Topic: Keep on rocking in the free world Popular Culture 1945-now

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Stage 5 | History Program | Popular Culture Unit 2014

Year 10

TOPIC: Keep on rocking in the free world - Popular Culture 1945-now.

(Depth Study: 5a - The Globalising World: Pop Culture)

Stage 5

Year 10


4 weeks (Semesterised course)


10 hours/ approx 15 lessons (45 mins)

Historical Context of the Overview -

This unit is a study of popular culture - music, art, and more - from the period after 1945 in Australia and the world. The unit will require students to explore the ways in which popular culture was affected by social, political and economic realities as well as how popular culture had an effect on these areas. A decade should form the focus on specific study to highlight the changes which occurred at a particular moment in history. This will include a focus on specific musicians, artists and other personalities of that era and how they contributes to continuity or change in Australian and global society. Students will engage in a range of historical thinking and working skills including source analysis and presentation of ideas in various forms.

Key Inquiry Questions -

Historical Skills - the highlighted skills are targeting in this unit.

  • How did the nature of global conflict (Cold War) affect popular culture in the 20th century?

  • What were the consequences of WWII? How did these consequences shape the modern world?

  • How was Australian society affected by other significant global events and changes in this period?

  • Comprehension: chronology, terms and concepts

  • read and understand historical texts

  • use historical terms and concepts in appropriate contexts (ACHHS165, ACHHS183)

  • sequence historical events to demonstrate the relationship between different periods, people and places (ACHHS164, ACHHS182)

Analysis and use of sources

  • identify different types of sources

  • identify the origin, content, context and purpose of primary and secondary sources (ACHHS169, ACHHS187)

  • process and synthesise information from a range of sources as evidence in an historical argument (ACHHS170, ACHHS188)

  • evaluate the reliability and usefulness of primary and secondary sources for a specific historical inquiry (ACHHS171, ACHHS189)

Framing Questions

Content Q - What major changes occurred in popular culture in Australia after 1945?

Conceptual Q - What influences had the greatest effect on Australian society from overseas?

Contestable Q - Has Australia made a significant and lasting impact on global pop culture?


Historical Concepts

A student:

HT5-1 explains and assesses the historical forces and factors that shaped the modern world and Australia

HT5-3 explains and analyses the motives and actions of past individuals and groups in the historical contexts that shaped the modern world and Australia

HT5-4 explains and analyses the causes and effects of events and developments in the modern world and Australia

HT5-5 identifies and evaluates the usefulness of sources in the historical inquiry process

HT5-7 explains different contexts, perspectives and interpretations of the modern world and Australia

HT5-9 applies a range of relevant historical terms and concepts when communicating an understanding of the past

HT5-10 selects and uses appropriate oral, written, visual and digital forms to communicate effectively about the past for different audiences

Related Life Skills outcomes: HTLS-3, HTLS-4, HTLS-5, HTLS-6, HTLS-7, HTLS-9, HTLS-11, HTLS-12, HTLS-13

The following historical concepts are integrated into the lesson sequences:

Continuity and change: music, art and other forms of popular culture changed dramatically after WWII, driven by a youth culture and changes in technology and political involvement.

Cause and effect: there were several domestic and international influences on the changes which occurred in Australia, as well as changes within Australia that had international impact.

Perspectives: different groups in Australian society affected (and were affected by) the changes which occurred since 1945. There was debate and conflict over how and why these changes occurred.

Empathetic understanding: the themes and issues present in the pop culture of the post-war period offer insights into the ideas, emotions and experiences of the people at the time.

Significance: some of the popular culture icons and movements of this period had significant impact on political, economic and social lives of people in Australia and the world.

Contestability: there is argument over whether pop culture had a significant impact on society, which nations/groups/individuals had most impact in Australia and whether pop culture can be a valid form of historical evidence or study.

