Documentary Lens Lesson Plan for “Just One Big Mess”: The Halifax Explosion, 1917

Activities for “Just One Big Mess”

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Activities for “Just One Big Mess”


ACTIVITY 1: Brainstorming Media Stories of Disasters

Tell the class that they are going to watch a documentary about a historic Canadian disaster. You may want to give some background on the event (see Background notes above).

Then, using their own experience of media coverage of disasters, students brainstorm some of the ways that such stories are told today.

  • How are disaster stories usually handled by the media?

  • Whose point of view do they represent?

  • Which disaster stories are told?

  • Which stories are not told? What is the effect of including some stories and leaving out others?

  • What techniques are used to tell the story? How are those techniques designed to create a particular effect in the audience?

Record students’ ideas from the brainstorming session so that they can refer to them later in the lesson.

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