Speaking Like a Canadian and Identity

Exploring Significant Historical Figures and Immigrant Communities in Canada

Created by Emilia Adorante

Posted December 3, 2019

Grade Levels: 7/8, 9/10, ELL (English Language Learners)

Subject Area: Social Studies/History/Geography/English Language Arts/Civics 

This lesson is inspired by the article “More Than Words” in the December 2019 issue of Kayak: Canada’s History Magazine for Kids.

Lesson Overview 

Students will work in groups to explore what it means to be Canadian starting from the premise that “Language is not just a way to talk to others. It’s how we express who we are.” (Kayak 18)  Students will use the historical thinking concept of significance, as well as change and continuity, to analyze the ways in which Canada’s identity developed through language, culture, and the growth of immigrant communities.

Differentiated Learning Supports

Allow for the use of paper dictionaries, online Google Translate app, ongoing vocabulary and definition lists with words in both English and  the first language to support reading and understanding, captions in English while watching videos, and extra time in class to view videos more than once. 

Hand out the Vocabulary Support Chart for students to record new vocabulary terms.

Time Required

5 classes

Historical Thinking Concepts

  • Using various types of evidence 
  • Establishing historical significance
  • Identifying continuity and change

Learning Outcomes

Student will: 

Inquire: use the inquiry process to investigate what it means to be Canadian from various sources of information.

Collect: collect historical data, draw conclusions, reflect on the significance, and form an opinion about the historical data, and draw personal connections to the information.

Analyze: use the multiple sources of information/ historical data provided to generate an opinion about Canadian identity while being able to make personal connections to it.

Understand: demonstrate an understanding of historical figures (Johnny Lombardi), Canadian immigrant communities (Little Italy, Kensington Market), and government policies and laws supporting/protecting Canadian identity (multiculturalism and the protection of language and minority rights in the Charter).

Communicate and Apply: demonstrate knowledge and understanding of policies, historical figures, and communities by being able to make a personal connection through reflection and opinion formation.

Background Information

  1. The nation’s regulations changed in post-war Canada. Soldiers returned with their ‘War Brides” and children. Canada accepted 165, 000 displaced persons who settled across the country. Other southern European newcomers, more than 2 million, arrived between 1945 and 1960 to escape war-torn Europe and build a new life. Their children absorbed the English language quickly and easily at school. These immigrants settled in the downtown areas of larger cities in Central Canada like Toronto and Montreal. Their cultures and hard work enriched Canada in many ways. They made these older parts of the cities into new and vibrant communities. 
  2. Bill c-93, adopted in 1988 provided a legal framework for multiculturalism in Canada. This act aimed to reinforce the racial and cultural equality in Canada with legal authority. It ensured that all federal institutions took into account the multicultural reality of Canada. The federal government established the Department of Multiculturalism and Citizenship to recognize the growth of Canada’s multicultural communities. Proponents believe that this brings Canadians closer together by building mutual respect for various cultures and uniting Canadians.
  3. Festivals of groups represented in sufficient numbers in various schools  were recognized to offer students a better understanding of the beliefs and customs of Canada’s multicultural society.  
  4. Heritage Language classes are offered in Toronto Schools where sufficient numbers are present. An example of this is the studying of Italian in Toronto elementary schools, 
  5. The 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms establishes various rights, such as equality rights (to live, study, and work regardless of race, religion, national, or ethnic origin, colour, sex, age, or mental or physical ability), Official language rights of Canada (communicating with the government in English and French), Minority Language educational rights (freedom to have children educated in either French or English where sufficient numbers of students exist), and fundamental freedoms of religion, thought, belief, opinion, and so on. 
  6. Today, approximately 200 different ethnicities are represented across Canada (20.6% of Canadians are born outside of Canada)
  7. According to a report by the Canadian government on The Current State of Multiculturalism in Canada, [immigrants and religious minorities fare better in Canada than most other Western democracies]. 
  8. Today, we have entered a situation of “super-diversity”. It is a term social scientists use for areas where multiculturalism is pervasive. It challenges the notion of the visible minority where there is a long-time immigration from various places in the world which leads to an exposure of many cultural and linguistic traditions. “Canadians view immigrants and demographic diversity as key parts of their own Candian identity. Compared to every other Western democracy, Canadians are more likely to say that immigration is beneficial… and more likely to support multiculturalism and to view it as a source of pride.” From “The Current State of Multiculturalism in Canada,”2010 by Will Kymlicka.

