Activity Introduction

Quick summary: We have a complex relationship with our mobile phones that is more than screen deep. Mobile phone use and the impact it has had upon society is a is a contemporary social issue with far-reaching effects on our community’s safety, health and wellbeing. In this lesson, students will learn about the concept of contention, as well as how to identify it in a documentary text. They independently research the concept, summarise contention in their own words, then apply their understanding to their own experiences. They will watch It’s People Like Us supplementary clip What’s it Gonna Take and use a ‘learning triangle’ to identify the contention conveyed in the clip and what they saw and heard that helped them to understand the contention. Students will then reflect by describing the appeals made in the clip, as well as the change in their understanding of contention.  


It’s People Like Us is a documentary film created as part of the Transport Accident Commission’s (TAC) Towards Zero road safety strategy. It explores society’s relationship with mobile phones – especially the use of them while driving – and the responsibility that we all have to keep ourselves and each other safe on the roads.


Learning intentions:

  • Students will know what contention means.
  • Students will be able to identify the contention in a documentary text.
  • Students will understand how meaning is constructed in a documentary text.

21st century skills:

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Year 7 English

  • Analyse how point of view is generated in visual texts by means of choices, for example gaze, angle and social distance (ACELA1764)

Year 8 English

  • Analyse how the text structures and language features of persuasive texts, including media texts, vary according to the medium and mode of communication (ACELA1543)

Relevant parts of Year 7 English achievement standards: Students explain issues and ideas from a variety of sources, analysing supporting evidence and implied meaning. They select specific details from texts to develop their own response, recognising that texts reflect different viewpoints. They listen for and explain different perspectives in texts.

Relevant parts of Year 8 English achievement standards: Students understand how the selection of text structures is influenced by the selection of language mode and how this varies for different purposes and audiences. Students explain how language features, images and vocabulary are used to represent different ideas and issues in texts.

General capabilities: Personal and Social Capability, Critical and Creative Thinking, Literacy. 

Topic: Social Issues.

Unit of work: It’s People Like Us – English

Time required: 60 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – teachers will be required to facilitate respectful active listening and responding in class discussion.

Resources required: Student Worksheets -(printed) one copy per student. Device capable of presenting a video to the class. Web-enabled device – one per student. 

Related Professional Development: Teach Persuasive Language Using Documentaries 

Keywords: social issues, point of view, contention, documentary, road safety, smartphones, construction of moving image texts, representation of perspectives and issues, It’s People Like Us.

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


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Learning intentions:

  • Students will know what ‘contention’ means.
  • Students will be able to identify the contention in a documentary text.
  • Students will understand how meaning is constructed in a documentary text.

Success criteria:

  • Students describe contention in their own words and provide an example of when they stated their own contention.
  • Students describe how contention is communicated through camera techniques, framing and point of view.

Teacher content information: By the end of today, most of us will have checked our phones over 150 times: on the toilet, in the car or at the dinner table. But, have we ever stopped to ask ourselves - is there a time and a place? Is our mobile phone use affecting our health and wellbeing?

It’s People Like Us is a 22 minute documentary that follows five real Australians who, just like us, have found themselves drawn into their screens, sometimes at the expense of common sense and self preservation.

The do

- or - to view worksheets

Student Worksheet

Thought Starter: “A horror movie filmed from the dashboard” - Karl Wuinn, The Age

Contention : An assertion, especially one maintained in argument. (

1. Use a web-enabled device to conduct your own quick search for the meaning of contention.
You could start at the Oxford Dictionary website ( and click on the ‘More example sentences’ button. Then, write down your own example sentence:

2. Complete the ‘Think-Pair-Share’ visible thinking routine in response to the prompt below:

“Think about the last time you talked to a person who had a different view to you. What was your contention? What was theirs?”

Think to yourself and write down your thoughts below.

Pair with another student and discuss your thoughts. Write down any extra points you discussed below.

Share what you discussed with your class, and write down some of the main points below.

- or - to view worksheets

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