Jared Thomas, the author of Songs that sound like blood, wrote a post in 2013 on his blog, ‘Read Watch Play’, that includes information about his childhood, academic challenges, passions, and the determination to succeed as a writer. The introduction is included below and teachers are encouraged to read the entire post. Students could also be directed to the blog to learn more about the author.

Who am I?
I am Dr Jared Thomas, a Nukunu person of the Southern Flinders Ranges and lecturer at the David Unaipon College of Indigenous Education and Research, University of South Australia. My play ‘Flash Red Ford’ toured Uganda and Kenya in 1999 and my play ‘Love, Land and Money’ featured during the 2002 Adelaide Fringe Festival. My young adult novel ‘Sweet Guy’ was shortlisted for the 2009 South Australian People’s Choice Awards for Literature and my children’s novel ‘Dallas Davis, the Scientist and the City Kids’ is published within the Oxford University Press ‘Yarning Strong’ series.

Further background information on Jared Thomas and his work can be found below and also in the More Resources section located at the end of this teaching unit.

Classroom approach and expectations regarding reading the sections or the entire novel

Essential English often attracts those students required to study English who may not be keen, confident or independent readers of young adult literature, and who may not have a history of success in subject English during the middle years of schooling. In the classroom, creating connections with the lived experiences and interests of these young people is paramount in building bridges with the content, issues language and style of Songs that sound like blood. It should also be remembered that appropriately high expectations are necessary to bring out and build optimal intellectual, literary and communicative skills and understandings.

Perhaps students will be encouraged by Jared Thomas’ comments in an interview that he was not a strong writer at school, or that he failed English in his first year of university. He was, however, determined to do well and spent significant time devoted to improving his reading and writing. He commented, ‘I basically kept a dictionary by my side when reading and writing and learned to check and edit my writing. I maintain this habit.’ Today, he is one of Australia’s busiest authors with professional connections and work within Australia and overseas.

During this unit, every student will be engaged in close study of a number of chapters of the novel in the classroom. Teachers will guide these close studies or direct students with scaffolds to support appropriately demanding analysis by groups or individuals. While all students will be encouraged to read the novel in its entirety in their own time, it is acknowledged that often this is not the case due to matters of time commitments outside school, literacy skills, commitment or other factors. A student’s success in this unit is equally possible whether they read only those chapters used for close studies in class, or the entire text within their own time. The focus here is more expansive than comprehension questions or plot-based activities. Rather, students will be supported to demonstrate their capacity to comprehend and appreciate sections of the text; work in collaboration with others to identify and discuss connections to real-life contexts, issues, aspirations and challenges; identify and communicate responses to a range of perspectives and values explored in the novel; and communicate their insights through the creation and careful crafting of written, spoken, visual and multimodal texts.

Please note that in order to support teachers and their students, a chapter summary is provided (PDF, 258KB) and it is suggested that this is made available to all students, either online or in print form to accompany their individual or shared copies of the novel, Songs that sound like blood.

Chapters for close and shared reading

In this unit, we recommend the following chapters (these are shaded in the chapter summaries document (PDF, 258KB)) for close reading, but teachers may wish to select alternative chapters based on the interests and needs of their students. In all there are 43 chapters of varying lengths, from approximately 3 to 12 pages:

Selected chapters: 1–2; 8; 11–12–13; 16; 20; 25–26–27; 32; 36; 41; and 43.

Language list

The following language list should be used with and for students before they begin reading or listening to the text. Knowledge of key terms and concepts will not only improve their comprehension of the text, but also support their articulation of ideas in spoken, written and visual forms. Teachers should provide explicit teaching in phonics, etymology and morphology and have students work in groups to teach each other ways of remembering spelling and in using the words in sentences.

You will note that the vocabulary list is repeated again on the Rich Assessment task sheets and students are required to use a range of these words and terms in both Rich Assessment tasks 1 and 2. The use of such lists, in the context of real activity, rather than a random spelling list, is a more effective way of building word knowledge throughout schooling. The list may also be useful for Activity 1: Mind’s Eye (see below).

