Student handout 9: Freedom Isnt Just a Word

Exploring the text

1. 'Freedom is just a word ... But it's a real thing. And in the end, it's all about who has control. Of what you own, of what you build. Of who you are ... So what did freedom mean ... ? I guess, in the end, it meant the simple right to make choices.' (Freedom Isn't Just a Word – Toan's Story, pp 60–61)

  • What freedoms did the new government take away from Toan's family?
  • Explain why you think Toan's grandfather died after his son was released from the government camp.
  • Toan says that freedom ‘means the simple right to make choices’. In small groups discuss whether you would take the risk that Toan's family did and ‘escape in a leaky fishing boat when there was every chance of capture and imprisonment’. Would you have made this choice?

2. Imagine you are Toan's father. Write a short paragraph explaining the three main differences between living in Australia and Vietnam.

Working beyond the text

3. What choices do we have in Australia?

  • Write the headings below on slips of paper. Divide into six groups and as a group choose one out of a hat.

Brainstorm the different choices we have:
* at home
* at school
* when shopping
* when watching television, listening to the radio or reading books and newspapers
* in our communities
* across Australia.

  • How many different choices did the whole class come up with?
  • In small groups discuss this question: Do Australians have too many choices?

4. Some people talk about freedom as being double-sided: freedom from and freedom to. Fill in the table below. In the first column write a list of what we have freedom from and in the other what we have the freedom to do. Some examples are provided to start you thinking.

Freedom from

Freedom to


express my opinion


choose the government that best represents my ideas


own my own home


Fill out the table with responses that show what sort of freedom you value and compare this list with what Toan's family's life was like in Vietnam.

5. Where did you develop your ideas about freedom?
Show this in a diagram (like the example right) using pictures instead of words. You may choose to do this task on some poster paper or on a computer if you have access.

6. Complete the following 'Freedom' poem that charts the development of your understanding of freedom in your life. If you wish you can choose a rhyme scheme for your poem.

When I was three, freedom...........

When I was five...........

When I was seven...........

When I was nine...........

At eleven I...........

But now at..... I...........

7. Benjamin Lichtenberg said: ‘The best things in life are not free but priceless.’ What do you think he meant by this?

Voltaire, a French thinker and writer, said: ‘I disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.’ What do you think he meant by this?

  • Use the Internet to find three quotes by famous people that reflect the way you think about freedom.
  • Write your quotes out on strips of coloured paper and display them on a pinboard in your class room.

8. Write a short response to this question: What is the best way to make sure that we are free?

Overview | Notes for teachers 1 | Notes for teachers 2 | Notes for teachers 3 | Notes for teachers 4 | Student handout 1 | Student handout 2 | Student handout 3 | Student handout 4 | Student handout 5 | Student handout 6 | Student handout 7 | Student handout 8 | Student handout 9 | Student handout 10

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