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Focus question 1: Which symbols do Australians use to show who they are and what they value?

Teaching and learning activities

Activity 1: Meaning of symbol (30-40 min) ESL Activity 1
Activity 2: Familiar symbols (30 min) ESL Activity 2
Activity 3: Symbols of Australia (90 min) ESL Activity 3
Activity 4: Defining Australian groups (45-60 min) ESL Activity 4
Activity 5: Classification of symbols (20 min) ESL Activity 5
Further activities ESL Further activities

Activity 1: Meaning of symbol (30-40 min)

1a Ask students to describe what a symbol is. Ask them to find a picture or an item at home that is a symbol.

Handout 1

1b Discuss the selection of symbols illustrated on Handout 1 (OHT).

1c Ask students for alternative words for the term symbol, and list them on the board. Examples could include sign, logo, emblem or totem. Ask students whether they would still define their item or picture as a symbol. Examples could include flags, anthems, uniforms, people or special buildings.

Activity 2: Familiar symbols (30 min)

2a In groups, have students list symbols that are used in their local area. Categorise the symbols into groups using a Venn diagram, for example trademarks, clubs, government symbols. Place common items in the overlap.

2b Discuss common elements within the following categories:

  • symbols for our school
  • groups that members of our families belong to, eg scout groups, cultural or sporting organisations
  • symbols on display in the streets.

Who chooses these symbols? What messages do they convey?

Activity 3: Symbols of Australia (90 min)

Figure 1
A values shield is made up of representations of items regarded as personally significant and important to the designer.
Values Shield

3a Students draw a values shield in their notebooks with six symbols that they would use to represent Australia for someone overseas. They should choose six symbols to represent things that they believe really identify Australia, and that most Australians would recognise and value, and add them to the values shield.

3b Categorise the symbols used and make a large pictograph of the information for display. Survey other groups of children and adults. Add the collected information to the graph and discuss the results. Ask students to select which symbols could represent all Australians. Discuss:

  • the most and least common symbols
  • the students' basis for selecting the symbols
  • appropriateness of particular symbols.

Activity 4: Defining Australian groups (45-60 min)

4a Ask students to identify groups of people larger than those in their own community, town or suburb. Discuss how Australians describe themselves, and what connection this has with where they live.

4b Have students suggest regional or group names. Record suggestions on the board, eg Sydneysiders; Taswegians; Queenslanders; names of local, Indigenous and cultural groups. Discuss the idea that being a multicultural nation is part of the Australian identity.

4c Ask students to list any symbols used by groups to identify themselves. Point out that flags, colours and emblems or coats of arms are commonly used for this purpose. Consider the symbols used by federal, state and local governments.

Activity 5: Classification of symbols (20 min)

5a Ask students to agree on criteria for classifying symbols. What are the reasons for including a symbol in a particular category?

5b On a chart, sort and classify the symbols seen so far into three groups: personal, community and national. Pictures from magazines and newspapers could be used. List the symbols on a chart, putting any overlapping items in all appropriate columns. Display for reference in the next section.

Further activities

  • Walk through your school or local area to identify symbols. Photographs with captions could be used for a wall display.
  • Invite representatives of local groups to display and explain the symbols of their group.
  • Students design an emblem for a group or organisation, using the ideas and information they have collected. It could be a family coat of arms, a new school crest or flag, or a logo to be used by the local council or tourist bureau for publicity. Develop survey questions designed to establish the image they wish to present to the prospective clients. If possible, have the students use the surveys to collect ideas. Consider who the design will be for, and how to choose ideas for inclusion. Display the finished items in class before sending them to the clients for consideration and feedback.

ESL activities

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