Social Studies 20-4: Nationalism in Canada and the World
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What Makes Canada "Canada"?

Activity: Describing Nationalism

Formative Assessment

Throughout this suggested activity, you will support students in achieving the following skill that is the focus for assessment:

The following formative assessment opportunity is provided to help students unpack and develop the focus skill for assessment. Feedback prompts are also provided to help students enhance their demonstration of the focus skill for this activity. Formative assessment support is not intended to generate a grade or score.

Formative Assessment: Assessment for Learning Opportunity

Describe Nationalism as an Internalized Feeling

Engage students in a self-reflection about the strengths and weaknesses in their description of how each video represents an internalized feeling of Canadian nationalism. Use the feedback prompts below to provide structure in guiding students through this formative assessment opportunity.

Feedback Prompts:

  • Will the information I gathered be useful in helping me reach and support a position?
  • If not, what do I need to do to make the information useful?

These feedback prompts have been incorporated into the Describe Nationalism as an Internalized Feeling: Student Self-reflection Tool Word, which can be copied or adapted for student use. Samples of tools created for a similar skill within a different formative assessment context may be found in the Social Studies 20-4 Formative Assessment Summary PDF.

Linking to the Summative Assessment Task

  • As students describe nationalism as an internalized feeling through the suggested activity Describing Nationalism, they will have completed the first portion of the Summative Assessment Task: What Makes Canada "Canada"? Word
  • Students should consult the assessment task and the assessment task rubric Word to ensure that they have provided the information required.
  • Encourage students to use feedback received through the formative assessment opportunity to make enhancements to their work in progress.
  • If necessary, continue to use the feedback prompts from the formative assessment opportunity to coach students toward completion of a quality product.

Students examine media representations of Canada and Canadians, and describe how these representations provide shared experiences and memories that result in an internalized feeling of nationalism.

Instructional Support

A number of possible tasks are provided in this suggested activity. It is not intended that you work through all of the tasks, but rather select those tasks and resources that will best meet the learning needs of your students. The focus should be on ensuring that students have the background and support to be successful with the skill that is the focus for assessment (describe nationalism as an internalized feeling).

Setting the Context for Learning

Describe Nationalism as an Internalized Feeling

Note: As students begin working on the summative assessment task, they will explore concepts such as expressions of nationalism, as well as understandings of nation, nationalism and nation–states. These concepts and understandings will be revisited throughout the 20-4 course, but, at this point, students should have an introductory level understanding of these things.