The Lesson Activity

Activating: How will students be prepared for learning?

Being Canadian means that we are all from somewhere else. Write this statement on the board. Give students a paddle (card on a popsicle stick). Ask students whether they agree or disagree. (Holding the paddle up, down, or sideways indicates their stance) 

Read the article with the class. Choose volunteers to read the article “More Than Words” in the December 2019 issue of Kayak: Canada’s History Magazine for Kids. Use the article to introduce the idea that language is closely connected to Canadian identity.

BIG IDEA to explore:  What does it mean to be Canadian? How did government policies and significant Canadians contribute to molding Canadian identity and immigrant communities?

Acquiring: What strategies facilitate learning for groups and individuals? 

Day 1:

  • Set up learning centres for the secondary source articles. There are five learning centres. Make sure that each centre has enough copies of the articles. An alternative is to set up groups of chromebooks, so that students can read from the online articles. Have paper dictionaries so that students can look up words like multiculturalism and identity. 
  • Students spend 15 minutes at each learning centre in small groups. In the small groups, students take turns reading out loud until the article has been completely read. Using the graphic organizer, students take notes about each article to gather information, data, and eventually form an opinion. 
  • Groups migrate to each learning centre to repeat the process of reading and note-taking until each article has been read and the graphic organizer is complete.

Day 2:

  • On the next day, chrome books are set up to play the Heritage Minutes and the Youtube video. 
  • Students complete their graphic organizers to collect information about the video sources. Allow time for students to watch Heritage Minutes multiple times, since they are short. Allow for the use of captions to enhance understanding.  
  • Students will form opinions about historical significance and how communities like Little Italy and Kensington market changed Canada, making it more inclusive and culturally diverse. 

Applying: How will students demonstrate their understanding? 

Days 3 and 4:

  • Students will work on developing a group Google Slides presentation which pools consensus knowledge supported by evidence, fact, and opinion. The focus of the Slides is to answer the Big Idea -  What does it mean to be Canadian? How did government policies and significant Canadians contribute to molding Canadian identity and immigrant communities?
  • Chart paper notes support the gathering pooled consensus knowledge. Audio bites, visual artifacts, and verbal explanation supported by key ideas are the focus of the Google Slides. These elements plus effective oral presentation skills will be assessed in the presentation.  
  • Topics for group presentations can be developed by the students in consultation with the teacher. Random groups are formed based on student interest. Pair different ability students together. Suggestions are to focus on multiculturalism, Johnny Lombardi, Little Italy, Kensington Market, and Immigration. 
  • Peer, as well as teacher assessment of the slides will occur. Every student will complete a comment card on each presentation, filling out the plus, suggestion for improvement, and interesting categories, and giving an overall “star” ranking of the presentation. Students will self-assess based on the same criteria after their presentation. Peer and self-assessments are collected after each presentation and attached to the teacher assessments. Each student receives an individual assessment rubric from the teacher. All assessments are returned to the student to enable growth and improvement. 

Day 5 

  • Students will write a reflection which is due at the end of the class. Students should consider how their heritage is supported in today’s Canada and what being Canadian means to them. Their answers should include some of the ideas and facts discovered through the readings and videos.
  • Writing process is stressed in order to generate the best possible answer. Teachers can decide if computers will be used or if the response will be handwritten. Dictionaries are available for student use if needed. Support can also be available through Google Translate if the teacher allows it.


  • Chromebooks and an internet connection
  • Vocabulary Support Chart (optional)
  • Secondary source articles
  • Digital video sources of information  (Youtube and Heritage Minutes)
  • Graphic Organizers (one for print sources, one for video sources)
  • Voting paddles (stick a cue card to a popsicle stick; make one per student)
  • Student comment cards
  • Chart Paper
  • Rubric

Secondary Source Articles 

Audio and video sources

Extension Activity

Reflection Writing and Making Personal Connections 

Write a personal response connected to the history that you have learned.  How is your heritage supported in today’s Canada? What does being Canadian mean to you? Your answer should include some of the ideas and facts that you have discovered through your readings.  Write three well-developed paragraphs as a response.  Make sure that you plan your answer in a point form list or using an idea web.   


Students present their Google Slides to the class sharing their gathered and pooled knowledge and opinions about the topics. The focus of the Slides is to answer the Big Idea -  What does it mean to be Canadian? How did government policies and significant Canadians contribute to molding Canadian identity and immigrant communities? Peer, self, and teacher assessment will occur. 

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