ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS YEAR END ROUND-UP
Our 2019-2020 school year has been one of the most challenging, meaningful, and eventful years. Despite many obstacles along the way, the English department continued to thrive and deliver diverse learning experiences to the students of West Kildonan Collegiate. Here are some snapshots of the year in passing.
Students read a diverse selection of books this year. From classics like Macbeth and Of Mice and Men to more modern novels such as Flowers of Algernon and The Road, students experienced an assortment of literary experiences. Furthermore, some students read The Hate U Give, Indian Horse, and A Long Way Gone. The Hate U Give is a novel about police brutality and anti-black racism in the United States. Indian Horse explores residential schools and the intergenerational trauma of the Indigenous peoples in Canada. Meanwhile, A Long Way Gone revolves around the civil war in Sierra Leone and the lives of child soldiers. These novels are important pieces in our ever-evolving landscape of Canadian education; as we move from a pedagogy of inclusion towards a pedagogy of anti-oppression, we educators are continuously expanding and diversifying the literary experiences of our students.
The Reconciliaction course continued its 2nd successful year at West Kildonan Collegiate. Throughout the course, grade 9 students read Indian Horse, 250 Hours, trickster stories, myths, and other short texts that focused on Indigenous lives and culture. Furthermore, students watched documentaries such as Eighth Fire which explored Indigenous stereotypes and the colonial history of Canada. Students learned about different treaties, listened to stories of residential school survivors, studied the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action, and other current topics that revolved around Indigenous peoples.
On January 17, All Period B Day, the students had the opportunity to experience a plethora of Indigenous activities; students made bannocks, practiced archery, learned how to make fire, went snowshoeing, and played cultural games. The grade 9s capped off their day with delicious hot chocolate provided by the English department.
LANGUAGE AS POWER AND AGENCY
As part of a series of curriculum-led TAG days, the English department organized an assembly that focused on one of the four practices of the new ELA curriculum: Language as Power and Agency. The Manitoba English Language Arts Curriculum Framework defines this practice as the ability to “understand that all texts represent a particular way of thinking and that language can privilege some voices while silencing others. This understanding encourages [learners] to question, interrogate, and reimagine meaningful texts” (42). With this framework in mind, the ELA department invited three guests that embody this practice through their daily work: Keesha Harewood, a creative writing student at the University of Winnipeg and the features reporter for The Uniter, Lindsey Olver, a Métis poet and an alumni of West Kildonan Collegiate, and David Robertson, an Indigenous novelist known for works such as Sugar Falls, When We Were Alone, and many others.
Throughout the assembly, Robertson discussed his desire to tell stories of the Indigenous peoples – their hardships, their successes, their trauma, and their journey towards healing and self-discovery. Olver recited a poem from her collection, a poem that emotionally explored her feelings of being Indigenous within the Canadian landscape. She also talked about how poetry helped her speak her truth. Lastly, Harewood led a guided deconstruction of a news report about Black policing; she examined the biases in an article about the killing of Atatiana Koquice Jefferson and reinforced the need to rewrite BIPOC narratives within our society.
LEARNING DURING A PANDEMIC
Due to COVID-19, educators had to readjust and learn new ways of teaching in the midst of a global pandemic. During distance learning, English teachers carried on with novel studies and discussion, albeit in a virtual form. Students were encouraged to read their novels at home and discuss them through online posts in Google classroom. On the other hand, some teachers used Criterion on Demand as a resource for film studies. There were also “virtual work periods” for some classes, a time and space for students and teachers to meet and work together through Google Docs.
Many English teachers designed inquiry projects during this time; instead of breadth, teachers focused on the depth of learning as they encouraged students to delve deeply into different topics. As students completed their coursework, teachers utilized different ways to communicate; teachers phoned home, e-mailed, and/or learned how to use Zoom/Google Meets to connect with their students.
Despite the challenging times, the pandemic did not stop West Kildonan Collegiate’s English department from delivering meaningful learning experiences. Bring it on 2021!