The Lives of Animals: Lesson 5 English, Yr 10


Information to Teachers

It is assumed that students have read the text prior to completing the suggested activities. 

Lesson Overview

This lesson focusses on reflection and requires students to consider the writer’s intentions, the protagonist’s aims, and the response of the readers. Through discussion, students will examine the nature of truth and question the validity of knowledge. Finally, they will have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding and interpretation of the text in an analytical essay writing task.

Time Allocation

50-100 minutes or 1-2 lessons.

Primary Resource

Voiceless Resources

Other Resources

Langston, Camille A. How to use rhetoric to get what you want, Ed.Ted.Com.

Inquiry Questions

  • Why do perspectives on controversial issues vary so widely?
  • What are the methods of persuasion used in oratory?
  • How do we know what is true, and what are some methods for ensuring the validity and accuracy of knowledge?

Suggested Learning Activities


Discuss and reflect upon the representation of Elizabeth Costello.

a) Is she a reliable character? Why/Why not?

b) What is the aim/s of her lecture?

c) What oratory skills and/or rhetoric does she use?

Watch: How to use rhetoric to get what you want, by Camille A. Langston.

d) Are you convinced by her arguments? Why/Why not?

e) How do we know what is true and what are some methods for ensuring the validity of knowledge?



J.M. Coetzee interview.

a) Students to read J.M. Coetzee Interview with Voiceless.

b) Students to identify the key argument (or point) Coetzee is making regarding the use of fiction texts to present factual arguments.

c) Ideas are shared with the class.



The novella includes four reflections from various academics/experts (pg. 73).

A differentiated task is one suggestion for approaching these reflections.

a) Divide students into small groups of 3-4 and allocate them one of the following reflections. Groups could double up in classes with large numbers.

  • Peter Singer (7 pages + accessible language + ideas)
  • Marjorie Garber (12 pages + fairly challenging language + ideas)
  • Wendy Doniger (14 pages + challenging language + ideas)
  • Barbara Smuts (14 pages + accessible language + ideas)

b) After reading and annotating, students will present an analysis of the reflection to the other class members in a short presentation.

Presentations could include:

  • A brief overview of the writer;
  • Summarising of main ideas/points of view;
  • An analysis of tone (supported with evidence);
  • 2-4 key quotations which best demonstrate the point of view/ideas of the writer.

Alternatively, choose the reflection by Peter Singer, read, discuss as a class, and then complete the points above.



Students to conclude the lesson by composing an essay that responds to one of the following statements/questions:

  • The Lives of Animals, by J.M. Coetzee, explores the complexities of animal rights.
  • “There, there. It will soon be over.” The Lives of Animals is an exploration of one woman’s deep personal concerns. (see pg. 69)
  • “We have closed our hearts to animals”. Discuss. (see. pg. 4)


  • Note that these essay questions give students choice and work well for differentiating.
  • Students should aim to support ideas with textual evidence as well as identifying and explaining the effect of literary devices.
  • A standard essay structure is recommended (introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion).
  • Independent thinking should be taken into consideration when marking.
  • This task would work well as a summative assessment task that could be performed under timed conditions to prepare students for Year 11 examinations.

Up next, Assessment Tasks. 

We hope that you have enjoyed using our teacher and student resources for this APE on The Lives of Animals.

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