Familial relationship and community Colonialism Aboriginal rights Music Aspirations and independence LGBTI rights and community Australian Aboriginal-
Maternal / paternal Aboriginal soul university identity deadly
mob Indigenous history rehearsal campus LGBTI shame / shame job
kinship Closing the Gap contemporary dreaming same-sex attraction blackfella / whitefella
blood Survival Day demo aspirations human rights bruth
relationship activism composition alienated acceptance bunda
loyalty racism performance urban counselling Aunty / Uncle
generations traditional owners audition realisation community yarn
custody first nations contestants courage intolerance tucker
estrangement welcome to country instrument faith equality murntu
ancestors land gig resilience authenticity cuz


Activity 1: Mind’s Eye

This pre-reading activity is developed from a strategy shared in the Cult of Pedagogy blog by Jennifer Gonzalez. The Mind’s Eye activity is designed to support students to engage with a text and its key ideas by creating mental images. The strategy is based on the dual coding theory, which proposes that people process information two ways – through language/words and also images – and that this process happens simultaneously. The research suggests that ‘Readers who construct mental images as they read do a better job of making meaning’. So, the Mind’s Eye activity aims to teach the skill of constructing mental images.

Gonzalez describes the activity in this brief video: Mind’s Eye: A Pre Reading Strategy.

Prior to beginning the activity explain to the students that they will be reading a novel about a young South Australian girl. This will provide them with some context from which to build their mental images. You will also need to explain the purpose of creating mental images or movies and how it is a strategy used by successful readers.

Step 1

Select 20 to 30 important, striking words from the text likely to evoke strong feelings or images in the students’ minds. (You may wish to draw from the list provided above.) Read the words slowly with inflection and some dramatic emphasis. Explain to the students they are to create mental images or movies in their minds as the words are being read. Students are to try to incorporate each new word into their mental picture. The idea here is to use those images to predict what the text might be about.

Step 2

Once all the words are read aloud, students choose one of four ways to respond and record their mental images:

  • briefly sketch their mental image
  • write a series of questions they hope will be answered in the text
  • write a prediction about the text and what it will be about
  • write a description of the feelings their mental images gave them.

You may need to re-read the words while students are working on their responses.

Step 3

In small groups students share and compare their mental images. This should highlight the similarities and differences in their interpretations and provide opportunities for discussion.

Step 4

Students read pages 1–9 (Chapters 1 and 2) independently, comparing their initial thoughts, images and predictions of the text. Conclude with a class discussion reflecting on the accuracy of their predictions, to this point in the text, and the usefulness of the Mind’s Eye strategy.

Throughout the unit, and as more of the text is read, you can return to the students’ initial mental images for further exploration and discussion.

This activity also supports the explicit teaching of important vocabulary, essential to building students’ reading capacity and writing style. The list of words provided above also acts as a recommended vocabulary list for this text, touching on key concepts within the text that will become the foundation of classroom activities and assessment tasks.

Activity 2: Location and traditional owners

(To assist students with this activity, see the attached model response (PDF, 136KB).)

Jared Thomas locates the novel on his father’s land, Nukunu country:

I was born and raised in Port Augusta in 1976. Both of my parents are of Aboriginal European background. I grew up on my father’s traditional Nukunu country. Dad is also of Ngadjuri heritage. My Mum’s Aboriginal family (Dodd) are from central Queensland and her European family (Fitzpatrick) are Irish. (From Read Watch Play)

Students are to research the traditional owners and language groups where they live beginning with the following Interactive map of Indigenous Australia and the AIATSIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies) website. Students who identify as Aboriginal may draw on and share their own knowledge, or invite a community or family member to visit the class. Students who do not identify as Aboriginal, or who know little about the traditional owners, will need to carry out some additional online or local research.

Each student or group will record and share the following to build the knowledge and curiosity of the class in relation to traditional owners of the land on which they live.

  1. Four facts and one map (with reference details) re the location and traditional owners.
  2. Three facts about the timeline and process of colonisation of the chosen area.
  3. Three questions that have not been addressed by the resources (e.g. What physical traces remain on the land, such as art or canoe trees? Was this a site of any massacres?)
  4. One statement about the relevance of this location and the traditional owners to the ideas explored in Songs that sound like blood.
  5. One statement explaining how the title of the novel may relate to Aboriginal history and British colonisation of this local area and Australia more broadly.

