Exploring ethical concepts in fables and in media texts

SubjectEnglish YearYear 8 CurriculumAC v9.0 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

By the end of Year 8, students interact with others, and listen to and create spoken and/or multimodal texts including literary texts. With different purposes and for audiences, they discuss, express and elaborate on ideas with supporting evidence. They select and vary text structures to organise, develop and link ideas. They select and vary language features including literary devices, and/or multimodal features and features of voice.

They read, view and comprehend a range of texts created to inform, influence and/or engage audiences. They explain how ideas are represented and how texts reflect or challenge contexts. They explain the aesthetic qualities of texts. They explain how text structures shape meaning. They explain the effects of language features including intertextual references and literary devices, and visual features.

They create written and/or multimodal texts, including literary texts for different purposes and audiences, expressing and advancing ideas with supporting evidence. They select and vary text structures to organise, develop and link ideas. They select and vary language features including literary devices, and/or multimodal features.

Content descriptions


Explain the ways that ideas and points of view may represent the values of individuals and groups in literary texts, drawn from historical, social and cultural contexts, by first nations Australian, and wide-ranging Australian and world authors. (AC9E8LE01)

Share opinions about the language features, literary devices and text structures that contribute to the styles of literary texts. (AC9E8LE02)

Explain how language and/or images in texts position readers to respond and form viewpoints. (AC9E8LE03)

Create and edit literary texts that experiment with language features and literary devices for particular purposes and effects. (AC9E8LE06)


Identify how texts reflect contexts. (AC9E8LY01)

Use interaction skills for identified purposes and situations, including when supporting or challenging the stated or implied meanings of spoken texts in presentations or discussion. (AC9E8LY02)

Analyse and evaluate the ways that language features vary according to the purpose and audience of the text, and the ways that sources and quotations are used in a text. (AC9E8LY03)

Analyse how authors organise ideas to develop and shape meaning. (AC9E8LY04)

Plan, create, rehearse and deliver spoken and multimodal presentations for audiences and purposes, selecting language features, literary devices, visual features and features of voice to suit formal or informal situations, and organising and developing ideas in texts in ways that may be imaginative, reflective, informative, persuasive and/or analytical. (AC9E8LY07)

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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Graphic organiser

Structure of a narrative

Assessment task

Year 8 narrative writing task


Mercury and the Woodman


The Bundle of Sticks

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).