Lesson 4: Exploring racism through voice

Links to the Victorian Curriculum – English

Reading and Viewing, Literature: Responding to literature

Level 5: 

  • Use metalanguage to describe the effects of ideas, text structures and language features on particular audiences (Content description VCELT314)

Reading and Viewing, Literacy: Texts in context

Level 5: 

  • Show how ideas and points of view in texts are conveyed through the use of vocabulary, including idiomatic expressions, objective and subjective language, and that these can change according to context (Content description VCELY317)
  • Navigate and read imaginative, informative and persuasive texts by interpreting structural features, including tables of content, glossaries, chapters, headings and subheadings and applying appropriate text processing strategies, including monitoring meaning, skimming and scanning (Content description VCELY318)

Speaking and Listening, Literacy: Interacting with others

Level 5: 

  • Clarify understanding of content as it unfolds in formal and informal situations, connecting ideas to students' own experiences, and present and justify a point of view or recount an experience using interaction skills (Content description VCELY337)

Links to the Victorian Curriculum – English as an Additional Language (EAL)

Pathway B

Speaking and listening

Level BL:

  • Use words from sets related to immediate communicative need, interest or experience (VCEALL180)

Level B1:

Level B2:

  • Use, in speech, vocabulary and structures learnt from spoken and written texts (VCEALL341)

Level B3:

  • Employ a range of vocabulary to convey shades of meaning (VCEALL421)

Reading and viewing

Level BL:

  • Understand and explore the basic layout and conventions of simple texts (VCEALL200)
  • Engage with a small range of picture books in the classroom (VCEALA197)
  • Check understanding of classroom English by asking for clarification from other home language speakers (VCEALA172)

Level B1:

  • Understand the purpose and basic organisational features of simple text types (VCEALL280)
  • Engage with a diverse range of picture books that reflect a variety of cultural beliefs, practices and views (VCEALA277)
  • Participate in extended conversations with reliance on other speakers to scaffold, interpret, clarify or elaborate (VCEALC243)
  • Check understanding of classroom English with other home language speakers (VCEALA251)

Level B2:

  • Understand the purpose and organisational features of common text types (VCEALL361)
  • Engage with a diverse range of texts that reflect a variety of cultural beliefs, practices and views (VCEALA358)
  • Identify informative, imaginative and persuasive texts when reading texts or listening to texts read aloud (VCEALL360)
  • Ask for the translation of specific words from other home language speakers (VCEALA331)

Level B3:

  • Understand the purpose and organisational features of different text types (VCEALL361)
  • Engage with a diverse range of texts reflecting a variety of cultures and perspectives (VCEALA437)
  • Understand and use the appropriate metalanguage to talk about the structures and features of a text (VCEALL442)
  • Understand the cohesion of ideas between and within paragraphs (VCEALL441)

Theory/practice connections

Speech functions or the use of dialogue in texts presents the reader with information about the interactions between characters. Types of speech functions include: statements, questions, commands and offers.

Most of the examples of dialogue between the characters in The Island are statements (to simply state something or provide information).

Learning intention

We are learning to consider how dialogue shapes texts.

Success criteria

  1. I can classify dialogue based on the character's intention.
  2. I can explain the effect created when the singular or plural first person pronouns are used.
  3. I can explain how the combination of dialogue and visual techniques show characters' perspectives.

Role of the reader

Text analyst: The use of dialogue can help the author meet the purpose for text.

Group size

Whole class, small group.

Lesson sequence

Sequence over several lessons.

Explore the competing voices through dialogue in the text.

Voice of compassion (The Fisherman):

  • We have to take him in.
  • We can't ignore him now that he is among us.
  • We must help him.
  • Even though he is not one of us, he is still our responsibility.

Voices of prejudice:

  • But we can't just feed anyone who comes our way.
  • We don't have enough for everyone.
  • He will come and eat you if you don't finish your soup.
  • I am sure he would murder us all if he could.

Track the use of pronouns used in the dialogue.  What difference would it make if the fisherman substituted the pronoun we with I ? How would this change affect the storyline and the possible outcome?

Examine the lone voice of the fisherman.  Discuss with students why his perspective is different to that of the islanders and the difficulty he would have as a lone voice. Students make connections to their own experiences, when they were the only voice and how this felt.

Examine the voices of the islanders. Categorise these into reasonable concerns (e.g.  the island may not have enough resources for everyone) and unreasonable concerns based on fear or paranoia.

The final page of the text tells us that there were people who agreed with the fisherman but stayed silent.  Students consider why this might be.  Students make connections to their own experiences of times when they chose to remain silent. Similarly, we do not hear the voice of the stranger.  If his voice was included, what might he say? Consider who are those in society today who do not have a voice or are not heard?


Opportunities are offered here to determine whether students are able to make links between the lessons and their own experiences and knowledge.

Find visual examples that match the verbal animosity of the islanders - the use of pitchforks, the size of the mob, fists raised in anger.

The collective voices of the islanders were negative ones.  Investigate the positive collective voices that support refugees or displaced persons - United Nations, The Refugee Council of Australia, Oxfam, World Vision, Save the Children. Students work in small groups to research the purpose of one organisation. The organisation's slogans can be a useful starting point. Students capture the organisation's message in one sentence and add it to the voice of the fisherman. Explore the effect the use of pronouns has in these organisational voices.  Is the use of we or I more effective?


EAL and diverse learners may require more support and explicit instruction about the use of pronouns.

Prior to the research, some students may need support with the vocabulary encountered in the websites - refugee, asylum seekers, migration, human rights etc.

Students needing support with the research could work in a small guided writing focus group.