Classroom Practice

Integrating Indigenous Perspectives into the Classroom

New Learning Series
The content team at Learning Bird has been working hard to develop a new process for the creation of learning object collections. This new model is influenced by deeper learning concepts and research and is intended to provoke inquiry, provide information from new or different perspectives, and engage students in collaborative learning.

The first novel that was chosen for this series is called Good for Nothing by Michel Noel. The award-winning author is of Algonquin descent from the Outaouais region in western Quebec. Published in 2004, ‘Good for Nothing’ is set in 1959 and tells the story of 15-year-old Nipishish who is kicked out of residential school and has to return to his reserve to face his past. The novel touches on many topics that are still major issues in the Canadian landscape, such as residential schools and problems on reserves. Frequent references to Louis Riel, who was a Canadian politician, founder of the province of Manitoba, and the political leader of the Métis people in the Canadian prairies, make this a great tool for cross-curricular to tie into history or social studies classes.

Beyond the thought-provoking issues highlighted in this book, we chose it for our new learning series because it challenges the reader to evaluate whose viewpoint they are seeing things from. While it’s a fictional story, it is based on real events so readers are able to learn about Canadian Indigenous history. The age of the main character is also very relatable as the target reader is between 14 to 17 years old.

Pedagogical Process
Our approach to content creation is holistic in that we aim to cultivate deeper learning, by engaging the whole learner, We focus on what the learner actively and cognitively does with learning objects over the content knowledge being transmitted. We work closely with teachers to develop supportive materials that are in line with best digital pedagogy and their own student and classroom needs

Our content is created around a critical pedagogy that focuses on four main areas of active learning: Content Knowledge, Reflection, Engagement, and Communication. This series of learning objects includes adaptive learning strategies, and builds on each other to move learning into another ‘phase’, weaving in content to support successful learning. Teachers can use the series of learning activities to support classroom units, which are curricularly coherent and adaptive to specific environments and student ability.

Here we have included examples of deeper learning activities within our novel studies series on ‘Good for Nothing’ as a curricular object.

What is Progress?
This lesson challenges traditional knowledge by deconstructing the term “progress” in different contexts. Using a passage from ‘Good For Nothing’ in which an Algonquin community is actually unhappy about the government building them free houses in the name of ‘progress’, the viewer is presented with alternate viewpoints on what this term means. The video goes on to explain that there isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all definition for everyone, and uses this as a way to teach about irony.

Raising Voices
This lesson inspires the learner to take action/make changes by helping the viewer link the contents of the novel to real-world issues that are still prevalent today, and making them think of possible solutions instead of the sense of despair news media outlets usually result in. While the novel ‘Good for Nothing’ is based in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s, many of the issues faced by the characters are still relevant and thriving today. What are some of these issues? This learning object encourages the learner to research and identify some problems, as well as come up with possible solutions. Using this, they can either create public Prezis or create short YouTube videos to share with the wider online community and raise awareness and voices.

Different Ways to Integrate Indigenous Perspectives
There are many ways that teachers can include examples and literature from different perspectives in their classrooms. Not just limited to the English language arts classrooms, the following examples can be used cross-curricularly to ensure that students are learning from a diverse population.

  1. Canadian musician and national treasure, Gord Downie of the band The Tragically Hip, wrote a graphic novel and produced a multimedia project called Secret Path. The book is about 12-year-old Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack, a First Nations boy whose body was discovered beside a railway track in 1966. He died trying to make it home from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ontario. Downie created the project to shed light on Canada’s problematic residential school system and to preserve the memory of Chanie.
  2. Margaret Nazon of Tsiigehtchic, N.W.T. creates works of arts using beads. Her most recent creations reflect the stars and galaxies in our skies. Using beadwork, teachers could integrate the arts into science lessons on the stars, or even the cells of the body and plants.
  3. Video game showcasing Indigenous stories: http://neveralonegame.com/
  4. Approaching Indigenous art in Canadian education: http://www.curriculum.org/tcf/teachers/projects/repository/AboriginalArt.pdf
  5. Gym class and the Arctic winter games: http://www.arcticwintergames.org/
  6. Music, hip hop, and First Nations: http://www.nativehiphopproject.com/

Check back as we add further lessons, novels, and topics under our new lesson series format.

About the author

Kelsey Catherine Schmitz

A PhD, researcher and educator in the field of technology integration and digital identities, Kelsey Catherine explores the impact digital media has on young people, and what role youth culture has on classroom practice. She also spends far too much time playing League of Legends. You can follow her on Twitter @KelseyCMS.

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