Activity 1: First-person narration
Facey’s autobiography, starting with ‘I was born in 1894 at Maidstone’, is written in the simplest form of first-person narration. When the piece of writing is being told from the point-of-view of a character, this is first-person narration. First-person narrators make frequent use of the pronoun ‘I’ because they’re talking about themselves, or at the very least what’s going on around them. This style of narration gives us insight into a character’s thoughts and feelings.
While it does have the capacity to provide deep insights into characters and their motivations, the first-person narrative style is limited; such a narrator cannot easily talk about the ‘bigger picture’ or see things that are going on in multiple places at once. Such broader insights are the domain of the third-person narrator.
A vital aspect of first-person narration is that the narrator is somehow involved in the story; they are part of the action and have something at stake. This does mean that we have to be wary of what we are being told; even with the best of intentions (which will not be true of all first-person narrators!) the narration may not contain full disclosure. When we are unsure of the trustworthiness of the narrator, we call them ‘unreliable narrators’.
Ask the students to read the first two paragraphs of A Fortunate Life. Using different colours, students should highlight:
Using at least two of the above stylistic choices, ask students to explain how Facey’s writing choices affects them as readers.
Activity 2: Autobiography
Based entirely on the author’s memory, an autobiography is a record of events written by the person who experienced them. While this style of writing can provide fascinating insights into the lives of individuals or periods of history, before we look at the historical importance of Facey’s autobiography for Australia, we need to think about how we read autobiographical accounts.
Ask each student to write an autobiographical account of an incident they remember from their childhood. This will be written out of class so that they have the chance to chat with a parent, sibling, aunt, guardian . . . anyone who might have been there or heard the story from someone else who had been there. Direct students to write as honestly as they can, but emphasise that they should write it as a story and something they are happy to share with others. In other words, in a way that will capture readers who were not present at the time of the incident. This should be no longer than about 250 words.
Now the students have written their own autobiographical account, have them pair up and share their story with each other. After having read the other person’s story, have them provide feedback (verbally or in writing) regarding how they ‘saw’ the story; for example, was it heartbreaking? Dangerous? Was the writer the hero at the end of the story? This can lead into a class discussion about the concerns raised by this style of writing, as articulated in the following questions:
- What is memory?
- What is truth?
- What are facts?
- How does the language we choose influence how we present truth, fact and reality?
The writer’s craft
Activity 3: Tree of knowledge
This activity will help students collaboratively develop notes from the text. The emphasis here is on language and style, setting, and point of view.
Divide the students into groups of three. Allocate the sixteen chapters of the text to the groups. Give each group one section from:
- language and style
- point of view.
Cut out a largish leaf template for the students and provide coloured paper that is in three ‘leaf’ colours (or cut the ‘leaves’ yourself); as it’s an Australian bush setting, eucalyptus greens would be ideal. Each leaf colour will represent language and style, setting, or point of view. The students will write information on their leaf – according to the chapter and aspect they have been allocated – along with page references and quotes where appropriate. The leaves will be added to a classroom display tree, which can be a point of reference for the remainder of the text study.
Text and meaning
Activity 4: Mapping the journey
For students to get a sense of where Facey and his family lived and moved over the years, and the significant distances they travelled without the luxury of contemporary transportation, they are to create maps of significant sites and journeys undertaken by Facey in Australia. Due to the detail needed, this is designed to be a collaborative task.
Students are to develop three maps:
- Victoria – to map the movements of the family after the father left for Western Australia.
- Australia – to map the foot, cart, sea and train journey from Barkers Creek to Kalgoorlie.
- Western Australia – to map the journeys of Facey himself and his kin as they went to find work wherever it was available.
As an extension exercise, students may also be asked to map Facey’s journey to Gallipoli, using a blank map of Australia. Helpful geography teachers in your school may wish to work collaboratively with you on this as such a task can be used to fulfil other curriculum capabilities, for example, ‘The reasons for and effects of internal migration in Australia’ (ACHGK056).
Students are to annotate the points the have located on the maps with specific textual detail. Such detail would include which individuals were involved and why they travelled.
(ACELT1626) (ACELT1806) (EN4-8D)
Activity 5: Facing adversity
The journeys undertaken by Facey and members of his family were largely required of them due to economic and social pressures. Australians see this adaptability as part of the way in which the stereotypical cultural identity of ‘the battler’ – that is, Australians as robust and resilient – was developed.
Students are to select one of the following events to explore the nature of the various forms of adversity faced by Australians living in the early part of European-Australian history:
- internal migration 1850–1900: causes and effects
- Australian gold rushes
- economic downturns in the 1880s or 1930s
- World Wars I or II
- disease and illness – access to medical expertise
- access to education.
Students are to produce two pieces of work in response to this research:
- PowerPoint movie
- Students select 4-6 images that ‘tell the story’ around one of the issues facing early European Australians.
- Students add a short voice over to the slides.
- Students can also embed music: Creative Commons Music is a good, legal source for this.
- PowerPoint can then very easily be converted into a video.
- Using the material they found for the visual representation via the PowerPoint, students will write a short written report outlining the cause of the adversity and the way in which it Australians responded to this adversity.
