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

1. Building Understanding: The Sociocultural Functions of Narrative

Suggested Learning Intentions

  • To build students' understanding of the purpose of storytelling and narrative writing
  • To enable students to use a range of strategies to represent their ideas, and explain and justify their thinking processes to others

Sample Success Criteria

  • I can explain the purposes of narrative writing
  • I can use graphic organisers and thinking routines to generate and organise ideas
  • I can explain and justify my thinking processes to others

This stage of the sequence focuses on building the context or field in order to support students to understand the cultural role of stories and narratives.

1. Why do we tell stories?

Invite students to watch a stimulus like the 1944 Hieder and Simmel animation to provoke a conversation about the act of storytelling. Ask students to engage in a think, pair, share activity, responding to the question, ‘What is happening in this video?’ A think, pair, share template is available in the Materials and texts section above.

This activity will be more successful when students are able to formulate a point of view about the stimulus material without the expectation that a narrative or ‘story’ is present.

In pairs, ask students to complete a Venn diagram comparing their responses to the video with their partner’s. Invite students to reflect on why there may have been similarities and differences in their interpretations of the video. Students share their thinking with the class, providing evidence from the clip to support their point of view.

The TRBQ Podcast #11 podcast in which American Grade 8 students respond to the Hieder and Simmel animation may be a useful supplementary text.

Guide students in a conversation about their interpretations of the video, drawing attention to the tendency of humans to see or create a narrative for the animated shapes.

In small groups, ask students to conduct a brainstorm in response to the question ‘Why do we tell stories?’. Ask each group to expand on three of their responses using a hierarchy chart to explore the potential outcome of each aspect of storytelling. For example, the outcome of telling stories to entertain might be that it develops our imaginations or that we feel connected to each other.

Ask each group to pair with another to share and consolidate their ideas. A representative from each combined group will then feed their ideas back to the class. Facilitate a discussion to prompt further thinking. Suggested prompts:

  • What is a story? Can you think of any synonyms? E.g., narrative: Is there a difference between a story and a narrative?
  • Does a story have a structure? Is it always the same?
  • Are stories fictional?
  • How might passing down stories help us to survive? E.g., knowledge of danger.
  • Is it possible for stories to inspire us? To do what? E.g., to think, act, educate, or reflect.
  • Can stories act as a cautionary tale or a warning? Can you think of an example (fictional or historical)?
  • How might stories help us to make sense of the world? E.g., a firsthand account of a historical period or a story about being a teenager.
  • Could storytelling be used as a tool? E.g., to educate or to indoctrinate
  • Can stories be dangerous? (For example, the use of propaganda for adults or children.)

Ask students to update their hierarchy charts with ideas or information that link to the elements of storytelling they have explored.

1. Assessing prior knowledge and establishing basic understanding: The Holocaust

Teachers should ensure that students have at least a basic understanding of the Holocaust and WWII before in-depth study of the text commences. This will equip students to consider why stories about the Holocaust are important.

Teachers who feel that they may not know enough about the Holocaust to confidently teach it should review the 'Teaching strategies' section of this sequence, which provides links to comprehensive guidance and support resources. Teachers may also consider conferring with colleagues who teach Levels 9 and 10 History at their school.

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.

To assess students' prior knowledge, distribute a selection of pages from ‘Anne Frank’s Diary: the graphic adaptation’ that explicitly address the events of the Holocaust to small groups of students. Invite each group to use the stimulus provided to reflect on their knowledge of the Holocaust, using a thinking routine like See, Think, Me, We to brainstorm and organise their thinking. The panels on pages 7, 9, 17, 38, 39, and 46 of the text would work well for this task.

Provide question prompts for the ‘Think’ and ‘We’ components of this routine to elicit student understanding of the Holocaust. For example, ‘What do you think might be happening to the people on this page?’, ‘Can you identify the significant historical moment this text depicts?’ and ‘What do you know about this historical event?’

Encourage students to think about Anne’s viewpoint on the issues raised in the selected panels.

Ask each group to share their collective responses with the class, guiding the discussion carefully to ensure that clarification of key historical information can be offered as required. Support resources that provide key historical information can be found on the department's Holocaust Education FUSE page. 

As students are sharing their work, encourage the class to generate questions about the Holocaust to add to a Wonder Wall or a shared digital collaboration platform. Note that questions or comments that seek to deny or distort the Holocaust must not be supported. See characteristics 4 and 7 ('Program is factually accurate, rich in primary source material, and incorporates Victorian-specific content' and "Pedagogical choices enable deep learning, are sensitive to the particularities and complexities of the Holocaust and are inclusive of diverse learners') in the department's characteristics of a quality Holocaust Education program for further information. 

2. Building students' understanding of the Holocaust

Show students the video "What is the Holocaust?" After viewing, students complete a KWL chart that records their thinking and questions about the Holocaust. Students will continue to use this document during the early stages of this learning sequence.

Conduct a Jigsaw Protocol with students, using texts that explore life for Jews in pre-war Germany (see the linked activity for further information and links to texts). Once the jigsaw activity is completed, post the collaborative summaries of each text on the class digital collaboration platform, or provide a paper copy of each for students to paste into their learning journal. 

