Activity Introduction

PK Hero Image 7Quick summary: Using the documentary Paul Kelly – Stories of Me students will explore the codes of documentary films in a category-matching activity. They extend their understanding by conducting some further thinking and research into the codes, or ‘ingredients’ of a documentary, then apply their understanding by tracking an ingredient through the film. They will then create a presentation that demonstrates their understanding of how the ingredient is used throughout the film. Students then record their reactions to the opening scene of the film and apply the influence of film techniques to their reactions. Students plan, draft, edit and publish a written piece that compares the opening scene of the film with the scene where Paul Kelly performs “Dumb Things”.

This lesson uses sections of Shark Island Production’s Paul Kelly – Stories of Me as learning stimuli. Teachers are required to create an account to view the film and use the supplied code to enable students to access the film.

Key points to explore:

  • A documentary text is made up of a number of ‘ingredients’ or codes.
  • The codes of documentary texts are used by the filmmaker to construct meaning.
  • Filmmakers use a variety of other film techniques to influence the audience.

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions:

Year 9 English

  • Understand that authors innovate with text structures and language for specific purposes and effects (ACELA1553)
  • Analyse and explain the use of symbols, icons and myth in still and moving images and how these augment meaning (ACELA1560)
  • 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)
  • Analyse how the construction and interpretation of texts, including media texts, can be influenced by cultural perspectives and other texts (ACELY1739)
  • Use comprehension strategies to interpret and analyse texts, comparing and evaluating representations of an event, issue, situation or character in different texts (ACELY1744)
  • Create imaginative, informative and persuasive texts that present a point of view and advance or illustrate arguments, including texts that integrate visual, print and/or audio features (ACELY1746)
  • 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)
  • Use a range of software, including word processing programs, flexibly and imaginatively to publish texts (ACELY1748)

Year 10 English

  • Understand that people’s evaluations of texts are influenced by their value systems, the context and the purpose and mode of communication (ACELA1565)
  • Compare the purposes, text structures and language features of traditional and contemporary texts in different media (ACELA1566)
  • Evaluate the impact on audiences of different choices in the representation of still and moving images (ACELA1572)
  • 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)
  • Analyse and evaluate how people, cultures, places, events, objects and concepts are represented in texts, including media texts, through language, structural and/or visual choices (ACELY1749)
  • Use comprehension strategies to compare and contrast information within and between texts, identifying and analysing embedded perspectives, and evaluating supporting evidence (ACELY1754)
  • Create sustained texts, including texts that combine specific digital or media content, for imaginative, informative, or persuasive purposes that reflect upon challenging and complex issues (ACELY1756)
  • 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)
  • Use a range of software, including word processing programs, confidently, flexibly and imaginatively to create, edit and publish texts, considering the identified purpose and the characteristics of the user (ACELY1776)

Year 11 English

Unit 1

Investigate the relationships between language, context and meaning by:

  • analysing how language choices are made for different purposes and in different contexts using appropriate metalanguage; for example, personification, voice-over, flashback, salience (ACEEN002)
  • evaluating the choice of mode and medium in shaping the response of audiences, including digital texts. (ACEEN003)

Examine similarities and differences between imaginative, persuasive and interpretive texts including:

  • explaining the ways language features, text structures and conventions communicate ideas and points of view (ACEEN004)
  • explaining the ways text structures, language features and stylistic choices are used in different types of texts (ACEEN005)
  • evaluating the impact of description and imagery, including figurative language, and still and moving images in digital and multimodal texts. (ACEEN007)

Analyse and evaluate how responses to texts, including students’ own responses, are influenced by:

  • the use of imaginative, persuasive and interpretive techniques. (ACEEN010)

Create a range of texts:

  • using appropriate form, content, style and tone for different purposes and audiences in real and imagined contexts (ACEEN011)
  • drawing on a range of technologies in, for example, research, communication and representation of ideas (ACEEN012)
  • combining visual, spoken and written elements where appropriate (ACEEN013)
  • using evidence-based argument (ACEEN014)
  • using strategies for planning, drafting, editing and proofreading (ACEEN016)
  • using accurate spelling, punctuation, syntax and metalanguage. (ACEEN017) 