Create an online or classroom space, or have students take notes, to create a shared record of the collective knowledge and questions generated about the location and traditional owners.

Narrative point of view

This includes the various ways in which a narrator may be related to the story. For example, the narrator might take the role of first or third person, omniscient or restricted in their knowledge of events, as reliable or unreliable in interpretation of what happens. (Australian Curriculum Glossary)

Narrative point of view is significant because it positions the reader within/beyond the characters and events. For example, in Songs that sound like blood, the reader observes and understands events and people from the point of view of Roxy. Imagine how different the novel would be if told from the point of view of Aunt Linny or Helen. In Songs that sound like blood we see everything through Roxy’s eyes without any reliable glimpse of the perspectives of the other characters. This perspective is retained in every chapter, and Roxy is always present. Remind students of other texts where the first person perspective changes from chapter to chapter, such as Zac and Mia or a text written in the third person such as in Mahtab’s Story.

Activity 3: Point of view in chapters 1 and 2

It is important to establish the context for the novel, and the first two chapters in the novel are particularly important for introducing the central characters, the location and foregrounding the remainder of the novel.

As you read aloud, or as students read the chapters in small groups, have them select the sentences that are evidence that the story is shown through the eyes of Roxy, and that we know more about Roxy than the other characters (such as finding the knickers in the washing, and that she is the person who is always present). Students should consider how this can influence what IS and what IS NOT included, and how the author is controlling our understanding of Roxy and the other characters. So, as they undertake the exercise below, they should be reminded that the author is providing us one lens to view this world, and that when we read, we should be aware of alternative perspectives or ways of seeing characters, actions and the setting.

In pairs or groups, after students have listened to the chapters, have them identify key sentences and dialogue from the text that reveal something of the character. See some starters in the table below to support students. They will provide TWO more examples per character, except for Trav, where ONE example will be enough.

Character table for Chapters 1 and 2

(This might be modified to include later chapters and other characters)

Chapters 1 and 2 What do we learn about the character?

Provide evidence (quotes) from the text

Aunt Linny:

Provide TWO more examples

  1. Aunt Linny is careless and perhaps lazy: ‘She dumped the bags down on the path and shot straight for the good chair on the back porch…’ (p. 2).



Provide ONE more example

  1. Travis and Roxy are close, though Trav is growing up and more independent: ‘Trav was snuggling into me. That didn’t happen much these days.’ (p. 7).



Provide TWO more examples


  1. Maxie is positive about life and this is in contrast to Aunt Linny’s complaining that has come before. His first words are, ‘”Every day you’re alive is a good day,” he said, as usual, before chuckling.’ (p. 3)

Provide TWO more examples

  1. From the beginning it seems that Roxy is responsible at home, hanging out her father’s washing because he didn’t, and then offering to help Aunt Linny when she arrives at their home next door: ‘Want a hand?’ (p. 1)
What are your INITIAL feelings toward ONE of these characters? Are you empathetic, critical or indifferent? Explain with reference to textual evidence collected in this table.

(100 words + quotes to support your ideas)

(ACEEE029), (ACEEE031), (ACEEE035)

Activity 4: Construction of place

This activity is helpful for Rich Assessment task 1.

Refer back to the information provided about Port Augusta and the traditional owners, the Nukunu people. You will discover that Jared Thomas uses real places in and around Port Augusta and Adelaide where the action of the novel takes place. There are many positives and some criticisms too of the lifestyles and values aligned to both places. For example, closeness to family and the land, and the opportunity to get gigs with Maxie in local bars and clubs are aspects of Port Augusta that matter most to Roxy. At the same time, she is sometimes belittled or criticised for leaving town, as if she cannot exist across two places, and Helen rejects her for a time on this account, and also for her sexuality as same-sex attracted. Thomas challenges us to see what is wonderful, challenging or confusing about living in this small regional city.

