Outline of the key elements of the text 

Plot and the social and political context of The Red Shoe

The novel commences with an introduction that serves two purposes: one is to familiarise the reader with the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale The Red Shoes, and the other is to allow the reader to learn something of two of the key characters, sisters Matilda, aged six, and Frances, aged eleven. In the opening chapters we also meet the oldest sister, Elizabeth, who at fifteen is experiencing a ‘mental breakdown’. Matilda has an unconventional invisible friend who escapes from the wireless. Also in the home is their mother, with the occasional presence of her husband and his brother Paul.

The action of the novel occurs between 11 and 20 April 1954 in the bush behind Palm Beach, a Sydney suburb, and some of the memories are of The Basin, a popular swimming and picnic spot in the 1950s. Although the novel represents ten days of the characters’ lives, it does seem to cover a much greater time span due to flashbacks as the characters struggle to make sense of their world.

The novel is divided into twenty-three chapters and in the intervals between several of these chapters, Dubosarsky reproduces newspaper articles that capture key historical events of the day: the Cold War and the fear of Communism, the Petrov Affair, fear of the Hydrogen Bomb, polio outbreaks and other miscellaneous reports from the ‘tragic story of a Man-woman’ to a day at the Royal Sydney Easter Show.

Of particular significance to understanding the novel is knowledge of the Petrov Affair, a major political story of the era. Vladimir Petrov was in Australia when he contacted ASIO offering to provide evidence of Russian espionage in Australia in return for the government granting him political asylum. The Australian Government agreed and Petrov had to be hidden away from the press and from any Russian interference. Further dramatic events played out as his wife, Evdokia Petrov, was being escorted back to Russia by Russian officers. Last minute interventions by Prime Minister Robert Menzies ensured her asylum in Australia with her husband, protecting her from the likelihood of punishment on her return to Russia. This history merges with fiction in The Red Shoe with Petrov and his minders moving in next door to Matilda and her family. A range of resources are included in this unit to support teacher and student understanding of this era and its significance in Australian history, but more particularly the impact of the times on the Sydney family at the centre of the novel.

The story and power of the novel are developed through the intersection of:

  • the newspaper clippings
  • the reality of events over the ten days when the defecting Russian, Petrov, moves in next door
  • dislocation and drama within the family
  • the emergence and growing clarity of memories that haunt Matilda and Elizabeth as they build their understanding of dramatic events that haunt and threaten their family.


The family:

  • Matilda, six; Frances, eleven; and Elizabeth, fifteen
  • their mother
  • their father, a sailor who is suffering from the psychological effects of war and is often away from home
  • Uncle Paul (the father’s brother) who spends a great deal of time with the family.


  • Floreal: Matilda’s tiny invisible friend, aged twenty-two, who has a more adult perspective and ‘pesters’ Matilda with knowledge and advice she does not want to hear
  • the ‘crazy old man’ next door
  • the men who are living in the house next door, who give the children a ride to school one day in their car
  • Mark, a school friend of Frances’s, who disappears with polio
  • Mark’s mother
  • Yvonne, the mother’s friend who we never meet.


Introductory activities

Before commencing the novel study, it will be necessary to establish context for Year 10s by revisiting an era of Australian history they may associate with their grandparents rather than themselves. For this reason, it may be necessary to make connections for them and focus on how they are a product of their own life history: whether that history includes battling a serious illness, moving countries, falling in love, overcoming a fear, learning to do something difficult, winning $1 000 000, negotiating how to live with siblings or with parents, winning the Australian underwater bowling championship, dealing with allergies or overcoming profound grief or loss.

Just as our own narratives are constructed with significant events and turning points, so too are the lives around us and the lives that preceded ours. For those new to Australia, there may be dramatic stories from their homelands as well as significant stories of resettlement. For those whose families have been in Australia for one or more generations, there will be intersections with significant national moments of Australian history. Sometimes the disruption of our own lives is a mirror of our country’s or local community’s, so if there are dramatic floods, droughts, bushfires, war or famine, then our family’s lives may be similarly disrupted.

