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Planning a Documentary

This support material is incorporated into critical challenges at grades 4 and 7, however, it can be adapted for use at all grade levels.

The Planning a Documentary charts help students plan a documentary or video production that uses specific strategies or techniques to create the desired effects and to tell their stories effectively. The charts introduce various devices and encourage students to make note of examples and effects of these techniques while viewing a professionally produced documentary. Remind students that not every device is used in every documentary. The following documents can be adapted and re-saved for your needs.

The organizers ask students to consider the effect that various techniques might have on the audience.

  • Storytelling Devices Word
    focus on the various story forms: interviews, narration, cover footage, re-enactment and historical footage.
  • Use of Images Word
    focuses on various camera shots used to create effects: close-up, medium shot, wide shot, pan, zoom and bird's eye view.
  • Use of Sound Word
    focuses on various auditory devices: human voices, music, sound effects, ambient sound and silence.

Once students have identified which devices they want use to create the desired effects, they should create a sequenced documentary plan (i.e., storyboard) or write a script.

Assessing the Storyboard/Plan Word
An assessment rubric is available to assist in assessing students' use of these devices.


Adapted from Critical Challenges Across the Curriculum series. Permission granted by The Critical Thinking Consortium for use by Alberta teachers.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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