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Aboriginal Cultures in BC

The following unit is designed to be used in an intermediate Grade 4/5 class to address
the Aboriginal Cultures component of the Grade 4 Social Studies Curriculum.
The following Prescribed Learning Outcomes are addressed in this unit:

A1: Apply critical thinking skills ­ including comparing, imagining, inferring,
identifying patterns, and summarizing ­ to selected problems and issues
A2: Use maps and time lines to gather and represent information
A5: Create a presentation on a selected historical event or topic
B1: Distinguish characteristics of various Aboriginal cultures in BC and Canada
B3: Identify effects of early contact between Aboriginal societies and European
explorers and settlers
C1: Compare governance in Aboriginal cultures with governance in early
European settlements in BC and Canada
C2: Identify the impact of Canadian governance on Aboriginal people’s rights
D1: Compare bartering and monetary systems of exchange
D2: Describe technologies used by Aboriginal people in BC and Canada
D5: Describe economic and technological exchanges between explorers and
Aboriginal people
E1: Use maps and globes to locate
– the world’s hemispheres
– the world’s continents and oceans
– Aboriginal groups studied
E2: Identify the significance of selected place names in BC and Canada
E3: describe Aboriginal peoples’ relationship with the land and natural resources
To Note:  This unit is designed to provide teachers with an overview of how we taught
the unit (with changes based upon reflections of “what worked” or “didn’t”.)  Each
teacher will have to make their own changes based on the numerous factors impacting
their individual classrooms.

Silvey, Diane. From Time Immemorial: The First People of the Pacific
Northwest Coast. Gabriola: Pacific Edge Publishing Ltd, 2000.
MacKenzie, Jennette. Nelson Literacy 4C First Contact. Toronto: Nelson
Education Ltd, 2008.
The corresponding Explorers Unit addressed the following PLO’s:
A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, B2, D3, D4.  The Explorers Unit can also be found in the KELSET Learning Commons in the Teacher section on the Diversity WordPress site.

This section begins by reintroduces the students to the map of the world which they will have
already seen in previous grades.  The students will compare two versions of the World Map to
compare and contrast.  (One is a version with Europe in the center and the other has North
America in the center).  The students also completed the corresponding activity from the
Teachers guide on Map Grids.
From this point, we read the article from the Teacher’s Guide Human Life on North America
and complete the Timeline.  Next, teacher and students read page 1 and 2 of From Time
Immemorial.   We also used the opportunity to discuss nonfiction text features.  This introduction
also includes a map of the Pacific Northwest Coast Language Groups.

Big Idea:
First Nations Groups have been on North America for over 15 000 years and believe
they have been here since Time Immemorial.  They truly are the first nation on North America.
First Nations Groups are organized by language groups across the country.  Within
language groups, there are also individual bands.

Teacher’s Guide: From Time Immemorial
Page 14: World Map
Page 15: Continents and Oceans
Page 20: Human Life on North America
Page 21: Historical Timeline
Page 17: Looking Back at the Introduction
Page 18: First Nations Values

We wanted to include a section illustrating to the students the impact of First Nations on
Canadian and British Columbian Place Names.  This short section can be done in different
ways, however in the most basic form, the handouts from the book can be reviewed and the
second handout, Aboriginal Place Names can be completed.  This includes a map of BC where
students can then use an atlas as a reference to label the map of BC with the place names
provided in the hand out.  Aboriginal Place Names has two versions to help with the diversity in
the classroom.
Some classrooms could start this activity by giving the students a list of place names and the
students were asked to sort into either an aboriginal inspired name or non aboriginal name.  As
a class, the teacher will then lead a discussion on which names would be in which column.

Big Idea:
Many of Canadian and British Columbian place names are First Nation words or adapted
from First Nation words.