In The Red Shoe we go back in time but the same truth exists – domestic lives are affected by the politics and wider social movements of the time. These are some of the events students may have heard of that affected people’s everyday lives in Australia, particularly for people born in the:

  • 1920s and 30s: everyone knew someone killed in World War II; petrol and food were rationed and women became employed in the war effort; electricity had a major impact
  • people born in the 1940s and 50s: the Vietnam War and the spread of protests against Australia’s involvement; introduction of the television, computer or microwave; the Cold War and the Petrov Affair
  • 1960s and 70s: a government initiative to make kids drink milk at recess everyday; devastating bushfires in South Australia and Victoria; black and white computer screens; first internet and email exchanges; free university education and then the change to a fee-paying system; the first moon landing; the disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt while swimming at a beach
  • 1980s and 90s: September 11 attacks in the United States; the proliferation of computer games and games consoles; using MSN for messaging and the introduction of text messaging and Facebook; the modern 3D movie; the Tampa incident; the increasing restrictions on smoking in public places.

Of course, when talking with older people, students might not mention any of these things, and instead they might talk about if change in the nation or the country of their origin had an impact on their daily lives. They might talk about the Stolen Generation, the White Australia Policy or forced adoptions for the children of young mothers. There have also been periods of great drought, and economic hardships such as the great depression or recessions, such as the early 1990s when the rate of unemployment was nearly 11%. In addition there have been ongoing debates and division in regard to asylum seeking and refugee policies; climate change; gay marriage and rights; euthanasia; and other issues. Students should also be advised, or may know from their own experience, that it may be too painful to revisit the past and talk about it, and this should also be respected.

Activity 1 (pre-reading): Where were you when . . .?

Building on this notion of the impact of history on individual and family life, this first activity is designed to engage students in the discussion of historical moments and literature, and lead into the study of The Red Shoe.

Teachers could share their own memories of important historical moments and where they were when they first heard:

  • the Crocodile Hunter had died
  • the Twin Towers were hit
  • Kevin Rudd’s Apology Speech
  • the Whitlam government had been dismissed
  • Cathy Freeman had won Gold at the Olympic Games
  • Indonesia had been devastated by the tsunami
  • other significant memories.

The idea is to consider how much our lives and perceptions of our world and selves are affected by larger national and international events and news. Why have those memories lingered, and why are they important?

Step 1:

Following this introduction and discussion, students will do some brief online research and talk with family and friends to consider a significant event of interest to them that has occurred during their lifetime. If nothing springs to mind, they might like to research something that happened during their year of birth or during childhood at around age six (Matilda’s age in The Red Shoe). The choice of event or movement is very important because it should engender a personal interest for the student, and it serves as preliminary work for the second assessment task near the end of this unit. At this point, introduce students to Rich assessment task 1 (PDF, 78KB).

These links will help students select key events:

Step 2:

Whether working in groups or as individuals, students should report on their research in an informal way, remembering that the formal reporting takes place in Rich assessment task 1. At this stage, students should have collected the following basics:

  • brief overview of the event – when, where, who, why, what happened, results or impact if known
  • a collection of at least three photographs depicting the event
  • archival news articles or YouTube videos.

The activity reinforces the significance of historical events and research in the creative development of narratives for novels and other forms of literature (including film).
(ACELT1639)   (ACELY1749)   (ACELY1752)   (ACELY1753)   (ACELY1754)   (EN5-8D)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-2A)

Activity 2 (pre-reading): Reds under the bed, the Cold War, the Petrov Affair and polio

Before teachers can use the text, or students study it, everyone needs an orientation to the historical basis of the novel. The following resources may be useful for teachers, or for selected viewing in class, or group work. Please review and select what will be most effective for your context and students:

The Red Shoe (as a fairytale and other literary forms including this novel)

The Cold War

The Petrov Affair

  • digitised documents and images relating to the Petrov Affair and the Royal Commision into Espionage
  • The Safe House – a 2006 animation that serves as an excellent introduction to the Petrov Affair and The Red Shoe. The Study Guide for this animation may also be useful.


At the conclusion of group or individual viewing or research, it may be productive to report back or create some graphics for display in the classroom to support recall of important details. Alternatively, students could compose a written response describing what they have learned and their expectations of the novel, or construct a class blog, wiki or discussion board.
(ACELT1641)   (ACELT1812)   (ACELY1752)   (ACELY1753)   (ACELY1754)   (ACELY1751)   (ACELY1756)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-7D)   (EN5-8D)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-1A)

Activity 3: The Red Shoes (read aloud)

The activities above not only engage students in important literacy activities but also set them up to engage with a historical Australian novel.

