This project was created to support specific cross-curricular objectives between the Grade 11 English Language Arts and Canadian History courses. The learning activity had learners read Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road in ELA while looking at the colonial, imperial, and indigenous history that weaves throughout the story in their Canadian History class. Learners were immersed in an environment whereby they analyzed themes in Canadian literature while critically investigating Canada’s relationship, both historical and contemporary, with its First Nations people. The end product was a collection of alternate chapters of Three Day Road written from the perspective of other characters in the book. This collection is scheduled to be published nation-wide at the end of May as a means for the learners to share their knowledge with an authentic audience.
The objectives of the learning experience focussed on the understanding of specific structures of narrative through the reading and writing of fiction while commenting on their own experience in a colonial or post-colonial society. The experience sought to develop empathy in the learners while allowing them to experiment with writing and open their consciousness to a variety of stories within Canadian history.
The learning community began by taking the time to read Three Day Road in both course periods so as to provide meaningful time to digest that methodology and content of the book. During the reading of the book, there was a great deal of time discussing imagery, character development, symbolism, and conflict within the novel. Also, time was spent deliberately spent making personal connections to the characters, broader historical movements, and Canada’s colonial past/present. For example, we asked students “How did Xavier and Elijah, two cree boys from the Hudson Bay, end up in the middle of a European War?” These types of questions forced our community to think at the highest levels, research primary documents (like the Indian Act), understand the cause consequence of global events, and empathize with the characters.
In the Canadian History course, students were asked to write a formal history on how colonialism, in the form of treaties, legislation, and attitudes, of the 19th century enabled the characters’ participation in the war. Learners needed to access primary documents, create an argument, and use evidence to support this argument. We heard from experts on the Indian Act, the Royal Proclamation, and the Numbered Treaties in order to understand the dynamic created at the end of the 19th century.
In the English course, learners were asked to reinvent specific chapters from the perspective of lesser characters. Learners chose German snipers, prostitutes, trappers, trench-mates, officers, and other characters to explore their understanding of the literary structures and also their understanding of the First World War.
Learners were assessed on both writing pieces and were able to rewrite and rewrite their work for publication. Following the revisions of the chapters of the book, the principal of the school was asked to make the final edits.