Hatzic Middle School SD#75 Mission

I. General Information

School Name: Hatzic Middle School

School District: SD#75 Mission

Inquiry Team Members: Lyn O’Grady (teacher) – lyn.ogrady@mpsd.ca
Marchi Gabriele (Principal) – marcello.gabriele@mpsd.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: lynogrady@mpsd.ca

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Case Study

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Areas Addressed: Arts Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Oral Language, Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), First Peoples Principles of Learning, Inquiry-based learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? This year I used Indigenous literature written by Indigenous authors with my Gr. 8 English students as they work with different graphic novels, while focusing on the same inquiry/research question.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: I used the four key questions as a baseline on what my students knew, their background knowledge and what they did not know. Initially, the students referred to a number of students they could turn to help them feel successful. This seems to be a challenge for the students as they have never been asked these questions prior to my class. I find it better for the students to work in groups and discuss one of the First Peoples Principles of Learning and how they could bring it into their lives. This activity seems to support students and they are more willing to share their ideas/thoughts.

Focus: I selected Indigenous literature (graphic novels) written by Indigenous authors as this is an area that seems new to our district, only over the past few years, and something I feel is important and beneficial for the students to learn about. In addition, I would hope they could become competent about choosing Indigenous literature written by Indigenous authors to deepen their knowledge using authentic content.

Hunch: We are still gathering books, mainly picture books, written by Indigenous authors. These are great, but not always developmentally interesting to all Gr. 8 students. It is not easy to find authentic Indigenous literature that appeals to both boys and girls in a middle school.

New Professional Learning:
The resource I used was ‘Tales from Big Spirit’ with graphic novels from this collection:
1. The Poet – Pauline Johnson
2. The Ballad of Nancy April – Shawnadithit
3. The Rebel – Gabriel Dumont
4. The Peacemaker – Thanadelthur
I found using graphic novels for small groups interesting, as I had not done this before. The Teacher’s Guide was quite helpful when I first began reading about these novels, and it led me to create my own type of inquiry strategies.

Taking Action:
Strategies I used with this literature include:
1. Students formed groups of 5-6 people.
2. We created a baseline – each student read the graphic novel on their own and wrote 10 sentences on what they thought the book was about.
3. Students, in their groups, shared their findings and discussed similarities and differences.
4. I provided a handout for each student to complete including: Name of Book, Historic Figure, Summary, Timeline, Big Ideas, Topics and Themes, Vocabulary.
5. Students completed this in groups with everyone contributing information.
6. We had a detailed discussion about writing an inquiry question, as many of the students had no prior experience with this, using the ‘big ideas’ to guide their research.
7. In groups students wrote their inquiry question and decided on 6 big ideas.
8. Each student was responsible for one ‘big idea’ and researched it to provide supporting details.
9. After this was completed and discussed, the students then needed to decide on a medium for ‘making their learning visible’. I explained that making a poster was not an option; I wanted them to be creative.
10. The students chose mediums including a drama skit, a picture talk, a comic book and a board game with various cards for teaching information related to the topic.
11. All students participated in creating their medium and in explaining their learning to the rest of the class.

Checking: As stated, this was entirely new to my practice and I was wondering where it would go … but that is a real inquiry!! The students thoroughly enjoyed the graphic novels, working in a group, researching ideas and creating an interesting medium to share and ‘make their learning visible’. The students were really intrinsically motivated each time we worked on this inquiry in class, and greatly benefited from creating a medium. This work created stronger bonds between the students and the conversation was totally about the task. This was fantastic to watch as their ideas were shared and their excitement grew as they worked on their creations.

Also, I made changes/adaptations with this work depending on the student’s developmental level and according to their IEP. I enjoyed hearing the conversations related to their learning and the co-problem solving and co-creating as it occurred so naturally in our classroom.

I was really satisfied with this inquiry and the learning for the students and my own practice. This year I did not ask the four questions at the end of the year. To be honest, the end of the year came far too quickly and I actually ran out of time.

Reflections/Advice: I learned that the students much prefer to work in a group when working on inquiry. They seem to be highly motivated brainstorming and sharing ideas, and this encourages them to remain focused and engaged in their learning.

I want to use this series of graphic novels next year as there are a number of ways they can be used (for example, compare and contrast Indigenous historic figures and events across a wide range of time).

I recommend using ‘Tales from Big Spirit’ if looking for Indigenous literature written by Indigenous people for middle school students.