Read aloud the opening pages of The Red Shoe, which depict two of the key characters – young girls -sharing a fairytale. This is Hans Christian Anderson’s story of The Red Shoesthat has inspired many versions including plays, novels, films and ballet. Advise students that the fairytale is not so much a childish device, but rather is used to foreshadow some of the complexities and darkness of the novel ahead. It may be worth returning to the fairytale at the end of this study to assess how effective it has been for the students as a bridge to the novel. For example, what connections and resonance can they find? Or is it satisfactory/unsatisfactory for them as an introduction? What would be lost from the novel if the introductory fairytale vanished?
(ACELT1639)   (ACELT1640)   (ACELT1641)   (ACELT1812)   (ACELT1642)   (ACELY1752)   (ACELY1754)   (EN5-8D)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-7D)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-8D)

Activity 4: The Red Shoe and reds under the bed (read aloud)

Continue on with reading aloud, or project the newspaper clippings from the book relating to Saturday 10 April 1954 and Chapter 1 onto a screen.

The news articles and Chapter 1 are short and may provide the most reluctant readers with the support and impetus to continue to read ahead alone. All of the key characters are introduced in Chapter 1, as is the context of the story. Teachers may also find the Summary of narrative perspectives table used in Activity 5 useful in generating observations and discussion.

At Year 10 level, it would be reasonable to expect that all students, other than those with special programs, would read the novel independently.
(ACELT1639)   (ACELT1640)   (ACELT1641)   (ACELT1812)   (ACELT1642)   (ACELY1752)   (ACELY1754)   (EN5-8D)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-7D)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-8D)

Optional activity: Class/Community living year book – 1954

This is suggested as an optional assessment. While it can be very worthwhile, it demands lead time and community collaboration. There may be opportunities to tie in with other school activities, the development of Civics and Citizenship, or integration with community engagement initiatives.

This is an interactive assessment task and involves students locating a number of men and women, from about sixty years of age and older, who have memories of growing up in the 1950s. These individuals might not remember the details of the Petrov Affair but it is important to find people who remember family life, games, school life and public issues such as polio outbreaks and other events of significance in their local area. Perhaps they remember someone getting lost, getting the electricity connected, buying the family’s first television and so on. These guests are the ‘living year books’ students will engage with in their research of the 1950s.

The purpose of the task is to fuel inter-generational conversation of approximately 20-30 minutes between a ‘living year book’ and a pair or small group of students, and to enable young people to learn more about the lives of those people who grew up during the era depicted in The Red Shoe. It might be interesting to see if country/city experiences, male/female, Australian or immigrant experiences are vastly different and/or similar and why.

Step 1:

The class should construct an invitation to a number of individuals to be part of the living year book event, or approach the local council who often have large volunteer groups who may wish to participate. Perhaps school newsletter notices to grandparents, or an email to the local Probus group or similar community groups would be productive.

Step 2:

Students should generate questions for the ‘living year books’ about their memories of life in 1954 – including school, play, family, politics, new inventions, etiquette, industry, religion and so on and be prepared to record notes, audio or video with written permission from the interviewees. Provide the list of questions to the living year book participants before the event so they can prepare. Ask them to bring along photos or artefacts they have from the time.

Step 3:

Students will interview the living year book participants, recording the event if appropriate. Depending on school and volunteer needs, this activity could be held in the school or local library. Local councils generally welcome and support such activity – and don’t forget to invite the local press.

Step 4:

Students share their insights and produce an article for the school newsletter or year book; or a webisode or digital presentation for the school website, summarising their findings. Students should also provide a copy of any product and a thank you note to all living year book participants. Alternatively, the ‘living year books’ might be invited back in to the school or local library for reporting back on all that was learned. A 1950s themed morning tea might also be a nice thank you gift for students and participants.

No formal assessment or rubric has been provided for this activity because it is very fluid depending on context, students and living year book participants. Teachers will have their own ideas and priorities in this regard, though AC Content Descriptions addressed include the following:
(ACELA1564)   (ACELA1565)   (ACELA1571)   (ACELY1749)   (ACELY1813)   (ACELY1751)   (ACELY1754)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-7D)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-8D)   (EN5-2A)

The writer’s craft

Perspective and voice in The Red Shoe

Third person narrative is used throughout The Red Shoe. This book provides a perfect text for the explicit teaching of perspective (or point of view) and voice as required by Year 10 English in the Australian Curriculum.

