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Focus question 5: Which symbols and events are relevant to the Australian nation today?

Teaching and learning activities

Activity 1: Re-creating the values shield (30 min) ESL Activity 1
Activity 2: Opinion survey (45 min + homework) ESL Activity 2
Activity 3: Culminating activity (time: variable + homework) ESL Activity 3
Assessment ESL Assessment

Ask students to compare their two values shields and discuss and reflect on their changing ideas about national symbols.

Activity 1: Re-creating the values shield (30 min)

Have the students re-create a values shield as in Focus question 1, Activity 3. This time they must use existing symbols of our civic life (eg include a verse of an anthem, a flag or an emblem, an event and a significant Australian). Students will need to explain, either verbally or in writing, why they chose those particular symbols, and what their values shield says about Australia today.

Activity 2: Opinion survey (45 min + homework)

2a The final activity in this unit is to design a new national symbol (flag, banknote, stamp or float), or produce a plan for a national day or honours system. As a class, make up simple survey questions for various age groups to assess the issues involved. Remind students that people may have strong opinions on the subject, and may not wish to consider any change to the current design. Possible questions are:

  • Should we have new symbols or keep the original ones?
  • Which symbols should be chosen (for a stamp or banknote)?
  • Why would you choose those ones?
  • What should the criteria be for selection of a special day or an honour award?
  • Who should decide?

2b Have each student survey three people for homework. Students should survey a range of young and old people, male and female, Aboriginal people or Torres Strait Islander people, and people of ethnic backgrounds.

2c Collate survey responses. Divide students into three groups. Have each group list its findings on paper strips to be pasted onto large charts under the following headings:

  • Popular symbols
  • Reasons for choice
  • Criteria for an honour
  • Criteria for a special day

Rotate groups, if time allows, to collect more ideas. Discuss the findings with the class. Develop a set of criteria for designs and honours to be used in the final activity.

Activity 3: Culminating activity (time: variable + homework)

Handout 16

3a Provide students with Handout 16 or use as an OHT. Outline the tasks and ask students to choose to design one of the following:

  • a float for an Australia Day parade
  • a banknote (activity concluding the interactive on Stories of Democracy CD ROM)
  • a stamp
  • a new national honour
  • a new national day.

For each design students must use the criteria established by the class to explain and justify their choices, either orally or in writing. This requirement will need to be discussed carefully before they start the activity. Students will need to say why they chose particular items, and what the symbols mean. They should explain what their chosen symbols say about Australia, the way we live and how we see ourselves. Encourage students to consider whether a symbol will give the intended message and whether they will need to reconsider their original choices.

3b Display and discuss all projects. Present awards or certificates of recognition at an assembly.


Collect the value shields and plans for proposed commemorations (or have students present them orally). Assess them using the following criteria. The student can:

  • describe the use, meaning and significance of symbols on civic occasions
  • clarify the values behind their choices of particular symbols, explaining their choice
  • explain what existing symbols tell us about Australian civic identity and our democratic way of life
  • present information in a clear and organised format.

ESL activities

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