Graphic Stories: Exploring the Visual Adaptation of Anne Frank's Diary

2. Building Understanding: Historical Context

Suggested Learning Intentions

  • To use reasoning skills to explore issues of ethical significance
  • To explore the concept of ‘freedom of speech’

Sample Success Criteria

  • I can identify and rank actions against a hierarchy of behaviour
  • I can explore and explain the criteria that govern freedom of speech

This stage of the sequence is intended to continue to build the field of study as it relates to sociocultural, historical and ethical understanding. It addresses some of the key events of the Holocaust depicted in ‘Anne Frank’s Diary: the graphic adaptation’, explores contemporary antisemitism in Australia and introduces ethical issues such as freedom of speech.

It is strongly recommended that teachers review all suggested stimulus texts prior to their use to ensure their appropriateness and to enable rich, respectful discussion. For guidance on text selection refer to the department's Teaching and Learning Resources — Selecting Appropriate Materials policy.

When undertaking activity two in this stage, teach the vocabulary of the ‘Pyramid of Hate’ prior to its use. For example, words like antisemitism, genocide, prejudice, belittling, ridicule and systematic may require clarification.

1. Hate for sale

Using a visual animation like Neil Gaiman’s poem 'Hate for Sale' as a stimulus, engage students in a quick snowball discussion using prompts to focus responses. For example, ‘What is hate?’ and ‘What does hate look or sound like?’ Alternatively, use an excerpt from a poem to prompt discussion such as ‘Your world/will be so safe, so clean, so great/And all you needed was some hate.’

In a snowball discussion, each student responds to the question prompts in a pair, then each pair joins with another to form a group of four. Next, groups of four join to form a group of eight and so on until the whole class is involved in a discussion.

2. Pyramid of Hate

Introduce the Pyramid of Hate to the class and discuss its tiers, encouraging students to make connections between their responses during the Snowball discussion and the different levels of the pyramid. For example, if a student suggests that hate ‘sounds like using discriminatory language’, this could be matched against the ‘acts of prejudice’ layer of the pyramid. Draw students’ attention to the way in which the behaviours at the bottom level of the pyramid support those at its apex.

Next, allocate a page that addresses the events of the Holocaust in ‘Anne Frank’s Diary: the graphic adaptation’ to pairs of students. The panels on pages 7, 9, 17, 38, 39, and 46 of the text would work well for this task.

Ask students to match their page from the text to the Pyramid of Hate, considering whether the actions depicted in their excerpt constitute prejudiced attitudes, acts of prejudice, discrimination, violence or genocide. More than one layer of the pyramid may apply. Discuss student responses as a whole group, allowing time for students to reflect on and clarify their opinions.

Example (page 7)

Panel Number Pyramid of Hate
1. Defining Jews as ‘different’. Prejudiced attitudes, Acts of prejudice
2. People being treated ‘like animals’ because they are Jewish. Acts of prejudice
3. ‘The aim of the Nazis was to remove the Jews from German society.’ Violence, Genocide
4. Jewish people not allowed to work in the civil service. Discrimination

Provide students with time for reflection. Ask students to consider the connections they might be able make between themselves and the behaviours and attitudes outlined in the pyramid, as well as connections with their local, national and global community.

The ‘Some Were Teenagers’ material may be of use in this instance. It is strongly recommended that all stimulus is viewed by educators before being used in the classroom. For guidance on text selection refer to the department's Teaching and Learning Resources — Selecting Appropriate Materials policy.

Discuss responses, noting any contemporary examples of hate or hate speech that students identify.

1. Introducing ethical concepts: freedom of speech

Guide students in a reading of an article about antisemitism in Australia, such as ‘A rapidly spreading crisis’ or ‘A brief history of Nazism in Australia’.

Please note that ‘A rapidly spreading crisis’ contains sensitive material which details anti-Semitic bullying. It is strongly recommended that the article is read before use and that teachers engage with the guidance section of this sequence, especially as it pertains to establishing a safe classroom space. For guidance on text selection refer to the Teaching and Learning Resources — Selecting Appropriate Materials policy.

Building on the activities in the ‘Get started’ stage of this sequence, invite students to consider how the actions of the individuals in selected newspaper articles correspond to the pyramid of hate. Guide students towards considering the ethical concept of ‘freedom of speech’.

Ask students to engage in a ‘sticky note storm’ activity focusing on the key question, ‘What is free speech’? In a ‘sticky note storm’, small groups of students are given a limited time to respond to a prompt or question with as many ideas as they can think of. Ideas are stuck in the centre of a table and at the end of each ‘round’, students review each other’s ideas. The strategy would also work on a digital collaboration platform or whiteboard.

Invite students or small groups to share their thinking with the class, encouraging students to consider the ethics of free speech. Suggested prompts include:

  • How do we decide what constitutes free speech? Who should decide? Why?
  • What are the potential consequences of having no limits on what we can say? Conversely, what are the potential consequences of having limits on our speech?
  • Can we each make our own decision about ethical matters like freedom of speech, or should there be a legally agreed definition? Why?
  • Can something be ethically significant for one person, but ethically insignificant for another?
  • Could we make (or does there already exist) a list of criteria by which the ethical considerations around freedom of speech can be decided?
  • If we could establish some criteria for guiding freedom of speech, how could we test if they were effective?
  • How do we consider nationality/culture/religion/ethnicity/gender/sexuality etc in determining relative ethical importance?
  • Can beliefs about freedom of speech change over time, or between groups, and if so, why might this happen? Could this affect our criteria?

