Category Archives: Social Justice

Asking Questions about Child Activists

Both classes are learning about the reading strategy Asking Questions.  As we are about to start writing reports, it is a good introduction to doing research.  Without questions we have nothing to find out!


We talked about thin & thick questions.  The students hypothesized that thin questions were simple and had straightforward answers, the meaning of a word would be a thin question, or the location of an event.  Thin questions are often answered in the text or with simple, quick research.


Thick questions have more complicated answers and sometimes can’t be answered at all.  Thick questions require inferring and complex research and analysis.


We started with a read aloud from the book Our Rights:  How Kids are Changing the World by Janet Wilson.

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The grade fours learned about Shannen Koostachin, a First Nations girl from Attiwapiskat who took a stand about her town’s lack of a proper school.   Shannen had to leave her family to go to high school right here at TDSS.  Tragically, she was killed in a car accident.

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Here are some of the questions the grade fours had after listening to Shannen’s story.    We will research some answers to their questions next week.


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The grade fives read about a girl in India named Anita Khuswaha.  Anita was born to a lower caste family so her future was marrying young and shepherding goats and having lots of children.  Anita stood up to her parents and her culture and decided to become a bee keeper.

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The grade fives have already researched their questions and will present their findings to the class next week.  I will post their findings here.


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We Act Club & Grade 4 Reading Fluency Part 2

On Friday, some members of the We Act Club (who are also in my grade 4 & 5 class) presented our latest campaign at the Student of the Month assembly.

They rocked it!  I am so proud of them!

This morning Bowe & Olivia did a superb job on the announcements.


After practising reading the poem aloud for a week the grade 4s recorded themselves again and then rated their fluency.  Most improved a lot.


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Writer’s Craft & Social Justice

As we read and write in our class we are always discussing writer’s craft.


I sometimes pause while reading to point out techniques author’s use to make their writing more engaging.   We examined foreshadowing the other day as I read aloud to the grade fives.

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I am reading “Hana’s Suitcase” by Karen Levine to the grade fives.  It is the true story of Hana Brady, a Jewish girl living in Czechoslovakia, who was sent to Auschwitz during World War Two.  The story is told as a teacher in Japan searches for information about children of the Holocaust and ended up receiving Hana’s suitcase.  

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We read of New Year’s Eve 1938/39, there were rumours of what was to come but life was still good for the Brady family.  


Despite bad times, the Bradys were determined to celebrate the coming of 1939.  On New Year’s Eve, after a feast of Turkey, sausage, salami and pudding, the children got ready to play the traditional game of predicting the future.  Hana, George, and their young cousins from nearby towns were given half a walnut into which they each wedged a small candle.  A large basin of water was dragged into the middle of the room.  Each child launched a little walnut boat into it.  Eleven-year-old George’s boat wobbled in the water, turned round and round, and finally came to a stop, lopsided.  Eight-year-old Hana launched hers and, for a moment, it glided along without a quiver.  Then it shook, tuned on its side, and the candle hit the water and went out.


I asked the class to make some predictions base on the final sentence.  Using our background knowledge about the war and the Nazi’s and what happened during the Holocaust, we were able to use this example of foreshadowing to predict that Hana would probably die in a concentration camp.  


Today I read more of the book which led to a discussion about anti-Semitism.  One student pointed out that the way the Jews were treated was like racism and I took the opportunity to teach them what anti-Semitism means.  We talked about how some people decide to hate others based on fear and difference.  I told them about the book I am reading at home now, “A Midwife in Venice”, which is about a Jewish midwife and her husband who lived in Venice in the 1500s and anti-Semitism was rife then also.  We discussed how it dates back to the days of the Pharoah’s in Ancient Egypt.  


The students are really interested in social justice issues and fairness.  The writer’s craft analysis  comes from their interest in the content of the text.    

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Posted by on November 28, 2013 in Social Justice, Writer's Craft, Writing


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Our Walk 4 Water and Radio Interview on CBC

Here is link to our interview on CBC’s Morning North.

And here is our walk:

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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Social Justice


We Walk 4 Water – Water Campaign Launch

After a lot of fun and a lot of work we are ready to launch our water campaign.  

The grade 5/6 students have been working with Mme Moar’s class to create a campaign to raise awareness about the water crisis.  The students learned together about how difficult it is to access clean water in some developing countries.  We also learned about how buying disposable water bottles here at home has many negative impacts on the environment.  Even in Canada, the land of water, we need to conserve. 

On Thursday, May 16th we will be walking to the Lake to collect water.  We will carry large jugs to fill up and carry back to emulate the conditions for women and girls in developing countries.  Except our walk is shorter and our load will be lighter.  We are hoping the radio will play our ad and the local paper will turn up.  Our walk is on the same day that Spencer West’s walk ends.  He has been walking from Edmonton to Calgary to raise money for Free the Children’s campaign for clean water.  His walk is called We Walk 4 Water and can be found here.  Spencer is very inspiring and our classes watched his talk from We Day last year. 

For the next few days I will be posting the students work.  Some photos of poster, some videos, a radio ad, GLOGS and stop-motion animation.


FaceTime Chat with Matt Henderson about Colonialism & Idle No More

Today our class had a Facetime chat with Matt Henderson, a friend of mine who is a teacher in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  I met Matt this past summer at Unplug’d 2012, an amazing PD experience you can read all about here.

The students and I have been watching films, reading articles and discussing colonialism and Idle No More for the past few weeks.  We are learning about how the government of Canada treated the indigenous peoples of Canada and how that has affected their culture, families and individuals.   Matt helped our class by explaining what he knows about colonial history in Canada, particularly Manitoba, but also the Maritmes, Ontario & Quebedc and the west.   Matt also explained that the Idle No More movement is about people taking a stand to effect change.  Taking a stand to right the wrongs of the past and to work together as Canadians to change the present.  Deciding that it’s not OK to subjugate others and reaching out to support our fellow human beings. 


One of our goals with this exploration is to understand perspective and prejudice and to try our very best to form opinions about issues and people only after we have valid information about them.    This is taking a critical stance, examining an issue, synthesizing all the information, and developing an informed opinion.

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We watched this CBC Doczone episode to help us understand modern First Nation people’s lives.


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Colonialism & Skype


Today we took a look at colonialism.  I wanted the class to have a little background on the subject before our upcoming Skype call with Matt Henderson, a teacher in Winnipeg. 

We watched the following film clips and discussed colonialism inworld & Canadian history.



We discussed how colonizers want the other regions for their wealth and for more land for their people.  How the colonizers usually sujugate the people who were already there.  How colonizers impose thier own laws and cultures on the people.  This has happend time and again throughout history.  We discussed the colonization of the native peoples of Canada.

On Monday we will Skype with Matt Henderson to discuss the Idle No More movement and the reasons behind it. 


This will also be good background information for the new Social Studies unit the grade 6s are starting in French Immersion, Native Peoples and Explorers.  The grade 5s will be studying Ancient Civilizations which also included colonial rule;  Mesopotamians, Greeks, Romans, Ottomans & more. 


We will try to look at colonialism from different perspectives and reflect on it critically.  Examining perspective,  bias and personal opinion.  The students will be expected to take a critical stance on an issue.


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