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Learning about Residential Schools through memoir : Two new novels in the library

“On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an apology to former residential school students on behalf of all Canadians. His statement recognized that the primary purpose of the schools had been to remove children from their homes and families in order to assimilate them into the dominant culture. Such a policy, he said, was wrong, and had no place in this country.” pg.2 of They Came For The Children – The Truth & Reconciliation Commission Of Canada

Because this is a piece of Canadian history, it is an important subject to learn more about.  I have realized, through reading this article by The Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada, that there is so much about residential schools that I had not yet learned.  As a parent and teacher, I highly recommend reading the article afore mentioned which can be found here but for students, an excellent way to approach this subject is through memoir.

Front Cover

Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton is the true story of Margaret Pokiak’s experience in a residential school in the 1940s.  Margaret was eager to learn to read and chose to leave her village in the high Arctic in order to do so.  “At school Margaret soon encounters the Raven, a black-cloaked nun with a hooked nose and bony fingers that resemble claws. She immediately dislikes the strong-willed young Margaret. Intending to humiliate her, the heartless Raven gives gray stockings to all the girls — all except Margaret, who gets red ones. In an instant Margaret is the laughingstock of the entire school.”  (exerpt from this review)  Fatty Legs is a short chapter book and complemented by many archival photographs which makes Margaret’s experience and time period more tangible to the reader.  Many reviews of the novel can be found here.

Fatty Legs was published in 2010 and since then, many teachers have used it as a novel study for grades six and seven.  If you search “Fatty Legs novel study”, lots of ideas and documents can be found.  I discovered a webinar with the authors that was very interesting to listen to here.  Additionally, on this website, there’s a part two portion of the webinar where a teacher talks about how she’s used Fatty Legs in the classroom.  This would be easily adapted for teaching at home.

If you decide to read Fatty Legs, I’d recommend also reading A Stranger At Home.  This is the sequel to Fatty Legs in which Margaret returns to her home on Banks Island two years later.  Excited to return home and with no plans to go back to her school, Margaret is expecting a great welcome but instead, her mother greets her by shouting, “Not my girl!” upon seeing Margaret.  She has lost her name, her language, and even her taste for her native foods.  Through relearning her family’s customs and heritage, Margaret discovers what it means to be true to herself and to the ways of her people.  Again, this is another story highlighted with archival photographs and artwork that paint a picture in the reader’s mind.

Front Cover

As highlighted in the October TLA Newsletter and my previous blog post, these novels would be a great addition to Righting Canada’s Wrongs : Residential Schools.

Scholastic Orders Through the TLA Library

The blog is back up and running and I’m planning weekly Friday posts! Check back every Friday for the latest and greatest at the TLA library!

This week, I’m excited to share that we will now be doing Scholastic orders for local TLA families. When I was a brand new student teacher, I was introduced to Scholastic flyers in my school where I was doing my practicum. I LOVED these flyers! So many books! So many great deals that you can’t get anywhere else! I am now glad to bring Scholastic Reading Club to TLA. Scholastic gives “bonus bucks” to teachers who order through them and all these “bucks” will pour directly into purchasing new resources for our library. It’s win-win!

Scholastic just ships to schools so in order to get your books, you must be willing to pick up at TLA Hawthorne!

Our first (and only) order going in before the new year will be Friday, Nov. 25. You can order from BOTH November and December flyers. Here are all the flyers here: http://www.scholastic.ca/clubs/

Grant money cannot be used for these purchases as you must pay online. Information about paying online can be found here : http://www.scholastic.ca/clubs/parentpay/ I’ve paid online myself and it’s fairly straightforward. You calculate the amount you owe using the order form in the flyer (it gives you the amount to pay with taxes for BC). Then you enter the amount into Parent Pay. I will get an email saying you’ve paid but you will still need to submit your order via email (or drop off at TLA Hawthorne). Just email rshulba@schoolathome.ca if you have any questions.

My personal picks for November/Decemeber are the following :

From pg.6 in the gr. 4/5 December flyer : Brian Pack

If your child in gr. 4 – 7 has not yet read, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, this is a must buy/borrow! It’s one of my favourite books. 13 yr. old Brian is stranded in northern Canada wilderness and has to survive with just his hatchet. THEN, because your reader will love it, there are multiple Brian books that play out different endings to Hatchet. In addition to the Brian Pack, Gary Paulsen has written, “Brian’s Winter” & “The River”.

