Lesson Ideas for Teachers

Making multicultural Australia

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KLA/Subject: HSIE

Stage: Stage 3

How Did I Become Me?


  • CUS3.3 Describes different cultural influences and their contribution to Australian identities.


In these two lessons students view two video excerpts from Making Multicultural Australia to trigger consideration of the importance of names and naming to identity and a sense of self. Students will investigate how they were named and consider the significance their names have for them and others. A case study and question sheet is included to support classroom and homework activities.

Material to Download

Worksheet: How did I become me - Case Study

Worksheet: How did I become me - Name

Documentary Excerpts: Migration-Enriching Australia

Documentary Excerpts: People Screen - Change of Face, episode 2

Suggested Activities

View and discuss

  1. Show students view two documentary excerpts (See 'Materials to Download'):
    • Migration-Enriching Australia
    • People Screen – Change of Face, episode 2
  2. Discuss with the class the importance of names to identity. Possible questions include:
    • Why might some migrants have anglicised their names?
    • Why might someone change his/her name back later?
    • What has changed in Australia since the 1950s that might account for people anglicising names in the past and changing them back more recently? (The Government policy used to be assimilation and now it is multiculturalism.)
    • What are some examples of name changes that students know of?
    • What reasons were there for these changes? (this may include marrying/divorcing, change of religion, choice……)

Group work
Read to the class the following as an introduction to the activity:
‘When I look at my family and think about how each of us was named, it is quite surprising because there are many different reasons for names just in one family. I know there are even more ways of being named because I’ve talked with friends and work colleagues about how they were named and some were different again. Have a look at some of the names in my family.’

Divide students into small groups. Using the worksheet, 'How did I become me - Case Study', give each group a case study to read. Ask each group to then complete the relevant section of the worksheet 'How did I become me - Name'.

Ask each group to report their feedback to the whole class recording answers on a class copy (preferably on an overhead transparency) of the worksheet 'How did I become me - Name'. Ask for any other reasons students know of for names being given and add.

Ask students to find out the reasons they were given each of their names. Ask students to also find out the reason behind any pet/nickname they may have.

Ask students to sit in a circle and and share with the class why their names are important to them, why they were given each name and any pet/nickname they may have.

Add to grid any additional reasons for names. Are any cultural or other patterns evident?

Discuss and conclude

Review the reasons for naming on the grid. Conclude that naming traditions may vary from culture to culture, within cultures and over time. Names are usually very important to people, so important that sometimes people change their name to have just the right one to feel comfortable. Note that it is very important to pronounce names correctly and, if unsure, to ask if the way a name is being said is correct.

Preparation Checklist

You will need:

  • to download two documentary excerpts from Making Multicultural Australia, to be viewed by students on computer terminal in small groups or projected to whole class (see 'Materials to Download')
  • to print two copies of the worksheet 'How did I become me - Case Study'; cut this up for group work
  • to print sufficient copies of the worksheet 'How did I become me - Name' for small group work and make an overhead transparency of this
  • an overhead projector
  • whiteboard/butcher’s paper


Ask students to identify names from other cultural groups and using the internet, research the meaning and origin of those names. These names may be added to the worksheet 'How did I become me - Name'. Findings may be discussed as a class.

Related Resources

Not applicable

Lesson Notes

Some students may feel unsure about sharing names not used at school, especially if the pronunciation is difficult in English or sounds like words such as swear words in English. A safe atmosphere where only positive comments are allowed must be maintained. Teachers also need to be sensitive to the fact that some students may not live with all or any of their family (for example, children in foster care or some refugees) and may not know or be able to find out the reasons for the names they have been given. In such cases, students may be asked to concentrate on finding out the meaning of their names or may create meanings if they wish.

Date Added:

11 December 2004