Some Resources – images and information:
Comparison with other texts
Activity 6: Learnist representation of World War I
- Simpson and his donkey
Learnist is an interactive, collaborative learning tool. Students can be asked to compile information on a topic and present it via this platform with relative ease. The platform allows you to embed film, graphics, information – any material sourced from the web. It is free to join Learnist – you just have to login.
Students are to create a Learnist board to demonstrate some knowledge of World War I and the way Australia’s involvement in this war has created a very particular sense of Australian identity. To create their Learnist tool:
- Students are to use at least two forms of information (such as film, documentary, poetry) to present their understanding of the history of events.
- Students create a board that explores the notion of the ‘Australian identity’ which springs from this.
Extension students may wish to compare the way the representation of Australian identity has changed in contemporary society.
The Gallipoli Catastrophe documentary (47 minutes)
Ways of reading the text
Activity 7: Timeline
This is a collaborative student activity. The activity provides students with an opportunity to explore milestones in Australian history and how individual’s lives are affected by national and international events. As the narrative is linear, it is also a task that can help them develop their note-taking with regard to literary texts.
Students are to complete two timelines, one which maps what is happening to Facey, the other which maps what is happening in the broader Australian context at the same time. For example, the 1894 Facey was born in Maidstone, Victoria. At the same time, South Australia was the first colony to give women equal franchise with men.
Split the class into pairs. Split the 88 years of Facey’s life into the number of paired students in the class. Each student in the pair will have the responsibility for one of the timelines for the allocated time period.
Have students present their two-sided timeline to the class in oral and visual form. Once the timelines have been presented, ask the students to share their timelines with their peers, either electronically or as displays in the classroom.
Wikipedia is the most readily available source for events in individual years. For example, the page 1894 in Australia takes researchers to a list of easily digestible information about a number of important events in Australia in 1894.
(ACELA1548) (ACELY1731) (EN4-6C) (EN4-4B)
Rich assessment task 1 (receptive)
Comparative text analysis: Visions of early European Australia
This task invites students to undertake a close, critical reading of an extract from the novel as well as make intertextual connections with other media. This is a high order task, and in line with the Australian Curriculum Performance Standards for Year 8.
Students are to choose one chapter from A Fortunate Life as the basis for their comparative work. Students choose one topic of comparison, aligned to their own interests or the work they have done for this unit of work, from the following options:
- artistic representations (for example, the Heidelberg School)
- poetry/songs/short stories
There will be a need to undertake some research about the chosen topic. The written task will take the following form:’
What is the topic being explored here? Signpost the comparison being made in this response: which chapter/episode from the novel is being explored, and what it is being compared to (film, art, etc.)
Outline the way Facey represents early European Australians through a chosen episode in the novel. The student will need to show an understanding of how this creates a sense of identity through the chosen content (what parts of the story Facey decides to include and what he decides to leave out), through the genre of the text (autobiography), and through the language and language structures Facey has used.
Outline the way the chosen comparison text or media represents early European Australians through a chosen aspect of that text (for example, the McCubbin painting Lost). In interpreting this media, the student is to show an understanding of how this creates a sense of identity through the chosen content, through the genre of the text and through the narrative structures used.
Make some summative statements about how early European Australians saw themselves based on the two texts explored here. Although this is a very narrow perspective (based only on two texts), what can be said about the way Australians saw themselves during this period?
How is this view different from how Australians see themselves today? Looking at advertising (it’s free to join Best ads on TV), how do we represent ourselves today? Do these representations reflect ‘reality’? What can we then say about older representations about who we are as Australians?
Activity 8: Tiny little poems
With 140 characters, tweeting can provide a number of interesting synthesising possibilities for students. Direct students to:
- select two of the themes outlined at the outset of this unit
- visit Tiny little poems to see how people can express fairly detailed ideas in a succinct format
- write two twitter poems based on how the chosen themes represented in A Fortunate Life affect them as contemporary Australians.
Rich assessment task 2 (productive)
An autobiographical account: A Fortunate Life
This is a high order task, and in line with the Australian Curriculum Performance Standards for Year 8.
Task 1: Write an autobiographical account
Students are to write a short autobiographical account focusing on the theme of how conflict leads to a sense of individual or collective identity. Students may wish to write it as a ‘straight’ narrative (developing on their pre-reading task if they wish) or play with the idea of the unreliable narrator (some students may wish to look at famous unreliable narrators for some ideas).
Task 2: Write a statement of intention
To make explicit what the students are doing with their own language, they are to write a statement of intention. This short analytical piece will focus on the language features used and language choices made by the students as writers (the pre-reading task will help them with the mechanics for this). After identifying some of the features and choices, students are to explain what they think the effect of these are on a reader. They are being asked to explain how fact and reliability have been manipulated through language.
Download the rich assessment task 2 rubric (PDF, 190KB)
(ACELT1632) (ACELT1768) (ACELA1766) (ACELA1809) (ACELA1544) (ACELA1547) (ACELY1733) (ACELY1736) (ACELY1810) (ACELY1726) (EN4-4B) (EN4-3B) (EN4-1A) (EN4-2A)