From the last page of K – Gr.1 November flyer : Deck the Halls : A Canadian Christmas Carol

My family owns the Porcupine in a Pine Tree book in this series and love it (can be found for $4.99 in the Holiday Gift Books flyer)! I’ve definitely added this bargain priced hardcover book to my personal order for my kids! Here’s an exerpt from Scholastic.ca :

Join Porcupine and his familiar Canadian character friends as they decorate for Christmas! That means loons donning skates, polar bears cozy in slippers and sled dogs chasing around the room! All the while, the beavers are busy building a secret surprise…what could it be? This hilarious, tongue-in-cheek re-telling of the popular Christmas carol will have the whole family singing this holiday season!
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And, these picks will be available to check-out from our TLA library in the new year :

Making Canada Home : How Immigrants Shaped This Country

(exerpt from Scholastic.ca) Making Canada Home chronicles the country’s major waves of immigration, from welcoming early European arrivals to becoming a modern-day safe haven for refugees. The book also acknowledges times when Canada has not been especially welcoming. It explores how each period of immigration has shaped the laws, values, and face of Canada on the way to today’s multicultural society. A great tool for discussions on Canadian history and immigration!

DEAR CANADA SERIES // These Are My Words : The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens

(photo and exerpt from amazon.ca)

Acclaimed author Ruby Slipperjack delivers a haunting novel about a 12-year-old girl’s experience at a residential school in 1966. Drawing from her own experiences at residential school, Ruby Slipperjack creates a brave, yet heartbreaking heroine in Violet, and lets young readers glimpse into an all-too important chapter in our nation’s history.

Project-Based Homeschooling parent resources = some summer reading!

Student resources are slowly beginning to be returned this month and as a librarian, I can’t tell you how fun this part is! I’m getting to see a lot more of what the TLA library has that has simply been in homes all year. A couple books have come back today that I wanted to highlight here. These ones are for parents!

Who hasn’t heard the buzz words : “project-based learning” and “problem-based learning” around schooling these days? It’s part of the core of our Innovations program at TLA and the new BC Ed Plan encourages it!

If you’re asking, “What IS this project-based learning?”, here’s a great book that we have in library and can be checked out for a 3 week loan in the summer: Project-Based Homeschooling – Mentoring Self-Directed Learners

Read all about it on their Project-Based Homeschooling website.

Another teacher/parent resource that we have on our shelves is Problems As Possibilities : Problem-Based Learning for K – 16 Education.

If you have other great resources for parents on this topic, please comment to share with us!

New Book Series : Early Canadian Life

We are excited to introduce a new series of books to the TLA library which will be ready to be checked out for the 2016/17 school year: Early Canadian Life. This social studies book series could also be a great addition to reading novels about pioneers such as Little House on the Prarie or Sarah, Plain and Tall.


As described by Valerie Nielsen in CM Magazine:

“With pioneer life ensconced as a topic in the early years’ social studies curriculum, it is not surprising to find the Weigl Educational Publishing firm coming up with a series of information picture books on life in early Canada. Each of the glossy hardcover books in the series is 24 pages long and examines the differences between life today and life in pioneer days. The text is made up of short, easy to read paragraphs interspersed with photographs (most from the National Archives) captions and small nuggets of information encapsulated in a “Did you know?” frame in every chapter.

Each book begins with an introduction which is designed to give children a sense of how different (and indeed, how difficult) it was for the early settlers in Canada.

Following the introduction, each book is made up of nine chapters plus a glossary and index on the last page. Words defined in the glossary appear in bold text throughout the volume. Chapters are short (just a double page spread), and many contain a vivid first-hand account of life in earlier times.

Each book in the series concludes by presenting a “Then and Now” Venn diagram which helps readers compare and contrast past and present aspects of the topic being discussed. Students are invited to copy the diagram and see if they can come up with other similarities and differences between present day and pioneer times.

The “Early Canadian Life” series…are likely to catch and hold the interests of contemporary youngsters. These books should prove a useful resource for primary teachers and a valuable addition to [learning about] pioneer life for seven to ten year olds.”

Teaching with the Dear Canada series and I Am Canada series

If you have a child in grades four – seven, you have likely heard of the Dear Canada series (which I highly recommend for SS/LA). These books are historical fiction, written in diary format by a main character during a specific historic event or time period. Some titles that we have in the TLA library include:

…just to name a few! But did you know that Scholastic has created multiple teaching resources called Teaching With Dear Canada ? These are non-consumable resources that you can order through your Home teacher from the TLA library. We have volumes 1 – 4 and each of them focus on 4 Dear Canada novels. They give a timeline of Canadian history, story summaries, lists of thought-provoking discussion questions and engaging extension activity ideas.

