There are two very important things that I would like to bring to your attention before you start browsing trough the lesson plans here, or even creating your own. The first one are the various factors that you should consider when incorporating FNMI content into your classroom, and the second one is how to deal with sensitive issues in the classroom. I realise on a couple of the items listed below that there is some over lap from previous posts in the best practices section of this site, but they are so important to running a good program I thought it was worth mentioning them again.
Factors to consider when incorporating First Nation, Métis and Inuit content
- Reflect traditional and contemporary cultures
- Reflect the diversity of First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples, with particular attention to the local peoples in the area of your school.
- Reflect the diversity and specificity of First Nation, Métis and Inuit cultures (eg. not “Aboriginal music” but “Ojibway music” or “traditional powwow music”)
- Include the historical and contemporary experiences of First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples, with both positive and negative experiences
- Recognise that First Nation, Métis and Inuit cultures continue to change although oral traditions are central to the cultures.
- Discuss challenges, but also reflect positive examples and contributions of First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples to Canada
- Provide a variety of media resources which present First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples in a positive and contemporary way
- Include First Nation, Métis and Inuit people in the classroom as traditional teachers, role models, professionals, etc.
- Teach students to deconstruct media perspectives to find assumptions, stereotypes and biases
- Incorporate First Nation, Métis and Inuit pedagogical approaches (see best practices section on this site)
Activities to Avoid
- Using generic or stereotypical images of Fist Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples rather than images of specific cultural groups
- Using maps of traditional territories without time frame references
- Having students rewrite First Nation, Métis and Inuit stories that have been passed down through oral tradition as cultural teachings
- Having students make drums, dreamcatchers, totem poles, masks, or other sacred cultural objects, except in context and in the presence of an Elder or knowledge keeper
- Having students reproduce actual First Nation, Métis and Inuit art works
- Having students appropriate First Nation, Métis and Inuit symbols or cultural items
- Having students invent “Aboriginal stories” or write stories about “Aboriginal families”
- Using regalia or other cultural/spiritual items without context.
If you are ever unsure, ask the instructional leaders in your school board, or Aboriginal leaders in your community.
Factors to consider when teaching controversial or sensitive topics
Teaching controversial and sensitive topics are important because it builds the necessary skills for an informed community or society. Many topics involving First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples are controversial or sensitive in nature. (E.g. land claims, self-government, residential schools, and identity) Addressing controversial or sensitive topics allow students to explore and question what it means to live in Canada in the relative safety of the classroom.
Before engaging in discussions
- Establish class rules/procedures for discussions before getting to the controversial or sensitive topics
- Try to create an atmosphere of empathy and trust
- Discuss how people construct their knowledge and opinions (e.g. media, family, news)
- Teach terminology about knowledge (e.g facts, frame of reference, stereotyping, bias) and use them in discussions
- Establish a knowledge base to help ground discussions in facts
- Gradually increase the level of complexity and controversy of issues, possibly beginning with issues that affect them all (e.g. cafeteria food, start time for school)
- Limit use of debates or pro/con stances which may create a sense of competition rather than reflection and force issues to extremes or force students to make up their minds before they have heard the facts
- Use a video or text to prompt discussion and establish alternative viewpoints; the allows discussion to focus on the media source and the issue it raises
- Identify inappropriate labeling, generalizations, stereotyping when they occur
- Don’t ask or expect self-identified Aboriginal students to be spokespeople for their nation or for all Aboriginal peoples
- If the discussion gets too hot, have people write down their positions or write a reflection of the discussion itself to allow everyone time to cool off
- Be aware that some students find controversy in the classroom inherently disturbing while others find it invigorating
- Be sure to have tie for a wrap-up reflection
- Have a plan to move forward (e.g. getting more information, actions to be taken)
- If one student has been particularly disruptive, talk privately with that student about appropriate participation