Key Historical Terms & Concepts (Glossary)

Site Study



Popular Culture v High Culture

Communication technology


Powerhouse Museum

Australian Museum exhibits & others (virtual)

Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square, Vic. (links to Civics & Citizenship with Exhibition Hall etc)


Books –

  • Arrow, M., Friday on Our Minds: popular culture in Australia since 1945, 2009

Websites –

  • For more ideas on activities, lessons and tasks, go to

  • Activities, lessons and more

  • Australian Cartoon Museum – Pop culture 1945-present /

  • The People History (list of events by year) -

  • DFAT website on People, Culture and Lifestyle since 1945

  • Skwirk [watch this website for plagiarism in this topic and others]

Assessment overview

Depth Study 5A

Popular Culture

Semester 1

Term 2 , Week 1

Assessment for learning

Assessment as learning

Assessment of learning

  • Reflective response: To what extent did life change in Australia during WWII?

  • Investigation into sportsmen and women – develop a persuasive speech

  • Film analysis

  • Beatlemania research – students will reflect on the research process and be able to explain how they approached it

  • Interviewing parents about favourite bands (students need to evaluate own questions)

  • Finding sources on different bands from different decades – peer assessment of each other’s sources

Weighting: 30%

Description of Task: Students plan and present a group music video or short documentary which reflects a significant individual or group.

Outcomes: HT5-4, HT5-6, HT5-7, HT5-9, HT5-10


Teaching and learning strategies –

including opportunities for extension activities, adjustments and assessment tasks

Other Resources

Overview (about 45 minutes)

The end of World War II
a. Class discussion and group brainstorm recalling knowledge of World War II and its end. Focus on what changed, especially in terms of women and shift from British to American support. This could be expressed as a mindmap (, mindmeister) or collaborative document (butchers paper, Google Doc, etc).

b. Students write a reflective response about what changes occurred during WWII using the brainstorm. Sample question: “To what extent did life change in Australia during World War Two?”

In each lesson (beginning and/or end), students should be exposed to a different form of music (artists, bands, genres) which were considered the most popular. Teachers should select songs that are appropriate to what is under investigation.

Nature of Popular Culture in Australia after 1945


  • identify the main features of Australian popular culture at the end of World War II, including music, film, fashion and sport

Key question to think about: What are the key features of popular culture? What did ‘pop culture’ look like in the 1950s?

  • Students source a definition of “popular culture” and discuss the difference between popular culture and other types of cultural activities/movements such as high culture, leisure time. Teacher could incorporate the word “zeitgeist” (the spirit of the times) and suggest that pop culture is any work, movement or person that exemplifies the zeitgeist of a particular year or decade. Discuss the role of economic prosperity and a flourishing culture.

  • Teacher-led presentation of mindmap on four key areas of popular culture: a) music, b) film, c) fashion, and d) sport – examples could be provided from pre-WWII Australia e.g. Phar Lap for sport. Students could either research these areas and focus on decades or this could be filled in as the unit progresses.

  • Case study: Beatlemania – Students investigate why Beatlemania occurred in Australia in the 1960s and what this shows us about popular culture. Students might compare/contrast to another case of a hyper-popular artist or band from the last decade. Youtube newsreel from 1964 - How did the Beatles affect fashion and other aspects of culture? Do other artists do this?

Mindmapping –

VisuWords – useful for definition of popular, culture etc.

Australia in the 1950s stock footage

Developments in popular culture


  • explain ways in which Australia in the 1950s was influenced by American culture

  • assess the way American and British music influenced post-war Australian entertainment, such as rock 'n' roll iu

  • use a range of sources to explain the nature and impact of television on Australian popular culture ictlcct

(3 lessons)

Key question to think about: How was Australia affected by British and American pop culture in the post-war era? Is this still apparent today?

  • The old Australian record industry – questions and thinking from “Things to think about”

  • Students find evidence of the music charts from the 1950s and identify the following features: American bands/artists, British bands/artists, Australian bands/artists. They could then compare and contrast different years and explain if there is a trend, or not, towards particular groups in terms of popularity at this time.

  • Students could watch documentaries (clips) from such series as Long Way To The Top (ABC) which charts the history of Australian music & in particular rock n roll.

