CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Who Was Dr. Norman Bethune?

History, Political Science
1 lesson
To gain some initial impressions of Dr. Norman Bethune’s life, accomplishments, and significance
In this introductory activity, students will familiarize themselves with the life, times, work, and legacy of Dr. Norman Bethune.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Ask students to name the most famous Canadian of all time and to give reasons for their choices. Write the names on the board and have students vote for the person they think is the most famous. Tell them that until recently, Dr. Norman Bethune was the most famous Canadian of all time, even though he is much better known in China than he is in his home country. Ask: Have you ever heard of Bethune, and if so, what do you know about him? If they have never heard of Bethune, ask them to explain why this might be so.

Outline the Opportunity

Direct students to the topic "Comrade" Bethune: A Controversial Hero on the CBC Digital Archives website. As they browse, students should make notes about major events in Bethune's life, his contributions to the field of medicine, his involvement in world events, and the controversies about him that continue to this day.

Revisit and Reflect

Write the following questions on the board:

What does the term "controversial hero" mean to you? From what you have learned about Dr. Norman Bethune, why do you think he would be viewed as a controversial hero? What do you think were Bethune's most important accomplishments, and why? Do you think Canadians should be made more aware of Bethune and his importance? Why or why not?

Divide students into small groups. Have the groups discuss the questions above in view of the information they gathered from the Web site, and then ask them to present their answers to the rest of the class. Following the discussion, prepare a brief summary of the main points and write them on the board.


Students can prepare a timeline of the main events in the life of Dr. Norman Bethune or write a brief biographical sketch of his life, times, and accomplishments.

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