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Warning: This resource may contain references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may have passed away.

Seven billion people, seven billion stories: What makes a compelling life story?

Close-up photo of a reclining young man looking out at the viewer

Everyone has a unique life story worth sharing. Above: Close-up face, photo by Mortification7, public domain image, no copyright

About this unit:

This unit gives students experiences of listening to, viewing and reading the life stories of a range of diverse individuals including an Aboriginal artist, a local environmental activist, a rollerblader, a triplet and a street kid. More

Duration and sequence pathways:

This unit is designed to take up to between four and six weeks of Year 9 English classroom time, although to allow students sufficient time to capture and produce the life story required by Assessment task 2, it may be useful to extend this time frame. More information

Resources used:

See a list of resources used in each sequence, plus additional teaching resources.

Unit writer:

Rosie Kerin

Australian Curriculum: English Year 9

Sequence 1: What is a life story?

Sequence 2: The rights and wrongs when sharing a life story

Sequence 3: Questions and finding the angle in a story

Sequence 4: Our lives in the public gaze

Sequence 5: Different media, same life

Sequence 6: Establishing the context of a life story

Sequence 7: Analysis of a life story

Sequence 8: Breaking down stereotypes and exploring the unexpected

Sequence 9: The images, sounds and language of life stories

Sequence 10: Getting it right

Sequence 11: Giving your life story a dress rehearsal

Sequence 12: Life story showcase

Australian Curriculum: English Year 9

How Cross-curriculum priorities relate to this unit

Each of the Cross-curriculum priorities within the English Curriculum is embedded within this unit. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures are integral to Sequences 6 and 8, where Aboriginal identity is approached through the interconnected aspects of Country. In Helicopter Tracks (Sequence 6) the story of Mervyn Numbagardi, an artist from the Great Sandy Desert area, is highlighted. In I’m Minnie Lumai and I was Born on Newry Station (Sequence 9) the focus is on Minnie Lumai, an artist who grew up on Newry Station in the Northern Territory. These sequences give a powerful focus to the deep knowledge and storytelling traditions expressed in oral narratives and Aboriginal paintings.

For Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia, the unit offers a focus on two Australians of Asian heritage: Kylie Kwong, a third-generation Australian who is profoundly influenced by and proud of her Chinese heritage (Sequence 5), and Hai-Van Nguyen, whose family escaped from Vietnam by boat and then settled in Australia (Sequence 2).

In dealing with Sustainability, this unit engages participants in a life story, Please Don’t Piss in My Pond (Sequence 9), where students hear the story of an individual who generated local and political action to restore a waterway destroyed by a sewerage plant.

Australian Curriculum: English Year 9

How General Capabilities relate to this unit

General Capabilities woven through this unit include Literacy and Critical and Creative Thinking (all sequences), Personal and Social Capability  (Sequences 12311 and 12),  Ethical Understanding (Sequences 23468, 11 and 12) and Intercultural Understanding (Sequences 24 and 5).

Students will be using and developing the range and quality of their literacies as they communicate in a range of modes: verbal, visual, digital and in print language. They will draw upon and develop personal and social skills in taking responsibility for, planning and conducting interviews as they interact with a person of their choice beyond their classroom. All interactions and many of the literacy activities are underpinned by learning about and behaving according to ethical values in regard to life stories. All activities demand critical and creative thinking, and across the unit students will explore and interrogate their intercultural understandings of diverse and unique individuals.

There may also be a strong element of the Information and Communication Technology Capability. Since students may choose to create a print or digital life story (Sequences 9 and 10), the degree to which engagement with this general capability will occur may vary dramatically. Numeracy is generally limited here but may apply to Sequence 9.

Curriculum summary for this unit:

This summary table provides links to Year 9 Content Descriptions across the three strands of Literature, Literacy and Language and sub-strands with links to relevant elaborations, sequences and activities.

Rich assessment tasks:

This unit includes two rich assessment tasks: one receptive and the other productive. Assessment task 1: Analysis of a life story allows students to select and carry out a critical analysis of a life story. Assessment task 2: Sharing a life story engages students in researching, composing and sharing a short life story of a person of their choice.