The novel is a hybrid text, incorporating fairytale, news clippings and narrative, so it is not surprising that the voice or style of third person perspective changes accordingly.

Third person narrative in the case of this novel switches between:

  • third person journalistic style and
  • third person free indirect style.

Third person journalistic style is the style of reporting we expect to find in news services providing factual detail. This does not mean journalistic style is unbiased because what a reporter includes, excludes or selects as the focus of a piece may reflect a bias on the topic. This extract from the novel uses a familiar reporting or journalistic style: ‘Vladimir Petrov is reported to be having a traditional Russian Easter in his Australian security hide-out. A Canberra source said tonight that records of Russian Music had been sent there for him’.

Third person free indirect style is sometimes called ‘close third person’ or ‘going into character’, which means that the narrator inhabits a character and sees the world through their eyes. In this case, we develop insights about the perceptions and naivety or misunderstandings of the characters. The narrator wants us to inhabit the character at points during the narrative and to develop understanding of and empathy for the character. In this example from the novel, Dubosarsky uses third person free indirect style so that we can begin to understand what it was like for a child to be growing up amidst the domestic, political and medical dramas of the day. For example, Dubosarsky clearly goes into character as a six year old: ‘Matilda would see the driver’s face in the rear-vision mirror . . . It was strange to talk to someone back-to-front, with a face made of glass’‘She remembered the long sheets of translucent skin that came off her face, her arms and legs. She had eaten some of them’. Both examples are childlike reflections and observations on the world.

Activity 5: Identification of voice

The overview supplied in the Summary of narrative perspectives table (PDF, 150KB) is an illustration of how a teacher’s thorough knowledge of the text is fundamental, though it will not always be so detailed or even recorded as a summary. However, for beginning teachers, or when teaching a text for the first time, constructing an overview of chapters, content and narrative perspective can be a great boost to confidence and the quality of unit plans.

Teachers will find an overview for each chapter and all newspaper clippings and the opening fairytale. This is provided as a cheat sheet that might be amended with some or all boxes left blanks for students to complete individually or in groups. Some students will read more independently, while others may appreciate or benefit from the structure and focus provided.

The main purpose of the Summary of narrative perspectives table (PDF, 150KB) is to focus on the craft of Dubosarsky as she reconstructs the world of 1954 Australia, and of the experiences of Matilda and her family. Teachers may wish to add an additional column, asking students to comment on the effect of the free indirect style.

Depending on teacher direction the following might be addressed:
(ACELA1566)   (ACELA1567)   (ACELA1571)   (ACELT1642)   (ACELT1643)   (ACELY1749)   (ACELY1754)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-8D)

Activity 6: Voice and critical literacy

One way of discovering more about Australia in 1954 is to view Australia in the 1950s (late 1950s, 20 minutes, or part thereof).

Students will quickly discover that this film is very much a product of its day and they should be directed to consider the voice within the script. For example, in the narration what are the dominant portrayals of:

  • men and women
  • Aboriginal men, women and children
  • those of European and Celtic descent
  • children, young adults and adults?

Step 1:

Identify two or three comments or observations that you believe are indicative of a very different world view, especially in relation to race, gender or age. Whose voice do we hear and what view of Australia is made available? Using the timer at the bottom of the screen as the film plays, record times for easy reference.

Direct students to view the film from different perspectives and look for its gaps and attitudes that are no longer acceptable to many Australians today. Some students might view it from the perspective of any of the following:

  • an Indigenous elder or stockman
  • one of the relatively few woman who had studied at university
  • a woman on a farm
  • a descendent of Chinese immigrants from the 1850s
  • a prospective immigrant – keeping in mind that this would not have been available in non-English speaking countries.

Step 2:

The film would have been very expensive to produce in the 1950s. Can students explain why the government wanted the film to be made and who they hoped might view it?

Students should briefly describe three scenes from the film that are not true of Australia at the current moment in history. These might relate to the environment, education, Indigenous Australians, technology, health, multiculturalism or something else of interest.

