CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: The Canadian Spirit

History, Social Studies, Media Studies, Visual Arts, English Language Arts
1 to 2 weeks
To conduct web-based research using audio and visual sources, to write and refine a thesis, to cite researched information accurately, to write an essay using appropriate technology, to enhance self-direction and initiative, to develop time-management and organizational skills
Students will explore the topic of the Canadian spirit by gathering information about Margaret Laurence, Leonard Cohen, Oscar Peterson, the Stratford Festival, and the Group of Seven. Students will begin in small groups by brainstorming such inquiry questions as: What do these people and institutions bring to our idea of the Canadian spirit? How do they reflect Canada? What makes the Canadian spirit unique? Students will then work individually, researching their inquiry questions and keeping detailed, accurate notes. They will write a formal essay based on their research.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Begin a discussion with students about what Canadian spirit means to them. On an overhead or the board, write the following names: Margaret Laurence, Leonard Cohen, Oscar Peterson, the Stratford Festival, the Group of Seven, and Claude Jutra. Ask students to briefly recount what each name is known for or represents.

Have students form groups of three, with one member acting as leader. As a group, they will brainstorm and each will record inquiry questions related to the topic. Questions might include: What do these people and institutions bring to our idea of the Canadian spirit? How do they reflect Canada? What makes the Canadian spirit unique? After 30 minutes, each student should choose and highlight a few questions of personal interest. These questions will form the basis of each student's research.

Outline the Opportunity

Present the Project Outline to students and clarify any questions that they may have. Ask students to keep a section of their binders for their research notes, outline, drafts, and list of works consulted. Encourage them to reflect on their topic as they conduct their research. Have them record important quotations and make notes about any media sources (print articles, television programs) related to their topic.

This project includes the following worksheets that outline the task and provide tools for assessment and evaluation. 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, be sure that students understand how it is to be used to support their work on this project.

For their research, students can consult the CBC Digital Archives website, including the Links section. Students should be encouraged to find other resources as well.

  1. Project Outline
    Hand out this sheet after completing the project launch and review it carefully with students.
  2. Inquiry Questions
    Students can use this tool in their groups to outline the inquiry questions that may form the basis of their research as they review the following Archives site topics: Margaret Laurence: Canada's Divine Writer, Leonard Cohen: Canada's Melancholy Bard, Oscar Peterson: A Jazz Giant, The Stratford Festival: The First Fifty Years, The Group of Seven: Painters in the Wilderness, and on the Radio-Canada site, Claude Jutra, une vie en 24 images (at http://archives.radio-canada.ca).
  3. Research and Writing Tips
    Review this simple list of tips with students.
  4. Essay Outline
    Students can use this handout as a basis for a conference with the teacher.
  5. Essay Checklist
    This handout may be used for self and/or peer assessment.
  6. Essay Rubric
    If you are using this rubric as part of your assessment procedure, review it with students early in the project so that they understand clearly how they will be assessed.

Revisit and Reflect

It is a good idea to check students' thesis statements and outlines before they begin to write their rough drafts. It may be helpful to allow class time for students to work on their essays, while individually meeting with students to review their work in progress. They may need to refine their thesis statements further to suit an essay length of approximately 1,000 words.


  1. Depending on class time, students can present to the class the arguments they outlined in their essays.
  2. Alternatively, students may return to their initial groupings and share their findings as a group.
  3. Discuss whether their arguments about the Canadian spirit, as outlined in their essays about arts and culture in Canada, can be extended to other aspects of Canada, such as politics. Consider discussing Canada's role in current world events to expand the topic further.


Download PDF

Related Content

Woodstock Remembered

They say if you can remember Woodstock, you weren't really there. Of course, that's not entire...

The Stratford Festival: The First 50 Years

The Stratford Festival grew from humble beginnings in a leaky tent into a revered institution....

1987: Margaret Laurence dies at 60

On Jan. 5, 1987, after months of coping with advanced lung cancer, Margaret Laurence takes her...

Stratford Festival celebrates 50th anniversar...

The Festival celebrates fifty golden years.

Timothy Findley on the Stratford Festival ear...

Timothy Findley recalls the early days of the Stratford Festival.

Feore, Gross and Monette: three Canadian Haml...

Canadian actors discuss the joys and intricacies of playing the complex character of Hamlet.