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EvidenceWeb Educational Resources

The Confederation Chronicles

Lesson 3
Confederation Politicians


Students will earn about the culminating activity, the production of newspapers about Confederation. The students are organized into groups and are asked to take on the roles of newspaper staff members. Their first assignment is to write a story based on an interview with a prominent Confederation politician. The information for this assignment will be based on research of primary-source documents.

Specific Expectations

Students will:

  • understand that they will produce a newspaper about Confederation to share with the class;
  • work cooperatively and productively in a small group;
  • conduct a simulated interview with a famous Confederation politician;
  • begin to create a newspaper about Confederation.


1. Bookmark the "EvidenceWeb" portion of the Learning Centre on the Library and Archives Canada website to help students access the primary-source documents and photographs of famous Confederation politicians needed for this lesson.

2. Make a list of the key Confederation politicians on the chalkboard.

3. Write on the chalkboard the requirements for this culminating activity.

4. Make copies of Handout 3.1 (Assessment Rubric) for the class.

5. Bring in copies of newspapers so that students can see the different kinds of stories that make up a newspaper. Try to find ones that have good examples of the different types of stories: interviews, accounts of events, letters to the editor and editorials.

6. Review the definition of a culminating activity, as presented in Handout 3.2.


70 to 90 minutes


Introduction (10 to 15 minutes)

1. Post and review the lesson agenda with your students:

  • Introduce the culminating activity: a newspaper about Confederation.
  • Research and play the role of a famous politician of the 1867 era.
  • Interview and write a newspaper story about the politician.
  • Sum up what the students have learned so far.

2. Introduce the culminating activity:

  • Organize the class into groups of four or five (four is best if the numbers work out).
  • Explain that each group is the staff of a newspaper that includes journalists, editors and layout people. All students may end up playing all roles or certain students may want to take on specific responsibilities -- whatever works for the group. The group will be responsible for the news and editorial sections of the newspaper. They do not need to include advertisements, sports, comics etc. They must, however, include photos. A four-page, 8 ½ x 11 format is probably best. Once the newspapers are produced, copies will be passed around for everybody in the class and perhaps beyond, to read.
  • Assign each newspaper with a region and point of view about Confederation. The choices are: Ontario (Canada West), for and against; Quebec (Canada East), for and against; Nova Scotia, for and against. If you want to add an extra team or two, additions from Ontario representing the "for" side would work best. They could represent various communities, such as Toronto, Ottawa and Kingston.
  • Show students a newspaper and explain how it is organized with different kinds of writing, including stories based on interviews, lead stories, accounts of events, letters to the editor and editorials.
  • Ask the students to create a name for their newspapers.
  • Distribute Handout 3.1 (Assessment Rubric) and discuss your expectations. Tell the students to keep this and to hand it in, individually, with their group's newspaper.

Body of Lesson (50 to 60 minutes)

1. The first article in their newspapers will be an interview with a key politician, either for or against Confederation. Each newspaper staff should select one person to play the role of the politician. The politicians to be played could be John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier, A.-A. Dorion, Thomas D'Arcy McGee, George Brown, Joseph Howe or Charles Tupper. The group should help the role-playing student to find primary-source documents about the politician. Encourage the students to use primary sources rather than secondary materials. One member of the group can act as the assistant to the politician and help provide answers to the questions. The rest of the members of the newspaper staff are journalists. They should develop questions to ask the politician during the interview.

2. Have the newspaper journalists conduct their interviews. They need to take good notes so that they can write up the story for the newspaper.

3. Each newspaper staff will need to find a picture of the politician they interviewed and paste it into their story. The person in charge of layout for the newspaper should do this. The editor will need to develop an appropriately interesting headline and edit the story. There are a number of important decisions to be made. How much room do you want to give this story? Where should it be in the paper -- front page or a less prominent placement? Each newspaper staff group can start making these decisions, although there will be other stories they will need to consider.

Most of the primary-source documents and photos may be found on the "EvidenceWeb".

Conclusion (10 to 15 minutes)

1. Call on each newspaper staff group to give a brief report of their first day on the job. They should tell about their story (interview with the politician) including what they learned about Confederation in their province.

2. The newspaper staff should talk about what they see as the challenges ahead for their group. This can be done just within the group or with the whole class or both -- first in small groups then the class. (If a group is having significant problems you will need to meet privately with them to help them resolve their difficulties so that they can be successful.)

Assessment Opportunities

1. Collect the interview stories at the end of the class and mark them as a formative assessment, providing feedback to each group about the level of quality you expect.

2. Observe who contributes and works cooperatively in the newspaper groups. Speak with students individually about their cooperation skills, praising the students who are working well and assisting those who need help.

3. Give feedback to the students who did the role-playing about their effectiveness. Collect the research notes (do not have to be fancy or formal but the notes should show the depth and quality of their research). Also collect the questions and look for quality and completeness.


1. Have students rank the Confederation politicians in order of importance, in their opinion. They should be prepared to defend their ranking.

2. Have students create a heritage minute of an interview with a famous Confederation politician. See the Historica website for information on how to make a heritage minute.

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