Being able to recognise and construct two views of the same place, person, problem or situation is an important skill, and employers say that they look for critical thinkers and problem solvers. This is an opportunity to do that by creating a social media text.

You will consider your local area and download an image, or take or use one from your phone or collection at home.

Look at this example, and consider how filters are used on the image to give a different impression of the town, and impact of the hashtags to influence the reader/viewer. How is one constructed as a positive representation of Port Augusta, and the other as negative representation. As you read/view these, it is important to consider the impact on locals and others or might see these on social media. Which of these is easiest to justify as a post, and why is it more difficult to justify the other.

Model response to Activity 4: Construction of place

The Wikipedia page for Port Augusta has a Creative Commons licence so anyone can use it for their own purposes.

Original colour image with colour enhancement

Wikipedia page for Port Augusta

Original colour image converted to tonal setting

Wikipedia page for Port Augusta

#jacarandaseason #mylandmyplace  #wheretheheartis #fishingdivingyarning #familylove #beachrangesbush

#toolonginoneplace #getmeouttahere #trumps**thole #nothingtodo  #blowfliesdustsnakes  #nojobsformeorcuz

For this activity, students will:

  • Construct two posts using the same photo of your local area.
  • Use a filter on at least one of the photos to emphasise the mood and attitude they are trying to convey.
  • Provide six hashtags for each photo (as in the samples above) that cover a range of positive and negative attributes of your local area. Share across the class, examining the filters used on images, and the language use and focus of attention for each.
  • Conclude with a description of the way students view their chosen places, devoting half of this to the physical attributes of that place, and half to the values they see as dominant in that place, before a final statement of their overall sense of that place and its role in their life and development.

Note: If you are looking for greater diversity in place, have students choose another Australian town or city they know well or a place of origin for the student or family.

If you want more information on the use of hashtags, you can find some here and here.
(ACEEE029)   (ACEEE031)   (ACEEE034)   (ACEEE040)

Activity 5: Close chapter analysis

See the model response below.

After students have an understanding of the story as a whole – via teacher input, some selected and rehearsed reading aloud, class discussion and chapter summaries – assign or allow students to select a highlighted chapter from the chapter summary sheet (PDF, 258KB). In order to complete the task below, they will need to know what precedes and follows.

Once students have an understanding of the overall plot, they can carry out paired or grouped chapter analysis.

The focus is on understanding character and how they flesh out the author’s perspective on four contemporary issues:

  • Familial relationships
  • Aboriginal rights and community
  • Aspiration and independence (for young people)
  • LGBTI rights and community.

Students may work individually, in pairs or groups, based on the understanding that what they produce will be collated with the matrices of other groups and made available to the class. This will provide greater detail to supplement their own reading of the text, and the chapter summary sheet, and will prepare them for both of the Rich Assessment tasks.

Model response to Activity 5: Close reading chapter analysis matrix

A blank example for student use can be located here (PDF, 103KB).

Group members: Model for students

Close reading of Chapter 8

Choose two significant characters from the chapter. Quotes from the chapter that give us an insight into that character. How do this character’s actions and values contribute to one of the four contemporary issues? Do you feel empathy for this character in this chapter? If so, or if not, explain why.
Character 1


I always got nervous before a gig.

I was off, the nerves were gone, everyone was going off.

I knew exactly what was in that playlist, I’d put it together myself, and had dads band learn the songs while I was studying for exams.

I stepped off the stage feeling great, like I could deal with anything.

‘She said I was shit, wouldn’t get into uni, shamed me in front of that other bitch Lorna Jane when she was being nice for once.’

Thinking about what would happen if I got into uni, how I’d go about telling Trav, telling Helen and just getting there…

Aspirations and independence.

Roxy is applying to go to university in Adelaide. These quotes show she is passionate about her music, that she works hard and is talented. She loves it.  She performs locally to great reviews from family/friends and locals.

There are many obstacles in Roxy’s way. She is worried that she is not talented enough or brave enough to make the move.

She worries about telling her family and friends. Will they laugh at her? Will they be angry? Is she letting them down?

Family connections are strong. Is she breaking the bonds?

