CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Genocide

2 to 3 lessons
To recognize indicators of genocide, to apply indicators to various events, to support recommendations with concrete examples
Using a variety of web-based resources, students apply indicators of genocide to three separate genocidal events of the 20th century. They present their information using software and include an essay detailing to governments how to identify and act upon the existence of such indicators.

Lesson Plan


Genocide has occurred throughout history, but the 20th century was one full of such events. Millions of people have died in the interests of the need of an extreme government to maintain or increase power. Almost without exception, governments of democratic nations have underestimated the occurrences of genocide while they happened and have missed the potential for genocide before it happens. Why is this so? What can governments look for as a warning of an impending genocide? How can they intervene and prevent a tragedy? (Note that some of the research material for this activity features graphic images).

The Task

Students research the genocide in Rwanda as a basis for establishing the criteria for identifying a potential genocide. They will consider the list of genocidal indicators provided and examine these factors in at least three 20th century genocides. They will create a software presentation that cross-references the indicators to the genocides and uses quotations and visuals to support their results. Students will then write a 500-word essay offering recommendations to western governments about identifying and responding to potential genocide events in the future.

The Process

Have students work in pairs. They will begin by examining the clips "The making of a general", "On the edge of horror" and "Autopsy of a genocide" in the topic Witness to Evil: Roméo Dallaire and Rwanda on the CBC Digital Archives website. From these clips students should compile examples to support the list of genocide indicators described.

Signs of Genocide

Demonized minority


Purging from official life

Enforced ID system


Squads that rehearse or train for massacre

Students will apply the list to at least three genocidal incidents in the last century and create a cross-reference chart to indicate which of the genocide indicators were present in each of the chosen incidents. In addition, they should look for other potential indicators that are consistent among their choices. Students should illustrate their points with visuals and quotations. Students will write their essay with their recommendations and format it using presentation software. Remind students to cite all sources consulted and used.

Assessment Tip
Look for examples of indicators as presented in the original clips, as well as for additional examples of indicators of possible genocide. Are the points in students essays clear and easily identified? Are they presented in a logical manner? Do the recommendations make sense?


Students deliver their presentations to the class. As a group, prepare a comprehensive list of indicators of genocide. As a long term follow-up, assign students the task of observing news reports over the next few months to see if any of the indicators are visible in current media. Check in with students once a month on their findings. If an issue arises, students can write to their federal politicians recommending some form of action.

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