Lesson plan - Kofi's story



The learning sequence is aligned to the Australian Curriculum: English and is designed to support Kofi’s story. It has three activities:

  • The power of symbols: in this activity students will explore some of the imagery within the text.
  • Refugees in Australia: this activity has two parts. In the first, students will investigate the changes to Australia’s immigration policies since federation and in the second they will explore ways to support migrants and refugees as they become part of the Australian community.
  • Everyone can be a lifesaver: students create a visual text to communicate this message to the diverse Australian community.

The activities are self-contained so students can complete any or all of them. There are two reproducible worksheets.

General capabilities: Literacy, Critical and creative thinking, Personal and social capability, Information and communication technology (ICT) capability, Intercultural understanding.

Curriculum: English, Civics and Citizenship

Cross-curricular priority: Sustainability

Kofi’s story

I’m feeling very excited. And nervous.

Today is my first time on patrol. Kofi the lifesaver!

Since I arrived in Australia four years ago, I have come to the beach whenever I can. I watch the waves as they break, and I think about how my life was breaking until Australia saved me. Accepted me as a refugee. The waves remind me of my family and friends whose lives are still breaking in Sudan.

Can you imagine how proud I am? Me – who could not even swim four years ago! In my village, we had to be careful of every drop of water, and I had never seen a beach.

There were many times when I felt that learning to swim was too hard. But my teacher would tell me ‘When you can swim, you won’t need someone else to save you’. He was right.

My red and yellow uniform is like a symbol of the changes in my life. It says that I have found a safe place to be, and that I can help others to be safe.

Learning outcomes:

  • Make connections between students’ experiences and those of characters in texts
  • Create literary texts that draw upon text structures and language features of other texts for particular purposes and effects
  • Experiment with text structures and language features to refine and clarify ideas to improve the effectiveness of students’ own texts
  • Identify how vocabulary choices contribute to specificity, abstraction and stylistic effectiveness
  • Ideas in texts can be conveyed from different viewpoints
  • Recognising and explaining different viewpoints about the world
  • Identify aspects of texts that convey information about social, cultural and historical contexts
  • Understand how combinations of words and images in texts are used to represent particular groups in society, and how texts position readers in relation to those groups.

Activity 1: The power of symbols

Explore this extract from the text:

Since I arrived in Australia four years ago, I have come to the beach whenever I can. I watch the waves as they break, and I think about how my life was breaking until Australia saved me. Accepted me as a refugee. The waves remind me of my family and friends whose lives are still breaking in Sudan.

In this quote, Kofi reveals something of his life before he came to Australia as a refugee. Discuss the following questions:

  • What is the main message conveyed in this paragraph?
  • What can you infer, beyond what is stated, about Kofi’s life in Sudan?
  • Kofi is making a powerful statement in an understated way. Try to rewrite the paragraph using language that is more explicit and detailed. Which version has greater impact for you? Why?
  • Kofi uses the image of waves breaking to symbolise a very difficult time in his life. Why do you think he chose to use symbolism rather than being more specific in his description?
  • Find other examples of imagery from the full text about Kofi and explore their meaning and effectiveness.

Select one example of imagery from the text. Use the same image (for example the breaking waves, learning to swim or the lifesavers’ uniform) and create a poem that explores some emotion or experience from your life. If you do not relate to the images that Kofi used to symbolise something in your life, select your own image.

Activity 2: Refugees in Australia

Part A – Different viewpoints

Australia has not always embraced the Harmony Week message that ‘Everyone belongs’. One of the first laws made by the new Australian Parliament in 1901 was the Immigration Restriction Act that allowed the Australian government to control who they allowed to migrate to Australia. The law was the basis for the ‘White Australia’ policy that operated in Australia for over half a century.

After the Second World War, Australia experienced an immigration boom that included many people who were accepted on humanitarian grounds. This resulted in the acceptance of migrants from a much larger number of countries than the pre-war years. Australia now accepts migrants from around the world and has an extensive humanitarian program for refugees.

Read about Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program to explore the role of the humanitarian program for refugees.

