Lesson 1: What is “Normal”?

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Lesson One: What is normal?

Approximately one hour

Opener: Are you popular? (10 minutes)

  • Show Are you Popular?” a 1947 social behaviour film focusing on dating and proper behaviour by Coronet Instructional Films
  • Ask students to make lists of things that are different and the same from their experience

Discussion: Normal: then and now (10-15 minutes)

  • Create a class list of similarities and differences on the board or overhead
  • Discuss why norms have changed
  • Introduce the concept that norms are created by society and some are specific to time and place
  • Introduce the historic space of post-World War II Canada/North America (1945-1960).  Emphasize the heightened security and tension resulting from the Cold War, as well as the heightened optimism and growth resulting from the end of the Second World War

Activity (20 -40 minutes)

  • Have students browse material found on the resource links below to construct a picture of “normal” during the post-war period
  • Depending on your time constraints, you may want to assign students to specific resources available.   The resources consist of  articles, various pictures and videos

Closing (5-10 minutes)

    • Debrief the students’ findings
    • Summarize and highlight the “whiteness” of normal, the heteronormativity of normal, and the emphasis on social cohesion and amicable relationships

Reaching All Learners

  • Some students may need help inferring information from photos.  See ‘Shell Shocked,’ Lesson One for ways to support your students
  • This lesson doesn’t have a lot of reading or writing and should be accessible to most learners
  • You may want to work in pairs in the computer lab, so students can support each other in interpreting the material.  Alternately, if you assign resources you could make sure your struggling learners are assigned images or videos rather than the reading
  • Some students might benefit from front loading terms such as norms, society and  social cohesion

Resources for ‘What is Normal?’ lesson:


  1. “Are you Popular?” Video: 1947


  1. Post-War Video on Teen Social Behaviour
  2. Images of Post-War Teens:
  3. “It’s a Tough Time to be a Kid,” (PDF) 1955
  4. “Barbara is a Tomboy,” (JPG) 1948
  5. “Personality and Emotions,” Video: 1954.
  6. “What About Prejudice?” Video: 1959.