  • Explore examples of entities that are considered nations and nation–states. Discuss with students the nuances in the two definitions and how they are applied in practical situations. For example, compare countries as nation–states (e.g., Canada) with collectives that are considered nations that live within that country (e.g., First Nations). Have students complete an exit slip with the prompt "The difference between nation and nation–state is …." Make decisions about further instruction based on student responses.
  • Model for students the thought process of connecting an item to nationalism by selecting an example of a symbol of Canada and talking through why you would classify it as a symbol of Canada. For example, to help students understand why the maple leaf is considered a symbol of Canada, discuss the process of changing the Canadian flag from a predominantly British symbol to a symbol that is more representative of Canada. The maple leaf was adopted as a symbol by the St. Jean Baptiste Society in 1834 and has been the main symbol on Canada's national flag since 1965 (Canadian Heritage – The Maple Leaf). The maple leaf has also become an identifying symbol for Canadians because the flag is prominently flown every time Canadians participate in international events, such as sporting competitions and peacekeeping missions.
  • To further stimulate thinking about identity and nationalism, provide students with different examples of symbols of Canada and ideas of nation, identity and nationalism within Canada. Some suggestions of sources include the following: the Stompin' Tom Hockey Song, Canadian Heritage website, Historica Minutes commercials and George Stroumboulopoulos clips (see Suggested Supporting Resources).
  • Help students identify relationships between the representations of Canada in the examples and the different understandings of identity and nation (e.g., relationship to the land, geographic, collective, civic, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, political and religious).
  • In small groups, ask students to examine the Ipsos Reid and Dominion Institute poll results entitled Defining Canada: A Nation Chooses the 101 Things That Best Define Their Country PDF.
  • Before starting, ask students: Which categories could be used to group the 101 things on the list (e.g., symbols, events, people, actions or places)?  Provide them with an example from each category, to start the process, such as the maple leaf, Canada Day celebrations, Niagara Falls, Pierre Trudeau and Canada winning Olympic gold medals. Which do think would most likely be the one category that most accurately describes Canada? Help students make connections to understandings of nation, such as relationship to land and geographic, collective, civic, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, political, spiritual, religious and patriotic understandings.
  • Classify the 101 defining items into the categories symbols, events, people, actions and places. Ask students which category has the most items and then ask them "Is this surprising to you? Why?"
  • Encourage students to discuss the 101 defining items and consider whether or not they agree with the items. Is there anything they would remove from the list? Is there anything they would add to the list?
  • Provide students with some sample websites (see Suggested Supporting Resources) that contain symbols and understandings of Canada. Have students brainstorm, as a class, the symbols and understandings that they believe best represent Canada and Canadians.
  • As students begin working toward the first part of the summative assessment task, describe nationalism as an internalized feeling, assemble a collection of video clips for students to use throughout the task. Some possible suggestions include:
  • From the list above, select three videos for your students, based on their experiences and interests. To provide differentiation in choice, consider allowing students to select the three videos from the list above on their own.
  • Make the abstract notions of "internalized feeling" and "collective consciousness" more tangible for students by brainstorming terms or feelings to which they can relate. Some examples might include feeling pride or happiness about something, a goose-bump feeling, a lump in the throat feeling, or getting misty eyed when viewing things that speak to our sense of nationalism. Encourage students to connect these feelings to the videos they selected to use in their summative assessment task and to reflect upon how the emotions evoked in the videos can be considered nationalistic.
  • Use one of the videos that students will not access in the summative assessment task to conduct a discussion, and describe how elements from the video are used to represent what it means to be Canadian. Some students may say that the selected video does not represent what it means to be Canadian; both positions, agree and disagree, need to be supported with specific reasons.
  • A combination graphic organizer/student self-reflection tool has been provided to guide students as they view the three videos. Students record information using the following prompts:
    • Describe how the video made me feel as a Canadian.
    • Identify what elements made me react in a positive or negative way.
    After students have completed the graphic organizer portion of the tool, they may use the self-reflective portion to assess the quality of their responses and make plans for revision.

Suggested Supporting Resources

Textbook References

Student Basic Resource—McGraw-Hill Ryerson, Understanding Nationalism:

  • Pages 18–19 Are Nation and Identity Related?
  • Pages 20–36 What Are Some Concepts of Nation?
  • Pages 40–42 How Do External and Internal Factors Shape Nationalism?Show more
  • Pages 51–54 How Have People Responded to Some Factors That Shape Nationalism?
  • Pages 55–59 How Have People in Canada Responded to Some Factors That Shape Nationalism?

Teaching Resource—McGraw-Hill Ryerson, Understanding Nationalism:

  • Reproducible 1.1.4 Understandings of Nation
  • Reproducible 1.1.5 Where Do Ideas about Nation Come From?
  • Reproducible 1.1.6 My Identity Organizer Show more
  • Reproducible 1.2.5 Some Perspectives on Nationalism within Canada
  • Reproducible 1.2.6 Canadian Symbols and Canadian Identity Survey
  • Reproducible 1.3.6 Inventory of Nationalist Symbols, Events, or Activities

Web Resources

Web Links for Online Sources:


Distributed Learning/Tools4Teachers Resources:

Critical Challenges:

Community-related Resources

  • Protocols in contacting Elders (McGraw-Hill Ryerson's Understanding Nationalism: Teacher's Resource and Aboriginal Studies 10 Aboriginal Perspectives Teacher Resource)

Stories and Other Media (e.g., films, stories/literature, nonfiction, graphic novels)

  • Canadian Bacon (film, 1995, Dog Eat Dog Films, Michael Moore [Director], 91 minutes)