In the 1800s, the Canadian government felt that Indigenous people were uncivilized.  In an effort to assimilate them into European/Canadian culture, children were taken from their homes and brought to residential boarding schools run by different religious groups.  Many children were harmed by being separated from their families, being forbidden to speak their languages, malnutrition, and abuse of all kinds.  The last residential school closed in 1996.  Today, many Indigenous communities are still suffering from this horrific legacy. 

If you are introducing your elementary students to the history of residential schools in Canada, these read-alouds are perfect starting points.
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Author: Nicola I. Campbell
Illustrator: Kim LaFave

Shi-shi-etko is a little girl counting down the days until she has to go to a residential school.  She spends those days with her father, mother, and grandmother who each share words of wisdom.  Shi-shi-etko soaks up her surroundings to store as memories for when she is away.  This story is more of a poetic account with very rich descriptive language.

Shin-Chi's Canoe
Author: Nicola I. Campbell
Illustrator: Kim LaFave

Shin-chi's Canoe is the sequel to Shi-shi-etko.  In this story, Shi-shi-etko returns to a residential school with her little brother Shin-chi.  She tells him to remember his surroundings just like she did.  At school, they have English names and cannot speak to each other.  Months of skimpy meals, chores, church, school, and loneliness have Shin-chi longing for home.  He spends his time at the river with his toy canoe, anxiously waiting for the salmon to return.  When the salmon return, it signals the start of spring and time to go home.

When I Was Eight
Authors: Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Illustrator: Gabrielle Grimard

When I Was Eight tells the story of Olemaun, an eight year old Inuit girl who in spite of her father's objections, wants to go to the "outsiders' school" so that she can learn to read like her older sister.  As soon as she arrives at the residential school, her hair was cut and she was given uncomfortable clothes.  Olemaun, her Inuit name, was changed to Margaret.  Instead of learning to read, she was given many chores and had to attend church.  After some time, she finally began her studies.  Not knowing how to speak English, she was ridiculed and punished for her misunderstandings.  Olemaun did her best not to break under the supervision of a cruel and harsh nun and in the end she learned to read!  The story is based on the experiences of one of the authors, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton.

Not My Girl
Authors: Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Illustrator: Gabrielle Grimard

Not My Girl is the sequel to When I Was Eight.  In this follow-up, Olemaun returns home from her residential school and her mother declares, "Not my girl!"  Olemaun is now ten years old, her long hair was cut, and thin due to malnourishment and hard chores.  She learned a lot at school, had table manners, could say her prayers, and speak in both English and French.  But she could no longer speak her own language.  Her favourite foods were now unappetizing, she couldn't help around the house, and her best friend from school could not play with her anymore.  Olemaun feels like she isn't a part of the family and has to relearn her language and way of life.

When We Were Alone
Author: David A. Robertson
Illustrator: Julie Flett

In When We Were Alone, a little girl  notices things about her grandmother - her colourful clothes, long hair, how she speaks in Cree, and how she often spends time with her family.  Her grandmother explains how as a child in a residential school, many things were forbidden.  When they were alone, she and other children would try to keep their culture alive.  Now that she is older, she cherishes the customs that officials tried to erase.

Stolen Words
Author: Melanie Florence
Illustrator: Gabrielle Grimard

In Stolen Words, a little girl asks her grandfather to say something in Cree, but he can't remember.  He says that he lost his words a long time ago; they were taken away.  He sadly recalls angry teachers that raised their voices and hands at the children.  Determined to help, the little girl gets an Introduction to Cree book to give him back the stolen words.

Bonus! I recently found a new story and wanted to add it to this post.

The Orange Shirt Story
Author: Phyllis Webstad
Illustrator: Brock Nicol

Phyllis Webstad shares her experiences in The Orange Shirt Story.  Phyllis couldn't wait to attend St. Joseph's Mission so that she could join her cousin and friends and hopefully make new friends.  Like many families, Phyllis went shopping for back to school clothes and picked out a bright orange shirt.  She happily wore her shirt on the first day of school and was devastated when her clothes were taken away.  She was given different clothes to wear and begged for orange shirt, to no avail.  Phyllis tried to make the most of her year at school, but felt lonely and homesick.  She went home that summer and never returned.  People across Canada now recognize Phyllis' story and honour residential school survivors on Orange Shirt Day, September 30.  Phyllis felt that she didn't matter, but we affirm that every child matters.

Residential schools are a sad reality of our nation's past, but their legacy have caused great harm to Indigenous communities.  Born and raised in Canada myself, I was unaware of this part of Canadian history.  I understand that it's a heavy and emotional topic and one that requires sensitivity; it cannot be ignored.  Educating our students, even younger ones is an important part of the truth and reconciliation process.

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You're probably here to find new activities to add to your symmetry unit, so let's begin!

Symmetry Provocation
Moment of Truth: I am an old soul.  An old fart.  I'm quite resistant to change so I haven't fully embraced the play and inquiry model.  For now I'm introducing bits and pieces to create more of a balance.

My first foray was a symmetry provocation.  Without explicitly defining symmetry, I put out a set of books which they flocked to.  Check out the books below!  The kids quickly picked up the concept and the center became a hit!

Symmetry provocations in first grade.  A great idea for symmetry centers!

If it's not clear, I put a thin layer of sand in a baking tin and added a small mirror.  I held up the mirror with one hand and made a design in the sand with the other.  The kids thought that it was the coolest thing looking at the reflection in the mirror!

