Adaptations and Transformations – the first Literature SAC

Adaptations and Transformations – the first Literature SAC

This week, we’re taking a break from our Reflections series as we know many of you have your first Literature SAC just around the corner. In this post, Insight writer and Literature teacher Briony Schroor offers tips and strategies to help you prepare for and complete this assessment task.

For most students the Adaptations and Transformations SAC is the first piece of serious assessment in Year 12 Literature, so it’s not surprising if you feel a little apprehensive about it. Fortunately, it’s a straightforward SAC and, if done well, it will help develop your understanding of your focus text, the Literature course, and how to approach your Year 12 Literature study.

1. Read the focus text carefully

Your first step is to read and re-read your text, looking beyond the immediate narrative to consider the way your text is written. Think about the symbols the author uses and the moods that your author creates in order to communicate with readers (or audiences, if you’re reading a play). Is there a lot of dialogue in your text (if you’re reading a novel), or are there silent characters on stage (if you’re studying a play)? Read extracts of your text aloud in order to develop your understanding further – what sort of tone do you read in? Are you reading in a voice of whispered menace or cheerful bombast? What does this reveal about the nature of your text?

2. Read the VCAA Study Design

Have a look at the Study Design for VCE Literature. Your teacher is working from this document to deliver the course to you, but there’s no harm in checking the details of each SAC for yourself. Look at what the Study Design identifies as the Key Knowledge and Key Skills of the Adaptations and Transformations Area of Study, and try to ensure that you’re ready to meet these requirements, in whatever way your teacher has set up the task in your school. The language of the Study Design will be familiar to you from class, but reading it yourself will help to consolidate the details in your mind. Remember that if you have any questions you can always ask your teacher for clarification.

3. Cast the original text yourself

Before you watch (or read, if your text has been transformed into a different written form) the adapted or transformed text, try to imagine how you would transform the text yourself. Which Hollywood actors do you have in your mind as you read the focus text? Can you explain your choices? How do you envisage the setting: is it somewhere familiar, or somewhere far removed from your experience? Are there long passages of description in your text – and if there are, how would you present them in a more visual form (such as a film)? If your text depends on the insights of a narrator, how would you tackle this in a non-written form? Would you use a voice-over, or would a series of written titles better suit the style of the text?

4. Watch the transformed text several times

You will probably watch the transformed text in class at least once, but you should watch it again independently before you sit the SAC. This is obviously easier with a film text, which you should be able to access through your school or borrow from your library, but even with live performances it might be possible to attend a second show. Make sure that you take notes to focus your viewing. You might pause a film as you watch it and write notes on short sections, or in a play performance you could write comments on your program during the interval. Remember to track non-verbal material in the transformed text: costumes, the soundtrack, camera angles and even colour are used by film directors to communicate meaning; in a play, the set design, props and costumes are worth close attention. Make use of your expertise as a screen-native to engage with the way visual language is used, and use the technical language of the transformed form in your writing. There are many websites with glossaries of the language of film, for example (like this one:, which you might find helpful.

5. Discuss both the texts with friends

Whether you’re watching your adapted or transformed text for the first time or the fourth, you should discuss your responses to this text as well as the original with the other students in your class. Of course, you will have formal discussion during lessons, but informal discussion in a student-led study group will allow you to develop your ideas further. You could also read reviews of the transformed text as part of your study group – deciding whether your critical judgement of the film or performance is the same as the reviewer’s.

6. Compare your texts thoughtfully

It’s important when comparing an original text with its transformation to think about the conventions of the different forms, and the different ways in which meaning is made in different text types.

You should note whether your original text and its transformation are contemporary to each other – that is, made at about the same time – or whether they’re separated by time as well as form. If your texts are contemporary, you should consider why a text has been adapted. If your texts are separated by time, think about how society has changed between the making of the original and the transformed text.

Also consider the nature of the audiences of different text types. Reading a novel is essentially a private experience, for example, whereas going to a film is a more public experience. Movies are generally less expensive to attend than plays, so they have quite different audiences, which might change both written and unwritten rules about what these different forms will allow.

Critically, you should think about whether the author of the original text has the same agenda as the creator of the adapted or transformed text. You should consider not just whether the transformed text accurately presents details of the original, but also whether it offers a truthful depiction of the sense of the original. A film director might alter some narrative details but remain true to the overall meaning of the original; alternatively, a stage performance of a play might use all the lines of an original text, but present them with an entirely new and different meaning.

Finally, as with all your work in Literature, it is important that your writing (or your speaking, if your SAC is presented orally) is clear and expressive, that your examples are specific and detailed, and that your discussion is balanced and informed.

Good luck! Enjoy!


Looking for a comprehensive resource to help you get through Year 12 VCE Literature? Try Insight’s Literature for Senior Students 5th edition by Robert Beardwood. The text covers the entire course, and features a detailed reference section, practical guidelines, activities, models and at least one annotated sample response for each SAC, helping students build confidence and skills in literary analysis.

Literature for Senior Students 5th edition is produced by Insight Publications, an independent Australian educational publisher.


Image credit: Erkki Makkonen/ Shutterstock

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