CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Residential School Diary

History, Social Studies, English Language Arts
1 to 2 lessons
To investigate the feelings, fears, and turmoil faced by aboriginal students living in residential schools
Students will write diary entries from the perspective of an aboriginal student in a residential school.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Discuss with students the features of a diary. Identify that it is a personal record of an individual's experiences, and includes a brief summary of facts or events and personal responses (reactions, feelings, questions, and opinions) to the events. A diary can include everyday events and does not always need to focus on painful memories.

Discuss with students the difficult nature of the residential school experience for many students. Clearly note the range of abuse that students encountered. This topic is disturbing and may not be suitable for all students.

Outline the Opportunity

Direct students to the topic A Lost Heritage: Canada's Residential Schools on the CBC Digital Archives website. Have students review between three and five clips from the site. After viewing, students will write a series of three to five diary entries from the point of view of an aboriginal student. Each entry should be correctly dated and be at least half a page in length. Explain that the goal is to understand what the students experienced and how it might have affected them. The entries should reveal the student's state of mind and explore his or her feelings and fears.

Revisit and Reflect

Ask volunteers to share their work. Encourage the other students to offer positive or constructive feedback, and to reflect on the way that writing from another person's point of view can affect the way you understand that person's story. Guide this discussion carefully and focus on coping strategies for someone living in such a difficult environment.


Students can create an artwork of their choice to represent the ideas they shared in the journal entries they wrote.

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