BC Social Studies Lesson Plans

Residential Schools

Grade 9


Residential Schools

Big Idea

Disparities in power alter the balance of relationships between individuals and between societies.

Essential Question

Was the residential school system a well-meaning mistake or was it a shameful abuse of power?

Learning Standards Content

Students are expected to know the following:

  • the continuing effects of imperialism and colonialism on indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world

Curricular Competencies

Students are expected to be able to do the following:

  • explain and infer different perspectives on past or present people, places, issues, or events by considering prevailing norms, values, worldviews, and beliefs (perspective)

Core Competencies

I can discuss the importance of knowing about residential schools.

I can determine the most significant events in the history of the residential school system in Canada.

I can explain why it is important to redress a wrong even if it happened many years prior.

First People's Principles of Learning

Learning involves recognizing the consequences of one’s actions.


  • Share the Statement by Gord Downie about why he recorded the album and wrote the graphic novel The Secret Path.
  • Read aloud the graphic novel, The Secret Path by Gordon Downie and Jeff Lemire.

KWL Strategy

  • Have students compete the first two columns of the Residential Schools KWL Chart. (They will complete the third column as a Post-Assessment.)

Part 1: Residential School Fact Finding

  • Organize students in groups of 3-4 and give each group a copy of the Residential Fact Finding sheet.
  • Groups should work together to research residential schools and record their findings on the Residential Fact Finding sheet. The websites listed under Additional References are an excellent place to start.


Part 2: History of the Residential School System

  • Provide students with access to the websites listed under Additional References in order to research the history of the residential school system in Canada.
  • Have student determine the six most significant events in the history of the residential school system in Canada. Remind students that significant events include those that resulted in great change over long periods of time for large numbers of people.
  • Have students organize their six significant events in a Timeline.


Part 2: The Residential School Experience

  • Using a Jigsaw Activity, divide the class into 9 groups and assign each group one topic from the Residential School Experience sheet. Have each group work together to read their assigned topic and take notes.
  • Then create new groups so that every group contains a student who has completed one of the 9 topics.
  • Have students teach their new groups what they learned about their topic.


Part 3: Truth and Reconciliation

  • Explain that in 2008, Prime Minister Harper apologized to Indigenous people for the residential school system that they and their ancestors experienced. In 2015 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released 94 Calls to Action. As Justice Murray Sinclair said, “Canada needs to move from apology to action”.
  • Have students use the interactive Beyond 94 to research one of the 94 Calls to Action and complete the sheet Calls to Action
  • In their journal, have students respond to the question: “What should every Canadian know about Truth and Reconciliation?”

KWL Strategy


Read one of the books listed in Additional References.



BCCampus. [n.d.] “Case Study 1: The Indian Residential School System.”



Canadian Geographic. [n.d.] “Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada.”



Facing History & Ourselves. [2019] “Killing the Indian in the Child.”



Glover, Fred. 2020. “Residential Schools in Canada (Plain-Language Summary).” The Canadian Encyclopedia. https://thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/residential-schools-in-canada-plain-language-summary


Indigenous Foundations. 2009. “The Residential School System. History of Residential Schools.” https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/the_residential_school_system/


Legacy of Hope Foundation. 2020. “Where are the Children? Healing the Legacy of the Residential Schools.” http://legacyofhope.ca/en_ca/wherearethechildren/


Ry, Moran. 2020. “Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/truth-and-reconciliation-commission




Boyden, Joseph. Wenjack. [Toronto] : Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited, 2016.


Hill, Gord. The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book. Vancouver : Arsenal Pulp Press, c2010.


Jordan-Fenton, Christy. When I was Eight. Toronto : Annick Press, c2013.


Loyie, Oskiniko Larry. Goodbye Buffalo Bay. Penticton, B.C. : Theytus Books, 2008.


Slipperjack, Ruby. Dear Canada: These are My Words. The Residential School Diary 

of Violet Pesheens Northern Ontario, 1966. Toronto : Scholastic Canada Ltd., 2016.

[Discussion Guide]   http://www.scholastic.ca/dearcanada/teaching/pdfs/TheseAreMyWords.pdf


Webstad,  Phyllis. Phyllis’s Orange Shirt. [Victoria, B.C.] : Medicine Wheel Education, [2019].


Download Complete Lesson Plan

.pdf .docx

Rate this Curriculum

Last Reviewed

February 01, 2023

Produced by JES

curriculum developers