Indian Horse Novel Study

Indian Horse

Click the link below for the Lesson Plan

Indian Horse Novel Study

The following link is slow to load as it is pictures of student work. (But it’s worth the wait ; )

Indian Horse Exemplars

In our district we have done an excellent job of bringing the truth about residential schools to our students. With the efforts of people such as Birdy Markert and Ilona Wies we have a wonderful residential school unit that all grade 6 students experience. Despite this, I still begin this novel study watching We Were Children. This docudrama does a fantastic job of taking all the academic information about the conditions of residential school and attaching humanity. You cannot help but have empathy for the small and vulnerable little people as they are pulled away from everything they knew and are made to feel unworthy, and unclean. Added to this the narrative is driven by the actual survivors. I highly recommend this as a starting place as it will ensure that your students are able to empathise with Saul on an even deeper level. Further, the content directly relates to their Social Studies curriculum.

I can honestly say this is one of my favorite novels of all times. Richard Wagamese is a gifted author. The story never shies away from the truth, or takes the easy route out. Yet it is still flowing and poetic in its delivery. You know it has to be good because I am not a big fan of hockey, despite the thousands of hours it is on my t.v., but for the first time ever I can see why it touches people the way it does. When Saul skates his connection to the ice and feel of freedom is so palpable, it makes me wish for that moment that I could skate, play hockey, or feel such a sense of awe. This book is layered with lessons, and begs to be talked about, and that is my aim. I am not a fan of thick packages of questions to answer, and pages of vocabulary. I teach kids to keep a dictionary, thesaurus, or phone near them when they read to look up words they are unsure of, after all, this is how I read. No one hands me a package of vocabulary and makes me write out definitions, thankfully or I would quit reading, and yet through the power of context and research I quickly figure it out. We ought to be teaching strategies that work for life, after all, that is what our job is.

I am constantly trying to move towards novel work that makes kids like to read. It’s a balancing act for sure, but when I get pieces back that actually reflect their experience with the book I know it’s worth it. The novel study I am attaching for Indian Horse can be used for any book you study. It does not replace your in class discussions, or reading and you can add to it whatever you like. I find however, that it is plenty of work. The packages are quit extensive when completed. I have my own pieces about character analysis, plot diagramming etc. However, you can use whatever your kids are familiar with. Note that you can do this as either and in class assignment, or an independent novel study, I have done it both ways with ample success. I like the work because they choose how they show their knowledge using multiple methods that have been designed and used by master teachers. However, I also like it because I leave room for them to create a few of their own methods. It is important we make the space and time for students’ to choose. As Alfie Kohn and Constance Kamii say:

One is repeatedly struck by the absurd spectacle of adults insisting that children need to become self-disciplined, or lamenting that “kids just don’t take responsibility for their own behavior” – while spending their days ordering children around. The truth is that, if we want children to take responsibility for their own behavior, we must first give them responsibility, and plenty of it. The way a child learns how to make decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions. As Constance Kamii has written,

We cannot expect children to accept ready-made values and truths all the way through school, and then suddenly make choices in adulthood. Likewise, we cannot expect them to be manipulated with reward and punishment in school, and to have the courage of a Martin Luther King in adulthood.(13)

Please visit the above site for incredible insights into “Choices for Children.”

I hope you enjoy the novel study, and the examples of student work. You can find a lesson on “what, so what” in my blog on colonialism. You can find how to do six word stories on the website below. I will be posting a lesson on Four Square Question Boxes. Four Square Question Boxes are perhaps my favourite teaching tool. Students truly learn to investigate their thinking, and deeply consider the world around them. You can find the question box on page 82 of Faye Brownlies book, It’s All About Thinking. However, I have changed this piece a fair bit over time, and will include my version of this technique in my next blog post. As always I look forward to hearing some of your great ideas.

Six Word Story Site

Youtube video of Richard Wagamese speaking about Indian Horse

Make each moment count, Zan


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