Aboriginal Place Names
Teachers Guide: From Time Immemorial
Page 140: Coastal Place Names
Page 141: Canadian Aboriginal Place Names
Page 142: Canadian Place Names Puzzle

Reading and Note ­making from Chapter 2—Villages & Families: From Time Immemorial—The
First People of the Pacific Northwest
1)  As a class we read this chapter together (preview text features, discuss
connections/background knowledge, ask questions).
2) Section by section we unpacked the main ideas vs the details and students learned to take
notes in their own words being as clear and concise as possible. This is MODELED heavily and
done as a group using the document camera. See attached note taking template
3)  We also made use of the story “The Training of Tano” (page 6­7) to learn how and why
stories are used within aboriginal families.  This could be an extension activity. See attachment.
4)  Finally, we discussed the plus’s and minus’s of the involvement of the extended family in
raising children using the attached graphic organizer. This could be an extension activity.

Students select topic and research/note ­take
1)  Students select (or are assigned) a particular topic/chapter from the resource From Time
Immemorial. Using the attached graphic organizer they will follow the same process as in the
modelling section but are working either independently or with a partner/group of three.  There
are 10 potential topics from the resource.
2)  Since students will become experts on a different aspect of pre­-contact Aboriginal life in the
Pacific Northwest it will be their responsibility to teach the rest of the class what they know.
Each student will create a poster for our class gallery walk using the information they have
collected.  The following are student samples on various topics:



Hunting and Gathering




It is extremely important to discuss and show features of good (and not so good) informational posters with students and share (or build) an evaluation rubric with students like the one attached.  Students
should/could also self­-evaluate on the rubric before the teacher.

3)  When  posters are complete or almost complete have each student complete the attachment
Poster Self-Reflection. This will prepare them for the gallery walk and help them to make
additions/improvements to their poster.

1)  On Day 1 half of the class (1 poster on each different topic) will set up around the classroom.
The rest of the class will be the gallery walkers. With the attached organizer they will rotate in
set groups on the teacher’s command (approx. 3-­4 minutes at each poster) to the different
posters.  The poster maker will welcome them, share their poster and the 2+ most important
things they learned about their topic.
2) Repeat on Day 2 with the groups flipped so that everyone has had a chance to share their
poster and everyone has had a chance to be a gallery walker.

1) Trappers and Traders with attachment pg 56
2) First Contact page 62 with attachment

1) The Teacher’s Guide for From Time Immemorial  contains many extensions including a
“Looking Back at Chapter __” assignment that may be useful for evaluation

Olden Days – Grade 3

Connecting The Past With The Present 

Anne Jespersen’s students are asked to connect, respond, and reflect to each of her lessons.  This creates an environment which fosters deep thinking questions.  In this unit, Anne wanted to specifically focus on:

  • supporting point of view with evidence
  • applying knowledge to transform thinking

Anne and I decided to start the unit by showing a series of pictures.  We had seen Leyton Schnellert demonstrate this technique many times..  Anne and I modelled (*modelling is one of the most effective ways to collaborate) how to talk about one of the photos, then we asked the students to share their thinking on the other photos.

Olden days introductory photos

The following are the activities with examples of student responses.  Take note of the great care Anne took to include a range of ways to respond to learning.

Anne read Little House on the Prairie and showed clips from Little House in the Big Woods from Youtube.  Along the way, the students responded with:

Students responded to a picture of a pioneer family, looking for similarities and differences to modern life.

Students compared a day in their life with that of a pioneer child.

Students responded to short articles

Miss Christie came in with HOMEMADE bread and made butter with the students

Anne made ice cream with the students

Students, taught by Miss Rice, were weaving during their spare time for weeks!

A slide show is a good way to get students to collect their learning.  The Grade 3s found images of pioneer clothes, food, school life, home life, and transportation.  Their slide show had to reflect their learning by answering ONE of the following questions:

  • How did pioneers live?
  • Why are pioneers amazing people
  • What do I know about pioneers?

The final slide was to be a picture of child with thought bubbles.  In one bubble they would record what they used to think about pioneers/olden days, and in the second bubble they would record their transformed thinking (now I think . . .)