Optional Step 3:

Students may be interested in how films were made, and what was deemed to be ideal behaviour for students in 1953. If so, this film may provide another opportunity for critical viewing. Students will observe just how much acting and direction have improved since that time, and a number of changes in language and colloquialisms. View Let’s be Good Citizens at School (1953, 8 minutes).
(ACELA1564)   (ACELA1565)   (ACELA1566)   (ACELA1567)   (ACELT1639)   (ACELT1640)   (ACELT1641)   (ACELT1812)   (ACELY1749)   (ACELY1752)   (ACELY1754)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-7D)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-8D)   (EN5-2A)

Activity 7: Times of fear and hope

Dubosarsky was born well after the Petrov Affair and researched the era carefully to identify the hopes and fears that dominated Australia at that time. While cyberbullying might be an issue and an object of anxiety or fear for many people in Australia today, in 1954 no-one had even imagined the internet and social networking. The day-to-day reality was very different. From newspaper clippings and Frances’s discovery of Mark’s death from polio, we can understand that the polio epidemics that swept the world at that time, and left so many babies and children paralysed or dead, must have cast a terrible pall of fear over families.

Please note that in this activity, exploring the notion of fears and hopes have been restricted to national and international spheres rather than moving too close to individual student’s fears and hopes. The extension into the lives of students may be an ideal teaching opportunity. However, teachers are advised to be sensitive to the students in their care and seek advice from colleagues before pursuing that line.

Step 1: 

Based on their knowledge and reading of The Red Shoe, ask students to identify each of the following, and support with evidence from the novel (including the news clippings):

  • fears within populations on a national and international level
  • hopes within populations on a national and international level
  • fears that are evident within Matilda and her family
  • hopes that are evident within Matilda and her family.

Step 2:

Having reviewed the hopes and fears of 1950s Australia, it is now time for students to capture some of the dominant hopes and fears in contemporary Australia (and their local contexts if you wish).

Bring in a collection of newspapers (perhaps sourced from families and staff) and have students work in groups, pairs or individually to cut out:

  • four news articles reflecting national and international fears
  • four news articles reflecting national and international hopes.

As an indication, students might find articles about:

  • cyberbullying, terrorism, economic decline, global warming as indicative of fears
  • a cure for cancer, equity in education, space travel, freedom for political prisoners as indicative of hopes.

Of course, online ‘newpapers’ or news services might work just as well, and students could construct a digital collage.

Step 3:

Display the articles on classroom walls and compile a list of international and nationalhopes and fears based on this exercise and add to these if necessary. Students will notice that sometime hopes and fears co-exist, such as the fear of polio and the hope for a cure.

How many of the novels they read, games they play or movies they see, reflect these hopes and dreams they have identified in the newspaper? Consider films that many of the students may have seen such as Hunger Games or video games such as Call of Duty. Can narrative exist in the absence of hopes and fears, or are they needed to propel the characters forward?

Step 4:

Summary Discussion – Which of these fears and hopes are perfect for a new novel or film?

Choose a current news topic and consider how authors of novels or screenplays might construct their story based on it. Have students work in groups and convince their classmates in other groups, and you, why their concept should get funded for further development.

Then describe in class how it might be constructed as free indirect style. Will it include a child; an idealistic scientist/politician; a young adult with a disability such as blindness or being confined to a wheelchair; or an elderly person with some memory loss who has not grasped the full story? Remind students of how Dubosarsky got ‘close’ to Matilda in free indirect style in The Red Shoe.
(ACELA1564)   (ACELA1565)   (ACELA1566)   (ACELT1635)   (ACELT1772)   (ACELY1811)   (ACELY1741)   (ACELY1744)   (ACELY1745)   (ACELY1746)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-7D)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-1A)

Ways of reading the text

So far in this unit, students have examined the notion of historical fiction and engaged in the kinds of research authors undertake to give their work accuracy and authenticity.

They have also engaged with each other, and perhaps their families and community, to explore how national and international events, politics and technology can play out in everyday lives. Such events on the larger national and international stage might mean that the family has to separate as they negotiate asylum, temporary visas or family resettlement in Australia; a young person might be caught up in cyberbullying that has gone viral; a terminally ill person might choose to travel overseas to access medical treatment or the technology and legal right to end his or her life; or someone might have a flight delayed for five days in London due to terrorism and result in them missing their own wedding and so on. Sometimes the impact of these larger national and international or technological changes on individuals and families can be dramatic, as is the case in The Red Shoe. In a networked world, our lives are affected in all sorts of ways by matters beyond our immediate control.

