Teaching About Residential Schools Grades 7 - 12

Truth and Reconciliation Week: September 25 - September 30, 2023

Grades 7 - 12 Classroom Resources

Virtual Learning Opportunities 

Truth and Reconciliation Week:  

Gidinawendimin/We Are All Related/Nous sommes tous liés

September 25-30, 2023

TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION WEEK 2023 is a national program open to all schools across Canada. This year, the theme is “Gidinawendimin/We Are All Related/Nous sommes tous liés". Join in as we memorialize the children lost to the residential school system and honour Survivors and their families. Learning and commemorating the truth of our history from First Nations, Métis, and Inuit knowledge keepers is an important part of the path to Reconciliation.

This year includes an expanded program with age-appropriate material for all students. 

Click here for details and registration. 

All sessions will be held virtually on Hubilo. Registration is required to stream live and pre-recorded sessions.   

SCCDSB Registration for Local Virtual Opportunties

Grades 7 - 12 Classroom Discussions

Throughout classroom discussions, it is important to recognize that Indigenous people are not victims first. Include time to learn about the culture, the language, as well as history, traditions, and perspectives and the many resilient people who were impacted by residential schools.

Here are some ideas to connect with your students: 

- Connect with picture books

- Use the book Righting Canada's Wrongs to bring learning into the classroom. 

- Check out the Voices from Here video series and interactive text along with the Residential Schools Educators Guide in both English and French 

- Connect to poetry with the books "I Lost My Talk/ I'm Finding My Talk" to get students to their own poetry writing. 

- Create an interactive class display and connect with other classes for school-wide action (ideas in the Hands On Connections Section below)

- Local Documentaries 

- Maps & Timelines

- Join the Woodland Cultural Centre SCCDSB sessions with your class

- Sign up to paint with Moses Lunham to have an art piece to bring your learning together. 

Please contact cortnee.goure@sccdsb.net for further information about how to raise awareness and build understanding in your school and check out this Indigenous Education SCCDSB website below for resources and links to lesson ideas for before and after this important day and week is recognized

Hands On Connections to Learning


Collaborative Art Installation

Use this slideshow as inspiration to create a tiled display to commemorate residential school survivors and family members of survivors.    

Contact cortnee.goure@sccdsb.net for tiles. 

Collaborative Art Installation


Painted Rocks and other Physical Displays

Think about symbols. Paint rocks orange, create handprints, draw hearts to remember, create orange duct tape messages on walls, use the sidewalk and create chalk messages; reflect, discuss, pray, raise awareness. 

Scroll through slide show pictures beside for ideas. 


Display Boards

Create a display board as a class to invite other classes, parents, and community to engage in learning. 

Scroll through slide show pictures for inspiration.


Orange Shirt Day Pins

Create Orange Shirt Day pins to raise awareness and keep the messsage of reconciliation going.  

How can you create your Orange Shirt Pin and make it meaningful? What would you want to put on your orange shirt? What message do you think it should represent? 

A few ideas for your pin design: 


What does the pin mean to you when you wear it? 

How can you share what you learned?

What is the feedback from those you connected with?

Lana Parenteau, Indigenous Peer Navigator was moved to create Orange Shirt Pins as a way to keep the conversations going. 

Lana and CK Coming Together decided that making pins to raise awareness was a simple yet powerful way for people to just start working together.

Key messages on making orange shirt pins from Lana include: Our History, Yours and Mine, Together We Learn, Together We Heal. As Lana and CK Coming Together sat with our school board, Lana reminds all of us that the pin is personal, you can create as many as you see fit to raise awareness and create your own orange shirt pins that speak to you.  

Share a Story Trail

Walk through a Story Trail... in an Interactive Way: Bring a story to life in your classroom, for a division, or across your school with a Story Trail or Poetry performance.  The interaction helps students and audiences to think deeply about the story.  Follow the walk by having students create a response to their learning through art. Contact cortnee.goure@sccdsb.net for a Story Trail kit for the book, On the Trapline / Ligne de Trappe by David Robertson.

Read and Reflect

What makes you, you? Who and what things, stories or traditions would you say are important to you? What do you have that reminds you of - or helps you feel close to - your favourite place and favourite people?

