Documentary Lens Lesson Plan for Canadian Landscape Page 1

Documentary Lens Lesson Plan for Canadian Landscape Page 1

Documentary Lens Lesson Plan for Canadian Landscape Page 1

Documentary Lens Lesson Plan for

Canadian Landscape

By Lynda O’Connell

Educational Advisor, Facilitator forRÉCIT (Réseau pour le développement des Compétences par l'Intégration des Technologies),

Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM), QC

Curriculum Connections

Lesson Objectives

The NFB film Canadian Landscape focuses on the artist A.Y. Jackson and his paintings. This lesson is appropriate for Cycle 1, secondary school, in Visual Arts, Social Sciences, French, Communication and ICTs.

In the early 20th Century, Canada’s still-short history of painting was profoundly marked by the Group of Seven. Their paintings portray the grandeur of Canadian landscapes. Their works have become part of the Canadian heritage, making the artists highly significant figures in Canada’s artistic past.

After watching the film and doing research, students are to choose one member of the Group of Seven and make a critical and aesthetic judgment of his work.

Outcomes and Expectations

Students should be able to:

  • situate the the Group of Seven in a historical context and identify the Group’s contributions
  • express a critical and aesthetic opinion about the works of one member of the Group of Seven
  • express a personal judgment
  • develop artistic awareness
  • better appreciate Canadian works of art
  • analyze a number of artworks
  • compare ideas with others
  • learn more about the artistic process

For their class presentations, students will use ICTs, e.g, PowerPoint, AppleWorks or Keynote.

Canadian Social Studies Themes in Canadian Landscape

Key Concept / Connection to Canadian Landscape
Applications and Discussion Points
Citizenship /
  • Did the members of the Group of Seven share many of the same personality traits, or were they different?
  • The group has been considered “radical.” Why?

Identity /
  • What is Canadian art? What does the term mean?
  • Did Canadian art have the same significance in the past as it does today?

Power, Authority and Governance /
  • Was the Group of Seven inspired by nationalist ideas? What does that mean?

The Land: People and Places /
  • What places are depicted in the paintings by the Group of Seven?
  • In your opinion, why were these places so important to them?

Culture and Community /
  • What contribution did the Group of Seven make to Canadian society?
  • Why was the Group formed?
  • After the Group of Seven was dissolved, was it replaced by another group?
  • Do you know any painters today whose theme is Canadian landscape? Do you think they were inspired by the Group of Seven?

Global Connections /
  • What is the value of Group of Seven paintings elsewhere in the world?
  • Were all members of the Group great artists?
  • What is a talented artist, and what are the factors that bring him/her renown?

Time, Change and Continuity / On a timeline, identify the beginnings of the Group of Seven, a number of significant events during their association, their dissolution, and some significant social events.
Economics and Resources / In paintings by Group of Seven artists, the Canadian landscape is often portrayed as pristine wilderness.
  • At the time, was that wilderness under threat from the forest industry? Is it under such threat today?
  • Waterways also appear frequently in the paintings. Were they threatened by hydroelectric dams? Are they threatened by the dams today?
  • Could we paint the same places in the same way today?

Assessment Strategies

During the activities, you could use the following assessment strategies:

  • Did the student comply with the following requirements:

- select an artist from the Group of Seven

- describe some of the artist’s traits accurately and provide biographical information

- situate the artist in a historical context

- present some of the artist’s works

- support his/her appreciation of the artist’s works, using aesthetic criticisms and judgment

  • Was the student’s class presentation using ICTs well prepared and interesting? Which features made the presentation pleasant, easy to listen to and interesting?
  • What new facts did the rest of the class learn?
  • Did the presentation lead to an interesting process of reflection on the Group of Seven? Did the presentation encourage a better understanding of Canadian art?


  • Artcyclopedia at
  • Historica – The Canadian Encyclopedia: Group of Seven
  • Historica – The Canadian Encyclopedia: Jackson Alexander Young
  • Tom Thomson
  • CBC Archives: The Group of Seven
  • Mount Allison University, NB - Nationalism and the Arts: The Group of Seven
  • Environment Canada
  • McCord Museum
  • See the list of related NFB videos found at the end of this lesson.

Activities for Canadian Landscape

ACTIVITY 1: Introduction

Briefly discuss: What is Canadian art? What does it make you think of? Then tell the class that they will be seeing an NFB film entitled Canadian Landscape, aboutone painter. While watching the film, they should take note of:

  • Who the artist is.
  • His method.
  • What he says about the relationship between a painting and the landscape.
  • What role the artist plays in our interpretation of a landscape.

ACTIVITY 2: Follow Up

After seeing the film, review the four points above with the class. Explain that A.Y. Jackson was a member of the Group of Seven, but give no details. Have students find information on the Group using the Web sites listed in the Resources section or by going to the library. They should answer these questions:

  • What is the Group of Seven?
  • How was it formed?
  • Who were its members?
  • What were its members’ concerns?
  • When was the Group dissolved and why?
  • Did another movement or group replace the Group of Seven after it was dissolved?
  • What contribution has the Group made to Canada?

Ask students to bring their findings to the next class.

ACTIVITY 3: Developing Concepts

Students should bring their research notes from Activity 2 to class. On a timeline, have the students identify the Group of Seven’s beginnings, its lifetime, its dissolution and significant social events.

Then, show students the “Alexander Young (A.Y.) Jackson (1882-1974)” article at the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery Web site at:

Make connections between the technique used by A.Y. Jackson and shown in the film, and the paintings shown on the Web site.

Again, ask the students: What do you understand by Canadian art? Are they better able to answer? Give students time to visit some of the Web sites listed in the Resources section to find paintings by other members of the Group of Seven.

Explain the project: Individually or in teams, students are to prepare a report showcasing a Group of Seven artist of their choice using presentation software (ICT). The report must include biographical information, the historical context and images of the artist’s work. Students must also give their personal and critical opinions of the artwork.

ACTIVITY 4: Planning the Reports

Give the students time to do their projects and discuss their work with one another, sharing ideas about their tastes and perceptions as well as the information found on Web sites and in books.

ACTIVITY 5: Presenting the Reports

Have the students present their projects. This is an ideal time for assessment.

Related NFB Videos

- The Group of Seven Collection

Four archival videos about the life and art of four members of the Group of Seven. Includes West Wind (Tom Thomson), Varley (Frederick Varley), Lismer (Arthur Lismer) and Canadian Landscape (A.Y. Jackson).

- By Woman’s Hand (1994)

About the women artists who made up the Beaver Hall Hill Group: Prudence Howard, Sarah Robertson and Anne Savage, whose paintings were inspired by the Group of Seven.

© 2005 National Film Board of Canada