All posts by Melanie Spencer

Melanie is an English, History, Drama and Religious Studies teacher who will be taking up the position of Deputy Principal (Wellbeing) at Burgmann Anglican School in Canberra in July. Prior to this she was the Acting Executive Principal at Brindabella Christian College, after serving at that College as Head of Senior School, Deputy Principal and Head of Lyneham Campus. Before moving to Canberra, Melanie was the English and Creative Arts Coordinator at Toongabbie Christian School. She values mentoring, curriculum development and initiatives to remove the disconnect between life & school. Wanting to teach since she was 4, she now wants to teach until she is 80... just because. Good books are good friends. Family is precious.

Going Gaga

What follows is a lesson I contributed to the Australian Curriculum Lessons web. I hope it is useful to you. Let me know if you want to know where things go from here.



This is a 1 hour introductory lesson in an 8 week Year 10 unit of work entitled ‘Eve to Lady Gaga: Woman’s Voice in Literature, Film and Song’. It is designed for a mixed ability class of both male and female students in a 1:1 learning environment. Students have wireless access to the internet and to the College intranet where they are able to post blogs and to ‘meet’ virtually outside school hours. They are already familiar with the Web 2.0 tools used in this lesson

Australian Curriculum Links: 

  • ACELA1564 – understand how language use can have inclusive and exclusive social effects, and can empower or disempower people
  • ACELA1565 – understand that people’s evaluations of texts are influenced by their value systems, the context and the purpose and mode of communication
  • ACELT1639 – compare and evaluate a range of representations of individuals and groups in different historical, social and cultural contexts
  • ACELT1640 – reflect on, extend, endorse or refute others’ interpretations of and responses to literature
  • ACELY1813 – use organisation patterns, voice and langugage conventions to present a point of view, speaking clearly, coherently and with effect, using logic, imagery and rhetorical devices to engage audiences
  • ACELY1752 – identifty and analyse implicit or explicit values, beliefs and assumptions in texts and how these are influenced by purposes and likely audiences



Bring up a series of images of recognisable national and international female public figures, asking students to raise their hands when they agree this person is a person of influence. Finish with a picture of Lady Gaga. Refer to the 2010 Times article which lists her as one of the top influential people of 2010.   Facilitate a discussion on why this may have been so and whether this is still the case.


Students will be asked to move into their collaboration groups. (Collaboration groups consist of 5 students each of whom is directly responsible for an element of a task – roles may include collecting and adding images for a presentation, writing the script/voiceover for a presentation, finding and adding the sound/music for a presentation, managing the editing and sequencing of the presentation tool, presenting to the class. Students will work in their area of strength) Their task is to use their devices to discover the controversy surrounding Gaga’s song “Born This Way”.

Using one of the following tools, (iMovie, Final Cut Pro, Voicethread, Educreations, Prezi, Glogster, Animoto, Puppet Pals) they have the remainder of the lesson to develop a 1-2 minute presentation about the controversy

a) speculating how differing responses reveal values systems or worldviews

b) whether these responses might empower or disempower individuals

c) how social, cultural and historical contexts may influence responses to the song and

d) delivering the group interpretation and response to the song


Students are advised they will have 10 minutes at the beginning of the next lesson to organise themselves before presenting. They may have an online meeting in the evening to manage organisation if necessary. They may use the College Intranet or Facebook to collaborate.

Students are also advised that the following viewing is necessary for the lesson after next. Alice Walker Reads Sojourner Truth Helen Reddy sings ‘I am Woman’ Tracy Chapman sings ‘Talkin bout a Revolution’   Julia Gillard’s October 9, 2012 response to the Opposition’s motion to remove Peter Slipper


Individual contributions to class discussion and collaborative tasks.

Group presentation

Resources: Walker Reads Sojourner Truth Helen Reddy sings ‘I am Woman’ Tracy Chapman sings ‘Talkin bout a Revolution’   Julia Gillard’s October 9, 2012 response to the Opposition’s motion to remove Peter Slipper

Get Out Of The Way

I’m learning to get out of the way… and it’s humbling. I recently had one of those moments that occurs in teaching, every now and then, when my mouth is moving and my brain is disconnected. I was teaching a film class and about to launch into an explanation of ‘the rule of thirds’. My mouth began and my brain interrupted, ‘Why are you explaining this when they can find out for themselves?’. So I stopped and said,

‘I want you to find out about the rule of thirds; what it is, who uses it, where they use it, how they use it and why they use it. You can work as an individual, or in groups. I don’t mind. I just want you to present what you find in an unexpected way. See you tomorrow.’

There was silence, blank faces and eventually, “What?”

I repeated myself.

“What do you mean by unexpected?”

By this stage I was leaving the room. It was 4.30pm

The next morning I arrived at school at around 7.00am… and this is what I found on the external wall. 6 students had either stayed at school late or had arrived very early.

This was unexpected!

Inside the building, furniture was rearranged and climbing the stairs to the balcony I was able to experience the cleverness of another group of students. This is what I saw.

This was also unexpected.

Later a young man who is a particularly gifted guitar player and 3 of his friends sang me a song they had composed about ‘the rule of thirds’.

This was completely unexpected.

I know if I had used the phrase “Your homework is…”, none of this learning would have happened and certainly no-one would have spent a significant amount of time on it. What could have been a dry 5 minute info delivery at the end of a lesson turned out to be something much richer that involved creativity, ingenuity, collaboration and fun. What if I had not got out of the way?

There is no summative task I have written to measure and compare student understanding of this concept. There is no rubric to identify their critical thinking skills and capacity to synthesise information. These students have gone on to produce narrative and documentary films which are beautifully composed and cleverly constructed. They have worked in teams to present their ideas in innovative ways… they have created works beyond what I had hoped and this has been a thrill.

My lesson? Get out of the way and expect the unexpected.