Think about the following questions and share your ideas with other students:

  • What do you see as the major changes to Australia’s immigration policy over the last century?
  • What are some of the factors that might have led to governments making these changes to Australian immigration policy?
  • Although the laws relating to immigration have changed, there are many people in the Australian community who disagree with the current policies about migrants and refugees. Do you think that their opposition is based on economic and security concerns or a fear of change? Explain your response.
  • Do you think that differences of opinion about policies relating to migrants and refugees create social problems in the Australian community? Refer to personal experiences or media stories to support your response.

Issues relating to refugees and migrants have received some prominence in the Australian media for several decades. Select a contemporary article that relates to refugees in Australia from a newspaper or a media website. Analyse the purpose and meaning of the article and complete the questions on Word Document Worksheet 1: Media monitor

Many Australians will read the article you have selected. Each reader will have a different level of experience and understanding about migrants and refugees in Australia, and this will influence their reaction to the article. Your task is to take on the roles of three different people:

  • A person who came to Australia as a refugee ten years ago
  • A person who believes Australia should not be accepting so many refugees
  • A recent refugee who is still trying to start a new life in Australia.

Think about how each of these people may have felt when they read the article you selected. One way that readers can respond to media articles is to write a letter to the editor of the newspaper or leave a comment on the website. Imagine that each of the three readers decided to write a response to express their views about the article. What might each of them say? Use Word Document Worksheet 2: A matter of perspective and write the first paragraph of each person’s response. These paragraphs should establish clearly whether each person agrees or disagrees with the views in the article.

When you have completed the second worksheet, display the media articles and discuss your responses to the questions with the rest of the class. Some articles may be more contentious than others and these will be most likely to attract different responses from readers. What are the main factors that influence the way people might react to media stories about refugees?​

Part B: Everyone belongs

In the text Kofi’s story, Kofi doesn’t reveal anything about his early experiences as a refugee in the Australian community. As a class, brainstorm some of the challenges that he may have faced. (These may include language, culture shock, racial abuse, isolation and/or poverty.)

Write a personal response to the question:

How do you think that these challenges may have influenced Kofi’s confidence and his attitudes towards Australia?

Visit Settling in Australia and read about the settlement services that the government provides for refugees.

Explore the resources that are provided in your community to support refugees and migrants and reflect on the information in the fact-sheet and the discussion you had about the challenges Kofi may have experienced when he arrived in Australia. Then list the five types of support that you think are most important to ensure the successful settlement of refugees in the Australian community. Share your list with another student and discuss any differences between your lists.

Where possible, arrange for your class to meet refugees or migrants so that you can listen to their experiences about arriving in Australia. You could organise a class visit to a centre such as those organised by Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services. Alternatively, invite a group of refugees and/or migrants to visit your classroom so they can share their stories. If either of these options are possible, be sure to ask the refugees about any suggestions they have concerning support that may have helped them to feel accepted as part of the Australian community.

Activity 3: Everyone can be a lifesaver

Kofi was excited and proud on his first day as a lifesaver. In order to wear the lifesavers’ uniform and take on the responsibility of being on patrol, he had completed training that gave him the skills and confidence for this role. In this activity you will design a visual text to excite young Australians to explore the possibility of becoming a life saver.

The diversity of people who live in Australia makes it an interesting place to live. There are over 21 million people living in Australia who all contribute different ideas, religions, languages and customs to our country. However there are many Australians who do not see people from their cultural background represented in television programs or advertising in the media. Your challenge is to select words and images for your visual text that recognise the diversity of the Australian community. You need to communicate effectively with a diverse audience of young Australians.

Everyone can be a lifesaver. The aim of your poster or short video is to motivate young people to think about taking on this responsibility; its purpose is not to convey details of specific courses, venues or requirements. The message that ‘everyone can become a lifesaver’ is particularly relevant to refugees and migrants who have not developed swimming and first aid skills but want to enjoy the outdoor recreation activities available in Australia.

Information about the training that is available from the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia can be found at their website. But remember, the aim of your poster or video is to capture the attention of young Australians and inspire them to explore the opportunity of becoming a lifesaver.