When it is time to drop your lesson and talk about world events….

What is your lens?

Maureen Wilson, from Hamilton, Ontario shares her experiences at the Women’s March of Washington

We had to be ready to change our pre-planned lesson…Students wanted to talk about what was happening in the world. The following posts describes why we altered our plan and shares the alternate lesson!

Critical literacies involve people using language to exercise power, to enhance everyday life in schools and communities, and to question practices of privilege and injustice. (Comber, 2017)

Flag at Dr. Davey school is half mast to pay respect to victims at Mosque shooting

Huge events unfolded across the world over the past two weeks which prompted our teaching team to change a “pre-planned lesson” to focus on current issues of Social Activism – locally and globally.  On January 20th, Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration took place. The next day, January 21st, together, over 60 countries – men, women, and children, joined in solidarity to March for human rights – “The Women’s March on Washington” was declared the largest global protest – ever. Then, on January 28th a Mosque in Quebec, Canada was brutally attacked and many innocent people were killed. January 30th – Thousands join together to show support and to honour the victims of the Mosque shooting.


Knowledge Circle at Enrichment Centre

It is difficult for the most well-rounded, emotionally and socially strong of people to handle the immense mix of emotions resulting from these events. Regardless of your point of view of Trump (or the platform), or if you are a woman or Muslim – we are all impacted – not just by injustice, hate and fear – but also by the joy, and relief that comes with solidarity and community actions. We are affected by the conflicting and confusing media.


Our young people are especially affected.

People in positions of respect and power have made accusations about journalists not being truthful and Journalists have made accusations of people in power not being truthful to the people. The idea of “fake news” has been spread across the inter-webs like wildfire. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds are overwhelmed with political posts and emotions are high.

After watching the powerful poem by Royce Mann, we started our INQUIRY through a discussion of “Privilege and Power”. 

The following lesson is an overview of how we approached these topics as an Inquiry:

We started with the “Big Idea/Inquiry Question”:

  • How can global events impact local/community action and local/community events impact Global action?
  • What is my lens when approaching these issues?
  • How am I privileged?
  • What does it mean to be “in Solidarity?”

We shared the “Culminating task” what  will students do by end of lesson?:

  • Complete a Blog post that focuses on an idea or concept that uses the Women’s March on Washington as a prompt. Write through an optimistic lens, utilize a variety of media and provide questions for further thinking/discussion
  • Create a short podcast that focuses on one aspect of Social Justice and  Solidarity and the impact of positive activism.
  • Create a video that uses a specific lens/perspective showcasing the positive aspects of humanity, people, and social activism.

We used the Curriculum Standards as a guide:

  • Critical Literacy: Opportunities to relate knowledge and skills in language learning to wider contexts, both across the curriculum and in the world beyond the school, motivate students to learn and to become lifelong learners. (The Ontario Curriculum, Language, p. 12)
  • Students must be able to differentiate between fact and opinion; evaluate the credibility of sources; recognize bias; be attuned to discriminatory portrayals of individuals and groups, including women and minorities; and question depictions of violence and crime. (The Ontario Curriculum, Language, p.13)
  • Reading – Point of View identify the point of view presented in texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts; give evidence of any biases they may contain; and suggest other possible perspectives (e.g., determine whether an author’s choice of voices to include seems justified and suggest how the meaning would change if different voices were chosen) (The Ontario Curriculum, Language, Grade Seven,  p.128)
  • Point of View – Demonstrate understanding that different media texts reflect different points of view
  • Making Inferences/ Interpreting Messages -Interpret increasingly complex or difficult media texts, using overt and implied messages as evidence for their interpretations

We made connection to UN Sustainable Development Goals:

  • Goal 5 – Reduced Inequalities
  • Goal 10 – Gender Equality
  • Goal 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

We made connections to ISTE Standards and 21st Century Learning: https://www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-students-2016

  • Knowledge Constructor: Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
  • Digital Citizen: Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.
  • Creative Communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.  

We invited community members to join our class and share their experiences:

Mary-Louise Pigott shares her experience attending the March on Washington

For the lesson…. Read on!!  

LESSON – Critical Literacy, Social Justice and Civic Action

Beyond the Women’s March on Washington


  • Safe, comfortable and inclusive environment to work in
  • Maker Activities that promote discussion and community and help ease tension, anxiety
  • Each student has a device connected to internet
  • Student Blogs
  • Podcasting software (Audacity or Garageband works great)
  • Project/sound to show video – Rise Up by Royce Mann


*What are different types of protests?

*What makes a protest significant historically? Impact? Size?

*Do people protest issues that they are not personally impacted by?

Content Knowledge:

  • What is the MATH behind the Women’s March on Washington?” Together, students work on a shared resource/document where they research as many forms of data as they can find about the Women’s March on Washington. Note: This activity not only gives students a chance to research the information about the topic in a focused way, but also through a critical lens. Students examine different sources and the bias or lens that the source might have when publishing data.

* How does data inform our own perspective?

* Do we always recognize where the data originates?

* How can we tell if there might be a bias?

* How can we tell if the source is reliable?

* From whose point of view is the source?

* Does it make a difference in how the data is presented?

* How many different sources of data can you find of the same event/topic?

Understanding tough concepts and definitions: After class has gone through the collaborative book produced by the class, students are introduced to concepts of “Privilege and Power” through a Video: Rise Up by Rocye Mann.

* Why was this “white” teenager’s words so impactful?

* What did he mean, “Now it is time to “Rise Up?”

* What does the statement, “You can have problems and difficulties if you are white, but not because you are white”

Developing Inquiry Questions

In small groups, students use the prompt (or something like it) “On January 21, 2017, a Women’s March on Washington occurred. Women, men and children from all continents showed their solidarity by forming marches in their cities. This event really got me thinking…..

  • Am I a feminist?
  • What can I do with my priviledge?
  • Why does inequality exist?
  • How can I speak up?

The list generated by the students can be added to a chart, stickies or a shared online document. Students will use these questions to help them develop their own inquiry about this complex topic.

Independent Work time

Students need time to work on their own – at their own pace with some guidance. They are encouraged to use the data from the morning activity to back up their thoughts. They are encouraged to cite their source and ensuring the sources and information they use are vetted and can’t be backed up by a secondary source.

Consolidation and Knowledge Building Circle:

Students join together in discussion. What topic did they choose? How did they create a provocative blog post? What questions did they start with?

  • Students are invited to share. One person (if able) will record the conversation for assessment purposes.


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