Students continue to add to their KWL chart as they generate new questions and learn information.

Watch 'What happened to Polish Jews during WWII?". This video recounts the experiences of Lena, who survived the Holocaust by hiding. Create a sequence summarising the key events that occurred. Explain any unfamiliar vocabulary to students to assist them to build background knowledge. 

Undertake an in-person or virtual tour of the Melbourne Holocaust Museum, exploring the artefacts and survivor testimony to continue to build student understanding of the Holocaust. Survivor testimonies from Floris, Henri, Halina and Paul are recommended as most suitable for students in Year 7 and 8.

The following texts are recommended to support and extend students in Year 7 and 8 learning about the Holocaust: Once and Then by Morris Gleitzman, I am Sasha by Anita Selzer or the film Nicky's Family.

Ask students to reflect on their learning and the thinking they have captured on their KWL and use a thinking routine like ‘I used to think…Now I think’  to reflect on their learning. Allow time for students to share their reflections with the class.

3. Why is it important to read stories about the Holocaust?

Distribute quotes from a selection of historically accurate Holocaust texts to small groups of students. Ask each group to discuss their quote and to reflect upon its meaning, using a thinking routine like Claim, Support, Question. Consider using a collaborative digital platform to enable students to share their quotes and responses with the class. Ask students to imagine what their assigned author might say about the purpose of writing and reading stories.

From the ‘Get started’ phase of this stage, connect student responses back to the question prompts about the purpose of narrative. In addition, guide students in a more specific discussion about Holocaust texts. Prompts include:

  • Why is it important to learn about the events of the Holocaust?
  • How might stories about the Holocaust help us to understand its significance?
  • Can stories about the Holocaust help us to identify and empathise with victims and survivors? How? Why might this be important?
  • Can we learn anything about perpetrators and bystanders in stories written about the Holocaust?
  • What ‘lessons’ might be found in stories about the Holocaust?
  • In what way are stories about the Holocaust relevant to us today?

Invite students to add their responses to the class’s collaborative digital space.

An article about the ability of narratives to increase empathy, such as 'Does fiction make us better people?', could also be added to the collaborative space for discussion.

Enable students to work in strategically constructed groups to support and extend their learning. Work one-on-one with students to ensure the purpose of graphic organisers or thinking routines are clear. Model strategies such as breaking quotes down into ‘chunks’ and thinking aloud to draw out the possible meanings of the text. Explicitly teach vocabulary used during the stage.

Areas for further exploration

Students create their own Heider and Simmel animation, inviting their peers to add a narrative structure. 

Provide students time to inquire into and construct a timeline of the events of the Holocaust. Consider using a timeline layout on a collaborative digital platform which allows students to add text, images, and video. Support resources that provide key historical information can be found on the department's Holocaust Education FUSE page. 

Students investigate the events of the Holocaust within the broader context of World War II. Use a shared map on a digital collaboration platform to note key events, dates, and occurrences around the world. Alternatively, use a physical map displayed in the classroom and add annotations.

Ask students to complete a 3 Y’s exit ticket, reflecting on why stories about the Holocaust might matter to them on a personal level, to the people around them (family, friends, city, nation) and to the world.

Enable students to complete this task by providing prompts or examples to unpack each ‘why’ in the thinking routine.

Extend students by inviting them to reflect further on the potential impact of stories by asking them to connect a quote about storytelling to the importance of Holocaust texts.

For example:

“Stories are memory aids, instruction manuals and moral compasses.”

- Aleks Krotoski

ABC, 2022. Compass: What happened to Polish Jews during WWII? [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 8 July 2022].

Allison, K., n.d. 21 Amazing Quotes About Storytelling. [Online]
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[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Cult of Pedagogy,, 2020. The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies. [Online]
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[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Davis, R., 2019. The Australian Jewish News: a rapidly spreading crisis. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Facing History and Ourselves, 2020. Propaganda Posters. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2019. Project Zero: I used to I think. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2019. Project Zero: Claim, Support, Question. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2019. Project Zero: See, Think, Me, We. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2019. Project Zero: The 3 Y's. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Institute for Creative Technologies: University of Southern California, n.d. Heider-Simmel Interactive Theater. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Kenjirou, 2010. Youtube: Hieder and Simmel (1944) animation. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Levi, P., 2014. If This Is A Man/The Truce. UK: Hachette.

Midwood, E., 2019. No Woman's Land. United States: Ellie Midwood.

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

State Government of Victoria, (Department of Education and Training), 2020. Think Pair Share template (DET, Victoria)_Graphic organiser. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

The Wiener Holocaust Library, 2020. A is for Adolf: Teaching German Children Nazi Values. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

Watson, J., 2019. ABC News Radio National: A brief history of Nazism in Australia. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 15 March 2022].

World Jewish Congress, 2019. What is the Holocaust? [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 8 July 2022].

Wiesel, E., 2006. Night. United States: Turtleback.

Zusak, M., 2013. The Book Thief. Picador Australia.

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