Young Children Reading Critically: Aboriginal Literature and Pedagogy

As Dion (2007) asserts, while there has been growth in the number of texts on Aboriginal peoples available, few teachers are confident in their knowledge of Aboriginal people and their history to teach these texts in meaningful and informed ways.  This research explores the implications of elementary students’ reading literary genres and other relevant texts to expose them to Aboriginal knowledge and critical issues that have significantly impacted Aboriginal peoples.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Dolores van der Wey
Co-Investigators: Marjean Brown, Classroom Teacher, School District #41 (Burnaby)

How This Project is Carried Out

Teacher and researcher worked side-by-side over two terms in a Greater Vancouver school with a videographer recording all classes. The first phase took place in the spring of 2013 in the teacher’s grade 2/3 class. The second phase took place in the same classroom teacher’s grade 3/4 class in the spring of 2014.  The research team developed the unit of study for each phase together, integrating the social studies and language arts curriculum to meet the required learning outcomes of the respective grade levels. Sessions were, on average, 75 – 90 minute duration three days per week. Both classes enrolled predominantly international and immigrant students with only two students who identified as First Nations. Our sources of data included: video recordings of classroom interactions (student-teacher and student-student) with texts, photo images of classroom activities; individual and student group assignments, focus group interviews, and field notes gathered after most sessions.

Why This Project Matters

Our findings provide strong evidence not only of students in both 2/3 and 3/4 classes ability to think critically and analytically when engaging in Aboriginal literary texts that address critical issues, but also their interest in and often times passion for doing so as evidenced by our video recordings. Integral to these outcomes, we argue, is the importance of discerningly chosen curricula and pedagogical approaches.

Where to Learn More

Multiple workshops have been delivered thus far with pre-service and in-service teachers in the lower mainland on both phases of the study; a fourth on the second phase was accepted for the WestCAST 2015 conference. Papers have been accepted for presentation at CSSE 2015, Ottawa and The Center for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland International Conference (CESES) to be held in Edinburgh, in June 2015. Journal papers on this study are in process.