Students were asked to bring in an artifact from home

Anne and Julie model the artifact project

Anne’s parents were invited to the class to answer questions about their experience in school.  Anne’s dad went to school in an urban school while Anne’s mom went to a rural school.  Each student had to come up with a question to ask.

The class dressed in olden days clothes for a visit to Helmken house and the provincial museum.  Upon their return they had to write a letter as a pioneer or about a pioneer – insert example


As a school-wide write (ssw), the Grade 3 topic was to decide whether they would want to pioneer child?  They had to use their learning to support why or why not.

The final activity:

Students were paired in twos based on what they had written in their ssw.  One student who wanted to be a pioneer was paired with one who didn’t want to be a pioneer.  The students read their ssw aloud, then the class voted who had the strongest, supported argument.

Explorers – Grade 4/5

Engagement, Inquiry, and Diversity in Grade 4/5

If the explorers Champlain, Vancouver, Mackenzie, Cabot, Hudson and Cartier were on a ship and it became too heavy to operate, who would get to stay based on their accomplishments?  This is the question posed to Grade 4/5 students in Heather Fawke’s class.  They will plead their case to Grade 3 classes based on research they have done on one of six explorers who explored Canada.


To get the Grade 4/5s excited about the journey they would undertake, I gave them a little background to understand the conditions which preceded the age of exploration.  I pause OFTEN and get the students to think/pair/share, wonder, make connections, compare, and share with the class their thinking.

Now that the students had some understanding of Europe during the Middle Ages, I wanted to show them the conditions that created exploration.

First Contact – a clever librarian in our district found a few sites to help students understand what happened when Europeans met First Nations.  I do not show all of the first video and for all three videos, I stop often to highlight the difference between European land use and First Nations land use.  The videos also talk about how the relationship was mutually beneficial at the start.  I ask the students to look for evidence of the relationship between their explorer and local FN when they begin to research.

Research – Now that students had some background knowledge of exploration, it was time to begin their own guided research

  • Students were asked to pick one of the six explorers to research.  The explorers they may choose from are: Champlain, Vancouver, Mackenzie, Cabot, Hudson, and Cartier.  Once the research was complete, students created a slideshow of the explorer.
    • All students, regardless of ability, were given the option of group research on John Cabot with me OR to work alone.  Heather worked in the computer lab with the majority of the class while I worked in the library with the smaller group.
    • Students could use books, the carefully curated page on the library website and World Book for kids and World Book for students on the school database.

First, they needed to find out the basics IntroductoryGraphicOrganizer.  This was an excellent way to get students interacting with the resources.

Next, we gave the students a big graphic organizer explorer graphic organizer   This was overwhelming!  Heather and I broke it down into manageable pieces which has worked out well with in trials with other classes.

Once the organizers were complete, students started working on their slideshows.  Heather had the students include a route map by grabbing a suitable map from Scribblemaps and drawing the route using the slideshow tools.  Before the slideshows were complete, Heather passed out evaluation rubrics  RubricSlideshow and displayed two teacher-created slideshows of the same explorer to demonstrate a well done vs. poorly done product. The good example  The bad example   Students took a few extra days to improve their slideshows before presenting them in front of the class.  Heather had each child share their project with the class so students could learn about the other explorers.  Next time, we will divide the class and share the load.  NOTE FOR NEXT TIME:  Heather found that using transitions between the slides of the route maps was distracting.  Although we had told the students to choose an easy to read font and colour, some were difficult to read.  This could be fixed by giving them a choice of font and colour.  Heather was generally quite happy about the Slideshows.  Students had adequate information and demonstrated general knowledge of their explorer.  Here are two examples:  Henry Hudson and Alexander Mackenzie.

The Final Project!

After the student slideshows had been presented, we introduced the culminating critical thinking activity –  the HMS KELSET project.  Explorer Overboard  The project had to include a poster of the explorer RubricPoster  Rubrics were passed out for each of the options Rubrics   Students were given two weeks to complete the project at home.

Examples of project boards were shown.  Students presented their posters and projects to classmates where it was marked by Heather and feedback was given by classmates.  Students had three days to make changes before performing for the Grade 3 classes.

