CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers - Canadian Women: Their Extraordinary Contributions

History, Social Studies, English Language Arts
1 week to 1 semester
To conduct web-based research project using audio and visual sources; to refine writing skills in the objective and subjective voice; to organize, write, and lay out a magazine
Students research major issues that have faced Canadian women throughout the 20th century. They create a magazine that addresses six of those issues, discussing each issue in the form of a factual article and an editorial piece. The magazine will also include advertisements, visuals, a table of contents, and a cover. It will focus particularly on the impact of women on social issues, politics, entertainment, and sports. Students will investigate the following topics on the CBC Digital Archives website: "Fair Game: Pioneering Canadian Women in Sports," "On Every Front: Canadian Women in the Second World War," "The Birth Control Pill," "Fighting Female Infertility," "Equality First: The Royal Commission on the Status of Women," and "The Montreal Massacre." Students can substitute one of those topics with one of the following topics: "Margaret Laurence: Canada’s Divine Writer," "Barbara Frum: Pioneering Broadcaster," or "Karen Kain, Prima Ballerina."

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Consider launching this project in one of the following ways:

  • Brainstorm and record the names of "famous" Canadian women (e.g., in politics, sports, entertainment, publishing). Have the students explain why that person is famous.
  • Ask the students to bring in an article from a local newspaper that profiles a woman in the community or focuses on a specific issue pertinent to women. Hold a class discussion on the range of issues presented.
  • Have students conduct a web search under the heading "Famous Canadian Women" and discuss the results as a class.
  • Show a 10- to 15-minute video clip of the local television news. As a class, discuss whether the news items presented are more significant to men or to women and why.

Some of the topics that students investigate are of a sensitive nature. Supervise students closely when they are executing an Internet search for additional information.

Outline the Opportunity

Following the project launch, present and review the project outline (the download sheet "Canadian Women") carefully with the students. Be sure that all elements of the project are clear.

This project includes the worksheets numbered below, which outline the task and provide tools for students to use as they work. You may wish to use all or only some of these sheets, which you can adapt to suit your needs and those of your students. For each sheet that you use, be sure that students understand how the sheet is to be used to support their work on this project.

Students will find additional information about all topics by using the Links and the Additional Clips sections at the bottom of the opening page on each listed topic on the CBC Digital Archives website.

  1. Project Outline: Hand out this sheet before beginning the project and review it carefully with the students.
  2. Fact Sheet/Editorial Thoughts: As students begin their research, they can use this tool to record their reactions and thoughts about a specific issue. Later they can use their notes to help develop their editorial piece.
  3. Research and Writing Tips: Review this list of research and writing tips with students.
  4. Model Assessment Rubric: If you are using this rubric as part of your assessment procedure, review it with the students early in the project so that they understand clearly how they will be assessed.
  5. Tips for Writing an Editorial: Students can review and use this list of tips to help them write effective editorial pieces for their magazines.


Revisit and Reflect

When the students have completed their research, you might choose to regroup the class according to which file they examined. For example, the four students who researched the Birth Control Pill site could group together and review the key points of their research. This small group may wish to develop editorial ideas together before writing their own versions.

Display completed magazines in the classroom and allow time for all students to view them. Each group can give a brief oral presentation about the design of the final product.

As a class, over several classes, discuss key issues that students raised in their editorials.


  1. You or the students can select one of the best editorials and submit it for publication in the next school newsletter, along with an explanation of the project for which it was created.
  2. After completing the magazine, students could write a reflection piece explaining whether their knowledge of women in Canadian history has changed as a result of the project.


Hard copy versions of Maclean's and Time Canada should be made available to the students to help facilitate the organization and presentation of the final product. Sample magazine formats are available online for Maclean's and Time.

Download PDF

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