Enable students to participate in this activity by strategically constructing pairs or groups to allow for successful collaborative learning. Work one-on-one with students to reiterate key terminology and to unpack question prompts.

2. Determining relative ethical significance: free speech versus hate speech

Using ‘Anne Frank's Diary: the graphic adaptation’ or the newspaper articles you have chosen as a stimulus, focus student attention on a behaviour that is relevant to the concept of freedom of speech. For example, the use of antisemitic or discriminatory language.

In small groups, ask students to consider whether the behaviour/s identified should be acceptable under the banner of ‘freedom of speech’. Provide students with a range of ethical perspectives to focus their discussion. For example, if [discriminatory language is allowed] what might be the:

  • consequences
  • duties/rules guiding the people involved
  • rights/freedoms of the people involved
  • consequences for fairness/justice.

Use the ‘Freedom of Speech’ graphic organiser to support students with this task.

Ask each group to rank their responses from least to most important. For example, if they have listed a consequence as ‘bullying’ and rights as ‘to be able to speak freely’, which one does their group think should be ranked more highly in terms of ethical importance? Each group should nominate a member to summarise their discussion, articulating areas of agreement or disagreement. Allow time for whole group discussion & clarification of ideas.

Introduce students to John Stuart Mill’s ‘harm principle’ or an alternative ethical/philosophical position on the freedom of speech.

If using the ‘harm principle’, explain that it suggests:

  • that ‘we should be free to act unless we are harming someone else’
  • that only speech that causes ‘direct’ harm to other people should be prohibited
  • that we are only able to truly understand the beliefs of our culture if we ‘allow people to voice their views, even those we find immoral’

Using the harm principle as a prompt, ask small groups of students to undertake an ‘if…then…’ thinking activity. For example:

If the harm principle were to be the most important consideration governing freedom of speech…

Then freedom of speech criteria would look like…

Pause to provide students with questions or provocations as they work. For example:

  • Can actions that are not physically harmful or ‘direct’ still be ‘emotionally damaging, socially marginalising, [or] descend into hate speech’?
  • How do we take nationality/culture/religion/ethnicity/gender/sexuality etc into account when applying the harm principle?
  • Is there a risk that creating criteria could prevent us from responding to changing attitudes or beliefs in our community?

Invite students to undertake an investigation into circular arguments, interrogating the concepts of logical fallacies and/or ‘begging the question’. Offer students the opportunity to provide an example of circular reasoning as it applies to the concept of freedom of speech or to ethics more broadly. For example:

Premise 1: If you try to limit my freedom of speech in any way you don’t believe in freedom of speech.

Premise 2: You have prevented me from making a discriminatory remark.

Conclusion: You don’t believe in freedom of speech.

A video stimulus like this one about petitio principii (circular reasoning) may prompt student thinking.

Offer each group two minutes to explain the order of their ethical considerations. Invite the remainder of the class to listen without interrupting during this time, and then offer the whole class four minutes of open discussion to provide respectful and constructive feedback to the group. Encourage students to:

  • extend the thinking of others by asking for clarification
  • provide more depth and detail to explain their thinking and ideas
  • substantiate thoughts, claims and opinions
  • express constructive agreement or dissent.

Further suggestions regarding how to support talk moves and exploratory talk can be found in the Literacy Teaching Toolkit.

A selection of the question prompts in this stage are based on the VCAA resource ‘What matters? Determining ethical significance', available on FUSE.

Areas for further exploration

Students can inquire further into the historical context, individual and government choices and cultural conditions that allowed for the escalation of hate leading up to and during the Holocaust. Support resources that provide key historical information can be found on the department's Holocaust Education FUSE page.

Ask students to rank ethical considerations in accordance with an alternative philosophical or ethical position to the one used in the ‘Go deeper’ stage above. Invite students to evaluate how these differences may affect ethical decision-making.

Use listening triangles to provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate their ethical understanding.

Offer a stimulus or quote about free speech as the focus for discussion. For example:

 “If you’re in favour of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favour of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.”

- Noam Chomsky

In groups of three, students take turns to speak to the topic and stimulus. The first speaker speaks for one minute, the second speaker speaks for 30 seconds and the third 15 seconds. Each speaker adds to the cumulative discussion. Rotate roles so that students are able to participate equitably.

Enable students by allowing sufficient time for preparation before commencing the listening triangle activity. Students may wish to write down dot points, sentence stems or questions. Clarify any unfamiliar vocabulary.

Extend students by offering them the opportunity to plan, rehearse and deliver a short presentation on their response to a stimulus, offering evidence to both support and oppose the argument presented.

CHDanhauser, 2014. STAR TREK Logical Thinking #3 - Petitio Principii (Circular Reasoning). [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Facing History and Ourselves, n.d. Text-to-Text, Text-to-Self, Text-to-World Handout. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

State Government of Victoria, (Department of Education and Training), 2018. VCAA Sample Program Year 7-8: What matters? Determining ethical significance. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

State Government of Victoria, (Department of Education and Training), 2020. Literacy Teaching Toolkit: Interacting with others. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

State Government of Victoria, (Department of Education and Training), 2020. Literacy Teaching Toolkit: Speaking and Listening Across the Curriculum. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

The Ethics Centre, 2017. Ethics Explainer: Freedom of Speech. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, n.d. Some Were Teenagers. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

USC Shoah Foundation, 2017. Lala (360). [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

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