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’ curiousity, exploration, and inquiry to evoke, expose, and extend their thinking
Pose and answer questions in collaboration with peers to expose various ways of thinking
I use the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) whenever the students need to generate some questions on a topic or issue.
The (QFT) is a step-by-step process that helps students learn how to produce their own questions, improve them, and strategize on how to use them. Using the QFT requires that students ask all the questions. The teacher’s role is simply to facilitate that process.
Below you can see what the students did in small groups. One student does all the writing. I review the process (because we have done this many times). I manage the time. I cheerlead. I do not give students question suggestions.
I used this question focus (thanks Jennifer Casa-Todd) because it incorporates the general idea of tolerance, racism, and the dominant culture without focusing on ideas specific to First Nations, the Truth and Reconciliation or #craftreconciliation. The goal is to teach students how to use questioning to generate ideas to ultimately create a research plan.
“Canadians are tolerant of people’s heritage, customs, and religious beliefs; we are far less racist than any other country.”
Step 1: Write the quote above on your chart paper.
Step 2: In your group, brainstorm as many questions that relate to this quote as your can – 5 min
Step 3: Categorize your questions as opened or closed – 1 min
Step 4: Change one open question to a closed question – 1 min
Step 5: Choose what you feel are your 2 most important questions and discuss why they are the most important – 4 min
Step 6: Present and add you questions to the wall.
Here are a few of the questions the students presented:
- Why is Canada so accepting of other cultures and customs and not FN’s customs & beliefs?
- How is Canada more tolerant than other countries?
- Are we necessarily talking about Aboriginal people?
- Is this prompt by a non-aboriginal person?
- Why are Canadians good with everybody who isn’t First Nations?
Explore, wonder, and investigate to solve problems and build understanding
Next, students used an Inquiry Planner to track their thinking and to help them determine a specific topic for research that they are truly interested in.
I wish I had more of the inquiry planners to share; however, this was a non-digital task so I don’t have them anymore. The final column is not completed because this early thinking led students into the full research process. The connections they made turned up in the research report planner. This student drew upon her prior knowledge of racism, the class readings we worked with together to expand and extend our background knowledge, and the QFT questions to help her generate her own thinking about the topic of racism. Others explored stereotypes, residential schools, a specific call to action, etc.
Ask questions that clarify, extend thinking and challenge ideas to probe more deeply into an issue or topic.
The above inquiry planner generated some thinking and questions around a topic the student wanted to know more about. She drew on the readings and conversations of the course, but she also had to find her own article, annotate it, and create a research note. Now, she was ready to tackle the full research process. Students could choose to continue working with their initial topic or they could change their topic based on the learning that they did in the initial inquiry process. The student who chose to explore racism initially (above) decided to explore a new topic. You can see that she has a few questions on the topic of intergenerational trauma. This was new learning for her that emerged from her reading for her racism inquiry and it drove the focus for her research report.
Use technology to pose questions and explore divergent perspectives
We used many different types of technology to ask questions and consider each other’s perspectives. Some of the students used bubbl.us or Mindomo to organize their thinking and planning. Others posted questions and responded to questions in the discussion forum. We all listened to various members of the project present their ideas about reconciliation via Google Hangouts. Click on the image below to hear a brief exchange between a student from Caroline Black‘s class and another student. Also note the responses of the students on screen to the question, the wait, and the response. Interesting.
Use self-questioning to assess readiness and guide learning
Throughout the build portion of the project students were asked to reference the design process, and ask themselves, Where am I in this design cycle? What do I have to do next? What’s my plan? This self-assessing took place in their notebooks and in conferences, neither of which I collected. One student did make reference to this process in his final course reflection, which I included in the first post of this series.
The #craftreconciliation project is full of examples that illustrate how students used questioning to help them make connections, build knowledge, and develop as independent learners.
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: Strategy