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Students will locate data about the development of communications systems in Canada in the Canada Year Book and make inferences and draw conclusions about the information they have found. In the second part of the lesson, they will consider factors that influenced the development of communications in Canada and make decisions about the importance of each factor.


  • To locate relevant information using historical documents.
  • To analyse information from historical documents.
  • To read a variety of charts and tables for specific purposes.
  • To scan written text for specific information.
  • To make inferences and draw conclusions.
  • To communicate information and understanding using student worksheets and oral presentations.
  • To use vocabulary specific to the topic and theme.
  • To demonstrate an understanding that the development of effective communications systems was part of the growth and development of Canada.

Suggested grade levels and subject areas

Social Studies, History, Language


5 minutes for introduction (steps 1 to 3)
50 to 60 minutes for worksheets and group presentations (steps 4 and 5)
30 to 60 minutes for Student worksheet 7 and discussion of the group's findings (steps 6 and 7)

Vocabulary (as used in the context of this lesson)

Broadcasting – transmitting programs or information by radio or television.
Communication – the exchange of thoughts, messages or information.
Communications systems – the organized use of telephone, telegraph, radio, television, mail, newspapers, the Internet, etc., to overcome the distances between people. Examples are the Canadian Pacific Railway, finished in the 1880s, connecting Atlantic Canada with British Columbia, and the Post Office, which provides mail service between Canadians all across the country.
Milestone – a significant event or stage in the history of an industry, project or life.
Telegraph – a system that uses electrical signals for transmitting messages to a distant place via wire using Morse code.
Trans-Atlantic cable – an encased group of insulated wires for carrying Morse code messages across the Atlantic ocean.


Canada Year Book resources

1916/1917 (PDF)

1927/1928 (PDF)

1967 (PDF)

Classroom instructions

  1. Review the following outline with the class:
    1. We will be learning about the development of communications systems in Canada from 1867 to 1967. A communications system is an organized way of overcoming distances between people, to permit communication. Ask students to name some communications systems that Canadians used in the past and use today.
    2. In the first part of the lesson, we will work in groups. Each group will be assigned and will examine a specific communications system. Group members will share their thoughts about their system's development with the rest of the class.
    3. We will discuss how effective the government was in reaching its goal of connecting all Canadians by 1967.
    4. In the second part of the lesson, we will look at factors that affected the growth of communications systems, and we will evaluate the roles of communications systems in connecting all Canadians.
  2. Divide the class into six groups. Assign each group a different student worksheet from 1 to 6 and a copy of the evaluation rubric. Most of the data about the progress made in the development of the communication is already in the student worksheets. Discuss the government's goal to connect all Canadians.
  3. Discuss the following assignment with the class:
    1. Read the information provided in the "I read" column of the worksheet and use the sources indicated to locate any missing data.
    2. Fill in the "I think" column of the worksheet with your group's thoughts about the progress being made.
    3. Fill in the "Therefore…" column of the worksheet with conclusions the group has reached.
  4. Assign roles to the following group members in each group: researchers, recorders, time managers, materials managers, editors and reporters. Each group will present information and conclusions about their communications system.
  5. After students have completed the worksheets, have each group present their communications system to the class (3 to 5 minutes each). Then have each group's reporters share their conclusions and provide the reasons for their conclusions. Note that newspapers have always been privately owned and much more local, especially prior to 1967, and that they did not contribute to the government's goal of connecting Canadians in the same way as the Post Office or the CBC, which are under more direct federal government control. The group working on newspapers will need to be aware of this difference.
  6. For the second part of the lesson, discuss with the class some of the factors that they read about that influenced the growth or decline of their communications system (e.g., geography of Canada as a barrier, possibility of a new discovery as a motivating factor). Do a few examples with the class and then have the groups complete the rest on their own using Student worksheet 7. Share the rubric with the students.
  7. Use the overhead transparency of Student worksheet 7 to discuss each group's findings and reach a class consensus.


Collect the completed assignments and use the evaluation rubric for assessment.


Students can create a timeline representing the time period, and each group can add important events in the development of the communication system they studied. For research support for this, send students to the Canadian Encyclopedia online, through the website, and to the Library and Archives Canada website. Local museums and archives will also have information.