Literacy development is evident in all areas of our school curriculum. I (Yiola) have been thinking about the Ontario Curriculum, particularly the new Social Studies curriculum and how much it has evolved over the years. The latest Ministry policy for teaching Social Studies has made significant gains in developing critical literacy and culturally relevant pedagogy.
This weekend while I was celebrating the Easter holiday with my family I wondered how this culturally significant event could be included in the curriculum without alienating those students who do not observe Easter.
The Grade 2 social studies curriculum has a strand: Changing Family and Community Traditions. When I taught Grade 2 the strand was called: Traditions and Celebrations. By the heading alone one can see the conceptual shift that has taken place in how we think about traditions. Then it dawned on me, must we compartmentalize units of study to blocks of time? Why not open the unit of study and have students throughout the year share the community traditions they observe? And of course, they needn’t be limited to formal holidays. They can be as significant as the family tradition of quilting or playing music.
Then I began to think about how important this particular family tradition is for my children and how I would like for it to be affirmed in school; not for its religious value; but for the importance it holds in our family. What if Sylvia Clare wrote a procedural piece on making “flaounes” with her Papou (see image)? She could talk about, experience, and write about how to make traditional Cypriot flaounes. And, if this opportunity were open throughout the year for all children to share at any time a special community/family tradition in a way that was meaningful to them (through writing, speaking, doing) so much knowledge, information and appreciation could be shared. Just one small example of how literacy and social studies could work together.
2 thoughts on “Celebrating Easter in a Multicultural Society”
Yiola, this post affirmed my stance on teaching this unit in a relevant manner, not just as a curriculum “unit”, but as lived experience for our students, parents and communities. As a teacher educator, mentoring both experienced and new teachers in curriculum planning, I always suggested teaching Traditions and Celebrations as an ongoing unit throughout the year. I was always met with resistance. “We have to do all the celebrations in December. We need the marks for first term.”
Traditions, festivals, and religious observances should be studied as they occur in the yearly cycle. In my own classroom, we began the unit on the first day of school, the Jewish New Year often being the first in September to be recognized and shared. By the end of the school year, we had enjoyed many authentic experiences and discussions in real time about who we were, how complex and multifaceted we were, how alike and/or different we were, and how much richer we were for being in each others lives.
It just makes such good sense Anne. The more I think about curriculum and authentic learning the more I realize there absolutely is space for teachers to construct learning opportunities that both meet curriculum expectations and address relevant and authentic learning. Our examples are just one way of thinking outside the box. Thank you for sharing your practice.