Lesson developed by Christine Jackson

A Question of Loyalty is a novel written by Barbara Greenwood.  It is a historical fiction that is an excellent source for exploring the  Rebellion of 1837. Using Drama and Language Arts learning strategies the students explore the many conflicting points of view and complex issues of that critical time in our history. This source links to the Grade 7 Social studies curriculum. 


After reading the novel, (read aloud or assigned independent reading), discuss the key themes in the story.  In pairs, have the students share with each other a personal instance of divided loyalties.

Tableaux or Mini-scene

Create word cards for the students. Organize the students into small groups with an assigned word card.


Directions to students:

Recreate a moment from the story, which depicts the word on your card.

Devise a series of still images or create a scene in which each person has up to two lines of dialogue. Choose the most significant moment to show and limit your speaking to the most necessary words. Speaking scenes are to be only one minute in length.

Role Play

Divide the students into small groups of 3 to 4. They are to assume the roles of a family in the village. Direct them to:

  • Choose a family name and occupation. Create one brief story that tells about your family and its impact on your community.
  • Share this story with another family. Each family then introduces the family they have just met to the whole group.
  • Decide, as a family, on your political sympathies. Are you Radical Reformers, Moderate Reformers or Conservative Loyalists? (Keep this a secret at this point.)

The teacher assumes the role of Sir Edward Bond. You have assembled the community on market day to share a proclamation. Explain the Corridor of Voices exercise and tell them that on the cure “STAND ASIDE”, they are to form the corridor.

In role as Bond, the teacher addresses the assembled villagers. Following is a sample address:

I am pleased to see you an all assembled here today. Your sheriff tells me that you are a good lot, and that almost every man, young and old, joined the militia in our fight against that scoundrel, Mackenzie, and his rabble-rousers. Woman and children, I am sure that you are happy to have your sons and husbands safely returned to you. And I see the pride beaming in your faces. Rightly so, rightly so.

However, we cannot rest just yet. We must remain vigilant. What brings me all the way from Toronto, you may be wondering? Well, as you know Mackenzie is on the loose and so are a number of his rebel gang – running scared they are! Now I do not wish to alarm you, but the fact is – there have been sightings along your back roads. We have reason to believe that Mackenzie himself may be holding in your areas. He or others may be hiding in one of the buildings on your very own property. They must be rooted out. Now I am sure I don't need to r remind you of the law and your oath of allegiance to the Queen of England. I am sure you know of the severe consequences for harboring or aiding the enemy. Let me remind you, however, of the rewards for helping us stabilize our country once more. You may be offered a seat in the legislature and we can probably offer your sons and daughters a place in school. Let young Jed Hawkes, here, serve as a shining example. His efforts in tracking down a rebel have been justly rewarded. Are there any questions?

(Address questions in role.)

Now good day. We will expect your full cooperation with the sheriff in these parts. Stand aside.

Corridor of Voices

On the cue, “Stand Aside” the students form a corridor. As Bond slowly walks down the corridor, each student in role as a villager, expresses his/her inner thoughts, feelings or wishes aloud.


Divide the students into partners – A and B. Meet with each group separately to introduce the following scenario which they will then improvise.

A: You have been hiding a wounded rebel somewhere on your property, but you know that Jed has hunch and is spying on you. You must try to find out B’ s political inclination to see if he/she will help by offering a safe place to the rebel.

B: Be cautious. You are a moderate reformer and your parents are Conservative Loyalists. You are also a very close friend to A. Listen to your partner in the improvisation and make your decision. Will you help or will you report the location of the rebel?

Writing in Role

Have the students adopt the role of Deborah or Dan. Direct them to imagine that three weeks have passed since Dan’s safe crossing to the United States and that they are writing their first letter to each other. Encourage them to share memories of their shared experience, their feelings, and some news about what ahs transpired since they were parted.

Share their letters in an inner/outer circle. Deborahs form one circle; Dans form a circle around them. The teacher orchestrates the reading by tapping students on the shoulder, inviting them to read excerpts from the letters.