#craftreconciliation: Critical Literacy

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In the fall of 2016, Wab Kinew wrote a facebook post inviting educators to partner “mainstream” classes with First Nation schools/classes to discuss “What does reconciliation look like?”.  Jaclyn Calder and I joined forces (along with Shannon Simpson and Caroline Black) to design a project that offered students an opportunity to think deeply about the relationship between Natives and non-Natives in Canada, generally, and their understanding of reconciliation, specifically. You can view the project at #CraftReconciliation with SCDSB, Wikwemikong, and Rama First Nations.

Here I am summarizing and reflecting on the project. There are five posts in this series, and they are organized around the Ontario Adolescent Literacy Guide‘s five components:

I have also organized the posts in a way that I hope makes visible the teaching – learning process so that other teachers can ‘see’ the learning that emerged from this project.

Critical Literacy

Refers to students critically analyzing and evaluating text as it relates to issues of equity, power, and social justice to inform a critical stance, response and/or action

From Theory      

Use technology to seek divergent perspectives, interact with authentic audiences and express ideas.                               

To Practice

In the beginning of the #craftreconciliation project, we worked on building students’ prior knowledge of the Truth and Reconciliation Report Calls to Action. We read about the calls to action, discussed them to unpack what they might look like in action, and then individually we wrote about the “most important call”. Finally, we prepared to share our thinking and to listen to the perspective of others in the project.

Google Hangout Prep

Choose ‘the most important’ Call to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Report of Canada and share with the rest of the group.

  1. What is the recommendation?
  2. What are some examples of that recommendation in action?
  3. Why is this the most important recommendation to focus on to reach reconciliation?

From Theory

Take a stance and engage in a response or action in the interest of equity, fairness, and social justice

To Practice

Students had multiple ways to articulate a response to the issues around equity, fairness, and social justice throughout the project: the hangouts and backchannel, discussion threads, Goodreads group, and their builds and research reports. A few students also decided to share their thinking with CBC Sudbury. The image below is linked to one student’s interview.

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“Breaking Sterotypes” emerged near the end of #craftreconciliation and provided students with another way to engage in the broader conversation of reconciliation.

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Breaking Stereotypes

From Theory

Determine whose voices are present and whose voices are missing from the text

To Practice

When students are learning about topics or issues that they care deeply about, the researching; that is, the planning, reading/viewing and note making process become personal. We gravitate toward the information that confirms our perspective. Most of the work in the research process is done in student-teacher conferences (which I need to learn to or remember to record!), but the planner below displays one student’s thinking and my initial thoughts.

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From Theory

Evaluate sources for bias, reliability, fairness, and validity

To Practice

One step in the research process is to make notes from sources. At then end of each note, students are required to summarize the main ideas of the text and complete an evaluation of the source. The criteria we use is SCARS.

Rating Scale

When you find what looks like a perfect source, quickly skim the material and on the back of your research note page, rate the source according to the 5 criteria on a scale of 0-2 (0=none or poor; 1=not bad or acceptable, 2=excellent).

  • S (sufficient) = 0 (i.e. very short article or a very narrow focus)
  • C (current) = 2 (i.e. published in a recent magazine)
  • A (accurate) = 1 (i.e. mostly reliable writer, credible magazine, but no bibliography included)
  • R (relevant) = 2 (i.e. exactly fits the topic I chose)
  • S (suitable) = 1 (i.e. some language that isn’t clear, no bias or bias is stated as part of the argument)

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From Theory

Recognize that texts are created by authors who have certain perspectives and bias

To Practice

The article “Doctor gives First Nations child ‘Greetings, Native Savages’ sticker” generated a range of responses as we unpacked the text together. First, students wrote a purpose question for reading and making notes based on the headline of the article only.

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Next, using Hypothes.is, students collaboratively annotated the article. You can see a few of their comments below. Then we had a class discussion about the article. I wondered out loud about why this hospital  would be giving out stickers and where the stickers come from. I asked students to make connections to a time when they received a sticker/prize from someone and how they felt about getting it. I asked them to consider the source. Some of the students had seen the movie and they recounted it for the class. What does the sticker have to do with the movie? Did the text on the sticker come from the movie?


Students did some quick searches and found a few reviews that gave them insight into the movie’s themes of colonization, power, subjugation, and cultural disregard.

So what?

Student comments and questions included the following:

Dreamworks produced a movie that challenges the view of the dominant culture.

Yes, but the line from the sticker never actually occurs in the movie. Who made the sticker then?

Is the hospital at fault for buying any promotional items?

It seems that the First Nation community has some legitimate concerns about their treatment at this hospital. Why did CBC use that headline? Are they being sensationalist?

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Companion pieces to the above news article:

Home Is The Cutest Vision Of Colonial Domination You’ll Ever See

Film Review: Home – A colourful take on colonialism

The #craftreconciliation project is full of examples that illustrate students working on the development of their critical literacy skills. When students are studying topics and issues for which they have deep prior knowledge, they are more able to challenge the ideas and perspectives found in all of the texts they consume.

If you have questions about #craftreconciliation or if there are parts of this post that need clarification, please use the comment box to connect with me.

Up next: Questioning.



Filed under #craftreconciliation, First Nations, Literacy

2 responses to “#craftreconciliation: Critical Literacy

  1. Pingback: #craftreconciliation: Voice & Identity | Connecting to Learn

  2. Pingback: #craftreconciliation: Metacognition | Connecting to Learn

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