Fur Trade Stories   Teaching Tips
  En Français

Search the entire site
Search this time
period only
  Teaching Tips
Home >> Teaching Tips >> Cross-Curricular Lesson Plans

Jackie Underhill and Kathy Farrell, Alberta

Grade 7-9 History, Language Arts, Art
  • Colonialism, settlement, rebellion, confederation, nationhood, editorial cartoons.
Students will:
  • demonstrate in meaningful ways that a variety of events and individuals have contributed to the development of Canada’s political history;
  • demonstrate an understanding of a current event by creating an editorial cartoon that emphasizes their point of view on a municipal, provincial, or national issue;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the techniques used to create political awareness through humour in editorial cartoon;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the concepts of exploration or settlement in North America;
  • understand the historical events, individuals, and society of Canada in the 1800s.

These lesson plans are part of a larger unit that takes place over approximately a four-month time span. These particular activities could be completed in approximately four to six weeks.

The students were exposed to a variety of activities which included role play, the use of technology for research purposes, debate/discussion, and the completion of a variety of hands-on projects to help them enjoy, learn about, and appreciate their heritage. Rather than relying on the use of a single textbook for historical information, students had access to a wide range of materials including CD ROMs, videos, novels, editorial cartoons, periodicals, and other resources as available. Videos and newspapers were used to learn about current events at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels and to enhance their active involvement in the understanding and awareness of Canada’s political history.

Based on comments from students and parents, as well as the effort shown by students on assignments and in the testing environment, we believe that the level of understanding of Canadian history has improved significantly in the past two years. Furthermore, incorporating current events into the social studies curriculum on a regular and on-going basis allows students to begin to connect the past with the present. In a final essay done this year, our grade eights expressed overwhelmingly that the study of history is a meaningful and relevant part of the present.

Part One — Current Events/Editorial Cartoons
Collect a variety of editorial cartoons from newspapers and periodicals. In groups of three, students will examine several cartoons and develop an understanding of the messages conveyed. Students will then evaluate the effectiveness of the techniques the cartoonists used to display their messages.

Each group will share one editorial cartoon with the class emphasising what message has been conveyed and the techniques used. Students will take notes on techniques used by editorial cartoonists such as symbolism, exaggeration, understatement, irony and satire. Students will then locate and analyse several editorial cartoons in written format.

For the purpose of evaluation, students will choose an issue that has been discussed in class and create an editorial cartoon that displays their point of view on the issue. They then share the editorial with classmates and some of the cartoons are selected to be published in the school newspaper and newsletter. Each editorial cartoon will be evaluated on its ability to express point of view as well as creativity.

Part Two — Exploration and Settlement
Students will read, take notes, role-play, and discuss the background information as it relates to exploration and settlement in North America (pre-contact onwards). To begin, brainstorm as a class, possible topics (i.e., indigenous inhabitants, individual explorers, forts, settler diaries, etc.) and various formats for sharing this information (i.e., multimedia presentations using computers; videos; diaries; 3D displays; and puppet plays). Record the student’s suggestions.

Students will then choose a topic and use the resources of the school library to begin to plan and organize their projects. They will locate appropriate reference materials, take notes, and begin to develop a timeline and log which will enable them to complete their projects successfully.

Students will share their knowledge and projects with the class. Their evaluation will be based on their demonstrated understanding of the chosen concept, accuracy, creativity, and detail involved. Students will be actively involved in the creation of an evaluation strategy as well as the assessment of student projects.

Part Three — Culminating Activity: Creating A Newspaper
Students will become familiar with the various components of a newspaper by creating a newspaper that could have been published in Canada in the 1800s (or earlier, if you wish – imagine a newspaper created by the indigenous inhabitants recording their thoughts about European arrival, or life during the 1700s). Each newspaper is expected to include the basic components and the articles written by students will be based on factually accurate information. Samples of former student work are displayed throughout the classroom.

Students will spend time researching in the library, the events, individuals, and society of early “Canada.” There are a variety of resources available including CD-ROMs, print materials, the Internet, and samples of historical newspapers. Students will display their finished products.

The evaluation for this project will focus on the question, “Would you buy this newspaper?” Detail and completeness of information, visual appeal, and creativity are the basic criteria for evaluation. See Appendix A for evaluation criteria.
  • Editorial cartoons in a variety of newspapers
  • CD-ROMs, journals, and other resource materials related to exploration and settlement
  • Samples of historical newspapers
  • FurTradeStories.ca – for images, various perspectives and writing samples of diaries and journals.

About the Educators

Jackie Underhill and Kathy Farrell were distressed to find that their Grade 8 Canadian political history students found learning about Canada boring. Together, they redesigned their course to make Canadian history more meaningful and interesting. Lack of empathy for the subject matter was bridged by using creative approaches to captivate student interest and assist them in understanding the course. They introduced units utilizing the Internet, computers, debates, models, diaries, historical newspapers, analysis of political cartoons, role play, novel studies and a large variety of learning resources. Jackie and Kathy’s flexibility and creativity are evident in their teaching style and the enthusiasm of their students and peers. In 2004, Jackie Underhill went on to win the Governor General's Award for Excellence in Teaching Canadian History.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 X 2 =
Insufficient detail and inaccurate reflection of the time period. Detail and accuracy are inconsistent throughout. Little evidence of research. Some information is detailed and reflects the time period. Some research is evident. Most information is detailed and reflects the time period. Thorough research is evident. All information is highly detailed and accurately reflects the time period. Thorough research is obvious.  
Completion 1 2 3 4 5  
  Required components insufficient. Few required components are present. Some additional components enhance the overall product. Most required components are present. Additional components enhance the overall product. All required components are present. Extensive use of additional components enhance the overall product.  
Visual Appeal   1 2 3 4 5 X 2 =
    Somewhat visually appealing. Creative use of newspaper format. Visually appealing. Highly creative and unique use of newspaper format. Quite visually appealing.  

Peer Evaluation of the Product

  1 2 3 4 5
  Lacks clarity, precision, and variety. Somewhat clear, precise, and varied. Clear, precise, and varied.
Purchasing Persuasion 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  I would not buy this newspaper. I might buy this newspaper. I would most definitely buy this newspaper.