Exploring ethical concepts in fables and in media texts

SubjectEnglish YearYear 8 CurriculumAC v8.4 Time350

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In this set of interconnected learning experiences, students engage in reading fables to discover the powerful messages they contain. They also find and analyse media articles and images that show acts of kindness, solidarity and generosity in the contemporary world. They explore how kindness, honesty and working together benefit both the individual and society. Students also examine how fables are structured and create meaning and how ethical concepts and emotions are evoked in media stories and images. They demonstrate their learning by creating a modern day narrative with a moral.

By engaging students with traditional stories that have a clear moral message, these learning experiences support students to develop ethical understanding. Students explore the nature of ethical concepts and how these concepts can contribute to humanity. They develop an awareness of the influence that their values and behaviour have on others.

These concepts are foundational for students to become active and informed citizens.

Australian Curriculum or Syllabus

Achievement standard

Receptive modes (listening, reading and viewing)

By the end of Year 8, students understand how the selection of text structures is influenced by the selection of language mode and how this varies for different purposes and audiences. Students explain how language features, images and vocabulary are used to represent different ideas and issues in texts.

Students interpret texts, questioning the reliability of sources of ideas and information. They select evidence from the text to show how events, situations and people can be represented from different viewpoints. They listen for and identify different emphases in texts, using that understanding to elaborate on discussions.

Productive modes (speaking, writing and creating)

Students understand how the selection of language features can be used for particular purposes and effects. They explain the effectiveness of language choices they make to influence the audience. Through combining ideas, images and language features from other texts, students show how ideas can be expressed in new ways.

Students create texts for different purposes, selecting language to influence audience response. They make presentations and contribute actively to class and group discussions, using language patterns for effect. When creating and editing texts to create specific effects, they take into account intended purposes and the needs and interests of audiences. They demonstrate understanding of grammar, select vocabulary for effect and use accurate spelling and punctuation.

Content descriptions


Explore the ways that ideas and viewpoints in literary texts drawn from different historical, social and cultural contexts may reflect or challenge the values of individuals and groups (ACELT1626).


Analyse how the text structures and language features of persuasive texts, including media texts, vary according to the medium and mode of communication (ACELA1543).

Investigate how visual and multimodal texts allude to or draw on other texts or images to enhance and layer meaning (ACELA1548).


Use interaction skills for identified purposes, using voice and language conventions to suit different situations, selecting vocabulary, modulating voice and using elements such as music, images and sound for specific effects (ACELY1808).

Analyse and evaluate the ways that text structures and language features vary according to the purpose of the text and the ways that referenced sources add authority to a text (ACELY1732).

Create imaginative, informative and persuasive texts that raise issues, report events and advance opinions, using deliberate language and textual choices, and including digital elements as appropriate (ACELY1736).

Experiment with text structures and language features to refine and clarify ideas to improve the effectiveness of students’ own texts (ACELY1810).

Use a range of software, including word processing programs, to create, edit and publish texts imaginatively (ACELY1738).

Teacher resources

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Quotes visualiser

Strengthening humanity


The Lion and the Mouse

Focus questions visualiser

The Lion and the Mouse

Deconstruction visualiser

The Lion and the Mouse

Teacher tool

Talking cards

Student learning resources

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Mercury and the Woodman


The Bundle of Sticks

Graphic organiser

Structure of a narrative

Assessment task

Year 8 narrative writing task

Suggested activity sequence

This sequence is intended as a framework to be modified and adapted by teachers to suit the needs of a class group. If you assign this activity to a class, your students will be assigned all student resources on their 'My learning' page. You can also hand-pick the resources students are assigned by selecting individual resources when you add a work item to a class in 'My classes'.

Part A: Exploring morals and ethics

Solo and pair thinking

For this activity, you will need post-it notes. 

