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Ideas for Teaching Documentary

jeremy | Wednesday October 06, 2010

Categories: Film, Documentaries, Television, Television Documentary

By Tina Dixon & Jeremy Orlebar

Week 1 Overview

Video of various extracts of documentaries shown in class using a glossary of documentary definitions and a worksheet identifying codes and conventions of documentary.

OHP used on various hybrids of documentary that students copy.

World at War Episode 15 looked at and a worksheet filled in to highlight key codes and conventions. This series was made on film.


Students are to watch a documentary of their own choice highlighting time and channel it is on and use codes and conventions from their class handouts to write about it in detail.

Weeks 2-3 Overview

Night Mail watched and handout given out from Advanced Studies in Media Nicholas and Price (Nelson, 1998). Class then watch remake of Tony Harrison’s version called Crossings which was on a South Bank Show and compare and contrast both of these.

Nanook of the North watched and handout given from Jo Wilcock’s Documentary book (Auteur).


Students to read some background information on Nanook for further work later on in this unit.

Weeks 4-5 Overview

Current documentaries shown from TV like C4 Food: What goes in your basket? Or one of the BBC’s Tuesday documentaries such as on 5 October 2010 Kids in Care and discussed as to the PSB ethos and why many channels have a scheduled slot for documentaries. The reality documentary genre will be covered in detail here.

A reality TV show such as Seven Days C4 will be explored and videos watched on the background to reality TV programme. NB Big Brother has finished so use something new.


As preparation for students’ own documentary about school they write out a production sheet of their new documentary’s title sequence of approximately 20 shots.

Week 6 Overview

Nick Broomfield’s Aileen - Life and Death of a Serial Killer watched or Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine to discuss how different documentary makers are now compared to Flaherty and Grierson.


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