Yes. The obstacles confronting Roxy are significant. You can really see how much she is struggling with her decision and wrestling with her own emotions. She wants to go but is she good enough? And what if she does make it? What then? What if she doesn’t make it? What then?





Character 2

Aunt Linny

I could smell wine on her breath. I’d become an expert at detecting it on Aunt Linny’s.

…I saw Aunt Linny push through the crowd…and take a beer from it…She started dancing and it wasn’t normal…she was in her own world.

Thank God I got through the country rock before Lorna Jane turned up with the cool set…

‘She’s alright,’ Aunt Linny said, slurring her words. ‘I mean she’s alright for here but I don’t know about going to the big city, getting into uni and that.’

‘Yeah, that’s right Roxy May, your dad told me you want to go to uni!’ she said, pointing her finger at me. ‘Don’t know where she gets all of these big ideas from. I mean playing in our little one horse town is one thing…’

‘Aunt Linny is a fucking bitch.’

Dad couldn’t find Aunt Linny. Maybe she’d already shot off to the next pub to see who she could hit up for a drink.

Familial relationships

Aunt Linny is a significant family member. Although she is loved and looked after by her family, she is an alcoholic. She embarrasses Roxy. She belittles her. She is threatened by Roxy’s aspirations and desire to move to the city to study.

A bit of both. It’s sad that she is an alcoholic. I want to know why she is an alcoholic.  What has happened to her in the past? But she is lazy, selfish, thoughtless and sometimes cruel to Roxy. She is doing her best to squash Roxy’s dreams and cause her to doubt her ability to make it in the city.

 (ACEEE029)   (ACEEE031)   (ACEEE034)   (ACEEE035)   (ACEEE037)

Activity 6: Contemporary issues in song lyrics

See the model response below.

Music is a central theme in the novel Songs that sound like blood. The text is full of references to music genres, artists and songs.

In the following activity students will explore this relationship between music and the contemporary issues explored in the text. The activity will also support students to successfully complete the Rich Assessment task 1 (PDF, 136KB) at the end of this unit.

To begin, students will select a song they believe reflects one of the following contemporary issues:

  • Familial relationships
  • Aboriginal rights and community
  • Aspiration and independence (for young people)
  • LGBTI rights and community
  • OR another issue highlighted in the text, and negotiated with the teacher.

Songs may be chosen from the text, from the suggested list in Rich Assessment task 1 (PDF, 136KB), or from students’ own sources.

For the chosen song, students will:

  • Obtain a copy of the lyrics and highlight key words and phrases that relate specifically to their chosen contemporary issue.
  • Briefly research the musician.
  • Research the political context as it relates to the lyrics of the song and one of the contemporary issues (above).
  • Write a 100 to 200-word reflection explaining how the song relates to the novel Songs that sound like blood and the contemporary issue they chose.

Teachers may choose to model the process of analysing a song, relating it to the novel and writing a reflection, using the model reflection below.

Conclude with a teacher-led class discussion about the value of music in social and political contexts and how this is portrayed in the novel.

Model of 100 to 200-word reflection on ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’

‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ is a protest song co-written in 1966 by two singer-songwriters, Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody. The song tells the story of the Gurindji people’s struggle for equality and land rights in the 1960s and 1970s.

The lyrics in this song explore the issues of Aboriginal Rights and community that are also central to the novel, Songs that sound like blood. The importance of standing up and fighting for what you believe in is evident in both the song lyrics and the novel.

The Gurindji man finds his voice, walks off the land and through quiet persistence and determination eventually wins against all odds. Roxie’s resilience and persistence also pay off as she makes the journey to Adelaide and successfully navigates university. She realises that she can use her voice and talents to stand up and be counted. In the closing chapters, where university funding and access to support services threatens to further reduce access to university for Aboriginal students, Roxy decides to support the fight for Aboriginal rights and performs at a survival day concert.
(ACEEE029)   (ACEEE031)   (ACEEE034)   (ACEEE037)

Rich assessment task 1

A multimodal presentation on a contemporary issue

In this study of Songs that sound like blood, students have had the opportunity to connect and focus on contemporary issues raised in the novel and relevant music videos. Students will choose ONE contemporary issue from the four listed here, and this will be their topic:

  • Familial relationships
  • Aboriginal rights and community
  • Aspiration and independence (for young people)
  • LGBTI rights and community.

