Strong Readers Guided Reading Series- Summary by Jessica Welder

Posted by in Aboriginal Stories, Curriculum, Elementary, Lesson Plan, Place based

Description and Rationale

The resource I selected to share in our classes Saytk’ih Woo’osim is the Strong Readers Guided Reading Series. The series of guided reading books includes a set consisting of 40 titles in levels 1-10, a set of 40 books leveled 11-20, and has just recently added two new series, a northern series and a Métis series, consisting of 8 books each. These readers are targeted to support the literacy development of all children. The series developer, content editor, and author of many titles, Terri Mack of the Da’naxda’xw Awaetlala Nation, has carefully and mindfully constructed a literacy tool that is accessible to and relevant for all primary teachers and their students. My rationale for selecting this resource was that I found the Strong Readers to have infinite levels of applications when integrating and embedding Indigenous epistemologies into the BC curriculum, in particular, at the primary level. The Strong Readers catalogue and order form can be viewed via the following link:

 Roles of Indigenous Knowledges

There is an art and science to the Strong Reader series. This reader series has been grounded in evidence based research, with themes and ties to primary curriculum. Many of the books include principles of mathematics, science, and literacy, all with a thread of Indigenous Knowledges (IK). Terri, through her own IK, points out that the intention of the series is to celebrate and honor the fact that “everything in nature is interconnected”. Included in the teacher resource guide are “thinking sheets” for students to accompany every story, and an educator support page that supports them in using each story. Each educator support page states the reading strategy to focus on, the learning intention, and sight words among other things. But most importantly, the support page provides cultural connections and a cultural note for each story, for teacher who are emergent in their understandings of IK. This note, allows for the teacher to embed authentic teachings into the story, enhancing the education of all learners.

Benefits and Challenges

I am thrilled with the many ways in which these resources can be used. Although they are designed for primary, the rich teachings in many of the books make them applicable to a broader range of curricula. For example, I have used the story Cedar – The Tree of Life a level 20 story, which is at the prescribed grade 2 reading level, in classrooms up to Grade 7. When the students are learning about ancient civilizations, I have used this book to help enrich their learning by speaking to the Cedar Tree and its importance to our local First Nations, our local ancient civilizations. This is one example how this resource can enhance the education and elementary student.

Another benefit of the series, is that they are expanding to include the perspectives of more Indigenous groups. They had Leah Marie Dorion, a Métis author and artist write and illustrate the Métis Series to keep the series authentic. They even contracted Michael Kusugak, an Inuit writer to contribute to the Northern Series. They strategically named it the Northern Series, because not all of them in that series had cultural content because some of them were written by a non-indigenous writer. Strong Nations is very mindful of keeping authenticity; therefore, people from specific nations or groups only share their own cultural knowledge and teachings.

The only challenge that I have encountered with the resource is that it is not yet available in French. Many French Immersion teachers are still hesitant to indigenize their classrooms without French resources. I have spoken to Terri Mack about this and she is hoping that by the end of the summer they might have the entire series translated into French. It would also be beneficial to have the stories translated into Indigenous Languages to support the revitalization of many endangered languages.

Practical Applications

As noted above, this resource is very practical. My belief is that every elementary school in our province should have the series at their school, and ideally, one in every primary classroom in the school. Strong Readers first objective is to “guide and support all learners on their journey toward literacy competence”. Even without the inclusion of the cultural notes and connections, students are exposed to Indigenous people and imagery in these stories. Also, since the stories were written and or edited by a West Coast First Nations woman, these stories contain placed based themes for the children in the lower mainland.

The series also intends for the stories to allow students to engage in environmental teachings and stewardship because of the underlying theme of the series being that “everything in nature is connected. This is a belief common to many Indigenous peoples of North America. This same interconnectedness was echoed in our class reading by Marlene Brandt Castellano’s. In the section on holistic knowledge it noted that “… everything is alive, … and we are all related” (Castellano, 2000, pg. 29).

Besides its school and academic applications, some stories have been written with the family and community in mind. One in particular is called “My Little Baby Bear”. This story was written to allow for parents with low literacy skills to still successfully read to their children. I am sure that this resource will continue to grow and evolve because of its practicality and authenticity. I encourage everyone in our course to check it out.

Sample Lesson Plan using Resource

Primary (K-3) Lesson

Lesson Theme: Seasons

English Language Arts: Curricular Competencies

Comprehending and Connecting

  • First Nations have a long historical connection to the land
  • Explore stories from Aboriginal cultures, to gain an appreciation of identity, family, and community
  • Draw on prior experience and knowledge to make connections
Seasons by Terri Mack Strong Nations Level 10
Pre-Reading Brainstorming Questions:

What is a Calendar? How did people tell the seasons before there were written calendars (sport seasons, holidays)? When do special celebrations happen in your home? Use four square graphic organizer to brainstorm ideas and images for each of the four seasons (P.104 Strong Nations Teacher Resource Guide)..

K/1 – What is a season?

K/1 – Which season do you think it is on the cover of this book?

K/1 – Which season is it outside right now?

2/3 – Which months of the years does this cover remind you of?

2/3 – What is your favorite activity or holiday in those months?

During Read aloud:

During read aloud, have student visualize how they connect with each season.

Post-Reading Compare our classroom calendar to a First Nations community’s lunar calendar (Seasons p.10-13) by gluing clipart images into each of the four seasons on the four square graphic organizer.

Have students choose an image of a traditional First Nations seasonal activity and put it in the correct season as a class.

Introduce graphic organizer of the circular seasonal chart

Teacher could possibly take students outside to look for some of the signs of the season.

Background Information for Teacher: Many First Nations communities revolve around a lunar calendar, thirteen moons. Each moon is the onset of a new cultural practice. This lesson focuses on the changing seasons.

Many coastal first nations have similar seasonal practices. Page 10: Winter is the time for teaching, storytelling, winter celebrations, and learning. Page 11: Spring (in Squamish) is marked by the singing of the frogs. It marks the end of winter celebrations and the start of spring. Page 12: Summer is the time to work and enjoy the abundance of the coast (salmon, berries, shellfish, etc). Page 13: Fall is the time to prepare for the winter by hunting, fishing (smoking/drying), gathering, etc.

Name: _________________________________

What happens in each of the four seasons?