SBS has adapted the title short story in Nam Le’s hugely acclaimed anthology The Boat for its first interactive graphic novel. The result is emotive and intriguing.
SBS Learn
17 Jul 2015 - 5:45 PM  UPDATED 28 Apr 2016 - 10:24 AM

Classroom Resources

Take your class on an interactive journey aboard The Boat using the SBS Learn resources.

Download a copy of The Boat Creative Activities (English/The Arts years 9-12) 
Download a copy of The Boat Comprehension Activity (English years 9-12) 

Due to infrequent coarse language, this resource is not recommended for students under 15 years.

SBS recommends reading the Classroom Viewing Recommendations before using this resource in schools.

Creative Activities

Allow 20minutes to experience The Boat before working on the activities below.

Creative Writing

Twitter Fiction: Twitter is a social networking site that allows users to send and read short 140-character messages called “tweets”. Twitter fiction aims to tell a story in just 140 characters.

TASK: Imagine that you are like Mai, an asylum seeker on a boat. Capture your experience in a 140-character Twitter fiction. See an example here

Share your Twitter fiction #sbslearn #sbstheboat


Blackout Poetry: Blackout poetry is essentially making art with ‘found’ words. The process involves selecting a piece of text – usually a newspaper article – and using a black permanent marker, blacking out the majority of the words, leaving behind a poem constructed of words from various sentences.

TASK: Create your own blackout poem that captures the emotions felt by Mai at the end of her boat journey. Consider experimenting with patterns and colours to cover up your unwanted words, instead of just black permanent marker. See an example here

Share an image of your blackout poetry #sbslearn #sbstheboat


Digital Storytelling: This is a genre of storytelling that is short, personal and emotive. Each story consists of images, voice-over narrative and simple sound effects. The narrative is typically no longer than 250 words with the story itself being no more than two minutes long.

TASK: Create a digital story that tells Truong’s perspective of his journey on the boat. See an example here

Share your digital story #sbslearn #sbstheboat

Meet the Artist

The Boat was illustrated by Vietnamese-Australian artist Matt Huynh, whose parents fled Vietnam after the war, like Mai. The following clips and activities examine the creative process behind the graphic novel as well as Huynh’s personal connection to the story.

Coming into Being

Download the transcript 

Watch the clip ‘Coming into Being’ before completing the activity below.


Matt Huynh tells how he felt most like a storyteller when he was drawing the original thumbnails for The Boat.

TASK: Create a four-frame comic panel that captures the emotion of a character. You should vary the perspective and focus of this person, by using a range of shot types. For example, you might have two close-up shots (one of an eye, and one of a hand), one long shot (showing their whole body) and one mid-shot (focusing on the facial features). Emotions to choose from could be: despair, elation, frustration, sympathy, shock, curiosity.

Share your comic panel #sbslearn #sbstheboat

About the Characters

Download the transcript

Watch the clip ‘About the Characters’ before completing the activity below.


Matt Huynh explains how it takes many attempts of drawing a character before fully understanding them. Capturing a character’s emotions is very difficult, especially if you are not a confident artist. One way of capturing a person’s character is by putting their emotions in motion using exaggerated body language and movement.

TASK: Capture the character of a friend of family member through caricature. Give them exaggerated gestures and movement by drawing them doing a range of actions such as running, jumping, flying and tumbling.

About the Boat

Download the transcript

Watch the clip ‘About the Boat’ before completing the activity below.

Creative writing

Matt Huynh speaks about how the boat is a conceit as it acts as both a setting and a character, which ultimately shares Mai’s journey.

TASK: Flash fiction is a type of storytelling that is very short – typically as short as 300 words. Compose a flash fiction that personifies a location you are very familiar with. For example, if you gave emotions and a voice to your bedroom, what would it say? For tips on writing great flash fiction, scroll to the end of this article.

Personal Relationship

Download the transcript. 

Watch the clip ‘Personal Relationship’ before completing the activity below.

Creative writing: Matt Huynh reveals that the purpose of his work is to have people connect with the more vulnerable parts of the population, such as asylum seekers and refugees.

TASK: Text message stories are designed to be brief enough to send in a single text message, but powerful enough to explore themes, and develop believable characters and settings. Compose a text message story of exactly 150 words that simultaneously provokes the reader to consider a significant political or humanitarian issue and creates feelings of empathy and connection. Share your text message story #sbslearn #sbstheboat