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Indigenous Peoples in Canada: Building Relationships and Making Connections in an ELL class

  • Indigenous Peoples in Canada: Building Relationships and Making Connections in an ELL class

The following blog post was written by Nadia Khan, a faculty member at the School of Global Access. 

We didn’t know very much about your culture, but now we are learning about the Indigenous people better than before. Elsa  

Last term, learners in my CLB 4 class had the wonderful opportunity to learn about the Indigenous peoples in Canada and become aware of the history, culture, and issues facing them. The learners participated in experiential learning and connection making which involved interactive sessions with Elder Florence Kelly and the Blackfoot knowledge keepers at the Glenbow Museum’s Blackfoot gallery. The learners also made connections with Indigenous learners at the college and listened to their educational journey. Furthermore, they got the opportunity to visit Fort Calgary to view the original Treaty 7 document and get an understanding of the treaty-making process.

Building and developing community connections with local Indigenous organizations and people proved to be very valuable. Bow Valley College’s Iniikokaan Centre made it possible for my learners to benefit from the knowledge of Elder Florence Kelly. Florence shared her life’s journey and talked about her culture and way of life, her residential school experience, her life as a residential school survivor, and her educational journey as an adult. The learners were inspired by Florence’s life experiences. In their thank you letters to Florence they mentioned that there were a lot of things that she had talked about that were similar to their culture, for example, the role of grandparents in the upbringing of children, oral tradition, story-telling, and the use of drums.

Activities in class were highly scaffolded and included pre and post interaction with the knowledge keeper tasks. This involved vocabulary building, reading tasks to understand the background; writing tasks such as paragraphs and a letter to a friend to share learner experiences, a thank you letter to the speakers, and learner reflections. In speaking we worked on asking questions respectfully and politely. Learners were encouraged to use some of the questions starters given to them before the activity to promote respectful conversation. I also used short films and videos from Heritage Minutes and the National Film Board to springboard speaking and writing activities. This learning was supplemented by a Reading Circle so learners could read level appropriate, theme related readers and books. 

Thank you for sharing your journey and your experiences with me. I was inspired by the hard work you did to finish your high school and graduate, and you went back to finish college too. I was thinking to quit my school, but after I went to your presentation, it inspired me to stay in school to learn more to help other people in the future, like you did. Garang 

I researched extensively in order to connect my learners to Indigenous speakers and resources. My journey to learn took into account the Indigenous Awareness course offered at Bow Valley College, the Indigenous Canada online course offered by the University of Alberta and numerous workshops and presentations on this topic. I also looked at resources and material already available for ELL learners, but there wasn’t much available for CLB 3-4 learners as most of the materials available were for higher levels. After conducting a needs assessment to see what the learners already knew about the Indigenous peoples, I connected with Indigenous knowledge holders and worked at bringing relevant and level appropriate resources to class. 

I also had the opportunity to share my work with LINC colleagues at the Western Canada Language Training Learning Event sponsored by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in Edmonton. I co-presented the Indigenous Awareness Session: Building Relationships and Making Connections. I shared tools, ideas, templates and exemplars to plan activities that promote connections and build relationships between ELL learners and members of the Indigenous community. 

Working on the Indigenous Awareness for ELL learners gave me a chance to provide language level appropriate information to my learners where all the knowledge and teaching came from the Indigenous speakers and my role was mostly that of connecting ELL learners to Indigenous resources. The contents of this course were taught in connection with different units, so that the learners developed a deeper understanding of the topic. Interactions with members of the Indigenous community and the chance to learn from them was motivating and inspiring for these learners and they came away with many valuable life lessons. 

The Indigenous Awareness for ELL learners initiative was funded by the Calgary Foundation. This project was piloted in a CLB 4 ELL class at Bow Valley College.   

  Calgary Foundation