Activity Introduction

PK Hero Image 10Quick summary: Students explore the differences and similarities of poetry and song lyrics using the documentary film Paul Kelly – Stories of Me. Students illustrate their viewpoint about these two text types in a ‘Stand on the Line’ activity and are invited to consider the nature of interpretation. They create their own poem, song lyrics or compare the two in a persuasive piece. Students consider whether Paul Kelly’s songs are a result of theft or creative inspiration, and research the meaning and examples of the concept of intertextuality. They compose a free writing piece that considers whether anyone actually ‘owns’ words.

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:

  • Poetry and song lyrics are two text types that are both similar and different.
  • Intertextuality is often a feature of texts.
  • The ownership of words is debatable.

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions:

Year 9 English

  • Understand that authors innovate with text structures and language for specific purposes and effects (ACELA1553)
  • Explore and reflect on personal understanding of the world and significant human experience gained from interpreting various representations of life matters in texts (ACELT1635)
  • Analyse texts from familiar and unfamiliar contexts, and discuss and evaluate their content and the appeal of an individual author’s literary style (ACELT1636)
  • 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)
  • Create literary texts, including hybrid texts, that innovate on aspects of other texts, for example by using parody, allusion and appropriation (ACELT1773)
  • Use interaction skills to present and discuss an idea and to influence and engage an audience by selecting persuasive language, varying voice tone, pitch, and pace, and using elements such as music and sound effects (ACELY1811)

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)
  • Analyse how higher order concepts are developed in complex texts through language features including nominalisation, clause combinations, technicality and abstraction (ACELA1570)
  • Refine vocabulary choices to discriminate between shades of meaning, with deliberate attention to the effect on audiences (ACELA1571)
  • 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 text structures and language features of literary texts and make relevant thematic and intertextual connections with other texts (ACELT1774)
  • Create literary texts that reflect an emerging sense of personal style and evaluate the effectiveness of these texts (ACELT1814)
  • Identify and explore the purposes and effects of different text structures and language features of spoken texts, and use this knowledge to create purposeful texts that inform, persuade and engage (ACELY1750)

Year 11 English

Unit 1

Investigate the relationships between language, context and meaning by:

  • explaining how texts are created in and for different contexts (ACEEN001)

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

  • explaining the ways text structures, language features and stylistic choices are used in different types of texts (ACEEN005)

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

  • purpose, taking into account that a text’s purpose is often open to debate (ACEEN008)
  • personal, social and cultural context (ACEEN009)
  • 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)
  • using evidence-based argument (ACEEN014)
  • using appropriate quotation and referencing protocols (ACEEN015)

Unit 2

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

  • explaining the relationship between purpose and context (ACEEN021)
  • 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)
  • evaluating the effects of rhetorical devices, for example, emphasis, emotive language and imagery in the construction of argument (ACEEN025)

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)

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

Topic: Social issues.


Time required: 120 minutes (or 2x 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 and conduct websearches. Device capable of presenting a website to the class. Copy of Paul Kelly – Stories of Me (teachers are required to create an account to view and invite students to view the film). Copy of Paul Kelly – The Essays (Chapter 4, “Words Matter” by Sophie Cunningham). Poetry and Song Lyrics print outs, Blu-Tack, class-accessible shared document (i.e. Google docs) OR printer. Masking tape, string/wool, chalk, butcher’s paper (optional). 

Digital technology opportunities: Digital sharing capabilities, using ICT to visualise thinking, use of e-book.

Keywords: Poetry, song lyrics, intertextuality, composition, debate, film, words, ownership, documentary, 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 4Teacher preparation

Overarching learning goal: Students will understand the differences and similarities between poetry and song lyrics. Students will be able to describe and demonstrate examples of the concept of intertextuality and apply their understanding to Paul Kelly's songs.

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 represented in texts. It highlights different aspects of the Australian experience and showcases how art reflects and celebrates life. The film's portrayal of Kelly

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Student Worksheet

Thought Starter: "Songwriting is a very mysterious process. It feels like creating something from nothing. It's something I don't feel like I really control" - Tracy Chapman

Part A: Poetry and Song Lyrics

Talk to your teacher about how to best demonstrate your understanding of the similarities and differences of poetry/song lyrics. Some suggestions of ways to do so are:

  • write your own poem
  • write your own song lyrics
  • write a persuasive piece that uses evidence from the class discussion, the statements made in the documentary and supporting research to argue your position on the statement: "Paul Kelly's song lyrics are more like poetry." (You can disagree with the statement!)

Part B: Theft or Creative Inspiration?

1. Read the following quote to prompt your thinking about whether Paul Kelly's songs are truly original (you could replace the word 'text' with 'song'):

"We know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single...meaning...but a multi-dimensional space

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