Dear Canada also has a brother series called, I Am Canada (also highly recommended). The main characters are boys and aimed at ages 9 – 12.

So far, we just have 2 titles in our library but I hope to be adding more in the coming year.

Scholastic has posted discussion guides for each I Am Canada book on their site. Watch a video about this new series of books here on the Scholastic website.

Incorporating language arts and social studies by reading historical fiction is a great way to pique a child’s interest in history in a way that they can begin to understand what it might have been like during those periods of time. I hope that you and your child will have a chance to check out some of these titles in the coming the school year.

ITTT Boards in the library: check them out!

We are slowly but surely increasing the number of consumable resources that we have in stock as samples for teachers and parents to check out in person. Who doesn’t love flipping through the pages of a workbook or opening the box of a board game in person instead of purchasing online based on the cover and a written description!?

A TLA Learning Support Services (formally known as Special Needs) teacher suggested we have a couple of these Independent Tactile Teaching Tools (or ITTT) Boards in the library for parents and teachers to see in person. What are they?

According to their website, ITTTBoards.com, “ITTT Boards promote independent learning through literacy and numeracy activities. Learners are given the opportunity to practice and advance these skills daily with the use of our calendar board and activity board. Once the target learning goal is introduced (i.e. ordering numbers), ITTT Boards allow learners to review their tasks and work at their own pace without more assistance from the teacher. For most students, adding the extra sense of touch to an activity helps with focus and the overall learning process. The task of putting pencil to paper is removed and replaced by manipulatives and motion. The repetitive nature of the activities encourages independence.Independence is key to helping a student gain confidence in a task or activity. ”

An ITTT Board set would be ordered as a consumable because of the self-assembly of the pieces upon arrival plus so many little pieces to keep track of. For $45, a parent could get both the activity and calendar sets which includes one Calendar Board, one Activity Board, Numbers Tiles 0 – 100, Alphabet Tiles A – Z, Months (12), Day Numbers (31), Days of the Week (7), and Calendar Activity Tiles. If only one set interests you, it’s $25 for one set.

ITTTBoards.com gives lots of ideas for activities here.

But here’s the best part – we have TWO at the library as samples so that you can check it out in person when you stop by. LSS teachers – if you want to borrow one to take with you to a meeting with one of your families, let me know! I will get it into your hands so you can share an ITTT Board with students and families who would benefit from this tactile resource.

EPIC! Online Access to 10,000 books

I discovered the EPIC! app this spring and if you have not yet tried it out, you must! This is a library at your fingertips full of familiar books like Berenstein Bears or Fancy Nancy, PLUS, books about every possible topic that you can imagine. Imagine that you are teaching your child about weather and you have a site that you can search “weather” and awesome books like these pop up:

Books for ALL ages! And these are only four of over a hundred that you can add to your child’s learning!

These books open on your screen and you or your child can flip through the pages. Some have the green “Read To Me” label at the bottom of the book which means that your child can listen to the book on their own. Otherwise, you would need to read them aloud to your child from the screen.

A book like this Science Explorer: Weather one for ages 11 – 13 looks like this inside:

I downloaded the app for my iPad and iPhone but it can also be used on any computer. I am still looking into pricing but currently it comes with a 30 Day Free Trial then costs $4.99/mo. In my opinion, worth every penny!

What a wealth of knowledge to add to your program!

Library Progress!

If you have stopped by TLA Hawthorne since January, you likely found me surrounded by piles of books on the floor! Yes, I am in a constant state of re-organizing over here. It has to get worse before it can get better, right?

Why am I in this constant state? Firstly, I have only been working at the TLA library since January and after the library’s big move from our main office to Hawthorne Square this past October, some sections were in a bit of a disarray. Secondly, it’s not your typical library like your local public library. Most of what we have on our shelves are textbooks, specific programs, and a variety of games/math manipulatives/DVDs etc. We don’t organize using the Dewey Decimal system or anything like this so it’s important to make sure the subject sections are clearly labeled in a way that we can locate specific items when your Home teacher orders your resource. So this has been my focus!

The shelves are looking better and better as the weeks progress (if I do say so myself!). I hope you’re stop by. And if you DO find me with piles of boxes and books surrounding me, fear not! It’s a work in progress!