Helping hands

This unit, Helping hands, explores fiction, non-fiction and multi-modal texts related to the 2004 Asian tsunami and its tragic aftermath. Texts used include the young adult novel The Killing Sea by Richard Lewis, the picture book The Day of the Elephant by Barbara Kerr Wilson and Frané Lessac, the memoir Hands Across the Waters by Peter Baines, non-fiction books The Asian Tsunami 2004 by John Townsend and Surviving Tsunamis: Children’s true stories by Kevin Cunningham, and a traditional Thai folktale, ‘Makato and the Cowrie Shell’ (.pdf 434 kB).

The 2004 tsunami in Thailand by David Rydevik, public domain image, via Wikimedia Commons

Above: The 2004 tsunami in Ao Nang, Thailand, by David Rydevik, public domain image, via Wikimedia Commons

Australian curriculum links

The general capabilities emphasised in this unit of work are literacy, information and communication technology (ICT) capability, critical and creative thinking, ethical behaviour and intercultural understanding. This unit addresses the cross-curriculum priority Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia.

See how this unit relates to Australian Curriculum: English content descriptions and NSW Syllabus outcomes.


This unit provides opportunities to explore the ideas that:

  • hazards are natural and steps can be taken to prevent them from becoming a disaster. They have the potential to become disasters when they occur near a major human settlement
  • disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis receive great media attention. However, there is often little follow-up on recovery
  • the media shows cultural bias when reporting on disasters in foreign countries
  • the later examination of reports and rumours around disasters is a necessary process
  • life saving acts of heroism can also be life changing for the hero
  • our responsibility to help our neighbours during disasters should continue after disasters have passed
  • folk tales from around the world explore universal themes of human experience and show the values of the culture that created them.

Teaching and learning activities

  1. Introduce the unit with The Day of the Elephant and the context for The Killing Sea
  2. Truth and rumour, heroic elephants and real heroes
  3. Children of the tsunami and reporting disasters
  4. Messages from the hero’s journey

For the teacher

Use a disaster simulation game from the UNISDR. TVE Asia Pacific has the resource Children of the Tsunami, with stories from eight children in videos. The BBC four-part series, Tsunami Prayers, has personal stories of survival while also exploring four different faiths, and features Rizal Shaputro who appears in this unit (resources ate transcripts).

Christopher Vogler summarises the 12 stages of the Hero’s Journey (select ‘Hero’s Journey’ on the left). Vogler also describes the 12 stages on the myths, dreams and symbols website, with scenes from The Matrix that appear appropriate for Year 7.

Note that print downloads do not include updates applied online, including curriculum changes over time and should be used with caution:  .doc 9 MB    |    .pdf 670 kB    |   Copyright