  • Students should interview their parents about what kind of bands/musicians they listened to growing up. Compare/contrast different parents’ favourite bands in terms of genre, etc. Could also compare/contrast to the types of music now being produced and compare for quality, originality etc. This activity will also require them to 1) formulate questions and 2) use sound research methods for analysing these responses, which can be applied to other tasks. (clear literacy links here)

Other examples of pop culture:

Hippy Culture -

The Stomp – a 1960s dance craze – questions and thinking from “Things to think about”

Class debate: That the Rolling Stones were the greatest band of the post-war period. (to be precursor to class debate or persuasive writing task towards the end of unit)

ABC Splash

How to conduct an interview

Changing nature of popular culture & overseas influences


  • describe how advances in communication technology changed at least ONE of the following during the post-war period in Australia: music, film or television ict

  • discuss how overseas influences have affected ONE aspect of Australian popular culture iu

(3 lessons)

Focus on film (clear links to English)

  • Students will investigate the way in which films changed over time thanks to advances in technology. It would be most effective to choose a genre such as science-fiction or action in order to most easily identify the advances in, for example, computer-generated imagery (CGI).

  • Students could view a series of films and create critical reviews of the films for technical achievement (using Oscar nominations and winners from 1945-2010 would be useful). This could be done as a website or blog or as a written or spoken task.

  • Students might like to focus on a sub-genre such as children’s animated films such as the progression from the classic Disney movies through to Pixar animations such as Toy Story and Up!. This could easily be linked to studies of other nations’ animated films such as manga or anime in Asia.

  • Star Wars: Students could compare/contrast the CGI used in the Star Wars films of the 1970s/1980s to the Episodes produced in 2000s. Could also link to influence of Australian sci-fi e.g. Matrix, (also later Star Wars episodes were filmed in Australia)

  • Many film DVDs have “behind the scenes” or “the making of” type documentaries in the Extras area. One of these could form the basis of a class discussion or framework for analysing another film.

  • Alternative: students could find trailers of famous/award-winning film from the post-war period and compare/contrast the audiences for which the film was targeted.

Australia's contribution to international popular culture


  • assess the contribution of Australian men and women to international sport, eg Olympic Games and Test Cricketpsc

  • using a range of sources, investigate and assess the contribution of Australian men and women to international music, film and television ictlddpsc

(3 lessons)

Key question to think about: how successful has Australia been on the international stage? How do we judge this success?

  • Class discussion & teacher example: Draw on learning from the Between the Wars (Australians at War unit) and discuss role of Don Bradman during the Great Depression as symbol of popular culture.

  • Investigation: Students are to find (or be given) a list of Australian sportsmen and sportswomen. They are to ‘adopt’ one of these figures and assess their significance on the following features (or a list of their own choosing) in a table form:

    • Their contribution to their sport within Australia

    • Their success on an international stage e.g. Olympics/Commonwealth Games

    • Their recognition (officially and unofficially) e.g. medals, championships

    • Their contribution beyond the sport (e.g. within the community)

  • Students should focus on using a range of sources and providing an accurate bibliography – the Re:cite website might be useful here.

  • Assessment: Students could then write a persuasive speech to convince an audience as to why their adopted sportsperson deserves to be placed in the Australian sports hall of fame. This speech could be delivered orally (informal assessment task) in front of the class (or as a video) or written in class, or could be a simply hand-in task.

Australian Stories

Sporting History

Continuity and change in beliefs and values that have influenced Australia


  • outline and assess the impact of Americanisation and global events on Australian society over time secct

  • discuss the nature of Australian popular culture today and the legacy of past influences psc

(3 lessons)

Key question to think about: How much of Australian culture has been influenced by the USA and other global events?

  • This could be an informal assessment task, requiring students to gather their understandings from the unit and write, speak or otherwise present their views on at least four clear examples of Americanisation and/or globalisation. This will link to Geography in that they may start with an easy example such as McDonalds (also discussing the impact of this on the health/food/culture of Australia).

  • Ask students to brainstorm other international events which have had an impact on Australia (prompt with events such as 9/11, Olympics, environmental issues, conflicts, agreements/trade).

  • Students then choose four from the list or four they have developed themselves.

  • FINAL QUESTION: Has Australian popular culture changed since 1945 or is it essentially the same?

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This unit of work was written by Matthew Esterman, St. Scholastica’s College, Glebe. Copyright © of the unit of work is owned by AISNSW. logo_in blue_pms540u

NSW syllabus content prepared by the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards NSW for and on behalf of the State of New South Wales is protected by Crown copyright. |

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