Global Education

Teacher resources to encourage a global
perspective across the curriculum

True, real, compelling: the power of a story

Year level: 9-10

Issue: Health

This teaching sequence aims to investigate the methods used to represent people’s lives in different text forms. It explores the decisions made in creating texts and the effect of specific features, and provides stimulus for creating new texts.

The Wan Smolbag theatre group in Vanuatu demonstrates the dangers of HIV/AIDS.

The Wan Smolbag theatre group in Vanuatu demonstrates the dangers of HIV/AIDS. Photo by Rob Maccoll for AusAID

Interdependence and globalisation, Social justice and human rights

Teachers need to take care when using these materials, due to the sensitive nature of some of the content.

Australian Curriculum links

Learning areas


Year 9

Interpret and compare how representations of people and culture in literary texts are drawn from different historical, social and cultural contexts (ACELT1633)

Explore and reflect on personal understanding of the world and significant human experience gained from interpreting various representations of life matters in texts (ACELT1635) 

Year 10

analyse and explain how text structures, language features and visual features of texts and the context in which texts are experienced may influence audience response (ACELT1641)

compare and evaluate how ‘voice’ as a literary device can be used in a range of different types of texts, such as poetry, to evoke particular emotional responses (ACELT1643)

analyse and evaluate text structures and language features of literary texts and make relevant thematic and intertextual connections with other texts (ACELT1774)

create literary texts with a sustained ‘voice’, selecting and adapting appropriate text structures, literary devices, language, auditory and visual structures and features for a specific purpose and intended audience (ACELT1815).

General capabilities

  • Intercultural understanding

Activity 1: Telling ‘true’ stories

Students examine the impact of stories with reference to their content and the way they are told.


  • the meaning of the adjectives ‘true’, ‘true-life’, ‘real’ when used about personal narratives or biographical stories.
  • the kinds of stories which have a significant effect on us when we hear them. (These might include tragic stories, humorous events, accounts that are close to our own experience of life, those which are amazing achievements or astounding in terms of effort, conflict or struggle.)
  • the elements that make the story powerful – the topic, the way it is told, the degree of audience connection with the narrative etc.

Make a note of a story which has had a particular effect on you because of the way it was told (medium – digital, video, print, in person; voice – first person, third or omniscient person). What particular elements combined to have that effect? To what extent does the way the story is told have more impact than the content of the story?

Activity 2: Thembi’s true story

Students examine the story of Thembi Ngubane who is HIV-positive. Her story is presented in a range of modes.

Read, in groups from the list 1–5 below, two different text-form accounts of Thembi’s life and make notes about the following:

  • What features of this account help you to connect with Thembi’s story? Consider sound, visuals, level of detail, multiple perspectives, artwork, multimedia, etc.
  • Who is the intended audience for this account?
  • Whose voice or perspective is being presented in this account? Are there missing perspectives? How objective/subjective is the account? Are particular understandings or knowledge of Thembi’s culture required?
  • How does the structure of the account add to the effectiveness of the storytelling? Consider whether the account is linear or moves around in time.
  • Were there any surprises for you in the account? How did the creator of the account create interest?
  • What do you consider is the most remarkable or interesting aspects of Thembi’s life?
  • Is this account a ‘true’ story of Thembi’s life?
  • Some accounts focus on the personal aspects of Thembi’s life and some provide more of the larger context of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. To what extent is it important to provide this perspective?
  1. Written transcript: Thembi’s AIDS Diary
  2. Animation: Thembi’s Diary by Jisoo Kim
  3. Film trailer: Thembi 
  4. Website with MP3 sections and photographs: Thembi’s AIDS Diary 
  5. Online interview: Thembi Ngubane: Behind, Beyond the Audio Diary

Combine into groups of five to represent each of the ways of telling Thembi’s story. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each of the text forms using the table. Consider aspects such as extent of information, capacity to engage, multiple perspectives, objectivity etc.

Text formAdvantagesDisadvantages
 1. Written transcript   
 2. Animation   
 3. Film trailer  
 4. Website with MP3 sections and photographs  
 5. Online interview  

Activity 3: DIY stories . . .

Investigate how personal stories help us understand complex social issues.

Choose one of the following activities:

1. Create an account of a selected activist’s work using one of the text forms that you have explored.

Identify someone in your local or the global community who actively campaigns for an issue (for example – better public transport, environmental action, better local facilities, community needs or developing awareness of the effect of HIV/AIDS on the lives of young people.)

2. Plan and make a radio story about a person in your own community using Radio Diaries Inc.

Explore Radio Diaries Inc., a radio production centre devoted to ‘finding extraordinary stories in ordinary places, and to preserving these voices for generations to come’. Analyse the kinds of stories that appear on the site.

I feel like if someone is listening to my story, that person is with me every day. Every time she hears the dog bark, it’s like she is waking up in my yard. I’ve taken that person to South Africa, into my shack, into my township, into my everyday routine.

Thembi Ngubane, Thembi’s AIDS diary

Radio Diaries has a Teen Reporter Handbook with useful guidelines to help you make an audio story.

3. Write an essay drawing upon the quote and questions below, responding to the question: To what extent do personal stories engage us in larger social issues?

In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes.

Andy Warhol 1968

Is the above quotation true? Is each person’s life interesting? How easy is it to truly understand and empathise with people in radically different circumstances from our own? Does new technology help us connect with others more easily?

Activity 4: The power of the story

Respond to learning about the power of media to enhance a story.

Reflect: What did I learn about the stories of HIV and the power of the media to convey the story?

Respond to your learning by choosing from the following options:

1. Plan an activity or event or design a page for the World AIDS Day website that would effectively raise awareness of HIV/AIDS among your friends and family.

2. Assess your personal risk in relation to sexual practices and HIV infection using The Body online quiz.
NOTE that the explicit questions about specific sexual activities may be confronting for some users. Sensitive handling of the quiz and the potential outcomes is recommended.

3. Develop your own idea for action in responding to HIV/AIDS issues.

Contributors' notes

Contribution guidelines

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The Wan Smolbag theatre group in Vanuatu demonstrates the dangers of HIV/AIDS.
Photo by Rob Maccoll for AusAID
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The Wan Smolbag theatre group in Vanuatu demonstrates the dangers of HIV/AIDS. Photo by Rob Maccoll for AusAID