Grade 3s were given some background information and what to look for in a good presentation.  Each Grade 3 would vote for one of the 9 Grade 4/5 students presenting.

We found that MOST Grade 4/5 students tried to include too much background information and didn’t focus specifically on the explorers’ specific contribution.  Since this was the only part of the unit done at home, we feel parents didn’t understand this need not be a summary of information.  Rather than using a poster format, we might switch to photos shown on a document camera for easy viewing.  Here are some clips of creative elements we can show to future students:  Interview with John Cabot, video clip 1, video clip 2, George Vancouver reinactment

The front-end loading process is a winner.  Not only does it lead to richer discussion and more interesting questions it sparks interest and desire to learn more about the subject.  Whether this takes the form of searching for answers to specific questions or simply an interest in the topic in general, it is clear that my group is hooked.

We have a wonderful set of new animal books that are perfect for our 2s (thanks, Julie!) as they have vibrant and interesting photos paired with efficiently communicated written information.  Each page has between 1 and 3 sentences which not only hold(s) most readers’ attention, but keeps important points from getting lost amongst less interesting information.  This might not be a great thing at older grade levels as it is useful for students to learn to discern between big ideas and supporting ones, but at grade 2 the simplicity is preferable as this is one of the first times the kids will be asked to do formal research.

These animal books have been a huge hit during our silent reading times for the past week or so, despite that they were hiding at the back of the room as they were meant to be used for Science class, but I caught myself before I told the kids to put the books down and stop learning. 🙂  Kids have been keen to share facts and show photos from these new books, turning silent reading time into human popcorn as they get up and down from their seats to share their learning within the framework of what the knowledge that they have already acquired during the unit.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks has remained the relative lack of student created “big questions” other than “What makes something an animal?” which is a great one.  This has been an especially powerful question as the kids have generated potential ideas as to what might contribute to something being considered an animal.  It is also telltale that the students have picked up on little bits of information that either support or go against their theories.  One girl expressed great frustration to learn that sponges are considered animals despite the fact that they do not move (unless stuck to the back of something that moves) as this ruined her “all animals move” theory.  Given some of the complexities that exist around this question, I am leaning towards having the kids examine the “Why do animals look different” question (adaptations) with regard to a given animal or two as I think that it might be something that they can answer with more success.  In this regard we are guiding the question, but giving them choice about which animal(s) they choose and perhaps how they demonstrate their knowledge.  This differs from what Anne and Julie did with the older students (grade 3s) who had their “big questions” narrowed down to about 6 from which to choose one and answer in their projects.

Another idea is to have the class choose a small number of the interesting questions that they generated that we will explore as a class.  These questions are not necessarily “deep” questions, but are interesting none the less (e.g. Do worms eat?).  If I narrow down their questions to 5 or 6 of the most common/interesting the group could then come to an agreement about which 3 or 4 to explore as a class.

Personally, I have come upon at least two major realizations: One is that front-end loading is a great process for leading to rich discussion.  Another is that there needs to be a lot of scaffolding and guidance for our younger students to be succesful in a process such as inquiry based learning especially when exploring a vast subject.  Despite the removal of some choice for the students through the guidance discussed above the learning that has taken place has been very rich.


Exploring diversity in Grade 3

The question:

Anne Jespersen and Julie McManus tackled the question: What does diversity look like in Grade 3?

Our inspiration:

Having read the book,  It’s All About Thinking:  Collaborating to Support All Learners in English, Social Studies, and Humanities by Faye Brownlie and Leyton Schnellert as a book club selection, and attended the Leyton Schnellert professional development sessions, we were motivated to create a diversity project with Anne’s Grade 3 students.  We didn’t want to stand in front of the class giving the students all the information (Anne calls that ‘stuffing the turkey‘).  We wanted to create a solar system guided inquiry unit that could be adapted to different subject areas.

Our first task was to create a question for the learning intention.  We were initially challenged with that elusive overarching essential question.  We came up with:

  • What is a planet?
  • What is a solar system?
  • What are the characteristics of the inner vs. the outer planets?

