The Shadow

[Episode 8 | 1938 : Colum]

The Shadow is a famous a comic character, popular at this time with children. The character and his adventures were made into a radio play, which was broadcast as a serial each week. Colum and Thommo are calculating how much they need to win on the Melbourne Cup to guarantee that Thommo's family will not be evicted from their home.


The Australian curriculum: English

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The Australian Curriculum: English aims to ensure that students:

  • learn to listen to, read, view, speak, write, create and reflect on increasingly complex and sophisticated spoken, written and multimodal texts across a growing range of contexts with accuracy, fluency and purpose
  • appreciate, enjoy and use the English language in all its variations and develop a sense of its richness and power to evoke feelings, convey information, form ideas, facilitate interaction with others, entertain, persuade and argue
  • understand how Standard Australian English works in its spoken and written forms and in combination with non-linguistic forms of communication to create meaning
  • develop interest and skills in inquiring into the aesthetic aspects of texts, and develop an informed appreciation of literature.

English activities [4]

Activity 1: Working for a living
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Subtheme(s): Chores, business and employment; Language and scripting; Relationships
  • Discuss with the class the situation in the clip where Colum and Thommo earn some extra cash working for the shopkeeper Mr O'Sullivan. Discuss the work of Mr O'Sullivan (the shopkeeper and SP bookmaker) and what students think is involved in his work and his attitude towards it. Discuss the fact that SP bookies were illegal and consider what this might mean for the involvement of the two boys.
  • Have students create a list of the tasks the boys had to do. Have students consider the reasons why they think Colum and Thommo were doing this job. What might have been the risks? Discuss why they were willing to take such risks.
  • Revisit the clip where the two boys run down the lane on their return from collecting bets and bump into the policeman. Ask students to identify and discuss the possible ramifications for the boys from this encounter. What the boys are doing is illegal and they are truanting from school.
  • Students work in small groups to devise ideas for ways in which children can earn money today that are safe and legal.

  • Ask students to think about how they would feel if they were in this situation and were caught by the policeman. Have students draw this scene as a three-frame comic strip. They should draw the boys, using facial expressions and actions, with thought captions to show their feelings as the situation unfolds, for example, 'Oh no, this can't be happening. Will he tell mum?'


Activity 2: Money for jam
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Subtheme(s): Currency; Language and scripting; Relationships
  • Discuss what the audience learns about the currency used in 1938 through watching this clip. Ask students to note all the information they can about money, and what messages the clip conveys about it. Look closely for clues in the dialogue and action. Have students name the coins and the slang used for money, for example, what does 'a couple of bob' mean? Ask students to find out what a bob is worth today.
  • Invite students to interview older people, for example grandparents, to see what they can find out about money before decimal currency. Have students research pre-decimal money to find out why the names 'shilling', 'bob', 'sixpence' and so on were used.

  • Encourage students to find examples of old currency to bring to class and compare with today's coins. Have students research the comparative value of the old currency and today's money. They should list the prices of everyday items (for example, milk, a newspaper, lollies, a loaf of bread) today and in 1938.
  • Ask students to create two newspaper advertisements for a basic commodity. The first advertisement should be designed to be published in 1938 and the second design should be for a newspaper publication today.


Activity 3: Radio
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Subtheme(s): Chores, business and employment; Entertainment and games; Inventions and electronic media
  • As a class, discuss the role of the radio in this clip. Ask students what they think the radio symbolises. Why is the radio in Miss Miller's window? The positioning of the radio is evidence of the circumstances of the listeners in the street, including Colum and his family. What does this tell the audience about Miss Miller? She is obviously wealthier than her neighbours, but she is also thoughtful and generous because she is sharing her radio with them.
  • As a class, discuss the availability of radios at this time and their accessibility to the general public.

  • Ask students to undertake library and internet research on the history of radio technology and the impact of it on family and community life in the 1930s. They should present this information as an oral report to the class.


Activity 4: Comic books
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Subtheme(s): Art, music and literature; Entertainment and games
  • The boys were seen reading the comic book The Shadow. As a class, discuss why comics may have been so popular at this time. Have students find out more about other comics, which were popular in Australia in the 1930s. Students can also find out which comics from today were around in the 1930s.
  • Discuss the role of this comic book in the story. Have students discuss:
  1. What does this contribute to the story?
  2. How is Colum affected by the notion of a being a hero and helping his friend who is in need?

  • Ask students to create the front cover for a comic book about a new hero whose goal is to help his or her friends in need. This process includes naming the hero, thinking of  talents and superpowers, designing an appropriate costume, and creating a slogan such as Superman's 'Faster than a speeding bullet ...'
  • For further work on super heroes and comic book characters, see activities for Legacy of the Silver Shadow at

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