Activity 1: Pre-reading

Personal identities are central to the plot and character development in Looking for Alibrandi. The following activities will support student reading and analysis.

Step 1
As preparation for reading the text lead students to explore the notion of individuals having multiple identities. Discuss how these may depend on context, time, place, and social and familial connections.

Step 2
Ask students to reflect back on who they were and what was important to them when they were aged about five, which could be:

  • a person/people or group
  • a place
  • an activity.

Students nominate a symbol or something of value to them at age five and consider what these meant to them in each of the following cases:

  • amongst closest friends (e.g. at playgroup, in the cubby, playing games with cousins)
  • at home with immediate and/or extended family (e.g. on the river, camping, sleepover at the grandparents’ house)
  • within a special interest club or group (e.g. mini league footy, at the oval, cooking, first pair of ballet shoes)
  • individually (e.g. me, in the living room, cutting , pasting and drawing, Hi5 DVD).

Step 3
Share Step 2 symbols in groups with a focus on similarities and differences amongst individuals and what accounts for these. This might include such things as where you grew up, family heritage, religion and so on.

Step 4
Students return to individual contemplation and repeat Step 2 for themselves according to their current age and identities.

  • amongst closest friends (eg: in the bedroom, sleepovers, heading out for the day, mobile phone)
  • at home with immediate and/or extended family (eg: Grandparents, church at Easter, feasting, dyeing Easter eggs)
  • within a special interest club or group (eg: surf life saving club, preparing for a school dance, southern beaches, tennis club)
  • individually (eg: shopping with friends, going to the gym, listening to music).

Step 5
Return to small groups to share what has changed over the years.

Step 6
Group discussion exploring how identities change over time in relation to friendships, family and culture and why this is so. Students to focus on similarities and differences within their class and how this adds to the complexity and richness of the environment.
(ACELT1635)   (EN5-7D)

Reading the text in print and eBook formats

In this unit, there is an acknowledgement of alternate pedagogies for those teachers and students who are using the ebook of Looking for Alibrandi. Though it is acknowledged that this may a rarity at this time in Australian schools, the rate of decline in print book sales and the increase in sales of eBooks indicates that change is inevitable. Already many school have adopted the use of tablets in middle years classrooms, including Year 9.

The following functions and features of eBooks may be particularly useful for this literary study or others. However, the activities designed for this unit can be also adjusted for those using print copies of Looking for Alibrandi.

For tips and advice for using eBook functions watch this video and see below.

Text/speech versions
While the authors used a text-only version of the eBook, it may be beneficial for all or some students to upgrade to the ‘text to speak’ function available via Kindle books. This is particularly important for those students who are challenged by the reading of extended print texts.

Highlighting function
Students can use the highlighting function within the eBook to select key passages. They can be asked to use different colours for different categories. For example, students might use orange for perspectives on multiculturalism, and yellow for inter-generational tensions/harmony and so on. There is a function in the eBook that will collate all these notes in sequence, according to colour. Finally, students can choose to copy compiled notes to send via email, text to phone, or even to Facebook or Twitter.

Notes function
In addition to notes, student might add notes to sentences or passages highlighted. These notes can be compiled, used and sent as per the highlighting function above.

Search function
Unlike hard copies where one is forced to scan for character or place names, or words or concepts, the search function will immediately collate any references with pages numbers for the key word (eg Michael, wog, St Martha’s, sex).

The authors of this unit are avid print readers but found the eBook readability a bonus – it was quicker to read, could be read in any light, and easy to bookmark and highlight on the go on an iPad or mobile phone. Text size and brightness are adjustable, and whenever the eBook is reopened, the reader is taken immediately to the last page read.

Bookmark function
This allows readers to mark key pages, indicate shifts in narrative structure or simply identify a spot they need to return to later to reread. Alternatively, teachers might direct students to bookmark certain pages prior to reading to signal that this is a page demanding special consideration.

X-ray function
If  X-ray is available, locate it within the home menu and then tap it to see all passages from the book that mention the idea, character, or topic you’re interested in. This is displayed as a timeline so that the intensity of reference of the idea, character or topic appears across the book. Please note that it is not yet available for all books but if it is available, it will appear in bold.

Other reader responses
Readers will notice that some lines and passages within eBooks are underlined with dots. These lines indicate that the dialogue or passage has been highlighted by many other readers, and provides the number of readers who have highlighted that section at any time since that text was purchased from that company.

