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PART 1: The Classroom Issue Referendum
PART 2: The Community Meeting
PART 3: Writing the Newspaper
PART 4: The Class Newfoundland Referendum
PART 5: Creating the Class Timeline Display
PART 6: Closure



60 minutes


  • developing questions to get information
  • interviewing
  • recording information
  • identifying central issues
  • communicating orally



Grouping - whole class

  1. Display the posters showing referendum campaign cartoons so that students can begin to appreciate the atmosphere in which the Confederation referendum in Newfoundland took place. Distribute or display A Newfoundland Timeline (BLM 2-1).

  2. Tell students that they have read about a fictional referendum in the story "Voting Time at Canadiana School." Now they are going to learn about an important referendum in Canadian history: the vote that brought Newfoundland and Canada together in 1949.

    Use the background information provided on the Newfoundland Timeline and on the front page of the Referendum Review to help students acquire information about the Newfoundland referendum. You may wish to make a summary of the situation leading to the referendum campaign in 1947--1948 and put it on the chalkboard. Here are the key points:

    • Newfoundland included Labrador. It was a British colony, with responsible government. Ensure that students understand the terms "colony" (a territory officially controlled by another country) and "responsible government" (self-government by a colony in matters that concern it directly).
    • In 1933 Newfoundland was virtually bankrupt, and in 1934 the British government took control.
    • The British government suspended Newfoundland's constitution and appointed a commission of six, chaired by the governor, (a Commission of Government) to run Newfoundland's affairs.
    • During World War II (1939-1945) Newfoundland prospered as never before.
    • In 1946 Britain arranged for a National Convention, to be followed by a referendum on Newfoundland's future. There were two referendums. The first gave voters three choices - Responsible Government, Confederation, or Commission of Government. The second was between Responsible Government and Confederation.
    • The campaigns took place in the spring and summer of 1948, with voting in June and July of that year.

  3. Explain to students that they will participate in a community meeting. At this meeting 12 students will act as panelists representing six pro--Confederation and six anti-Confederation positions during the Newfound-land referendum campaign. Each of these 12 students will take the role of a Newfoundlander who gives a set of reasons for supporting or opposing Confederation. The rest of the class will be divided into pairs of newspaper reporters who will question the panelists about their respective positions on the referendum question.
Grouping - 12 students as panelists
  1. Choose 12 students as panelists and distribute role cards to them. Instruct them to become familiar with the "pro" and "anti" positions their characters have taken toward the referendum question. Encourage them to state their positions firmly when they speak on the panel, in order to convince the "voters" (the rest of the class) to side with them. (The role cards use the term "Confederate" rather than "Confederation." This reflects Newfoundland usage at the time of the referendum.)
Grouping - remainder of class in pairs as reporters
  1. Instruct remaining students about their role as newspaper reporters. Tell each pair of students to develop three or four questions to ask the panelists. These should be Who, What, Why questions that will allow all of the "voters" to learn important information. Explain that the questions must enable the voters to understand the various positions taken by the panelists, and why they hold those positions. Tell reporters to use their Reporters' Notebooks (BLM 2-2) to record questions and answers during the meeting. The information will be used to write a news story or an editorial about the meeting in Part 3. Remind reporters to be sure all panelists have been questioned.

    A list of possible questions follows, but students should be encouraged to develop their own.

    • What is your name?
    • Do you support or oppose Confederation?
    • What problem most concerns you? How might Confederation affect this problem?
    • What do you like or dislike about life here in Newfoundland? How might Confederation change this aspect of life?
    • What are possible benefits of Confederation to Newfoundland?
    • What are possible benefits of Confederation to Canada?
    • What are possible drawbacks for Newfoundland if we join Confederation?
Grouping - panelists/reporters
  1. Arrange the classroom so that panelists are in a prominent place. You could put the referendum issue on the chalkboard:

    You or a student should act as a moderator. Ask panelists to introduce themselves and briefly state their positions. Then open the proceedings for reporters' questions.

  2. Remind students to pay close attention to all questions and answers, and to the proceedings in general, because they will be asked to write a factual and accurate news story or editorial (Part 3) and then to vote on the issue when the class holds its own referendum (Part 4).


Class evaluates arguments of panel members. Were they:

  • stated clearly and firmly?
  • an accurate reflection of their position?
  • persuasive?

Class evaluates reporters' questions. Were they:

  • about central issues?
  • stated clearly?
  • designed to help voters decide on the issues?

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