Unit Overview

Summary Description of Unit

Students will explore the topic of migration and the related theme of departures, with a focus on the push and pull factors that are at play when people are faced with these critical life decisions. The unit invites students to learn about  the journey of immigrants during the Irish Famine and to examine a range perspectives and points of view that prevailed at that time. Students will participate in various drama and dance lessons that depict the push and pull factors of the Irish Famine, the departure of some of the Irish, their journey and arrival in Canada. Connections between the long ago story of the Irish Famine, and more recent stories of migration are made. Students will also explore texts and artwork by Canadian immigrants using choral dramatization and dance, and will represent personal immigration stories through various dance, drama and literacy strategies. 

Overall Expectations


A1. Creating and Presenting: apply the creative process to composition of short dance pieces, using the elements of dance to communicate feelings and ideas


B1. Creating and Presenting: apply the creative process to process drama and the development of drama works, using the elements and conventions of drama to communicate feelings, ideas and multiple perspective

B2. Reflecting, Responding and Analysing: apply the critical analysis process to communicate feelings, ideas and understandings in response to a variety of drama works and experiences


Oral Communication 1. listen in order to understand and respond appropriately in a variety of situations for a variety of purposes

Reading 1. read and demonstrate an understanding of a variety of literary, graphic, and informational texts using a range of strategies to construct meaning

Reading 3. use knowledge of words and cueing systems to read fluently

Writing 1. generate, gather and organize ideas and information to write for an intended purpose and audience

Media Literacy 1. demonstrate an understanding of a variety of media texts

Media Literacy 2. identify some media forms and explain how the conventions and techniques associated with them are used to create meaning

Big Ideas and Guiding Questions

The migration of people is an important part of the human story of struggle and triumph, over time and today.

  • What are some of the push and pull factors that lead to emigration and immigration?
  • Whose interests are served by Canadian immigration?

Drama and dance are tools that help us understand and personally connect with those who have had to leave their homes to come to Canada. The arts help us communicate our understanding and point of view.

  • How can we use Dance, Drama and critical literacy strategies to help us understand, explore and represent ideas and feelings related to migration and departures?
  • How do we use the elements of drama and dance to communicate our ideas?
Critical Literacy Focus

This unit explores how the subjects of wide-scale poverty (starvation, homelessness) were represented during the Irish Famine and how they might have represented themselves in  their stories. Critical literacy often examines social (as well as political) histories to understand the connection between personal and institutional dynamics and struggles.

Read more about Critical Literacy and how it links to dance and drama.


Assessment and Evaluation: How will students demonstrate their learning?

Assessment of Learning

Students will be evaluated using a rubric for the final culminating task. 

Assessment for Learning

Throughout the unit, students achievement of the identified learning goals is monitored using a variety of assessment strategies and tools including: 
-Exit cards
-Two stars and a wish
-Teacher feedback
-Side coaching


Unit Lessons: How will assessment and instruction be organized for learning?

Approx. Duration 1 class= 50
Lesson 1

Push/Pull Factors

Students are introduced to the concept of push and pull factors in our everyday lives. These concepts are explored through simple movement exercises and personal stories. The notion of "home", and Canada as a "homeland" is introduced. Students are invited to make a personal connection to what it means to leave home, and are asked to imagine the push and pull factors that might lead to large scale migration.

(approx. 60 min.)
Lesson 2

Case Study: The Irish Famine

Students are introduced to the historical character of Bridget O'Donnell, an emigre during the Irish Famine. They examine an illustration of Bridget O'Donnell that appeared in the London Illustrated News, 1847 and read her first -person account.  Students  are invited to view, notice and wonder using a placemat activity to record their questions, inferences, and theories about Bridget O'Donnell and the historical circumstances of her time.  

(approx. 60 min.)
Lesson 3

From Page to Life

The lesson begins with students sharing reflections from the consolidation activity of Lesson 2.  Students review the elements of tableau and are organized into  small groups to devise two tableaux that depict the circumstances leading up to Bridget O'Donnell's eviction, and what may have taken place immediately afterwards.  Thought-tracking is used to tap into the inner thoughts and feelings of the characters in each tableau. The lesson concludes with an analysis of he push and pull factors evident in each tableau, and a final reflection on tableau as a learning strategy.

(approx. 75 min.)
Lesson 4

Dear Dairy: Examining Personal Points of View

Students are introduced to another story that chronicles the hardships of the Irish Famine, told through a series of diary entries. New vocabulary is previewed, explained and posted to support the reading of challenging passages of this historical account. The diary of Meaghan How is examined in parts and and then sequenced to create a meaningful, logical account.  Students' knowledge and understanding of the period is further developed as they work in groups to discuss, analyse and interpret the passages through choral speaking.

2 classes
(approx. 80 min.)
Lesson 5

Put Yourself in Her Shoes

Meaghan How's diary entries are used as a source of character analysis and exploration of perspective/point of view. The exploration begins with a view of the historical time and circumstances through the eyes of Meaghan How and expands to include the point of view of other key characters. Students investigate the text for clues about key characters, and create role on the wall representations of these characters. They explore the different perspectives through hot-seating, role-playing and writing in role. 

2-3 classes
(approx. 110 min.)
Lesson 6

Leaving Home: Choral Dramatization

Students revisit the concept of push-pull factors and the big idea of leaving home. They are introduced to the poem "Departure" and engage in a guided  interpretation and choral dramatization of the poem. Students explore a range of techniques to bring the poem to life. In small groups, students apply and practise using these techniques with a text of their choice. A final reflection invites them to consider the techniques that they most enjoyed and found to be most effective.

2 classes
(approx. 85 min.)
Lesson 7

Dancing Poetry

This lesson focuses on dance. Students reflect on dance as a language. They revisit the poem, Departure, and use all of the verbs in the poem to create a script for dance interpretation. Students review the elements of dance, through a physical warm up  and then work i small groups to create short dance phrases. Two options are provided for dance composition. Students may interpret the poem Departure directly or use a structure to compose their own prepositional poetry which they then interpret through dance. Imagery is also used to inspire their choreography. Students generate success criteria and give each other feedback following their performances.

2-3 classes
(approx. 120 min.)
Lesson 8

Arrivals: Citizenship in Canada

Students examine the roles and responsibilities associated with being a Canadian citizen. Students view a video called " Citizenship"  produced by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The teacher facilitates a critical viewing and analysis of the video, using a number of critical literacy questions to guide the discussion.

2 classes 
(approx. 90 min.)
Lesson 9

Stories of Departure and Arrival: Culminating Task

Students are given a clear overview of the expectations and  success criteria for the culminating performance task. In small groups, students select an immigration story   to interpret and present through performance  They may interview a friend or relative, or use a published first-hand account for their performance. Students review the dance, drama and language techniques used throughout the unit, and use a planning checklist sheet to guide them through the creative process. Performances are shared and a self/group assessment is used to reflect on the work. A final summary task invites students to select an activity from a choice board. This individual task, in addition to the group performance, informs the teacher of each student's knowledge and understanding of the big ideas for this unit.

3-4 classes
(approx. 160 min.)