Curriculum Analysis

Analysing Articles

Examining Opposing Viewpoints

Interpreting Folk Songs in History

Interpreting Cartoons

Responding Personally to Historical Information

Preparing to Conduct an Interview

Listening with Discrimination

Generalizing from Historical Data

Analysing Cause and Effect

The Confederation Debate: A Community Perspective

Listening with Discrimination

By 1942 the Dominions Office in London began to consider what should be done about the political status of Newfoundland. Should it continue as a colony of Great Britain, ruled by the Commission of Government? Could it survive as an independent country under Responsible Government? Or would confederation with Canada as its tenth province be the best solution? The Newfoundland government did not have large reserves of cash to go it alone, and Britain could not afford to allocate scarce dollars to Newfoundland after the end of a costly war.

Britain decided to put the question before the people. To do this, 45 representatives were elected from 38 districts to recommend to the British government “the possible future forms of government to be put before the people at a national referendum.” This group, which became known as the National Convention, began its proceedings on September 11, 1946.

Tracks 5, 7, and 8, in the Confederation Debates in the Resource Room contains the more striking speeches of Smallwood, Higgins, and Bradley at the National Convention. The purpose of this lesson is to have students listen critically in order to analyse the relationship between speaker and the audience and the methods used to convey a message, and, in doing so, to gain a deeper understanding of confederation issues.

The exercises attempt to focus attention on the use of tone in speech-making to elicit the desired response in the audience. A suitable tone depends upon a skilful blend of rational qualities, emotional appeals, and delivery. A rational tone will rely upon the use of facts, statistics, references to authorities, illustrations, brief anecdotes/stories, descriptions, coherence, and rhetorical questions. Speeches designed to arouse emotions in the audience will employ such appeals a diction, figurative language, sound devices (e.g., alliteration), repetition, and connections with audience characteristics (e.g., economic status).


By engaging in these tasks, students will achieve the following outcomes.

Canadian History 1201

  • Identify the purpose of key political movements, e.g., the Newfoundland National Convention.
  • Examine the roles of key political personalities.
  • Examine methods used by confederate and anti-confederate groups.
  • Retrieve and categorize information from a variety of sources.
  • Appreciate the role of informed and rational discussion in the process of hypothesizing and decision-making.

Language Arts

  • Speak and listen to explore, extend, clarify, and reflect on their thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences.
  • Communicate information and ideas effectively and clearly, and to respond personally and critically.
  • Interact with sensitivity and respect, considering the situation, audience and purpose.

Social Studies Skills

This lesson also promotes the following social studies skills:

Organizing Information

  • Analyse and summarize information.

Evaluating Information

  • Distinguish between fact and opinion
  • Consider the reliability of information in terms of consistency, reasonableness, and objectivity
  • Recognize trends and patterns in information
  • Draw conclusions

Participating in Groups

  • Participate in groups to achieve a common goal
  • Give and receive feedback
  • Willingly work within the parameters defined by a task and related rules of conduct

Examining Values

  • Isolate ideas in a piece of communication.
  • Determine relationships among these ideas
  • Explain the relationships.
  • Infer underlying values.

Instructional Approach

  1. Provide an overview of the purpose of the lesson.
  2. Assign exercise 1.
  3. Discuss the concept of audience. Ask students to discuss whether the speaker is merely keeping the members of the National Convention in mind, or if he is trying to influence a larger audience, i.e., the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
  4. After each student completes exercise 2, divide the class into pairs according to the speaker selected. The members of each pair should then discuss how the speaker uses the qualities which make the speech a rational one and arrive at a consensus as to that quality is the strongest one.
  5. Use a similar approach after the completion of exercise 3 but with different pairs.
  6. Assign exercise 4 as an independent task.

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