  1. Display the quotes on the quotes visualiser and invite students to think about what they mean.
  2. Students share their thinking with a partner and decide on a real-life example, or an example from literature that exemplifies the meaning of each quote. Students write their example on a post-it note to display on the classroom wall.
  3. Students read the examples of other students.

Discussing ethical concepts

  1. Read the fable The Lion and the Mouse aloud to students.
  2. Conduct a class discussion using focus questions visualiser as a prompt.

Part B: Deconstructing fables

Introducing fables

  1. If students have not been introduced to fables before, explain to students what a fable is:

    A fable is a short piece of fiction that features animals in the role of the main character and usually includes or illustrates a moral. A fable can also have other inanimate objects, mythical creatures, or forces of nature as main characters. The distinguishing feature of a fable is the projection of human characteristics and qualities to animals or deities and the inclusion of a moral lesson. At times, this moral lesson is summed up at the end of the fable in a short maxim.

  2. Ask: Why do you think fables use animals and deities as main characters?
  3. Explain that many films made for children are modern interpretations of the fable genre. An example is Toy Story.
  4. Students brainstorm films that are modern fables, such as:
    • Bambi
    • Ratatouille
    • Cars
    • WALL-E
    • Finding Nemo
    • Shrek
    • Madagascar
    • Kung Fu Panda.

Modelling deconstruction

  1. Re-read The Lion and the Mouse using the deconstruction visualiser. As you read the story, give students time to answer the questions on each page and share their answers.
  2. Discuss the moral and how it relates to modern day real-life contexts such as:
    • sponsoring a child through world vision
    • donating to charity
    • being kind and respectful to others.

Deconstructing a story in groups

  1. Divide the class into 2.
  2. Allocate one-half of the class Mercury and the Woodman and the other half The Bundle of Sticks.
  3. Ask students to pair with a student who has been allocated the same story.
  4. Pairs use the graphic organiser to identify the structural elements of the story they have been given to read.
  5. For their chosen story, students consider:
    • the key message
    • how the message advances humanity
    • how behaving in this way may affect others.
  6. Pairs of students connect with another pair who chose a different fable to explain its structure and discuss the message advanced in each story and the lessons for humanity.

Exploring media texts for kindness

  1. Use a grouping strategy to organise students into pairs.
  2. Explain to students that they will be searching for articles and images in the media that tell stories of kindness and/or working together for the greater good. Each pair of students must find at least one article or news story and one image (such as a. photograph).
  3. Invite students to think about a recent event where people showed acts of kindness, such as the Australian bushfires in late 2019 and early 2020, or the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. Students find articles, news stories, feature articles and images that show:
    • kindness (to humans and animals)
    • people working together for the greater good
    • generosity – the act of giving.
  5. Students annotate their artefacts or attach a written explanation to highlight:
    • the key message
    • the emotions that are evoked
    • the use of emotional language
    • the visual elements that evoke emotions
    • how the actions described or depicted contribute to humanity.
  6. Students post their artefacts and explanations on a classroom news wall. Invite class members to take a gallery walk to view the articles and images that have been posted.
  7. As a class, discuss how:
    • kindness and working together contribute to humanity
    • media stories can contain messages that support humanity
    • language and visual images can evoke emotions.

Part C: Independent writing

Brainstorming in groups

  1. Use a grouping strategy to organise students into groups of 4.
  2. Groups brainstorm examples from their own experiences or those of others in their age group that highlight the importance of being honest.
  3. Groups discuss:
    • why it is important to work together for a greater cause
    • why it is important to help others out who are in need and how this may be achieved (for example, people work together to find cures for disease, paying tax to support the community and those in need)
    • examples of young people connecting together, leaving intolerance behind and working as one.
  4. Groups share their responses with the class.

To encourage collaborative and purposeful talk, distribute a set of talking cards to each group.

Writing a narrative

Students complete the narrative writing task. They should be given at least 2 lessons to write their stories and one lesson to publish their stories using information and communication technology (ICT).