Unit 2

Compare texts in a variety of contexts, mediums and modes by:

  • analysing the style and structure of texts including digital texts (ACEEN022)

Investigate the representation of ideas, attitudes and voices in texts including:

  • analysing the ways language features, text structures and stylistic choices shape points of view and influence audiences (ACEEN024)

Analyse and evaluate how and why responses to texts vary through:

  • the interplay between imaginative, persuasive and interpretive techniques, for example, how anecdotes are used in speeches to amuse, inform or influence, or the use of characteristation in advertising (ACEEN030)

Create a range of texts:

  • using imaginative, interpretive and persuasive elements for different purposes, contexts and audiences (ACEEN032)
  • experimenting with text structures, language features and multimodal devices (ACEEN033)
  • selecting and applying appropriate textual evidence to support arguments (ACEEN035)
  • using strategies for planning, drafting, editing and proofreading (ACEEN036)
  • using accurate spelling, punctuation, syntax and metalanguage. (ACEEN037)

General capabilities: Literacy, Critical and Creative Thinking, ICT Capability.

Topic: Social issues.


Time required: 120 minutes (or 2 x 60 minutes)

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – facilitate student discussion, coordinate student movement around classroom.

Resources required: Student Worksheet – one copy per student OR computers/tablets to access the online worksheet. Device capable of presenting a website to the class. Enough devices to view Paul Kelly – Stories of Me (teachers are required to create an account to view and invite students to view the film) in pairs. Documentary Ingredients categorisation activity (cut up enough for one set between 2-3 students before commencing lesson). Blu-Tack, sticky notes. Effect of Composition Pictures (print before commencing lesson). Access to PowerPoint, Prezi or similar.

Digital technology opportunities: Digital sharing capabilities, using ICT to visualise thinking.

Keywords: Documentary, text, conventions, film techniques, composition, influence, audience, Paul Kelly.

Acknowledgements: This resource has been adapted from ‘Paul Kelly: Portrait of an Artist’ written by Eva Gold, Mel Dixon, Ann Small, Bradley Merrick with Appendix from Victorian teachers by Monika Wagner.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

PK Hero Image 9Teacher preparation

Overarching learning goal: Students will understand the codes and conventions of a documentary text, and be able to track them through a documentary in order to explain their effect on the viewer. They will be able to describe film techniques used in the documentary film Paul Kelly - Stories of Me, and compare the use of the techniques in two scenes in order to explain how the filmmaker uses them to influence the audience.

Teacher content information: This lesson is based on the film Paul Kelly - Stories of Me, which charts the many lives, loves and losses of Paul Kelly, one of Australia’s most gifted singer-songwriters. His songs have been marking out the Australian landscape and its people through words and music for almost 40 years. The stories and the music of Paul Kelly explore and reflect the Australian experience, life and culture.

The film is a contemporary music documentary that allows students to explore popular culture, storytelling and how people are

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Student Worksheet

Thought Starter: "I think movies have much more magic than the theater. Theater can be a magical experience, but movies thrust their subjectivity on you in a more profound way" - Zoe Kazan

Part A: Exploring the Codes of a Documentary Text - What are the Ingredients?

What is the documentary ingredient you're researching? What do think you know about it? What puzzlements do you have about it? What did you discover?

Part B: Tracking the Ingredients of Documentaries

1. Choose the documentary ingredient that you are most intrigued by. Note it here:

2. Identify sections in the documentary film Paul Kelly - Stories of Me where the documentary ingredient you've chosen is used by the filmmaker. While doing so, find five specific scenes from the film that feature the ingredient and take screenshots of those scenes. Then, create a digital presentation using PowerPoint, Prezi or similar that details how the documentary ingredient is used, as well as its effect. You

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