CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: A Letter from School

History, Social Studies, English Language Arts
1 lesson
To gain an understanding of life for aboriginal students at residential schools.
Students will write a letter home in role as a student at a residential school.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Review with students the general format and purpose of personal letters. Develop a list of criteria for a very personal letter and record these on the board or chart paper. Ask: What might you find in a personal letter that you wouldn't find in a business letter? What would be in a business letter that wouldn't be in a personal letter?

Outline the Opportunity

Direct students to the topic A Lost Heritage: Canada's Residential Schools on the CBC Digital Archives website. (Note that the clips being reviewed are disturbing and may not be suitable for some students.) Allow students at least 30 minutes to review the site, particularly the clips titled: 

"Native leader charges church with abuse",
"For survivors the hurt comes back", and
"Abuse affects the next generation".

Provide students with the download sheet A Letter from School, to assist them in taking point-form notes about events, ideas, or other pieces of information that seem important.

After viewing, allow students to clarify any questions they may have. Students will then write in role as an aboriginal student writing home from a residential school. Students should remember that this was an era very different from our own and think about the kinds of topics that the aboriginal students would have been comfortable discussing.

Revisit and Reflect

 Have students share their letter in a think-pair-share. Divide the group into pairs or have students choose a partner. In each pair, students exchange letters and offer helpful comments and reactions to one another. Students can revise their work based on their partner's comments.

Invite interested students to read their letters out loud. Ask: Why might this type of letter have been difficult to write? Post some or all of the letters in the classroom.



Consider inviting a school or community counsellor to discuss the problems of abuse that young people face, and the strategies they might apply to deal with abuse.


Download PDF



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