Learning is embedded in memory, history and story

By Cindy Wong and Alison Atkinson, Moscrop Secondary

Alison and I began our investigation into the integration of Aboriginal perspective with many questions around teaching:  How do we as English teachers both integrate Aboriginal content and the Principles of Learning authentically into our classrooms?  How do we design or re-design classroom activities and assessment through the lens of Indigenous ways of knowing?  How do we as non-aboriginal teachers navigate the teaching of aboriginal content?  How do we create a classroom that is physically conducive to dialogue?

After prolonged discussion, we decided to hone in on the principle of:  “Learning is embedded in memory, history, and story.”

To bring emphasis to the importance of “memory, history, and story,” I gave students the following assignment after finishing George Orwell’s 1984:

1984 Story-telling Assignment

Part One

In drawing connections between Thomas King’s notion of the role of stories in society, as well as the different video clips seen in class, how would you define the role of personal stories?

Piece together a life story of one of the characters from 1984.  What experiences has (s)he been through to shape him/ her?  Create a back story for this character that would explain this person’s actions and outlook on society and life.  Base this back story on facts from the novel as much as possible.

For this assignment, you will be using a format similar to PichaKucha.  However, rather than using 20 slides, you will use 10.  Use a combination of images and quotations (5 quotes from the novel and 5 images) as the driving force of your presentation.  The images you choose will lend to the telling of a personal story (remembering the broad definition of “story” as we are referring to it:  a personal experience, a personal anecdote, a story someone hears growing up, a belief, a tradition, a way of living, etc.)

Part Two

Now, take some time to reflect on a story that has had relevance in your own life.   How has it affected your outlook?  How has it affected the way you live?  How do stories shape who you are?

For this portion of the assignment, you will again be using a format consisting of images.  Incorporate any combination of five images, quotes, or objects.  Whatever images you choose however, need to be original.  The visuals you choose will be instrumental to the telling of a personal story (remembering the broad definition of “story” as we are referring to it:  a personal experience, a personal anecdote, a story you grew up hearing, a belief, a tradition, a way of living, etc.)  Create a poster board with these images, and provide a written version of your “story”.  The story as written, will be a maximum of 750 words long.  Your story need not be attached to your poster should you choose not to share it.  You may choose any written genre you like to tell your story (narrative, poetry, rap, spoken word, etc.)  Also, answer the following three questions as pertaining to the story you’ve chosen to share:

How has this story affected your outlook?  How has it affected the way you live?  How does this story in particular, shape who you are as a person?

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I was most interested in the stories students would tell for Part 2.  Many were touching and humorous, while others heart-wrenching.  There was a lot of value in validating these experiences for students.  Many shared that this assignment was a therapeutic one and one that they enjoyed.  I will definitely be exploring more ways to have students tell their stories.

Cindy Wong 2Cindy Wong 1

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