CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Investigating Nationalism through the Flag Debate

History, Media Studies
2 to 3 lessons
To investigate the concept of nationalism
Using a variety of web-based resources to complete their research, students create a news-magazine show on the topic of nationalism.

Lesson Plan


Have students define the terms "nationalist," and "imperialist." Post the definitions on the board or on chart paper. Ask students to apply the terms to the two main contenders in the flag debate: Lester B. Pearson and John Diefenbaker. If students have not done any of the previous activities on this topic, have them spend 10 to 15 minutes on the topic site to get their answers.

The Task

Students will create (and video-tape if resources and time allow) a half-hour news magazine show on the topic of nationalism. Students should make use of the entire topic The Great Canadian Flag Debate on the Digital Archives website, as well use as any other resources they wish. The backgrounds and perspectives of Pearson and Diefenbaker will be useful as a springboard to discussing nationalism; students can create a chart listing the perspectives and ideas of each politician.

The show can take any format, and any tone (hard news, tabloid, satirical) that students choose, and should include guests, field reporters, and commentators from the past and from today. The show should address the following issues:

- What did nationalism mean to the supporters of the new Canadian flag in the mid-1960s?

- What did the new flag, and the idea of Canadian nationalism, represent for such groups as immigrants, French Canadians, and Aboriginal groups in the mid-1960s?

- Did the eventual acceptance of the current Canadian flag lessen Canada's ties to the British Empire?

- What does nationalism mean in a country where, for the most part, we are all immigrants?

- What does nationalism represent today?

- Does the current flag accurately represent Canada and Canadians today?

The Process

The news magazine show can be done as a whole-class activity, or by dividing the class into two or four groups. Each group will need writers, a director, a producer, anchors or hosts, guests, and lighting and camera people if the show is being videotaped. All students will be involved in research, including background information on any personalities being role-played.


Provide students with time to rehearse their news-magazine show, and to videotape it if possible. If the production is done as a whole class, arrange for the class to present it to administrators or another class. Smaller groups can present their show to the rest of the class. Show the videotaped version to the whole class. Encourage class discussion about the effectiveness of the format chosen, the ability of the tone to share the message, and the effectiveness of the choices of guests on the show, as well as any other topics that students wish to discuss.

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