Connect with students that all people have arts, stories, histories, and more that are important and help us feel included, and make us unique and special. These were taken away with residential schools. Ask students to think about and list all things they like/love about school. 

Read a picture book (grade appropriate such as, “I am Not a Number”, “The Train”, “When We Were Alone”, “Shi-Shi-Etko”, “The Orange Shirt Story” (English  French   video) or any other book about residential school that you choose. Invite students to ask questions and share their feelings about the reading.  Review list that they created before they read the book, and decide which things from that list were present at residential schools.  


Grades 7-12, watch the local documentary "We Are Still Here" and reflect about each of the stories. Ask students what impacted them most. How have their ideas changed after watching the documentary. 


Visit the residential schools interactive map. Find out the location of residential schools. Investigate how far the residential schools would have been away from the families of the students that attended. Discuss what impact this made. 


Invite students to connect with Phyllis' story: What did having her orange shirt taken away mean to her? What does the shirt symbolize for her?  Why do you think Phyllis shared this story?  What sorts of things do people say and do to make others feel they don't belong?  that they do belong?  What can we do today to let survivors know that we've listened and are learning from their stories? Why do we wear orange? What else can we do to remember; to learn; to educate others?


Ask students to create a response (i.e. a letter, a card, an art work) to their learning about the stories of residential schools and share that response with a survivor or a family member of a survivor. (contact cortnee.goure@sccdsb.net to share)

Connect with Poetry

 Lesson Plan 

English and French 

I Lost My Talk is based on the poem by Mi'kmaw elder and poet Rita Joe, C.M. Rita Joe penned her poem to express not only the pain and suffering she experienced at Schubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia, but also her hope and conviction that her words could guide and inspire indigenous and non-indigenous peoples across Canada to journey to a place of strength and healing. 

Schools have 2 poetry books, I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe and I'm Finding My Talk by Rebecca Thomas. 

I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe 


J'ai perdu mon parler


2023 Marks the 10th Year of Orange Shirt Day Nationwide

Resources for the classroom ...

Understanding the meaning behind Orange Shirt Day


Phyllis' Story (English)


Phyllis' Story (French)

Phyllis Webstad shares her story in a child-friendly, easy to follow way. The background in the video changes to show traditional way of life vs life in residential school. 


Calls to Action LIVE Lesson Series for Grades 5 - 8 Classes

Calls to Action Live Lesson Series is a sequence of 4 lessons, appropriate for students in grades 5-8, addressing specific Calls to Action. Join in to commemorate the history and legacy of residential schools and take steps toward accountability and recognition in our actions. Register here.


Child-friendly Guide to the Calls to Action 


Voices From Here Video Series and Interactive Text


Facing History Downloadable PDF in both English & French Resource


The bodies of the 215 children found marks an important time in history where the truth that was always known was undeniable. This marked the beginning of bringing the children home across the nation.

Meaningful Reconciliation & Taking Action


This unit explores the causes and consequences of residential schools in Canada. Developed in collaboration with Grand Erie District School Board, Six Nations of the Grand River’s Education Department, and the Mississaugas of New Credit, this resource supports educators and learners in using a critical-inquiry approach to develop deep understandings of some of the complex, challenging, and painful events that have affected the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. This resource invites thoughtful and reflective explorations that move us beyond understanding the past and into our roles and responsibilities in the present. Designed for grade six and up. 

Take Action Together! 

Use this template to get started with writing a letter to advocate for change! 

Taking Action Together - Template Letter.docx

Survivors' Flag


Share the Survivors' Flag and have students reflect upon the meaning of each part. 

Books for the Classroom in All Schools

Speaking Our Truth by Monique Gray Smith


         Speaking Our Truth Teacher's Guide 

See lesson plan here in English and in French for "I Lost My Talk" by Rita Joe.

Grades 8 - 12 Literature Kits available upon request. 

Residential Schools Literature Kits

Use this folder for an updated and complete list and links to current resources in your school. 

Texts in Schools

Online Resources 


Residential Schools Podcast Series 

The Métis Residential School Experience

The Inuit Residential School Experience

"Orange Shirt Day provides all Canadians with an opportunity to come together in a collective act of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come."