For Rich Assessment task 1, students will create a multimodal presentation including:

  1. A reading aloud of the relevant extract(s) of the novel that touches on their topic (200–300 words in total, and either digital or live).
  2. Their reflections on how the selected extract(s) provides insights and perspectives on the chosen topic, and how that same topic is significant in the novel.
  3. Screening of one music video (totalling no more than 3 or 4 minutes of screen time) that adds further perspectives on the chosen topic and novel (see some suggested music clips below).
  4. Reflections on the intertextual connections between the novel and the music clips.
  5. A concluding statement/reflection on what the group has discussed and agreed upon or debated in relation to the chosen contemporary issue and the novel, Songs that sound like blood.
  6. The use of a variety of relevant terms from the language list provided in the Introductory Activities section. Advise students to highlight these words and terms in their notes and presentation. It is expected that they will use a minimum of ten of these terms on their slides.
  7. Please carefully consider and evaluate your submission against the rubric for Rich Assessment task 1 (PDF, 136KB).

After the presentation, individual students will submit their drafts and final documents for assessment (to validate student input and support teacher assessment). This may include a PowerPoint, a running sheet, or other materials used to engage the audience as listeners, viewers and thinkers. Students will also complete the self-assessment section of the rubric provided for this task below.

Support students as they work through each of the following steps:

Step 1:

Select one of these contemporary issues as your topic:

  • Familial relationships
  • Aboriginal rights and community
  • Aspiration and independence (for young people)
  • LGBTI rights and community

You may want your students to focus on an alternative issue (e.g. the healthy lifestyles such as those lived by Maxie and Roxy, in contrast to Aunty Linny), and if so, you may need to locate or direct students to find a similar sampling of music videos. For your choices or the issues listed, students are free to select from the music videos provided, or locate others that are more relevant and useful to the task and the needs and interests of the students. It is not always easy, but it is important to ensure diverse representations of age, culture and gender.

Step 2:

Support students to revisit the language and vocab they have focused on in Activity 1: Mind’s eye and in the language list (it is recommended that they keep a copy of this with the assessment rubric below, or that the list is reproduced on the other side of the rubric).

Step 3:

Locate, quote and reference (with page numbers) between 200 to 300 words from the novel that explore the chosen topic (from choices above).

  • Select either one passage from the novel that is between 200 and 300 words that reveals insights and perspectives on the topic you have chosen,


  • between two and four shorter extracts from the novel that taken together add up to between 200 and 300 words, and reveal insights and perspectives on the topic you have chosen.

Determine who will rehearse and read the novel extracts(s) aloud. It is best if this can be divided across the group, perhaps with different group members taking on the voices and dialogue of different characters, or even using one or more extracts as the basis of a choral reading or Readers Theatre.

Step 4:

Identify and show one music video clip, either from some suggestions provided below or selected by students, to connect with and add further insights or perspectives to their discussion of their topic in relation to the novel.

Familial relationships Aspirations and independence
Swedish House Mafia – Don’t you worry child

MGMT – Kids

Middle East – Blood

Kanye West – Family Business or Hey Mamma

Avicii – Wake me up

Katy Perry – Fireworks

Chainsmokers – Hard when you’re young

Porter Robinson and Madeon – Shelter

Aboriginal rights and community LGBTI rights and community
Paul Kelly – From Little Things Big Things Grow

Dhapanbal Yunupingu – Gurtha

Goanna – Solid Rock

Yothu Yindi – Treaty

Ariana Grande – Break Free

Macklemore – Same love

George Michael – Freedom! ’90

Gia – Only a Girl

  • Students must consider the suitability and classification of videos they show as part of this presentation. The information available on the Australian Government’s Department of Communication and the Arts’ webpage, Australian Classification, may support their selection and decision-making.
  • Once the video is selected, students should prepare an introduction, guiding their audience so that they will know what to look for and think about as the music clip is shared with the class. They may also wish to provide lyrics for the audience to support understanding.
  • At the conclusion of the music clip, students will address three points:
    • What is the main message and perspective offered in this music clip?
    • How does it support, challenge or offer new insights in relation to the chosen topic?
    • What discussions and responses did the group share as they considered the novel and music clip in relation to the given topic?

