[Episode 5 | 1968 : Sofia]

Michaelis tells Sofia why he is going to the Vietnam War even though he doesn't want to go. They discuss what it may be like and his fears are evident.


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: Why do you have to go to war?
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Subtheme(s): Australians at war; Historical events
  • If possible, screen this clip without mentioning the context of the Vietnam War. Following the screening have students write down what they think this clip was about. What are the main points of the story? How do they know? Students report their 'reading' of the clip to the class, giving examples from the text to back up their ideas.
  • If it hasn't come up in the discussion, introduce the Vietnam War and brainstorm what students know about it. List what they know and look for gaps in the students' knowledge. Create a class list of questions about what the students need or want to know about the war. Refer students to 'Australia in the 1960s' in the 'Decade timeline' for more information.
  • As a class, look at a map of Vietnam in relation to Australia. Talk about the size of the country, the distance from Australia, its people and customs. Discuss the reasons why Australian soldiers were sent to Vietnam and why Australia was involved in this war.

  • Revisit the questions in the list developed previously. In small groups, have each student take responsibility for finding out about one of the knowledge gaps established in the ‘Discover’ activity. Using the jigsaw method, one student from each group works with students from the other groups on the same question to research their topic and to collect and share their information before reporting back to the home group as the expert.
  • Each home group compiles the expert information brought back and prepares a report for the class.

Activity 2: The ballot
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Subtheme(s): Australians at war; Historical events
  • Focus attention on the scene where Michaelis tells Sofia why he has to go to war. He says that his birth date came up on the television ballot. As a class, discuss what this means and what Michaelis says are the consequences if he doesn't enlist. Also, ask the class to find out what dates were drawn out from the ballot and how many ballots were held.
  • As a class, introduce the term 'conscription' and discuss what it means. Look back in Australian history to see when, where and why it was introduced. Refer to 'Australia in the 1960s' in the 'Decade timeline'. Survey the class to ascertain if students feel this method of selection was fair. Ask students to find out what exemptions were given to avoid conscription. Ask students to imagine that they are 20 years of age. Hold a class ballot of 15 birth dates to see who would be conscripted.
  • Discuss the concept of conscientious objection. Ask students to list reasons why they feel that to be an objector was fair. Research Australian history about what happened to objectors during the Vietnam War.

  • Ask students to find out who the Australian prime minister was in 1968 and write a fictional letter to him. They should explain their feelings about conscription, why they think it was a fair or unfair system and their reasons. Additionally, they could design a protest poster as a conscientious objector.


Activity 3: Record collection
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Subtheme(s): Art, music and literature; Customs and traditions; Entertainment and games
  • Michaelis asks Sofia to look after his record collection. As a class, discuss what this means. Look at the idea of records and why they are collected. For a background study, look at the opening scene of 'Greek Garden’ in Episode 6 where the record player is in the foreground of the opening shot, playing Greek music, as a young Michaelis and his father work in the garden. Consider Michaelis as a young adult and how he now treasures his music.
  • Have students research popular music from the 1960s. Ask students to compile a list of songs from 1968 that would be essential to Michaelis's record collection. Ask them to list artists and songs and perhaps find some examples of these to listen to.
  • As a class, examine the culture of pop music in the 1960s. Ask students to discover what countries influenced Australian music and whether international artists were ever banned from radio broadcasts. Find out who was the most popular Australian artist of the time.
  • Match music trends and fashion of the 1960s. Ask students to consider how music and fashion followed similar trends. Ask them to compare music and fashion today and see if they can correlate the cultures. Ask students to nominate a 1960s cultural look for their group.

  • Students are invited to dress up as a character from the 1960s. The character could be a popular musician, a fashion designer, a teenager, a radio announcer, or any other typical identity from the era. Organise hot seat role-plays where students answer questions from the class while in character:
  1. Students write five questions they would like to ask one of the characters from the pop culture scene (music or fashion) of the 1960s. They research the answers and use the information to fill out their character.
  2. A student volunteers for the 'hot seat' which is placed at the front of the classroom.
  3. The teacher asks initial questions such as:
    a   Who are you?
    b   What are you wearing?
    c   What is your favourite colour?
  4. The teacher encourages students to challenge answers given by the student in the hot seat. (This may be because the answers are factually wrong or because it is a matter of differing interpretations).
  5. When questions start to become exhausted the teacher brings the hot seat role-play to a close.
  6. The class debriefs with questions such as:
    a   What was it like to be in the hot seat?
    b   How do you feel the student in the hot seat performed?
    c   How could it have been better?
    d   Did you agree with that student's interpretation of the character? Why or why not?
  7. In order to synthesise their understandings about their character, students can complete a hall of fame nomination form. Students may need to conduct further research in order to complete the form.
  8. Responses can be used to explore the characters in further detail, if desired.


Activity 4: The haircut
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Subtheme(s): Australians at war; Customs and traditions
  • As a class, view the scene where Michaelis is having his hair cut. Discuss the possible significance of this event in the story. As background, explain the fashions of the time and the symbolism of long hair gaining cultural currency as the new fashion for young men in the 1960s and 1970s. Ask students to examine and find examples of fashions from this time.
  • In this context, discuss what cutting his hair might have meant to Michaelis (especially in an era where longer hair was 'cool'). Discuss the ways in which the filmmaker has used the camera in this scene.
  • As a class, discuss:
  1. Why did the filmmaker use close-up shots of the haircut with the focus on Sofia's eyes in the background, and through the mirror?
  2. What does this add to the story?
  3. What role does sound, for example, the sound of the electric clippers, play in this scene in the barber shop?
  4. Describe the mood of the music used and what it is used for.
  • Focus attention on the way the story segues from Michaelis asking Sofia if she wants an ice-cream to the immediate follow-on shot in the barber shop. How has the filmmaker connected the two different scenes? Discuss possible reasons why.

  • Ask students to write an additional scene with action and dialogue where Sofia and Michaelis go to the ice-cream shop. Questions they need to consider include:
  1. How do they get there? Look again at how the shot of Michaelis and Sofia in the lane ends before the ice-cream shop.
  2. What happens between Sofia and Michaelis in the shop? This could be an opportunity for Michaelis to tell Sofia some more about the Vietnam War, bringing in further information that students have found in their research.