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.
Refers to students purposefully selcting and using techniques and processes in order to construct and communicate meaning.
Apply comprehension strategies before, during and after reading, listening, and viewing to develop understanding.
The #craftreconciliation project for me was a way to frame the research process for students. I want them to care about their topic. I want them to learn the steps in the process so well that they can decide to innovate and make the process theirs. But first, we work on making meaning with increasingly complex text. The conversation about reconciliation can be challenging not just because it might be emotionally charged content, but also because the content; that is the history, the politics, the culture, the opinions found in these conversations are complex. Take, for example, Daniel Francis’ ideas around the imaginary Indian. Students struggle to grasp the notion that people think that “Indians” don’t exist in the modern world, and especially that Francis’ argument that the “history of the “Indian” image mythologized by popular Canadian culture since 1850, [propagates] stereotypes that exist to this day.” Or the article on the “Greetings Native Savages” sticker that I wrote about in #craftreconciliation: Critical Literacy. This is interesting, but tough stuff.
And worth the effort.
When we recognize how the ideas in a text connect to our experiences and beliefs, events happening in the larger world, our understanding of history, and our knowledge of other texts, we value what we are reading.
What’s the purpose of doing this thinking?
- To deepen meaning and understanding
- To think critically
- To evaluate what I have read/viewed/listened to
- To accept or reject the text
- To understand various perspectives
How do we do it?
The strategy I focus on is annotating a text. There are many systems for annotating a text but all of them push readers to read actively. Here is my list:
Students initially hate this process because…well… because it is work. And because they have not yet discovered the pure joy that comes from marking up a text as a means of discovery. Although the student below includes highlighting in his repertoire, he identifies what each colour signifies creating intentional and meaningful annotations.
Use subject-specific processes to create, solve problems, research, make decisions, revise thinking, communicate ideas and reflect on learning.
I want to make two points about teaching the research process.
- We need to teach it.
- It’s a process.
This is hard, hard work that we need to do. Every time we make a major purchase in our lives, we will want to research to find the best product, the best deal, the most appropriate item. Never mind the loftier research pursuits that we might engage in like researching for a job or which candidate should get my vote.
Here are the steps in my research process:
Here is one student’s process:
Here is one student’s mid-term reflection:
When it comes down to researching and creating research notes, annotating, increasing vocabulary to understand harder texts, and learning about media portrayal, I have to say this is the biggest learning process I’ll ever go through. I have to say it is fun and hard, and in going through it I have learned about so many things: purpose questions, styles of text, elements of text/posts, learning new words and phrases. Furthermore, the process gives me more knowledge to use for when I head off for college.
Did you notice he used the words FUN and HARD in the same breath?
That’s what I’m talkin’bout.
Select and use appropriate organizers to gather, manage and communicate information and ideas
I realize I am running the risk of English teachers everywhere lining up to take a shot at me for using a formulaic approach to writing. I hate it too, and as soon as a student says to me “I’m done with that structure!” the celebrations ensue. We are learning to include evidence from our notes into our writing to support our ideas. We are learning to use transitions to connect and link our ideas.
I do lots of modeling on how to write, which is posted digitally and in the classroom for student reference.
Use a writing process to generate, explore, develop, and refine writing for particular purposes, forms and audiences.
This image is the bottom portion from the Research Process above. Not only do I model how to write each type of paragraph in the report, but we work together through the writing and revising process. While I know that many teachers are dissatisfied with the peer editing/reviewing process, my students use peer feedback extensively, likely because we use the same peer editing tool structure over and over. Practice for mastery!
The #craftreconciliation project is full of examples that illustrate how students used reading and writing strategies to help them develop their researching skills, including the planning skills they used to plan their #craft builds.
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: Metacognition.