Activity 8: Historical perspectives and critical reading

Step 1:

Ask students to consider all or some of the following points. In The Red Shoe, there are significant and complex issues addressed, such as:

  • mental health and the antiquated idea of a ‘nervous breakdown’ for anxiety, depression and a range of mental illnesses that are now more easily diagnosed and treated
  • the clash of political ideologies such as Communism and Democracy or, in contemporary terms, global conflicts pitting Islamic and Democratic rule against each other
  • concepts of strangers and the threats they may pose (in dark cars, behaving or dressing differently, or from other cultures or religions, for example)
  • threats to security (contemporary examples include domestic, internet, national, banking, privacy concerns)
  • family security and stability threatened by the absence of and psychological damage of war to the father, and the inferences regarding the presence and sudden departure of the uncle
  • neighbourhood security regarding urbanisation and the presence of neighbours we might not know or trust (the crazy old man and the men in black cars surrounding Matilda’s family)
  • the suggestion that men are the threats to family – instability of father and presence of uncle, the crazy old man and the men in black cars
  • the construction of the mother and her friend, Yvonne, as wives and mothers
  • Russians and Communists as dangerous – out to spy on or destroy the Australian way of life
  • the expectation of a day of the beach as the ultimate, happy family activity and the irony that it unravels and disturbs family life
  • life as a soldier or sailor as a career, or as a mental burden (as was the case in the novel).

Step 2:

Students are to choose ONE of these dot points above and find three extracts from the novel to illustrate how their chosen concept or issue is represented in the novel.
Provide a summary of two to three paragraphs (that is, two to three main points) explaining how these representations were a product of their time and how they might be described or conceptualised today.
(ACELA1564)   (ACELA1565)   (ACELA1566)   (ACELT1639)   (ACELT1812)   (ACELT1642)   (ACELY1739)   (ACELY1742)   (ACELY1752)   (ACELY1754)   (EN5-5C)   (EN5-7D)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-8D)   (EN5-2A)

Activity 9: Comparison with other texts

The construction of the novel already integrates a century-old European fairytale, 1950s newspaper clippings and a hybrid narrative structure created in 2006. It is similar to other texts students will be familiar with, such as the newspaper items that have video interactivity in the series of Harry Potter books and films. In the brief activity below the focus will be not on interactivity but the translation of a print text to film.

Step 1: 

Consider Henry James’s novel What Maisie Knew, released over one hundred years ago (in 1897) and most recently made into a highly acclaimed film in 2012. The point of comparison here is that the novel was cutting edge in its day because it used free indirect style. For example, the following quote reinforces what students will already recognise as free indirect style:
‘Mrs. Wix . . . safer than anyone in the world, than papa, than mamma, than the lady with the arched eyebrows; safer even, though so much less beautiful, than Miss Overmore . . .

The focus now is to consider how this perspective on the narrative is carried over to the visual medium. Students might view the excerpts and review of What Maisie Knew aired on ABC TV or other trailers or reviews. Having viewed excerpts and reviews, ask students to consider the following questions:

  • What are the key indications that the audience see a bitter divorce through the eyes of Maisie, the only child of the relationship?
  • What might be the advantages of telling the story of the divorce from the child’s perspective?
  • What might be the limitations of telling the story of the divorce from the child’s perspective?
  • Which do you think you would find most appealing – the child’s or one of the parent’s perspective? Why?
  • One of the most talked about features of the film was the performance of the child who played Maisie. Why was this role so pivotal to the film’s success?

(ACELA1566)   (ACELA1572)   (ACELT1642)   (ACELT1643)   (ACELT1774)   (ACELY1749)   (ACELY1754)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-1A)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-8D)

A tradition of Australian historical fiction

There is a strong tradition of incorporating political and historical events as the basis of Australian literature. Some of Australia’s most famous historical fiction includes For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Secret River by Kate Grenville, The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan, Cloudstreet by Tim Winton, True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey, and many others.


