Skin Deep

story by Jenny Robson , illustrated by Anna Bron

Learning Intention:


I am learning to share responses about how heroes are portrayed so that I can consider what makes a believable hero in the texts I create.


Success Criteria:


  • I can identify characteristics of heroes from texts I am familiar with.
  • I can examine how perspectives can be shaped by others.
  • I can reflect on how representations of heroes' support or challenge my perception.
  • I can create an idea about an everyday hero.
  • I can compose a news report that features an everyday hero.


Focus question:


How do character perspectives allow us to empathise with them and their situations?


Essential knowledge:


View the video Perspective from the English Textual Concepts. Ensure students note the following:

  • Perspective shapes what readers see in a text and the way they see it
  • Perspective can be influenced by readers’ experiences, their attitudes, values and beliefs
  • Authors have their own perspectives
  • Authors’ perspectives are revealed through ways such as the language they choose to use, what they have included or left out of a text, and how they structure a text.


Oral language and communication:


Discuss heroes' students are familiar with. Students will most likely identify superheroes. Discuss key attributes of heroes, for example:

  • Bravery
  • Self-sacrifice
  • Kindness
  • A belief in the inherent goodness of others
  • A desire to improve the world.


Understanding text:


Read Skin Deep, up to the end of page 29. Inform students that they will be considering the characters’ perspectives as they analyse the ideas in the story. Discuss the following:

  • What is Thandi’s classmates, Tebogo and Victoria’s, perspective of Thandi’s mother? (Tebogo says she has never, ‘seen such an ugly person before in my whole life,’ and Victoria says she thought she was a monster)
  • How does Thandi react to this? (She is shocked and begins to question if it is true)
  • How does Thandi perceive her mother? (She thinks of arms wrapped around her, her gentle voice comforting her, her sweet smell and her loving smile)
  • What type of person is Thandi’s mum? (She appears to be an everyday person)

Continue reading to right before the end of the first column of text on page 31, pausing at the paragraph that ends,

But instead, the day was turning into something awful.

Discuss the following:

  • What does Thandi say to her mother? (Thandi tells her mother that her friends said she is ugly, and she asks her why she can’t be pretty like Miss Moeti)
  • How does her sister perceive Thandi’s actions? (She is horrified by her behaviour, and she calls her ‘cruel and nasty’)
  • How does Thandi react to her sister’s anger? (She starts crying and she is upset about how the day has turned from what was supposed to be an exciting day into something awful)
  • What are your thoughts about Thandi and her sister’s behaviour? (Students might empathise with Thandi as she was influenced by what her friends said, they could be shocked she said something unkind to their mother, they might feel her sister’s reaction was too harsh or that Thandi needed to hear the truth)

Refer back to the focus question, ‘How do character perspectives allow us to empathise with them and their situations?’ and discuss how understanding both Thandi’s perspective and her sister’s enables readers to empathise with them. Sample responses are that knowing neither sister had any ill intent and that they are both upset with the outcome might cause them to empathise with them.

Discuss how Thandi’s perception of her mother changes once she knows what she has gone through (She says her mother is the most beautiful person in the world, both inside and out, and that she is brave). Emphasise that additional information changed Thandi’s perspective.

Continue reading to the end of the story and discuss what Thandi learns (That her mother is a hero, who risked her life to save Thandi). Refer back to the attributes of a hero identified earlier and discuss which ones the mother exemplifies, for example self-sacrifice, bravery, kindness. Emphasise that Thandi’s mother differs from the cartoon version of superheroes in some stories. Instead, she is a regular person who does something exceptional.

Place students in small groups and instruct them to discuss the following:

  • How does this portrayal support or challenge your perception of a hero? (It supports my perception of heroes as being self-sacrificing, but it challenges my perception of heroes being superheroes and instead shows an everyday person can also be a hero)

Discuss responses and tell students that they should draw on their ideas generated through the discussion when creating their own character.


Creating text:


Explain to students that often when momentous events occur, they will feature in a news report. Inform students that they will be creating a news report about an everyday person who becomes a hero. Tell students that the hero should be someone unexpected and their heroic deed should change peoples’ perception of them. Refer back to Skin Deep to reflect on why Thandi’s perception of her mother changes (through the discovery of new information).

Discuss examples of fictitious events that could cause someone to change their perspective, for example:

  • Someone who is known for not following the rules in the past acts as a hero and helps an elderly person who is injured
  • A child is caught skipping their chores but then it is discovered that they have been using their spare time to help another student with their homework.


Refer to an episode of Behind the News to examine how a news report is constructed. Discuss elements of the report and ensure students note the following:

  • News reports include factual information, such as who, what, where, when, why
  • The news reporter will often talk directly to the camera.

Place students with a partner and instruct them to complete the following steps when composing their news report:

  • Decide on an event where someone acts as a hero. Remember, that the heroic action should change people’s perception of the person.
  • Compose a brief news report about the event
  • Include responses to questions such as who, what, where when and why the event occurred.


Assessment for/as learning:


Match pairs together and instruct them to present their news reports to each other. Students can use the success criteria as a guide to provide feedback to each other. Inform students to adapt their news reports based on the feedback. Once students are happy with their news reports they can video them using video recording software on an iPad or Android device.


Students should respond to the focus question as an exit-ticket, in their workbooks:

  • How do character perspectives allow us to empathise with them and their situations?