First day

[Episode 3 | 1988 : Lily]

Lily is taking her cousin, Phoung, to her school with her for the first time. Lily and her friends believe that Phoung can't speak English and they discuss what it means to be Australian.


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 [5]

Activity 1: Arriving in a new country
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Subtheme(s): Art, music and literature; Historical events
  • Show students the picture book, The Arrival, by Shaun Tan (2006). What can they learn from the book about the experiences of someone migrating to a new country? How might the book relate to Phoung's experiences in the clips?

  • Ask students to design their own picture book made up of three panels. The story should be based on the title The Arrival. It should portray a newly arrived immigrant to Australia and the first three things they will see, or want to see. Students should be reminded to develop a short text and then position their images to maximise their visual impact. They should consider how the audience will look at and read the images. Make sure they use three different angles of perspective to frame each part of the story.


Activity 2: Refugees
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Subtheme(s): Language and scripting; Politics
  • Lily's neighbour Mrs Benson remarks, 'You know there are laws against turning your house into a refugee camp.' As a class, discuss this comment and what it means. Ask students why they think Mrs Benson made this statement. What might she be afraid of? Introduce the term 'prejudice' and discuss its meaning with the class.
  • Ask students to consider and respond to the following question: What is a refugee camp?
  • Explain to the class that there are still many refugees in immigration detention centres in different parts of Australia waiting to be processed.

  • Ask students to find a variety of newspaper articles regarding recent Australian reports about asylum seekers, legal and illegal refugees, and detention centres. Students should read a selection of these articles and list them and their references including date and place of publication. The students are to nominate if they feel the article is for or against asylum seekers coming to Australia. As a group, they are to present a brief report to the class, describing one event that made national headlines in Australia about refugees.


Activity 3: Boat stories in literature
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Subtheme(s): Art, music and literature; Multiculturalism
  • Phoung briefly describes her journey on a boat to her new classmates. The horrific tales of the boat being captured by pirates and the terrifying account of having to be quiet is recounted for the captive audience in the classroom.
  • Ask students to recall and discuss what Phoung said in her story and how the audience reacted to the events being recounted.

  • Ask students to find out more about modern-day pirates and whether events like those Phoung described still happen today. As a tuning-in activity, read excerpts from the following books:
  1. Ziba Came on a Boat by Liz Lofthouse and Robert Ingpen (2007)
  2. Refugees: We Left Because We Had To by Jill Rutter (2004)
  3. Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley (2009)
  4. The Island by Armin Greder (2007).
  • These stories will give students a better sense of the experiences of boat arrivals to Australia. Ask students to write a summary of their findings on the perils faced by boat people fleeing their homeland. They could produce book reviews of the books listed above or others that they find on the topic.


Activity 4: Words and feelings
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Subtheme(s): Language and scripting; Relationships
  • Create a list of words that best describe the emotions and feelings of the boat people in Phoung's story. Encourage students to use descriptive adjectives.

  • In small groups, students use a thesaurus to add to the list of words. When they have completed their lists, they can share them with the class.
  • As a class, discuss this list of words and explain how words can convey levels of feeling to the reader or listener. Some words are more emotionally powerful than others and will have a stronger impact on the reader or listener, such as the difference between 'concerned' and 'terrified'. Discuss this with students and look at how 'concerned' has a lower emotional impact than 'terrified'. Look at the list of words and identify some other examples of high and low emotional impact.
  • Copy and distribute the combined list of words to the class and have students sort them into levels, from low emotional impact words through to the highest emotional impact.
  • For further background activities see L6184 'Super stories: The Abandoned House: nouns and adjectives' and L3456 'Online news: Perfect Pets'.
  • Explain how writers make careful choices to decide how they want their words to impact on the reader. As a modelled writing activity, demonstrate this using the same sentence structure, beginning with a bland, low emotional impact version and then ramping up the emotion to try to make it as terrifying as possible. For example:
  1. The ugly, old pirates carefully boarded the little fishing boat and the refugees were worried.
  2. The armed, brutal pirates aggressively boarded the violently rocking boat and the refugees were terrified.
  3. The choice of action verbs is also important here in building drama.
  4. Using this process as a guide, ask students to write a short, imaginative story describing the attack on Phoung's boat by the pirates, and how the passengers managed to trick them and escape safely. The goal is to create maximum emotional impact on the reader through the careful choice of words.


Activity 5: Competition and rivalry
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Subtheme(s): Relationships
  • As a class, watch the opening scene of Episode 3: 1988: Lily, and then have students write down three or four words to describe the sort of person Lily appears to be. Some examples might be that she is competitive, likes to be a winner, and needs to be in charge of things. Then ask students to watch the arrival of Phoung and write three or four words that best describe her character.
  • Discuss Lily's initial expectations and anticipation of the arrival of her cousin Phoung from Vietnam. Ask students to discuss why Lily is excited at the prospect of her cousin Phoung staying with her. After Phoung arrives, the story changes very quickly for Lily. Encourage students to think about what occurs between the two girls and why the situation changes. How does Lily view her cousin once she arrives?

  • Ask students to write down the problems that occur between Lily and Phoung to ignite their rivalry. Students should take note of the problems using Student Activity Sheet E3.11 and write a corresponding solution for each problem the girls face. These problems and solutions can be shared amongst the class to help promote discussion on the topics of friendships and problem solving.


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