We weren’t really comfortable with what we had come up with because they didn’t seem all-encompassing enough.

Front-end loading and responding to learning is the key

So, we put that on hold and decided to ‘front-end load’ and see what happened.  It started with a the solar system song and a few YouTube clips.  Students learned about the solar system through videos, read alouds, newspaper articles, guest speakers, and independent reflection.  Here are the links from the Solar System library webpage.  From the beginning, it was never about note-taking or filling in the blanks.  We recorded facts, made connections, and asked questions.  Solar chart   Turtle chart (can be adapted to any subject)  We had taken the Adrienne Gear Non-Fiction Reading Power  workshop where we found many strategies for deeper thinking.  This gave us tools to delve deeper into questioning.   Reading Power resources

Click here for Record Thinking blank sheets and here for examples where Students Record Thinking

Student-led learning

The deeper questioning led to a two column chart for questions and answers. Students wrote questions on sticky notes.  If an answer was found, the sticky was moved to the answer column.   Click on the image to see student questions.Sticky notes

Uh-oh, what if there are no answers?

Anne realized she had no idea how to answer most of their questions.  At first she felt inadequate, but it didn’t seem to bother the students.  They started searching for the answers together.  Sometimes the answers were found, sometimes they weren’t.

What are the by-products of engaged learners?

Students discovered that the most up to date information was needed when they were researching Pluto.  They started to check the copy write date of the books to determine relevance and perspective.  Information about the solar system is updated so quickly that much of the information students needed was found on the Internet.

Celebrate the learning!

All this time, Anne was the facilitator.  She was frustrated that students weren’t producing a beautiful project.  But with some reflection and constant encouragement from Julie, Anne was able to see that some amazing learning was occurring.  In fact, when Sid Sidhu and Laurie Roche from the Royal Astronomical Society came for their yearly visit, they mentioned the students were more interactive and questioning than years past.  Why?  All that deep questioning made learning about the Solar System authentic and relevant to the kids.  They bought into the student directed approach.

Reality check

While this started out as inquiry based unit, it quickly changed to guided inquiry, and then guided, guided inquiry.  Grade 3 students don’t have the maturity to discern a credible Internet site.  The challenge for teachers is to find accessible information for a range of learners at a reading level far below the average reading level on the internet.

So what is guided, guided inquiry?

For our culminating activity, the students came up with 50 questions about the solar system they would like answered.  Anne chose six questions from the 50 for students to research.  Julie found websites to answer the questions.  Anne and Julie got together and realized the need to edit each website to the single paragraph that would answer the question.  Why?  Because the Grade 3s are unable to read through information above their reading level and find the answers.  Anne and Julie guided, guided (scaffolded) inquiry and didn’t feel guilty.  Here are two examples of the final project – Student Product1  Student Product2

Final thoughts?

Anne and Julie don’t really agree with identifying the overarching question before the unit begins because those pesky students kept changing the direction of the unit based on the questions they were asking.  What was valuable was looking through the PLOs and matching them with video clips, Internet sites, printed materials to ‘front load’ information while allowing the students to reflect and ask deep questions.

We’ve started applying our inquiry model to our animal unit in science.  The first activity we tried was to give the kids a list of 10 animals and ask them to group these animals by whatever criteria they wanted.  I provided each group of three students with a whiteboard and dry erase pen to write down their answers.  The guideline for groups using the whiteboards is that everyone must agree about things that are written on the boards and that we take turns writing.

The kids did a pretty good job of coming up with characteristics by which to sort the animals.  Most of the traits that the kids chose were physical appearance types of traits such as whether the animals had hair, feathers, or are “smooth”.  Some had a category for 4-legged animals and others had groups based on whether the animals lived in water or on land.  We discussed that many of the traits that the kids had decided to use for their groups are traits that scientists think are important and use themselves when they are classifying animals.

