Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this lesson, students will consider song lyrics, and how this form of writing explores our human experience. They will watch a short clip from Life After The Oasis that features Owen, who writes his own songs and aspires to become a professional hip-hop artist. Students will engage in a classroom discussion to explore their own interpretations of the benefits songwriting has for Owen. They will consider their own experiences with song lyrics, then choose a song to interpret. Students will watch two clips that explore the structure of song lyrics and some tips for writing song lyrics. They will then plan, draft and write their own lyrics before reflecting on how they benefited personally from doing so.

Life After The Oasis is a 75 minute documentary that explores the issues, interventions and mindsets associated with youth homelessness in Australia. The film revisits characters and stories from the original 2008 documentary The Oasis, and how opportunities and experiences have shaped their lives over the last ten years. Find out how to screen or view the film here.

Warning: The documentary and the clips contained in this lesson, contains explicit language, images of drug use and confronting scenes and may upset some viewers. Teachers should use their personal discretion when showing the documentary. This resource deals with the rising problem of youth homelessness and its associated social and personal issues. There may be students in your class who have experienced some of the issues discussed. You are encouraged to arrive at a set of agreements and ground rules for discussion with your class about the best way to approach the issues being covered in a way that recognises the dignity of our fellow classmates. Click here for tips on setting ground rules for class discussions and here for advice on how to handle sensitive topics and controversial issues in your classroom.

Learning intentions:

  • Students understand that song lyrics often speak to the universality of human experience.
  • Students understand what lyrics are, and how they create meaning for the audience.
  • Students understand some of the language features of lyrics.
  • Students understand the way lyrics are usually structured.

21st century skills:


Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Year 9 English

  • Understand that authors innovate with text structures and language for specific purposes and effects (ACELA1553)
  • Explain how authors creatively use the structures of sentences and clauses for particular effects (ACELA1557)
  • Identify how vocabulary choices contribute to specificity, abstraction and stylistic effectiveness (ACELA1561)
  • Explore and reflect on personal understanding of the world and significant human experience gained from interpreting various representations of life matters in texts (ACELT1635)
  • Investigate and experiment with the use and effect of extended metaphor, metonymy, allegory, icons, myths and symbolism in texts, for example poetry, short films, graphic novels, and plays on similar themes (ACELT1637)
  • Review and edit students’ own and others’ texts to improve clarity and control over content, organisation, paragraphing, sentence structure, vocabulary and audio/visual features (ACELY1747)

Year 10 English

  • Analyse and explain how text structures, language features and visual features of texts and the context in which texts are experienced may influence audience response (ACELT1641)
  • Compare and evaluate how ‘voice’ as a literary device can be used in a range of different types of texts such as poetry to evoke particular emotional responses (ACELT1643)
  • Create literary texts that reflect an emerging sense of personal style and evaluate the effectiveness of these texts (ACELT1814)
  • Create literary texts with a sustained ‘voice’, selecting and adapting appropriate text structures, literary devices, language, auditory and visual structures and features for a specific purpose and intended audience (ACELT1815)
  • Review, edit and refine students’ own and others’ texts for control of content, organisation, sentence structure, vocabulary, and/or visual features to achieve particular purposes and effects (ACELY1757)

Syllabus outcomes: EN5-1A, EN5-2A, EN5-3B, EN5-4B, EN5-5C, EN5-7D.

General capabilities: LiteracyEthical Understanding, Critical and Creative ThinkingPersonal and Social Capability,

Relevant parts of Year 9 achievement standards: By the end of Year 9, students analyse the ways that text structures can be manipulated for effect. They analyse and explain how images, vocabulary choices and language features distinguish the work of individual authors. They evaluate and integrate ideas and information from texts to form their own interpretations. Students understand how to use a variety of language features to create different levels of meaning. In creating texts, students demonstrate how manipulating language features and images can create innovative texts.

Relevant parts of Year 10 achievement standards: Students evaluate how text structures can be used in innovative ways by different authors. They explain how the choice of language features, images and vocabulary contributes to the development of individual style. They develop and justify their own interpretations of texts. They evaluate other interpretations, analysing the evidence used to support them. Students show how the selection of language features can achieve precision and stylistic effect. They develop their own style by experimenting with language features, stylistic devices, text structures and images. Students create a wide range of texts to articulate complex ideas. They demonstrate understanding of grammar, vary vocabulary choices for impact, and accurately use spelling and punctuation when creating and editing texts.

Topic: Social Issues

Unit of work: Life After The Oasis – English – Years 9 & 10

Time required:  90 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – facilitate class discussion.

Resources required: Student Worksheets – one copy per student. Device capable of presenting a video to the class. Handling Sensitive Topics And Controversial Issues Factsheet – teacher copy (Optional). Conver-Station Discussion Prompts – one copy. Web-enabled devices (enough for at least one between two). Emotions List (Optional). 

Keywords: Homelessness, homeless, lived experience, youth, lyrics, human experience, verse, chorus, bridge, poetic devices, creative writing, The Oasis.

Shark Island Productions and Cool Australia would like to acknowledge the generous contribution of The Caledonia Foundation to the development of these resources.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Learning intentions: Students will ... 

  • ... understand that song lyrics often speak to the universality of human experience.
  • ... understand what lyrics are, and how the create meaning for the audience.
  • ... understand some of the language features of lyrics.
  • ... understand the way lyrics are usually structured.

Success criteria: Students can …

  • ... identify the language features of lyrics.
  • ... write their own lyrics using an appropriate structure.
  • ... incorporate at least one language device commonly found in song lyrics.

Teacher content information: On any given night in Australia, 1 in 200 people are experiencing homelessness. This alarming statistic raises many questions about homelessness in Australia and what is being done by government and non-government institutions to combat the problem. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) defines a person to be homeless when they do not have suitable accommodation alternatives and their curren

- or - to view worksheets

Student Worksheet

Thought starter: “Music saved me …” – Owen

Making Connections To Lyrics

Working independently, reflect on your experiences with song lyrics by responding (in writing) to the prompts below:

1. Have you ever listened to a song and felt like it was about you, or something you have experienced? Describe it here:

2. Can you think of lyrics that have changed how you see the world? What were they, and how did they change your perception?

3. Have you ever listened to a song to help you to get through a hard time? What was it? How did the lyrics help?

4. Have you ever heard a song that lifts you up and makes you feel great? What were some of the lyrics in the song?

5. What do you think the experiences you’ve described above are saying about the purpose of lyrics and songs?

Interpreting Meaning Of Song Lyrics

Choose one song that means something to you, then use the prompts below to help you interpret the meaning of the song’s lyrics.

1. What do you think the song is about?

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