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In this lesson, students will examine changing developments in communications in Canada from 1867 to 1967. They will create a timeline for specific modes of communication using tables, graphs, diagrams, pictures and other visuals. Each group will create a display board that will be integrated with other group displays into a large classroom project. As they work through their projects, students will demonstrate their understanding of the impact of communications on Canadian society.


  • To understand and be able to explain major methods of communication and their connections to industrial and economic growth in Canada during the period from 1867 to 1967.
  • To locate, analyse, interpret and apply statistical information from editions of the Canada Year Book from 1867 to 1967.
  • To organize material for visual and oral presentations.
  • To create graphs from tables of data for a display.
  • To communicate ideas, concepts and information in written and oral forms.
  • To work co-operatively with other students to do tasks, make decisions and develop consensus.
  • To manage time effectively to complete tasks and meet deadlines.
  • To demonstrate an appreciation of the impact of communications on Canadian society.

Suggested grade levels and subject areas

History, Economics, Geography, Family Studies


15 to 30 minutes for the introduction (steps 1 to 5)
3 to 4 periods of 50 minutes to complete the worksheets (steps 6 to 9)

Vocabulary (as used in the context of this lesson)

Knot – short form for 'nautical miles per hour'; a measure of speed used in air and sea navigation as well as for submarine cables. A nautical mile is 6,080 feet.
Money order – safe registered means by which to send money by mail; usually a postal money order.
Morse code – a way of communicating letters through a series of dots and dashes that can be transmitted over telegraph wires and translated by telegraph operators.
Radio telephone – wireless telephone first used by ships. Messages went from ship to ship and from ship to shore.
Telegraph – a system that uses electrical signals for transmitting messages to a distant place via wire using Morse code.
Telephone – device for transmitting sound, especially speech, over a wire network.
Wireless – means of communicating through airwaves rather than wire.


Canada Year Book resources

1907 (PDF)

1916/1917 (PDF)

1927/1928 (PDF)

1937 (PDF)

  • Text: Telegraphs, pages 711 to 713.
  • Table 1: Summary statistics of all Canadian telegraphs, calendar years 1920 to 1935, page 711.
  • Table 2: Statistics of chartered telegraph companies, calendar years 1931 to 1935, page 712.
  • Text: Telephones, pages 713 to 716.
  • Table 3: Telephones in use, classified by business, residential, rural and public pay, mileages of wire and pole line, and numbers of employees, 1911 to 1935, page 714.
  • Table 4: Telephones in use, by provinces, December 31, 1935, page 714.
  • Table 5: Summary financial statistics of telephones in Canada, years ended June 30, 1911 to 1918, and December 31, 1919 to 1935, page 715.
  • Table 6: Financial statistics of telephones in Canada, by provinces, 1935, page 715.
  • Table 7: Local and long-distance calls and averages, per telephone and per capita, calendar years 1928 to 1935, page 716.
  • Text: Radiotelegraphy, pages 716 to 720.
  • Table 1: Government-owned radio stations in Canada, fiscal year ended March 31, 1936, pages 717 and 718.
  • Table 2: Business and cost of maintenance of radiotelegraph stations for the fiscal years ended March 31, 1935 and 1936, page 718.
  • Table 3: Wireless and radio stations in operation in Canada, March 31, 1932 to 1936, page 719.
  • Text: The Post Office, pages 721 to 726.
  • Table 1: Numbers of post offices in operation, by province, March 31, 1931 to 1936, page 722.
  • Table 2: Statistics of gross postal revenues of offices collecting $10,000 and upwards, fiscal years ended March 31, 1935 and 1936, pages 722 to 724.
  • Table 3: Revenues and expenditures of the Post Office Department for the quinquennial fiscal years ended 1890 to 1910, and fiscal years ended March 31, 1911 to 1936, page 724.
  • Table 4: Operations of the money order system in Canada, fiscal years ended March 31, 1911 to 1936, page 725.
  • Table 5: Money order statistics, by province, and total postal notes, fiscal years ended March 31, 1932 to 1936, pages 725 and 726.
  • Table 6: Mileage flown and weight of mail carried by air, fiscal year ended March 31, 1936, page 727.
  • Table 1: Number of publications in Canada, by frequency of issue, 1926 to 1935, page 728.
  • Table 2: Circulation of daily, semi-weekly and weekly publications in Canada, 1926 to 1935, page 728.
  • Table 3: Circulation of daily, semi-weekly, and weekly publications, in cities of 20,000 population or over, 1935, page 729.
  • Text: The press, pages 727 to 729.

1947 (PDF)

1957/1958 (PDF)

1967 (PDF)

Classroom instructions

  1. Present the following outline to the class:
    1. Working in groups they will research the development of a particular communications mode that was commonly used from 1867 to 1967.
    2. The research subjects are print media, telegraph, wireless communication, postal service, radio and television.
    3. Each group will produce a timeline display that will become part of a larger classroom timeline.
    4. This master timeline will show the development and sometimes decline of each of the communications modes.
    5. As each group does its research, group members will be looking for patterns over time, with respect to their particular mode, and finding possible explanations for the changes they uncover.
    6. Students will use the Canada Year Book from 1867 to 1967.
  2. Have students brainstorm a list of communication technologies commonly used today, such as computers, cellphones, BlackBerrys, iPods, etc.
  3. Have students describe some impacts these communication devices have on everyday life. Gradually shift the discussion to communications systems and technologies developed from 1867 to 1967.
  4. Divide the class into groups. If you have a large class, more than one group can research a particular mode of communications.
  5. Have the group members number off and assign them roles based on their numbers. Roles are reader, clarifier, recorder, artist, data and materials manager, and time manager. Some students may need to take on more than one role. There is no group leader.
  6. Distribute and quickly review the student package of handouts.
    1. Each group's reader will read the Instructions and explanations (printer-friendly format) sheet.
    2. Clarifiers will ensure that all group members understand their tasks and time frame.
    3. Be sure that you have indicated when everything should be complete and ready for presentations.
  7. Have students complete their student worksheets.
  8. Have the groups present the findings about their modes of communication and present their reasons why their modes were significant to Canadians. Each group member needs to make an oral contribution to this presentation.
  9. Where equipment makes it possible, students may want to use electronic presentation media. Ask them how this fits into the overall pattern of communications in Canada's history.


Collect the completed assignments and use the Evaluation rubric for the visual product (printer-friendly format) and the Evaluation rubric for the oral presentation (printer-friendly format) for assessment.


Students may further explore the themes of communications up to the present day. They may wish to compare and contrast the developments of the computer, Internet, fax machines, cellphones, BlackBerrys, iPods, and so on, with major developments in communications from 1867 to 1967.

Students could also explore the connections between communications and specific types of production and businesses, including those involved in international trade. As well, students could research the development of regulations governing communications in Canada, and they could even enter projects in local or regional fairs.