Rich assessment task 1: Hashtag reporting

This assessment task builds on earlier activities where students researched a historical event that had taken place in his/her lifetime. Just as newspapers of the day reported the Petrov Affair in a timely and concise manner to meet deadlines, in this activity brevity and concise detail will be significant.

Each student will present a series of five photographs accompanied by hashtags to report the news of a significant event in their lifetime.


  • a comprehensive explanation of the concept and use of hashtags may be useful for some teachers and students
  • students who use Instagram are probably most familiar and confident with the use of hashtags and might be called upon to demonstrate and explain their use
  • it will also be useful for the teacher and all students to understand what it means to be ‘trending’.

The rationale for using hashtags in this assignment:

  • they are being used more and more within digital media to ‘tag’ news items so that access to the very latest information is easy to find
  • they can be a highly creative and sometimes witty means of communicating ideas
  • they demand that users are able to capture the essence of the news with brevity but with sufficient scope to be located in social media
  • they afford the opportunity for students to interact with each other on the completion of the assignment to test out how well they each comprehend others’ news events based on the effectiveness of the hashtags.

Before commencing the activity students should carefully read the assessment rubric.

Having already identified their news event in Activity 1, students can now use the Petrov example as their model.

Students will:

  • select five images with Creative Commons licences so that they do not infringe copyright. Wikipedia, Open Clipart, Virtual Reading Room of the National Archives of Australia and The National Library are particularly useful for this. Ensure that the images are ‘attributed’ by providing the URL where images were accessed.
  • for each image, provide three hashtags with a maximum of eighteen characters each
  • present the hashtag report using an appropriate digital application (iMovie, MovieMaker, PowerPoint etc.) PowerPoint can very easily be converted to a film: see how.
  • save their report as a film, and might like to add appropriate Creative Commons musicor view and get ideas from another Creative Commons music project.
  • create films that are no longer than one minute.
  • play their films for the class and see how many of their classmates can piece the images and hashtags together to understand the details of their report.

(ACELA1563)   (ACELA1567)   (ACELA1568)   (ACELA1572)   (ACELT1814)   (ACELT1815)   (ACELY1749)   (ACELY1813)   (ACELY1754)  (ACELY1756)   (ACELY1757)   (ACELY1776)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-1A)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-8D)

Synthesise core ideas by:

  • addressing and justifying any revisions to the initial response
  • developing a coherent, conclusive statement of understanding regarding the text and its themes, structures and/or techniques, as applicable
  • reflecting on awareness of the text’s wider cultural value
  • reflecting on one’s own processes of responding to and creating texts.


Rich assessment task 2: Reflective writing (on The Red Shoe and historical fiction)

This final task is to be written under supervision. It includes some reflective writing about what students have learnt in their study of The Red Shoe and related activities. Students will also be asked to make intertextual links with another novel, mini-series or film that enabled them to better understand an historical event or social movement. They should be prepared for this and teachers may wish to discuss possible texts they could draw on such as: Ben Hur, Apollo XIII, Rabbit Proof Fence, JFK, Schindler’s List, Diana, The Queen, Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War, Burial Rites, and True History of the Kelly Gang.

It is also vital that students have an opportunity to consider the assessment rubric (PDF, 71KB) for this task and clarify any aspects that are not clear to them.

Writing under supervision continues to be an assessment practice used across the final year(s) of schooling. It is also form of writing that makes particular demands of students, and assumes preparation and concentration on the task. It provides an opportunity for the teacher to assess the independent literacy and analytical skills of students. If students understand that they will be accountable for their learning at the conclusion of this unit it may encourage more students to read and engage with the text more fully.

Before commencing the activity students should read carefully:

  • the assessment handout (PDF, 44KB)
  • the assessment rubric (PDF, 78KB)

Assessment 3:

  • is designed to be broad in focus
  • may be handwritten or word processed
  • might be formative or summative
  • may encourage more students to read and engage with the text if they understand that they will be accountable at the conclusion of the unit.

(ACELA1566)   (ACELT1639)   (ACELT1641)   (ACELT1642)   (ACELT1774)   (ACELY1749)   (ACELY1752)   (ACELY1754)   (ACELY1756)   (ACELY1757)   (EN5-6C)   (EN5-8D)   (EN5-3B)   (EN5-2A)   (EN5-1A)