and examine how language and gestures help identify the divisions in social class between the characters. As a class, devise a pyramid of social divisions that would have been prevalent in the 1850s on the goldfields. List the different nationalities and place them within the divisions of the triangle. Discuss how these social divisions would have come about and/or been made.
  • As a class, discuss the concept of 'stereotypes'. Provide examples for students to consider, for example, witches and ogres in fairytales are generally considered evil or 'bad', while princes and princesses are kind and 'good'. Explain that stereotypes are generalisations that often offer a judgement on the character and actions of a person that is not always a fair or accurate depiction of them. Ask students to list characteristics of a 'good' stereotype and characteristics of a 'bad' stereotype.
  • Discuss with students reasons why stereotypes are used in books and films, explaining how they can quickly convey an idea to an audience. Point out that authors and filmmakers can use stereotypes to lead people to form a positive or a negative impression about a person or a group. Play the clip asking each student to use Student Activity Sheet E16.3 It's not fair to identify stereotypes that are evident, and associated generalisations, for example, Ben's mother is sewing, depicting the role of women at this time and the traditional clothing worn by Leck identifies him as Chinese.
  • Ben has trouble selling his eggs because many people are loyal to Leck. Conduct a class vote to find out how many students think it was wrong for Ben to try to take away Leck's business. Invite each student to put on an imaginary pair of Leck's shoes to help them consider how Leck might have felt when he had to compete with Ben to earn money. Have students share thoughts and feelings about Ben's actions, then ask each student to create and display a mind map exploring other ways Ben might earn money, rather than impacting on Leck's business.

  • Following Ben's comment that the cat was lucky to get out alive, Ben's father chastises him, telling him not to talk like that. He says, 'This world will never be a decent place until all men learn to get along like brothers' Discuss what Ben's father's words imply about his point of view in relation to racism. Contrast this with what his words reveal about the place of women in society at this time.
  • Leck is a significant character in this episode providing an opportunity to discuss reasons why Chinese people came to Australia at different times. Discuss reasons why Leck's family might have come to live in Australia? Ask students to conduct research on the internet or using reference books in the library to find out when and why Chinese people came to Australia. Students could develop a timeline of Chinese migration to Australia. The timeline should include dates, images and reasons for Chinese people coming to Australia.


Student Activity Sheet E16.4: Stereotypes

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