Rights and Freedoms

The African Canadian Experience from 1780 to 1850

Using culturally responsive practices teachers will engage themselves and the students in the historical background of African Canadians and their impact on Canadian history. If teachers explicitly teach students how to write using paragraph form, use linking words and how to compare, define, describe, determine, identify, explain, and justify when writing, then students will be able to respond to text and communicate their thinking clearly and with detail.

Student - Theory of Action

If students describe the major challenges African Canadians faced during 1780 to 1850 and the key measures to address these issues, then they will be able to formulate questions to guide investigations into some of the hardships people faced and how they impacted Canadian history. Students will explore what are Human Rights and which rights have certain people been denied.

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Vocabulary to support the Unit

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Grade 3 Paragraph Writing

Students in grade three wrote about which freedom they couldn't live without.

Students discussed the right to:

  • Have an Education
  • Practice their Religion
  • Marry whomever they choose
  • Be treated fairly regardless of Race or Ethnicity
  • Be treated fairly regardless of their Gender, Ability or Age

Evolution of the Inquiry

The inquiry evolved from focusing specifically on African Canadians from1780 to 1850, to looking at other injustices here in Canada and around the world.

  • Iqbal Masih from Lahore, Pakistan
  • Shannen Koostachin from Attawapiskat First Nation on James Bay, Ontario
  • Shazad from Kabul, Afghanistan

Diagnostic, Formative and Summative Assessment Data

Diagnostic Task: What does Freedom mean to you?

Formative Task: Which freedom means the most to you?

Summative Task: Compare your life to one of the people we studied, Iqbal, Shannen or Shazad.


Class A

Level 1=6

Level 2=11

Level 3=1

Level 4=0

Absent =2


Level 1=4

Level 2=11

Level 3=2

Level 4=2

Absent =1


Level 1=2

Level 2=10

Level 3=6

Level 4=2


Class B

Level 1=5

Level 2=12

Level 3=3

Level 4=0


Level 1=10

Level 2=7

Level 3=3

Level 4=0


Level 1=0

Level 2=17

Level 3=5

Level 4=0

Grade 1 students write to the Prime Minister about the conditions of Shannen's School


Student Voice- Grade 3 students

What did you learn from the rights and freedoms unit or what surprised you?

  • I learned different people were treated like slaves and forced to do things. I really liked this unit because I didn't know about slaves before. I also learned how we can help people.
  • I learned that some American people long ago used other people from other countries as their slaves. I think that's torture and it shouldn't happen anymore.
  • I learned about different rights like you have the right to marry whoever you want.
  • I learned kids should have freedom and not do chores.
  • When Iqbal is late for work he will get hanged upside down and chained and he only gets three cents a day for 14 hours. It's not fair.
  • Shannen's school has black moss (mould) and that's gross.
  • Some girls in other countries can't go to school and I feel bad because in Canada both boys and girls can go to school.

Teacher Voice

We think that given the opportunity to co-plan and collaborate with a variety of colleagues allowed for rich discussion and the ability to plan activities that valued many different aspects of the diverse needs of individuals within our classrooms.

We were able to develop rich tasks on a topic that helped us provoke deeper thinking in our students and enabled us to engage in rich discussions. This topic was enlightening for all students and provoked discussions at home, connecting families to our curriculum and students to their heritage. Students were eager to share their personal stories.

We saw much improvement in the content of their writing; they were able to think critically and empathetically. Ideas and content of student writing improved, with time, conventions, and organization will hopefully improve also.

Catherine Richer and Patricia Tarr - Grade 3 Teachers

Students at another school researching the issue of child labour similar to Iqbal Masih

Child Labour

Grade 6 students explore the rights of children through the issue of Child Labour. The guiding questions were as follows:

  1. What surprised you?
  2. What are children being forced to do?
  3. What is Canada doing about it?

Key Learnings

  • Implement the inquiry over a longer period of time in order for students to improve their writing skills - conventions and organization (teacher reflection)

  • Continue to co-create success criteria and have students refer to it for each written task

  • Sharing the learning goals with parents, inviting them to be part of the learning community facilitated connections between home and school, and a sense of pride in students

  • Utilize formative assessment data to create small group instruction based on students' needs. (mini lessons -topic sentence, organization, details and closing sentence)