As stated, many schools already have class sets of Looking for Alibrandi, so there is no imperative to swap over to an eBook version. However, if it is not already happening in all schools, teachers may begin to consider the cost and pedagogical advantages in using eBooks when extending reading lists for students.


Outline of key elements of the text (notes for teachers)


  • The story of a seventeen-year-old schoolgirl on scholarship to a wealthy Catholic school.
  • Family dynamics, friendships and identity all have an impact on how Josie, the central character, sees herself and how she navigates relationships.
  • Ultimately this is the story of the emancipation of a girl as she reaches beyond childhood.


  • Josie; Kristina, her mother; Michael, her father; Katia, her grandmother; her small group of female school friends; and two male friends, John and Jacob.

Some key themes

  • Identity
  • Multiculturalism
  • Belonging
  • Family secrets
  • Inter-generational relationships
  • Developing a sense of purpose and agency for self.

Activity 2: Narrative development

Students draw chapter timelines or line graphs representing the highs and lows of Josie’s relationships with her father, her grandmother and mother. Follow-up with how these relationships shift and change:

  • How do these ups and downs represent the development of the narrative within the novel?
  • What can the reader conclude about the value or strength of these relationships, as well as the pressures upon them?
  • How might these relationships continue beyond the end of the novel’s narrative?

(ACELT1633)   (ACELT1635)   (EN5-7D)   (EN5-8D)

Activity 3: Adolescent lives in the 90s and now

As students work their way through the text, they highlight issues/language/dilemmas that might have been important twenty years ago, but are no longer so significant in most adolescent lives now. At the same time, students highlight what remains as important to young people. Finally, students address the following with reference to the novel:

  • Reconsider the narrative development of a chapter if mobile phones or Facebook were part of the lives of characters.
  • How is this text similar to, and different from, contemporary representations of adolescent life in Australia today?

(ACELA1551)   (ACELT1633)    (ACELY1739)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-8D)

The Writer’s Craft and Close Reading

Activity 4: Character development

Step 1
Students work in groups and carry out eBook searches for a designated character (ensuring that all key characters are covered across groups). Students find adjectives and then the verbs, adverbs and physical features to build a word list profile of the character. Each group reports in class, or electronically, so that every student has a word list for every character. It is possible to send/save references for characters according to search criteria. Students then analyse characters in discussion and/or written activity.

Step 2
Students search for all references to Sr Gregory and Sr Louise. They consider how these women are represented, with a focus on stereotyping. Students rewrite one passage or exchange of dialogue so that either of these characters is represented as a more liberal, empathetic teacher. Students may choose to base the new characters on those they have seen in films or from their own experiences of school.
(ACELA1561)   (ACELY1739)    (ACELT1633)   (ACELY1742)   (EN5-1A)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-8D)

Activity 5: Close reading of chapter 19
  • What aspects of Josie’s culture are made apparent here?
  • How does the author contextualise the Italian experience in Australia during WWII?
  • What are the tensions between Josie’s view of her future and Nona’s, and which language and images most effectively capture this?
  • What clues are there in the text that Marcus Sanford might re-emerge later in the text as a character of significance?

(ACELA1557)   (ACELT1633)    (ACELY1739)   (ACELY1742)   (ACELY1744)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-8D)

Activity 6: Opening scene of the film of Looking for Alibrandi (5 minutes, 15 seconds)

Notice that the film opens with Chapter 19. Alert students to this fact before they consider the following questions in groups or as a whole class after viewing the scene:

  • In what ways is the film a visual replica of the print text (Chapter 19) and what has been added or deleted?
  • How is Josie constructed in the visual text, and how is this consistent with, or different from, the print text? How can you explain the differences?
  • How effectively is Josie’s family’s culture communicated here? Consider music, location, dialogue, costumes, props.
  • How has the film maker highlighted the tensions Josie feels between the culture of her family and the culture of her school friends?
  • Originally Looking for Alibrandi had the working title The Emancipation of Alibrandi. What is it that Josie wants to be freed from and how does she imagine attaining that freedom?

Note: If teachers wish to deal with the issue of John’s suicide, it may be useful to consider it as a foil to the choices made by Josie, rather than as a focus within the text. As with all sensitive issues, teachers are advised to exercise caution and care in regard to their context and their students.
(ACELA1560)   (ACELT1633)   (ACELT1635)   (ACELY1739)   (ACELY1742)   (ACELY1744)   (EN5-1A)   (EN5-2A)  (EN5-7D)   (EN5-8D) 

Activity 7: Intertextuality and point of view
  • Students work in groups to select other key scenes from the novel and explain how these are similar to or different from equivalent scenes in the movie.
  • It may happen that students select a scene that has been excluded from the screen play. If this is the case they need to explain why they believe that decision was made and how the film may suffer or be improved by the exclusion of the scene.
  • Direct students to a scene in the book, providing explicit teaching on point of view, and lead students into discussion on why the author may have chosen first person? How might the novel be interpreted differently if from the perspective of an omnipotent narrator (a narrator rather like god-figure who can be in all places at all times)? Or in first person according to Jacob or Nonna?

