This year the ELA department continued to deepen our students’ engagement in three areas of focus in the ELA curriculum: Language as Power and Agency, Language as Sensemaking, and Language as Exploration and Design.
Language as Power and Agency
When students use language as power and agency, they recognize that “all texts represent a particular way of thinking and that language can privilege some voices while silencing others” and communicate in ways that “reflect their identities and enable them to advocate for themselves, their communities, and the environment” (ELA Curriculum Framework). To this end, the ELA department continued to seek out texts that represent diverse experiences. Teachers initiated a book club to assess Wab Kinew’s Walking In Two Worlds and Katherena Vermette’s The Strangers as additions to our classroom resources. Teachers built antiracist and antihomophobic units around texts such as Kindred, Simon Vs. The Homosapiens Agenda, and Patron Saints of Nowhere.
In Mr. Jimenez’s Grade 11 course, students participated in a Media Literacy unit where students discussed topics such as propaganda, fake news, social media’s effects on mental health, and the lack of diversity and stereotypes in media. They then presented their critical research to the rest of the class. In his Grade 9 courses, one highlight of the year was a simulation of the Manitoba Parliamentary Debate. Two sections of his Grade 9 classes debated each other on topics such as drug decriminalization, abortion, standardized testing, police defunding, and mandatory COVID vaccines. Students researched their topics, compiled secondary sources, learned about the art of rhetoric, and practiced public speaking. It was a big learning moment for many of the students, and many of them had fun.
Language as Sensemaking
Language as sensemaking involves “working with texts that require (students) to activate prior knowledge, make connections, ask questions, summarize, and synthesize in the ways that are effective for the text and purpose” (ELA Curriculum Framework). To this end, students engaged in a variety of strategies such as dialectical journaling, annotation, and literature circle discussions.
Language as Exploration and Design
Using language as exploration and design prompts learners to “make
choices regarding the purpose and function of meaningful texts to help
them uncover new ways of thinking and doing” (ELA Curriculum FrameworkIn Ms. Hart’s grade 9 class, highlights included collaborative novella-writing and screenwriting workshops. Students examined novels and films to identify narrative beats, then applied these to create scenes for extended texts of their own.
This was the fourth year of the grade 9 Reconcilaction program. Reconciliaction is a semester of language arts learning grounded in Indigenous ways of knowing. The questions “Where do I come from? Where am I going? Why am I here? Who am I?” form the basis of inquiry in this course as we explore the ways our history informs our future.
In Ms. Hart’s class, students explored connections between history (“where do I come from?”) and possible futures (“where am I going?”) through a unit on Indigenous Futurism. Students read Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves and explored the theme of colonialism as dystopia. After learning about real-world connections such as residential schools, the peasant farming policy, the pass system, the slave trade and the 60s scoop, students created their own works dystopian fiction. Students viewed a variety of speculative fiction short stories and films by Indigenous writers exploring possible futures, and collaborated to create a science fiction screenplay of their own.