Teaching About Residential Schools: K-2 Classroom Resources

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

K-2 Classrom Resources

Virtual 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

Primary 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.

I often get the question about talking with young children about residential schools. Here are some thoughts for you to approach in your classroom. At that young age, we talk about why we wear orange - to remember the children that were taken away and couldn't be with their parents and family, couldn't speak their language, and learn their culture and identity, we wear orange so it doesn't happen again. 

Here are some ideas to connect with your students: 

- We can share concrete examples from stories like When We Were Alone by David Robertson (your school has this book in both English and French). 

- Share the concept of being away from family in books like The Kissing Hand. You can talk with your kids about their feelings about starting school this September and let them know that children couldn't go home to their parents. 

- Talk about Phyllis' orange shirt and the meaning behind it and why we wear orange to remember and ensure it doesn't happen again. This book in both languages is new to your school: "With Our Orange Hearts / Avec nous coeurs orange" by Phyllis Webstad. 

- The book You Hold Me Up / Tu es là pour moi by Monique Gray Smith is a great book for ways we hold each other up and support one another. It's good to read at this time of year beyond the orange shirt day conversations. A great way to think about the classroom community. Link to how we can hold each other up in our actions -- an action like wearing orange to show you remember and care. 

- The book, Jingle Dancer, is also a great connection to pull out this week and connect to how the jingle dress is healing and we lift our prayers. 

- See here for more books that your school has

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

- Another action your kids can do is stamping a heart or t shirt shape with orange and adding words that show caring inside. Painting rocks could also be another hands-on way to connect. 

When I talk with my own young children and to primary classes, I also talk about families that speak another language and how they couldn't speak the language they knew in their home. We talk about how that would feel. It's a sensitive concept and we want children to love school and know they are loved and to also begin to think about how this hasn't been the situation (in a simple, developmentally appropriate way). 

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

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)

2023 Marks the 10th Year of Orange Shirt Day Nationwide

Phyllis Webstad's Story

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. 


Student Reflections

Orange Shirt Day Fact File.pdf
Orange Shirt Day Tshirt Design.pdf
Orange Shirt Day Fact File (1).pdf
Orange Shirt Day Tshirt Design (1).pdf
Orange Shirt Day Art Activity (1).pdf
Orange Shirt Day Art Activity.pdf

Child-friendly Guide to the Calls to Action 


Colouring Pages








Books for the Classroom in All Schools

Primary Classes

You Hold Me Up Author's Note

When We Were Alone Pronunciations

When We Were Alone Teachers Guide.pdf

When We Were Alone Teacher Guide by David Robertson

Primary/Junior Classes

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

Texts in Schools