Making Medicare:  Educational Lab for Teachers and Students Back to Timeline Back to Timeline

Lesson Plan (Grades 9 to 12): Life before Medicare: An Oral History Project


Pedagogical Intent
Students will further their understanding of the challenges faced by Canadians before the advent of medicare by reviewing pertinent sections of the Web resource Making Medicare: The History of Health Care in Canada, 1914–2007, designing an oral history project, interviewing someone who experienced “life before medicare” and presenting their findings to their classmates in a format of their choice.

Grade: Grades 9 to 12; Quebec Secondary Cycle 2
Subjects: Social Studies, History and Citizenship Education, Language Arts, Arts Education
Themes: Twentieth-century Canadian history, social change, social programs, Canadian citizenship and identity, connections between historical phenomena and contemporary life, Canadian politics and government
Objectives and Competencies: Use information, use information and communication technology, use oral communication, communicate appropriately; observe, describe, summarize, reason; use critical thinking and creativity; cooperate with and listen to others; develop research skills and methods of historical inquiry
Duration: 180–240 minutes

Web Resources

Required Technical Equipment

  • One computer with Internet access for each student or pair of students

Optional Technical Equipment

  • One tape recorder or digital audio recorder per pair of students

Teacher Preparation

1. Make sure students have some knowledge on the subject of medicare in Canada. The Medicare Timeline Lesson Plan can be used as a good introduction.
2. Familiarize yourself with Making Medicare: The History of Health Care in Canada, 1914–2007, as well as the Student Introduction and Student Steps for this Lesson Plan.
3. Familiarize yourself with the following guidelines on the Library and Archives Canada Web site: Oral Interviews: Preparing, Conducting and Reporting.

Teacher Procedure

1. Introduce the subject of medicare and the concept of state-funded and administered health care.
Ask students who paid for their last visit to the doctor, and how much it cost. They probably won’t know the cost, because — today — provincial or territorial health insurance plans pay medical professionals their fees. Find out what students know about how medical costs were paid before medicare was implemented. Explain that people had to pay these costs themselves, unless they were fortunate enough to be covered by medical care insurance.

2. Direct students to the first five chapters (1914 to 1968) of Making Medicare.
Ask them to read the personal reminiscences, specifically those found in the chapter 2 (1930-1939) History and Costs and Benefits sections.

3. Ask students to share their reactions to the excerpts.
Did they find the reminiscences moving? Explain that many of these excerpts come from oral history interviews with senior citizens. Define this kind of interview, and find out if any of the students are familiar with this research technique.

4. Introduce the Life before Medicare challenge.
Divide the class into pairs. Explain the students’ task: they will design and conduct an oral history interview with someone who experienced “life before medicare,” write up notes or transcribe the recording and then present their findings to the class. Using the Library and Archives Canada Web resource, Oral Interviews: Preparing, Conducting and Reporting, lead the students in a brainstorming session to decide on the steps they should take, as well as a list of the most useful questions they should pose. Direct your students to the Student Introduction and Student Steps related to this Lesson Plan, and explain that all the information they need for the assignment, including links to the History and its related components, is accessible from those sections.

5. Give the students time to complete their work. As needed, provide support to students with planning and undertaking their interviews.

6. Invite students to share their findings.
When students have completed their interviews, ask them to share their findings with the class, in a format of their choice. What did they learn from conducting the interviews? Did any common themes emerge? Did the interviews change their opinions about medicare? Discuss the challenges students faced in planning and undertaking an oral history interview.

Extension Ideas

1. Life without Medicare
Invite your students, as a class, to brainstorm about approaches to funding medical care that differ from Canada’s federally administered program, e.g., a system with no state involvement; state funding for the destitute, plus private insurance (United States); and two-tier systems (Great Britain). In small groups, students should select one country, research its medical care funding system and the impact it has on citizens, compare its costs in comparison to those of the Canadian system, and make a presentation to the class on the findings. As a class, students can then debate the merits and disadvantages of each system.

2. Life before Medicare: Role Play
Ask students to enact a scene from one of the excerpts they read about life before medicare.

3. Creative Presentation of Findings
Encourage students to present their interviews in a creative format. Brainstorm with them about possible formats (e.g., a dramatic representation, a poem, a song or a dance) and subjects.

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    Date Created: April 21, 2010