Students report back on their analysis for any or all of the above. This may happen electronically or in class depending on the needs of students and availability of time.
(ACELA1553)   (ACELT1633)   (ACELT1636)   (ACELT1772)   (ACELY1739)    (ACELY1742)   (ACELY1744)   (ACELY1745)   (EN5-1A)    (EN5-2A)   (EN5-4B)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-8D)


Activity 8: Personal and social capability

Step 1
Find an example within the novel of an occasion when Josie or another character took a personal stand. For example, in Chapter 2, when Jacob made his speech at the annual ‘Have a say day’ rally, or at the end of Chapter 29 when Josie discusses a possible name change. Consider how the author establishes the significance of the stand in reference to the use of images, sentence structure, language choice and narrative development.

Step 2
Evaluate the behaviour of the focus character in Step 1 above, and the success or otherwise of the stand they take. What significance does this have for the individual and those around them?

Step 3
Students share with a group, or the whole class, an example of a moment when they, or a public figure, took a stand on an issue. For example, in 2013 Adam Goodes took a stand on the issue of racism in the Australian Football League (AFL). In what way does a ‘stand’ signify self-conviction and maturity? How might taking a stand be misinformed, misunderstood or likely to backfire?(ACELA1552)   (ACELA1557)   (ACELA1561)   (ACELT1636)   (ACELY1742)   (ACELY1744)   (ACELY1745)   (EN5-1A)  (EN5-2A)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-4B)

Activity 9: Intercultural understanding

Step 1
In the novel, Josie begins to accept and value aspects of her cultural heritage. Students locate and share three pieces of dialogue from Josie as evidence of this. How does the dialogue represent alternate cultural perspectives or background?

Step 2
Based on the analysis in Step 1 above, students articulate one example of someone in their community who openly celebrated or acknowledged their own cultural heritage. For example:

  • a friend introduces the student to their appreciation of Bollywood movies
  • a neighbour invites the student’s family over for dancing and partying on St. Patrick’s Day
  • a classmate shares his/her experience of living in a refugee camp before settling in Australia
  • a friend invites the student to his/her local indigenous dance troupe performance.

Step 3
Based on a discussion of examples from Step 2, students discuss the challenges and benefits of a multicultural Australia, citing supporting evidence from Looking for Alibrandi.
(ACELA1552)   (ACELA1557)   (ACELA1561)   (ACELT1635)   (ACELT1636)   (ACELY1742)   (ACELY1744)  (ACELY1745)   (EN5-1A)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-4B)   (EN5-7D)


Australian literature features many texts focusing on multiculturalism and Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures. (See the Reading Australia 200 list (PDF, 215KB).

For the purposes of a Year 9 study, ‘Stand Up’ (Episode 4 from the ABC series, Redfern Now), has been selected as an accessible and pertinent text to match with Looking for Alibrandi. With this pairing of texts, students will examine similarities and differences within textual modes (print and TV) and issues of culture and heritage (Italian Australians and Indigenous Australians), and adolescence (male and female).

The choice of ‘Stand Up’ from Redfern Now enables close engagement with the cross-curriculum priority, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures. Activity 10 (below) resonates with an earlier activity where students examined the opening scene of the film, Looking for Alibrandi. As they did with that scene, students will examine how the opening scene of ‘Stand Up’ establishes the setting, the character and emergent themes.

Activity 10: Establishing character

Step 1
Students view the opening scene of ‘Stand Up’. (Skip credits for this particular viewing and begin at one minute and five seconds and play that scene up until the end of the first assembly scene at five minutes and forty-two seconds).

Step 2
As individuals or groups, students determine how much they have learned about each of the following in that opening scene:

  • the central character Joel by way of visual cues in his bedroom, music, his mood preparing for school and his behaviour during the assembly
  • Joel’s family and their relationships through visual cues and dialogue
  • Joel’s school via visual cues and music
  • first impressions of the principal and the teacher who speaks with Joel about the national anthem.

What aspects of the plot do you think have been foreshadowed in this opening scene?