It is important that varying perspectives are respected in the classroom, especially when some issues may attract different responses based on religious, political or cultural views. This should be discussed with students in order to maintain a classroom culture of mutual respect so that students are able to distinguish perspectives, provide evidence to support or challenge views, and do so respectfully in the absence of any hate-speech, bullying or intimidation.
(ACEEE031)   (ACEEE037)   (ACEEE039)   (ACEEE040)   (ACEEE041)   (ACEEE042)


The concept of the graphic essay, picked up from the Georgia Department of Education’s English Language Arts twitter account, is a deviation from the traditional literary essay. In the context of Essential English (Unit 3), this might have the potential to support students to conduct close and meaningful analysis in relation to the text, without undue pressure to conform to the structures and expectations of a traditional literary essay. Follow this link to discover an explanation and samples of graphic essays. The example found in this link provides instructions and models for the Walden by Henry Thoreau, but can be easily adapted as in the assessment task below.

The advantage of this assessment task is its link back to previous activities, from Activity 1: Mind’s Eye through to Activity 6: Contemporary Issues in Song Lyrics. It also allows Essential English students to experience success with a graphic essay, without the more extensive writing demands of a literary essay.


Rich assessment task 2:

A Graphic Essay: Introduction

A graphic essay is a visual response to a text, or group of texts. Teachers will decide whether students are required to work together, or complete the graphic essay individually.

In the graphic essay, students will bring together words, images, colour, and other visual elements of the text to communicate a strong statement on their understanding and interpretation of the text.

Throughout this unit, students have been working through four contemporary issues:

  • Familial relationships
  • Aboriginal rights and community
  • Aspiration and independence (for young people)
  • LGBTI rights and community
  • And perhaps another that has been negotiated with the teacher.

The task

(Adapted from ‘Living in the Layers’.)

For the graphic essay, students, in groups or individually, will choose three contemporary issues (from those listed above) as the stems or basis of their graphic essay. They will be required to THINK, ORGANIZE, and INTEGRATE their thoughts and responses to the essay. The focus will be on their thinking and communication, not on their graphic arts skills.

Students must address and give their best response to each of the following requirements, and the criteria within the Rich Assessment task 2 rubric (PDF, 125KB). They are encouraged to consider and evaluate the examples provided here before beginning.

Support students through each of the following steps:

  1. The graphic essay includes an effective statement connecting the three contemporary issues chosen for the task.
  2. The graphic essay incorporates colour to tie in with themes and mood; colour can be used symbolically and/or as an organisational device.
  3. The graphic essay will use a unifying symbol or symbols. Symbols arise naturally from the literature and connect to the themes identified as part of your overall thesis. For example, notice that the shape of a guitar is used as an image throughout the novel, Songs that sound like blood, to break up scenes.
  4. Students must include relevant quotations (clearly cited with quotations, page references and correct spelling).
  5. A range of quotations must come from the novel, and may include other connections from class readings, life experiences, music lyrics and other resources explored in Activities 1 to 5 for this unit.
  6. Students must also include one piece of commentary for each quotation and/or event selected. In the examples, some students choose to write additional information and commentary behind a post-it-note but there may be other creative ways students wish to communicate the quotes and commentary on what references mean in the life of Roxy, or how it connects with students’ lives.
  7. The graphic essay needs to be large enough to be visible from a distance, neat, and thorough in content (typical project paper is a good starting point). Students will not be able to explain their graphic essays to the class, so need to make sure the written work clearly explains all the connections and symbolism intended.
  8. Students should work with others to proofread and edit so that others will have no difficulty understanding meaning.
  9. Students may prefer to construct the graphic essay in digital form, and if so must meet all requirements above, and self-assess against the criteria in the Rich Assessment task 2 rubric (PDF, 125KB).