Students suggested some questions that grew from this activity.  For example, the group could not come to a consensus about whether elephants or hippopotamuses have hair.  We started a bank of questions that we will try to answer either naturally during the planned exploration of the unit (e.g. we might learn that mammals drink milk from their mothers, and learn that giraffes are mammals therefore we can say that giraffes drink milk) or by specifically seeking out the answer to a specific question (e.g. Googling “do giraffes drink milk”).  I’d prefer the former as it demonstrates some deductive reasoning, but obviously it is also a good life skill to know that an answer might be readily available through appropriate and useful means such as a search engine.

We then started our “front-end-loading” process by watching the Bill Nye video about mammals.  This prompted some good discussion and answered our question about elephants and hair (they do have).  More questions grew from discussion during and after watching this video.  One question that is on our “unanswered list” is whether or not all mammals give live birth.  Another is whether giraffes drink milk.  These questions are not the deep thinking questions that we are striving for in our inquiry model but they are already starting to show that students are incorporating new knowledge into their thinking.  Questions are now with regard to if specific animals are mammals, or whether animals that students suspect to be mammals meet have all of the characteristics of a mammal.

We will continue with the front-end-loading while watching to see if the depth of the student created questions evolves with their increased knowledge of the subject.

I am wrestling with whether I should provide the kids a couple of big questions such as “What makes an animal an animal?” “Why do some animals look different than others?” and “Why do some animals live in different places?”  I am leaning towards giving the kids more time to come up with their own “big questions” before introducing my own as I feel that student created questions will add the element of ownership and hopefully more intrinsic motivation to find the answers.


The goal of our project is to provide primary students more choice in their study and in their method of expressing what they’ve learned through the use of a guided inquiry model.

In the hope of giving ourselves the best opportunity to be successful in this process Ginny Underwood and myself have decided to have our grade 2s practice some inquiry basics in their daily sharing routine. The idea here is that the kids will get used to observing details, asking questions, and making inferences in a familiar and scaffolded format before applying these skills to more complex topics and broader subject areas in our science unit on animals later in the year.

We’ve been using the Leyton Schnellert and Adrienne Gear strategy of examining photos to apply our inquiry scaffolding. Specifically, children are responsible on a specific day for providing a special photo which each member of the class will examine and provide 3 observations, 2 questions or “wonders,” and 1 inference or “maybe statement.” We call this a 3-2-1 OWI (Gear’s name for the activity as you provide 3 observations, 2 wonders, and 1 inference) and share differently each day to help keep the activity fresh.

Some days each child will quietly record their work in their own workbook, other days we’ll share out loud, and sometimes we’ll pass out dry erase boards to small groups who must share writing and erasing responsibilities and, most importantly, agree on everything that goes onto the board. Every day I record what the class shares on the board.

Challenges that came up over the course of this activity were separating questions from inferences. For example, a child might see a photo and ask “is that at the campsite in Parksville?” when that is really an inference in question’s clothing. I did not pick up on this myself until about 6 or 7 times through the activity. We discussed that the question was really “where are they?” and that the inference is “maybe they are at the campsite in Parksville.” We also discussed that their brains were likely going from question to inference almost instantly and we just had to separate the two for our activity.  I was impressed with how quickly the boys and girls made this correction to their process.

Today we tried to push the observation of details by partnering the children and having one partner describe the photo to the other child who was facing away from the image. After 30 seconds of description, we gave the partner who could not see the image a chance to ask questions that would fill out gaps in the image they were forming in their head. We then gave the describing partner 15 more seconds to add in any last details that they thought that they might have left out. After this, we allowed the listeners to look at the image and share any details of the image that were a surprised to them after hearing the description. We then proceeded with the “wonder” and “inference” parts of the activity as usual. Tomorrow we will keep the same partnerships but reverse the roles.

What You Will Find Here.

The KELSET Diversity Team members will use this page to post their reflections based on their experiences in applying the principles of inquiry based learning to new and old lessons.  We will share our successes and challenges and in doing so will hopefully gain a clearer understanding of how to proceed in our efforts to create accessible and rich learning opportunities for our students.