Step 3
Students share responses and provide evidence to support their opinions.

Step 4
Students then watch the entire episode (fifty-five minutes) including the opening and closing credits. Before they do, alert them to the fact that this text examines multiculturalism from an alternative perspective. Students should look for connections, similarities and differences between the two texts in preparation for further comparative work on ‘Stand Up’ and Looking for Alibrandi.(ACELA1560)   (ACELT1633)   (ACELT1772)   (ACELY1742)   (ACELY1744)   (ACELY1745)   (EN5-1A)   (EN5-2A)  (EN5-6C)   (EN5-8D)



Australian texts, universal themes

Step 1
Students locate, within the novel, distinctly Australian language/images/contexts that might mean very little to an adolescent unfamiliar with Australia. Students make a list of these.

Step 2
Students make note of key themes, character traits and contexts that they believe would feel familiar or relevant even to those who have never been to Australia or understand its language, history or culture. That is, students identify what is universal in this text, with direct reference to lines or passages from Looking for Alibrandi, or images or scenes from ‘Stand Up’.

Step 3
Students use notes and discussion from Steps 1 and 2 (above) and describe how the two texts, Looking for Alibrandi and ‘Stand Up’ are distinctly Australian. Task: Students highlight what aspects of the texts are more universal in theme, language and imagery (300 words total).

Step 4
Using their reading of the novel, students discuss how Marchetta represents her views on multiculturalism in Australia.

Step 5
How is the author’s perspective in Looking for Alibrandi similar to, or different from, the perspective of the creators of ‘Stand Up’?
(ACELY1745)   (ACELA1551)   (ACELA1561)   (ACELT1633)   (ACELT1635)   (ACELY1739)   (ACELY1742)  (ACELY1744)   (ACELY1745)   (EN5-1A)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-7D)   (EN5-8D)

Download the rich assessment task 1 rubric (PDF, 121KB)


An infographic: Looking for Alibrandi

In this task, students are challenged to represent their understanding of Looking for Alibrandi by creating an infographic.

Infographics are visual representations of information, knowledge or data using symbols, images, charts and simple short text or captions. This allows complex information to be communicated quickly and easily. The design of an infographic is a creative and challenging process that draws on many elements of visual design, and demands a solid grasp of the key data, themes and connections between ideas within the text and beyond.

Piktochart is recommended as one of several free apps/software available on-line, though educators can sign up for a reasonable fee to access a greater number of templates. It includes a simple step-by-step tutorial so that novices can quickly master the art of constructing an infographic.

As an illustration of the potential of this task (and text type) consider some of the excellent examples by following this link: infographics produced in response to literature. These demonstrate the high level demands made in the conceptual work of conveying interpretation and understanding of literature, and also suggest that accurate, intelligent infographics produced by students can become every effective classroom/school/library resources.

Note: Teachers who are unfamiliar with infographics should take the time to experiment with the creation of an infographic. If not feasible, they are advised to skip this task. Not only will the description below seem confusing, but it is also very difficult to support or assess students without understanding first-hand the challenges and ease with which an infographic can be created.

Students construct an infographic demonstrating their understanding of Looking for Alibrandi, in relation to both the text and its context. Student infographics must include each of the following elements (in addition to some choices they will make below).

Mandatory elements
  • Reference details: name of book, publication date, publisher, access to text (print, eBook, audio-book)
  • Contextual details: where the book is set and in what time period
  • Author bio: some facts about Melina Marchetta
  • An aspect of narrative development: for example, students could create a timeline to represent how the motivation of the protagonist changes over time
  • Characterisation: eg a chart comparing character traits including a key quote for each character
  • A graphic representing at least three key themes
Optional elements (choose two of the following)
  • Character frequency: students search for various character names using the eBook search or X-ray functions to gather data on character appearances in the text. Students convert the data into graphics. Students comment on what the graphic conveys about the characters
  • A personal element of interest: eg students search for reviews on Goodreads and represent the numbers of people who like/don’t like Looking for Alibrandi.  And/or students show how things have changed in Australia since 1992 (eg via technologies or new waves of immigration)
  • A representation of Marchetta’s other literary works
  • A graphic indication of her key literary awards
  • Information about the movie version: eg actors, budget, profit, awards, release date etc

(ACELA1567)   (ACELT1774)   (ACELY1752)   (ACELY1753)   (ACELY1754)   (ACELY1756)   (ACELY1776)   (EN5-1A)  (EN5-2A)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-8D)

Download the rich assessment task 2 rubric (PDF, 114KB)