Unit Plan: Orange Shirt Day

Social Studies / Grade K-7

Big Ideas

Stories and traditions about ourselves and our families reflect who we are and where we are from.

Grade 1
Our rights, roles, and responsibilities are important for building strong communities.

Grade 2
Local actions have global consequences, and global actions have local consequences.

Grade 3
Learning about indigenous peoples nurtures multicultural awareness and respect for diversity.

Grade 4
Interactions between First Peoples and Europeans lead to conflict and cooperation, which continues to shape Canada’s identity.

Grade 5
Canada’s policies and treatment of minority peoples have negative and positive legacies.

Grade 6
Systems of government vary in their respect for human rights and freedoms.


  • Identity and Human Rights
Essential Questions

Students will keep considering…

  • Why does it matter to learn about Orange Shirt Day?
Evaluative Criteria

Summative Assessment:



Monitoring Progress

Teacher will monitor progress:
Teachers can monitor progress through ongoing formative assessment including but not limited to:

  • Class discussion
  • Engagement with material



How will teachers and their students reflect on and evaluate the completed project?

Teacher Reflection

  • What aspects of the unit went well?
  • What did students struggle with?
  • What did you struggle with?
  • What would you add/revise the next time you taught this unit?
  • Were there any unintended outcomes?
  • Were students engaged?

Stage 3 – Learning Plan




  • These learning events/activities are suggested activities only. 
  • In some cases the plans are not fully completed lesson plans. 
  • The teacher may choose some lessons/activities to span over several lessons. 
  • Teachers may add, revise and adapt these lessons based on the needs of their students, their personal preferences for resources, and the use of a variety of instructional techniques.

Learning events are enriched for students when teachers consider the “WHERE TO” acronym and guiding organizer by Wiggins and McTighe.

> Click here for more information on WHERETO.

Where To

Where: Where are we going in this lesson Why? What is expected of my students during and after this lesson? • Present the performance task to students early in the unit • Post essential questions; students can generate their own questions as well • Check for  misconceptions
How: How will I hook and hold student interest during this lesson? • Use a provocation as an entry point • Present students with a mystery or challenge
Equip: How will I equip students for expected performances? How will I make sure to teach the foundational skills so that they can understand and complete tasks? • Access understandings and experience with solid instructional practices • Consider strategies that work for divers e learners • Incorporate literacy 44 strategies
Rethink and Revise: How will I help students reflect, rethink and revise their ideas, writing, and tasks? • Have students rethink the big idea • Have students reflect on  their learning  to build understanding
Evaluate: How will students self-evaluate and reflect on their learning after each lesson/task?

Some ideas for self-evaluation include:

• Ticket out the door • Rubrics and checklists • Formative assessments and feedback

Tailor: How will I tailor learning to varied needs, interests and styles? (refer to the NVSD Adaptations Checklist). • Differentiate to your students with the product, the process and the content
Organize:   How will I organize and sequence the learning in each lesson and transition to a new lesson? • Start with the end in mind
Please note that the order in which teachers present this to their students is not mandated to the order of the acronym.


The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions:

  • Why does it matter to learn about Orange Shirt Day?


Lesson 1 - Identity

The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions:

  • Why does it matter to learn about Orange Shirt Day?


Identity (Lesson 1)

1) Brainstorm with students on the board where does identity mean? Answers may include: “who I am, who I see myself as, etc.”

2) Then ask students to think about where does identity come from. Answers may include: My family, school, my traditions, culture, language, faith, community friends, sports teams. Remind students: Learning requires exploration of one’s identity how we see ourselves.

*For older students: Ask who has the most influence over your identity? Is this fluid and how does it change? When do our peers influence our identity more than our families?

3) Ask students:

a. How does our identity connect us with our family, friends and community and why is it important?

b. What would happen if someone tried to tell you that your identity should be changed? What would you do?

c. Should others be able to create rules about our identity?

Lesson 2 - Human Rights

The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions:

  • Why does it matter to learn about Orange Shirt Day?


Human Rights (Lesson 2)

1) After the discussion, ask students have you heard of Human rights?

2) Take suggestions, tell students what the United Nations defines as human rights:

“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

3) Ask students if we all have human rights can another person or a government for example determine that a person’s identity is wrong? Discuss with students.

4) Ask class if they would be surprised that Canada’s government has passed laws that state that peoples’ identities were wrong and should be changed? Discuss with students.

Lesson 3 - Body of Lesson

The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions:

  • Why does it matter to learn about Orange Shirt Day?


Body of Lesson (Lesson 3)

1) Read Shin Chi’s Canoe.

2) Discuss with students what they think about the book.

3) After the discussion explain to students: The Canadian government passed a law called the Indian Act (1876) and others (laws)  that said it was illegal for Indigenous people to speak their language, practice their culture and defined who was and was not part of the community.

To make sure that peoples’ identities were changed it became law that all Indigenous children had to go to school at age 6. These schools were called residential schools and children had to stay at the school and they could not go home. Children were not allowed to speak their language or practice their culture.

4) Also explain that this continued until 1996. That is only 21 years ago.

5) Ask the class:

1. How did the Canadian government’s law affect Indigenous peoples identity

2. Ask to students to infer if Shin Chi’s experiences affected his identity?

3. What about Shin Chi’s human rights? Did Canada’s law, the Indian Act go against what we consider human rights?

 6) Discuss student responses.

Lesson 4 - Orange Shirt Day

The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions:


  • Why does it matter to learn about Orange Shirt Day?



Orange Shirt Day (Lesson 4)

1) Class discussion:

  • What is the most exciting thing about back to school time? The commercials? The excitement?
  • Do you get a new outfit or school supplies?
  • Are you excited about seeing friends and your teachers?
  • Have you ever heard of Orange Shirt Day?
  • What does it mean and why do we wear orange shirts on this day?

2) Think about Shin Chi and when he went to school? When did he go to school? How did he go to school?

3) Have you heard about Phyllis (Jack) Webstad? She is the person that started Orange Shirt Day.

4) Read to students Phyllis’ story.

5) Ask students how Phyllis’ first day of school affected her sense of identity?

6) Why did she pick September 30th to be Orange Shirt Day in Canada (it is when students were taken to residential school every year, at the changing of the seasons)

7) Show students the video of Phyllis’ story.

8) After the video and the story discuss with students why is Orange Shirt Day important for Canadians to know about and acknowledge?

The following resources are made available through the British Columbia Ministry of Education. For more information, please visit BC’s New Curriculum.

Big Ideas

The Big Ideas consist of generalizations and principles and the key concepts important in an area of learning. The Big Ideas represent what students will understand at the completion of the curriculum for their grade. They are intended to endure beyond a single grade and contribute to future understanding.

Visit the Ministry of Education for more information

Core Competencies

orangecommunicationCommunications Competency

The set of abilities that students use to impart and exchange information, experiences and ideas, to explore the world around them, and to understand and effectively engage in the use of digital media

bluethinkingThinking Competency

The knowledge, skills and processes we associate with intellectual development

greensocialSocial Competency

The set of abilities that relate to students’ identity in the world, both as individuals and as members of their community and society

Visit the Ministry of Education for more information

Curricular Competencies & Content

Curricular Competencies are the skills, strategies, and processes that students develop over time. They reflect the “Do” in the Know-Do-Understand model of curriculum. The Curricular Competencies are built on the thinking, communicating, and personal and social competencies relevant to disciplines that make up an area of learning.

Visit the Ministry of Education for more information

Additional Resources


First People's Principles of Learning

To read more about First People’s Principles of Learning, please click here.

For classroom resources, please visit the First Nations Education Steering Committee.