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Lesson Plan:

For Teachers - Vignettes: Women’s Programming Through the Decades

Type: Webquest
Subjects: History, Social Studies, Media Studies
Grades: Grades 11-12
Duration: 4 to 5 lessons
Purpose: To examine and explain the changes in the portrayal of Canadian women in electronic media over the past seven decades
Summary: Using a variety of Web-based resources, students research the portrayal of Canadian women in television and radio programming from the 1940s to today. Students share their findings by writing and performing a vignette about the specific decade they researched.


Television and radio includes a variety of types of programming targeted at attracting viewers and listeners. Since the days of the earliest broadcasts, television and radio programs have been geared to providing content that their viewers and target audiences want. What have women viewers wanted in their television and radio programming over the decades, and how has societal change influenced the portrayal of women in television and radio programming?

The Task

In groups, students are to conduct research using internet and print resources about the content of Canadian television and radio programming. Each group's task will detail how women have been portrayed within these media within one of the past seven decades. After the research has been conducted, each group must prepare and present to the class a short vignette that portrays the group's understanding of the portrayal of women in television and radio programming for that particular decade.

The Process

Divide the class into seven groups and assign each group a decade from the 1940s to today.

Students use internet and print resources to research how Canadian women were or are portrayed in that decade on television and radio programs. Students researching the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s should use A Woman's Place: Programming for the Modern Homemaker on the CBC Digital Archives website as a principal resource, while other groups can begin there and then find other relevant resources. Students should take notes in point form, noting topics, type of program, and content targeted for women within television and radio programming.

When the research is complete, students prepare and practice a short vignette that portrays their understanding of how women were or are portrayed in television and radio programming for the decade that they chose.


Have groups perform their vignettes, in order from the 1940s to today.

After the presentations, lead a group discussion about the following questions:

  What were the most notable changes in programming?

  In what decade did these changes first occur?

  Why do you think programming targeted at women has changed significantly?

  Are there changes in current television and radio programming that you think would more    accurately portray women within these media?

  How would you initiate such changes?

  If women from other decades had wanted to initiate such changes, how would they have done that?

Resources for this Topic

Rutherford, Paul. When Television Was Young: Prime Time Canada, 1952-1967. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.
Stewart, Sandy. Here's Looking At Us: A Personal History of Television in Canada. Toronto: CBC Enterprises, 1986.