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Pegs and Pegboards
I got a bucket of pegs and a set of pegboards from a clearance center when I first started teaching.  Like most teachers would, I had to buy it because it was a great deal!  The small pegs and pegboards (4x6 inches) came from a local dollar store.  I challenged my students to make symmetrical designs or pictures. 

Symmetry centers in first grade.  Fun with pegs and peg boards!

Pattern Blocks
I was excited to try some symmetry activities created by my friend Christina over at Hanging Around in Primary.  They completed a design to make it symmetrical and made their own symmetrical designs.  In the past I put out a tub of Lego and gave kids a straw to use as the line of symmetry. 

Symmetry centers in first grade.  Fun with pattern blocks.

Butterfly Art
In grade one (first grade), paint makes everything better!  These were super easy and quick - a few drops on one side of the butterfly, press down and voilĂ ! 

Math Journals
For their journal entries, I asked students to create both symmetrical and non-symmetrical designs and find the line of symmetry in letters of the alphabet. 

These pages are part of my resource: Open-Ended Math Questions - Geometry.

I hope that you found new ideas to try with your own kiddos! 
Looking for a way to organize your teaching units?  Today I'm sharing my new storage solution - Sterilite Boxes!

Many teachers use binders and that's how I initially stored units.  My issue with binders was dealing with holes punched through my master copies.   The alternative was using lots and lots of page protectors which became quite cumbersome.  Another problem was having my printables (e.g. posters, task cards, sorts) slide out of the binder.

So I ditched binders and went to file folders and hanging files for my filing cabinet.   It solved my hole-punch aversion issues!   It also neatly held my printables for each unit.  The only drawback was when the unit became too big and weighed down the folder - I would have to split it into smaller files.

Then I found these at Walmart: Sterilite Large Clip Boxes

Why do I love them? They are large enough to keep files of worksheets and printables and small enough to store stacks of them.  In this box I have 5 science units in storage pockets plus support materials for the units.  I started with 4 boxes and then kept going back for more! 

Use Sterilite boxes to store your teaching units - BrowniePoints

I now keep my materials for Language Arts in my filing cabinet.  There is so much more space and I can be pretty specific.  It's so much easier finding what I need!

If you'd like to try a similar storage method, you can grab an editable version of my labels {here}.

How do you organize your files?  What are the pros and cons?

Use Sterilite boxes to store your teaching units - BrowniePoints

You are likely aware of the renewed focus on numeracy.  During this past school year, all of our staff meetings and professional development focussed on numeracy - rich tasks, open-ended questions, parallel questions, attitudes to math (Growth Mindset), and so on.

Our math blocks increased from 1 period to 2 so I played around with a guided math format for a part of the year.  Naturally a few of my students asked, "Why are we doing so much math?" and "Why do we have to learn this?" And by ask, I mean whined! :(  I definitely needed to change our attitudes towards math!

At the beginning of each unit I would try to explain its application to our daily lives.  This helped a bit.  Check out this article, Teaching Kids Why Math Matters.

This discussion led to the creation of posters to help connect math to everyday activities and occupations.

There are every day scenarios that involve math...

Then there are occupations that require a knowledge of a particular math topic...

And then some math motivation...

I'm super excited to use these posters in the upcoming year to help make math "real".

This poster pack is available {here}.

How do you get your students excited about math?
Side note: Gotta love Educlips clip art!
I recently wrapped up a unit on 2D shapes and thought I'd share some of the fun activities we did as a class.

If you work in Ontario you know that the ministry is pushing problem solving and rich tasks in math.  I pulled together some ideas from different sources for 2 weeks of hands-on activities. 

Making shapes with Popsicle sticks 
My students had to use Popsicle sticks to complete task cards.  We also tried to make some of the shapes with more sides.  The more the sides increased, the trickier it was to create.  Idea from A, Bee, C, Preschool.  


 Shape (and Colour) Bingo
To keep the peace, I had to assign the caller, but they had fun with this little game.  I've had it for years and probably only cost me a few dollars.

Shape Puzzles
The first was plain and simple, but always engaging.  A little bit trickier...they had to look at the complete picture and recognize the composite parts.

Shape Pictures
We used Pattern blocks and foam shapes to create the pictures.  I loved watching them trying to solve the pictures that didn't show the outlines of the shapes.  Lots of trial and error in their spatial reasoning. 

Play Doh and Mats
Using mats from Sparklebox, they had tons if fun forming shapes.  It was the first time we used play dough in my class so they really looked forward to "Math Centre Time"!  

Another new favourite!  I made a pentagon as an example and you'd think I performed a magic trick!  They were so amazed and impressed!

Pattern Blocks
I used an activity from Kindergarten Works.  After covering the triangle, I asked them to show me another way.  They were excited to come up with more new arrangements/shapes.  

Team Teaching Session
We combined our classes and did the problem from Kindergarten Works.  We had them work in pairs and set out pattern blocks, tangrams, and attribute blocks for them to use.  We charted some of their responses.  They did really well and some realized that a triangle would always be needed.  Then we gave a similar problem and put them in groups of four.  This time they had to show their work and draw their shapes. 

The following day, I gave them a similar problem to complete independently but changed the number of sides.  Depending on their ability, I required 7, 10, 12, 14 or 16 sides.  I asked them to show me at least 3 ways.  

My students really looked forward to math centres during these weeks!  Definitely a keeper!
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