Choosing a piece of literature for your course is an important decision. Take a moment to reflect on the very small number of books you will have the opportunity to introduce to your students in any given year. Stories have the potential to help students understand different perspectives, question their surroundings, and build empathy in meaningful and communal ways. With such an important role to play, these are some of the questions we encourage you to consider when deciding how to develop a course and which texts to teach:
Knowing that experiences of loss, isolation and disconnection caused by the pandemic have exacerbated the everyday challenges many face, we ask, what could it mean for students if they had an opportunity to tell their story or speak out on an issue that they care about? And what if students could feel heard?
This blog post is the 2nd in a multi-part series. Natalie Steele, an educator with Peel District School Board in Ontario, will be sharing additional resources and strategies for your classroom over the next few months on the topics of Black identities, humanizing stories, amplifying missing voices in the curriculum, and correcting the systemic abuses of history in schooling.
Why Historical Fiction?
One challenge when studying the history of marginalized peoples is often the histories of these groups have a limited amount of primary source materials available for research to draw from compared to the prolific amount of Eurocentric sources. In your search to find primary sources that help students to connect to the humanity of those held in bondage in an inhumane system, you may encounter many barriers, like language, accessing the actual resource because it's no longer in print and/or digital versions are not available, and/or the only copy available is far away with limited access.
Looking for a closing activity before the holiday break?
We have all felt the overwhelming impact of 2020 in our own ways. As stated in a viral tweet made in April by Damian Barr (@Damian_Barr), “We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm. Some are on super-yachts. Some have just the one oar.” Each of us has uniquely been affected by this unprecedented moment in history.
Claire Ahn, an Assistant Professor of Multiliteracies in the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University, provides a framework to engaging students in film analysis (in the classroom and online) as well as access to film units and resources.
Facing History's 'Close Viewing Protocol' is also a great resource that explores questions surrounding what the filmmaker is trying to convey, the choices the filmmaker has made, the role of images, narration, editing, and sound, and what the film’s purpose might be.
This fall, after a suggestion from Jasmine Wong from Facing History and Ourselves, I decided to explore The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative, by Thomas King with my grade 11 English students. I was familiar with the text but it would be the first time I would be using it in my classroom. When I was in school we were rarely encouraged to be critical thinkers and we certainly were not encouraged to seek out the stories that make up our land. My goal was to learn with my students and explore and make connections. I was going to use the idea of the Oral Story as my jumping off point.
Students love music so, when I tell my grade 11 College English classes that they are going to be creating CDs as their first project, students get excited. Inspired by Facing History’s approach to teaching about genocide, I started the “Tracks Of My Life Project” to engage students in exploring the concept of identity that is foundational to our first novel, Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese.
In my grade 10 Canadian history class, I often used excerpts from Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road to explore what life was like for soldiers during WWI. In this novel, protagonist Xavier Bird returns to Northern Ontario in 1919 after fighting in France and Belgium. He is met by his aunt Niska, an Oji-Cree woman, and the two travel back to their village. On this journey, the two recount traumatic experiences from their past - Xavier as a soldier returning from the front and Niska as a survivor of residential schools.
Topics: Canada, Canadian History, Truth and Reconciliation, Indigenous History, Book, Indigenous, English Classroom, big paper, English, Grade 10 History, CHC, difficult conversations, trc, stolen lives, settler educators
Having been an LTO (Long term occasional teacher) in the TDSB (Toronto District School Board) for several years I have taught a variety of courses with little prep time available; Facing History saved me more than a few times with their resources (and of course other teachers' contributions to this very blog). I'm delighted to be able to share some of my experience using and adapting Facing History and Ourselves resources and pedagogy in my classroom.
Topics: Film, Choosing to Participate, Human Rights, Facing History Resources, News, Identity, Facing History and Ourselves, current events, Culturally Responsive and Relevant Pedagogy, Literature Circles, Lesson Ideas, In the news, English Classroom, Social Justice, Literature, Personal history, English