The Ultimate Guide to Teaching Canadian History

Canadian History is one of my favourite things to teach. I truly believe in the merit of teaching our youngsters about the past. However, I do believe that history units should be focused more on big ideas and less on memorizing specific dates or names. 


  1. Launching with Cross Curricular Connections


A great place to start is with a Historical Fiction Book Clubs Unit. Book Clubs provide a fantastic opportunity for cross curricular connections. Plus, students will have an opportunity to delve deep into themes of courage, perseverance, and bravery, themes that they will continue to see as they study Canada’s past.


Even if all of the books aren’t Canadian, allowing students to step into the past through literature gets them ready to delve deep in Social Studies! Plus it gets them excited about something that a lot of people consider to be dry. 


I am planning a blog post all about the BEST Historical Fiction Book Club books so stay tuned for that! 


  1. Starting with Stories of People of Colour


When I first read through our Social Studies curriculum, I noticed that it is very Eurocentric. Most of the people that we must introduce students to are of European descent. For this reason, I purposefully make the choice to start with Black, Asian and Indigenous Voices. 


One of my favourite people to study is Viola Desmond. There are so many amazing picture book biographies about her! Students absolutely love learning about the woman who is on Canada’s new $10 bill. I have an entire Interactive Read Aloud Unit about Viola Desmond available in my TPT store. Click HERE to check it out. 




  1. Delving Deep into Residential Schools


Canadian Residential Schools are extremely important for students to learn about. It is a dark time in our past and must not be skipped. I highly recommend delving into this topic through quality literature. I have a blog post all about the best books to teach about Residential Schools. You can check it out HERE. 



  1. Incorporating Videos and Films Throughout


Kids are naturally intrigued by visual storytelling which is why most of my units include links to videos. Heritage Minutes and the National Film Board of Canada are great places to start when looking for videos to share in class. I am planning a blog post all about the BEST Canadian History videos and films so be on the lookout for that!


  1. The Famous Five – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly


The Famous Five women of Canada present a wonderful opportunity to talk about how people aren’t perfect. It is possible to be a change-maker and not be a perfect person, or for that matter, even a good person. There are many examples of this concept throughout history, but the Famous Five are one obvious starting point. 


When students complete a Rapid Research project about these women, they will learn that they fought for Women’s Rights. They represent political activism and Women’s suffrage. However, they will also learn that these women are often criticized for being racist and elitist. In fact, they were associated with the eugenics movement. 


It is so important not to hide or gloss over these unfortunate truths. Students need to know that the people that we study made mistakes. They need to know that it is possible to be thankful for the change someone has made without glorifying them and pretending as though they were perfect.




  1. Interactive Notebook Time!

I love using interactive notebooks in Social Studies class because it provides students with something to do with their hands while I talk about Canada’s history. Interactive Notebooks also make a GREAT study tool. 


My Interactive Notebook AND Digital Interactive Notebook include entries on the following concepts: 


  • Confederation

  • John A. MacDonald and George Etienne Cartier

  • French and English – Canada’s Two Official Languages

  • The Canadian Pacific Railway

  • World War One

  • The Great Depression

  • The Economic Boom after World War Two




  1.  Charter of Rights and Freedoms Mini Unit


I often leave this mini unit as a supply teacher activity. Students delve deeper into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They learn why it is important and how it protects them. Click HERE to check it out in my TPT store.



  1. Project Based Learning Fun!


It is so important to provide student voice and choice in Social Studies. After all, no two students will be passionate about all of the same concepts. This is where project based learning comes in! 


I look forward to our Museum of Canadian History all year! Each student chooses a different event in Canada’s past to create a museum exhibit about. They work individually or with a partner to create artifacts in order to teach their friends about their chosen concept. This is a way to have students buy into the importance of learning about Canadian history. Click HERE to learn more!



  1. Assessment

I suggest ending your Canadian History unit with a formal assessment. Some students do better on projects and others on tests. By assessing using both methods, we can ensure that we are playing to all students’ strengths. This test even comes with a study guide! Click HERE to add this test to your cart and save yourself countless hours of test creation time!


    10. Have Fun!
The most important aspect of any Canadian History unit is to have fun! Enjoy your students’ questions, their inquisitive nature and most of all enjoy learning about our past together. 



Be sure to pin this post so that you can find it again when you’re planning your Canadian History Social Studies Unit!



Canadian History Lessons for Kids! Are you an upper elementary teacher who is teaching Canadian History? In this easy to use guide, I break down how to tackle teaching Canadian History. From teaching about Residential Schools, to Viola Desmond, the Constitution and the Famous Five. This blog post is full of ideas to bring engagement and fun to your fifth grade social studies class. Grade 5 Alberta Social Studies activities. Provide students with an accurate timeline of history! #albertateacher



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