Sharing and Learning Between the Grades

posted: Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Grade 4 students have been learning about residential schools as part of their Social Studies exploration this year. As recently mentioned, students participated in Telling Our Stories: Residential School Experiences at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. They also learned of the value in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and how they can educate others so that the rights of all citizens in Canada will never be threatened again. Students in class 4AM wrote a series of stories, diary entries, and speeches inspired by the many they learned of as an act of testimony, truth and reconciliation.
Elsewhere at SJR, Grade 8 students read the novel Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. This novel gives a first person account of Saul Indian Horse, a young man who is taken from his family to live and learn in St. Jerome's Residential School. The story, set in northern Ontario and Manitoba, provides an account of his experience and his recovery of his identity and community. The novel includes painful descriptions of residential school experience, but also emphasizes the resilience of the human spirit and the restorative power of community.
Grade 8 students in Dr. Churchill's class also read excerpts from A Knock on the Door, edited by Phil Fontaine, which provides historical information about residential schools and the experience of students and teachers in these schools. They wrote essays comparing fictional and factual accounts of residential school life. Students also wrote letters to Richard Wagamese, to share their responses to his writing and to ask questions of him. Sadly, Mr. Wagamese passed away in March, while students were writing their letters.
On May 12, Dr. Churchill's Grade 8 students visited the 4AM class so that the Grade 4s could share their stories with them. During the year, Grade 8 students have learned to identify strengths and weaknesses in their own writing, and various proofreading strategies of providing constructive criticism. They used these skills to give meaningful and positive feedback to the Grade 4 authors. Both groups of students appreciated the opportunity to share with and learn from each other.
Some of the Grade 8 and Grade 4 students together in class during Spirit Week (Dress As Your Favourite Character Day).