Residential Schools: Shi-shi-etko

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Seamlessly weave the introduction of Canada's residential school system and the magic and beauty of Indigenous traditions with your students by using literacy activities created around the award winning picture book, Shi-shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell. This week-long integrated language arts and social studies unit is guaranteed to captivate your students. It is filled with over 10 engaging literacy activities and a unique art project inspired by Shi-shi-etko's last four days at home with her family before being sent to residential school.

In order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada made 94 Calls to Action. This resource was created as a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 62th and 63rd Calls to Action: Developing and implementing Kindergarten to Grade Twelve curriculum and learning resources on Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history, and the history and legacy of residential schools.

Provided in the download is access to the invaluable resource An Educator’s Introduction to Residential Schools in 10+ Clickable Links which connects classroom teachers with resources, interviews, documentaries, etc. to draw upon for their own learning.

Let Shi-shi-etko's story inspire you to be brave and take a step, stride or leap outside of your comfort zone in your classroom this school year. You can do it! Don't own your own copy of the book yet? It is readily available in most public libraries, through the publisher, sometimes in Scholastic Reading Clubs and there's a link in the resource to listen to it.

Unit Summary:

*Education for Reconciliation: Calls to Action #62 and #63

*Dear Educator: a letter from the author

*Week Long Unit Overview: Teacher Notes

*An Educator’s Introduction to Residential Schools in 10+ Clickable Links

*Learning Goal posters (2)

*Reconciliation definition poster

*Before reading journal prompts (4 options)

*QR code printable: Listen to reading

*W.I.C. (wonder, infer, connect) anchor chart headings and sample

*Reflect and Connect journal prompts (4 options)

*Compare and Contrast Venn Diagrams

*Determine the big Idea

*Acrostic Poem

*Visualization Activities

*Writing Paper (4 options)

*Shi-shi-etko focus words

*Vocabulary Game (I have, who has?)

*Shi-shi-etko’s Bag of Memories Art Activity

*Shi-shi-etko’s Final Days Diary (sample page provided)

*QR code printable: Watch Shi-shi-etko short film

It is our duty as teachers to educate ourselves about Indigenous perspectives, cultures, and histories and to pass this on to our students. By understanding residential schools and educating our youth, new generations of Canadians will grow up with cultural appreciation of Indigenous cultures and respect for cultural diversity. 

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Thank you for taking an interest in this unit! Please ask any and all questions before purchasing by using the Q&A feature or emailing me at

All the best,


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Keywords: Social Studies, Residential Schools, Truth and Reconciliation, Traditions, Celebrations, Writing, Indigenous, First Nations, Grade One, Grade Two, Grade Three, Grade Four


A note to teachers still feeling unsure about introducing residential schools to Grade 1-4 students

After reading Shi-shi-etko, are you going to feel uncomfortable about having a conversation with your class about residential schools? Perhaps. Should you? Absolutely not, because it’s being taught about in context. Are your students going to have a lot of questions after reading Shi-shi-etko? You bet! Will there be questions you chose not to answer or do not answer in much detail? Yes. Do I believe that children should be told specifics about physical, mental and sexual abuse? A very firm, no. From personal experience with my own class, they were shocked and saddened enough to hear that children their age were forced to leave their families. I believe that using words such as, “unsafe, uncaring, hard, sad, lonely, hungry, scary” are more than enough to create understanding and empathy.


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Total Pages
57 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
1 Week
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