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Grade 4 Folk Song Unit: Making Alberta’s History Sing (Part 1: Tuning In)

by Heather Fawcett and Jessica Kelly

The Grade 4 Humanities teachers at Connect Charter School are currently designing an exciting unit of inquiry that provides students with an opportunity to create folk songs that communicate a story from Alberta’s rich history.

The design of this unit incorporates a number of Social Studies and English Language Arts curricular elements while also challenging students to express their knowledge and understanding through creative channels. Technology will play an integral role in the process and students will work directly with expert singer/songwriters to create folk song lyrics from their independent research findings. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but the potential for deep and profound learning is obvious.

The Inquiry Cycle 


Helping learners understand the various stages of the inquiry process, and what success means at each of those stages, is important in helping them reach their full potential as inquirers. If students have a firm grasp of what skills and behaviors befit strong inquirers, they know what it takes to be successful. To this end, the Grade 4 Humanities teachers have been working with the model pictured above. This framework also plays an integral role in the construction of inquiry units.


The first video documents the “Tuning in” phase of the process. What better way to introduce students to a variety of gripping historical stories than to take everyone to the Glenbow Museum? The full-day tour of numerous exhibits exposed students to a wealth of interesting and important historical topics they could get excited about. Mavericks who “went against the grain” were prominently featured and particular tribute was given to those Albertans who took risks and truly made a difference in our province. This exhibit featured an array of engaging stories. The Blackfoot exhibit provided students a glimpse into the rich culture and ways of life of the Blackfoot people and the Newcomers exhibit exposed students to amazing stories of people who immigrated to Alberta from all over the world. Students came away from this visit with a list of potential story ideas that will form the basis for their folk songs.

The driving question students were asked upon their return from the museum was: What did you see that is worth singing about?

Here is the first in a series of videos that will detail the various stages of the inquiry process that is guiding this unit. Enjoy.
The unit now enters the “Finding Out” phase in which students will conduct independent research into the story they found the most compelling. Using the Glenbow website archives, as well as other trustworthy online resources, students will find out all they can about their chosen topic. Additionally, the classes will conduct an indepth inquiry into what exactly makes a song a “folk song”. Working with local musicians, students will co-construct the criteria for their song creations.

1 comments:

  1. Heather and Jessica,

    Making Alberta’s history sing through folksongs is an exciting undertaking. I appreciate how you have provided your students with a creative, engaging opportunity to address a number of the social studies and English Language Arts curricular outcomes. It is good to continue to reinforce with your students, the inquiry cycle and the process of learning through a disposition of inquiry. The video of your, “tuning in” experience at the Glenmore Museum is very informative and I am looking forward to your next blog.

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