Celebrate World Teacher’s Day

As professionals dedicated to future generations, encouraging our students to think and act as global citizens, we sometimes forget that we too are global citizens. We are connected to a global network of passionate and committed education professionals who are all working to continuously improve the experiences and successes of our students.   

Take 15 minutes today to listen to Qian Tang, assistant director-general for education at UNESCO, discuss how World Teachers’ Day is experienced around the world. 

Celebrate the work you do and the professional global community to which you belong!


It’s here! The Rights Respecting Schools Web site!

UNICEF Canada has finally launched our Rights Respecting Schools Web site.  This site is for teachers and other leaders in the field of education who are interested in fostering inclusive, participatory and respectful school cultures.

Follow these 5 easy steps to start your school’s path to being a Rights Respecting School!

1. Visit our website to learn more

2. Contact UNICEF at rightsrespectingschools@unicef.ca

3. Invite the UNICEF Canada Education Manager to deliver a presentation at your school on the initiative

4. Invite staff, parents, and community members to attend UNICEF Canada professional development sessions at your school

5. Set your school’s action plan and get started at transforming your school culture!


Horn of Africa: New resource guide and UNICEF Canada blog

Check out our latest resource guide for elementary and secondary teachers, on the Global Classroom Web site, (When Disaster Strikes: Horn of Africa Supplementary Guide). We know that it can be challenging to convey the issues and complexities associated with humanitarian emergencies to your students, so UNICEF Canada creates supplementary resources to address specific emergencies, such as this most recent one, in which  a worsening drought, rising food prices, and on-going conflict in Somalia have created a severe humanitarian crisis.

Activity:  Read Stories of Survival from the Horn of Africa here on the UNICEF – Canada BLOG  with your class.

Create a bulletin board or poster board profiling the stories of survivors. Include photographs, quotes and life summaries that focus on the strength and determination of the people affected by this humanitarian disaster, as well as a call to action on their behalf.

Blank Beginnings

There are so many things “to do” at the beginning of each school year: organize books, create student labels, finalize schedules, prepare long range plans.  Aside from all of the organizational details, we also strive to set-up a classroom that is manageable and visually appealing for our students.  Bright fadeless paper, colourful borders, and eye-catching posters about setting goals are amongst the many decorative items that can be found in educational resource stores.  In my first year of teaching, I spent unmentionable amounts of money on such supplies, and even more on the lamination so that it would last for years to come.  While arranging my new classroom this year, I quickly realized that many of the pretty posters I had stored away are no longer useful for me.  I believe that a rights respecting classroom should provide opportunities for students’ voices to be heard.  As such, it must be their words, pictures, and ideas that fill the walls of the classroom.  I hope that beginning the year with blank walls will help the students know that the classroom is their own, and that they will take pride in seeing their insightful examples of learning surrounding them each day.

Elementary Reading Lists

Welcome back!  We hope you had a wonderful summer and are ready for another exciting year with your students.

As we plan for our upcoming year, I want to encourage you all to visit this blog: Social Justice Literature for the Elementary Classroom.  The books recommended on this site provide opportunities to bring global issues, diversity, a variety of perspectives, and children’s rights into your teaching.  Each book is accompanied with a summary and ideas for use in the classroom.

One of my favourite books is Shin-chi’s Canoe by Nicola I. Campbell and pictures by Kim LaFav.  Almost every provincial and territorial curriculum includes learning about the history of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.  Using this book in your classroom exposes your students to the perspectives of  two Aboriginal children who were taken into residential schools.  This book provides a child-friendly introduction into discussions on the importance and right to culture and provides an example of how children can stand up for their own rights.

         Share with us the books you will be using this year to bring social justice and children’s  rights into your classroom!

Conte-moi la francophonie

Conte-moi est un site Internet qui contient des ressources du patrimoine oral francophone  et qui propose des contes collectés dans différents pays, enregistrés en français et en langue locale, accompagnés d’une fiche pédagogique.

Permettant aux élèves de s’ouvrir à la diversité du monde qui les entoure en plus de prendre conscience de l’article 7 de la Convention relative aux droits de l’enfant: droit à un nom et à une nationnalité et l’article 2 (le non-distrimination), ce site est une ressource hors paire pour tout enseignant qui s’intéresse à l’éducation à la citoyenneté dans une perspective mondiale.


Year End Read Alouds

As the school year draws to a close, you might be searching for an inspiring read aloud to share with your students.  Here are some fantastic titles that will please any audience in the elementary years:

One Smile – Cindy McKinley
A young girl smiles at a stranger, which begins a sequence of “pay it forward” actions that eventually come full circle.   This text is a great launch for discussing how one small action can make a major difference in the lives of those around us.





Paulie Pastrami Achieves World Peace – James Proimos
This comedic and delightful book tells the story of a young boy who reflects on his actions and makes changes in his behaviour to benefit others.  Definitely a laugh-out-loud read aloud! 




The Streets Are Free – Kurusa
Set in Caracas, Venezuela, this beautfiul picture book tells the story of a group of children who take action to encourage the building of the city’s first playground.  Endless possibilities for global connections through social studies along with the active citizenship theme.

These books should be easy to find at the local library, bookstore, or online from a variety of sellers.  Happy reading!

It Starts With One

As educators, we experience immense pressure to meet our varied responsibilities.  Not only do we need to teach the curriculum, we must do so in a way that is engaging, differentiated, and culturally relevant for our students.  It is very easy to become overwhelmed with expectations, as we strive to teach them all successfully.

I am now in my third year as a primary teacher, and have struggled most with teaching the subject reading in a way that is cohesive for my students.  I have found it difficult to teach “making connections” without talking about visualizing or inferring.  The reality is that the very act of reading consists of many strategies, and as such, we can’t always single out each expectation for our developing readers.

This past term, I conducted a personal inquiry to guide my teaching practice in the area of reading.  As an educator, I explored the following question: How might the use of a guiding question help my students make connections, infer meaning, and ask questions while reviewing information from a variety of texts?

This may seem like a heavy question, but it really wasn’t.  The first step was to create a question for my students, and then select a variety of texts that would help my students find the answer.  Here is a brief overview of our unit, which took about eight weeks to complete.

Guiding Question: Can one person change the world?

We started the unit by discussing this question, and the class was pretty divided in their responses.  Some students said that one person can change the world by helping people, where as others said that one person could not do enough to help the world.

The next step was to explore this question by using mentor texts, which included the following:

Sam and the Lucky Money – Karen Chinn

Martin’s Big Words – Doreen Rappaport

One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference – Katie Smith Milway

Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg and Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson and Susan L. Roth

Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed – Emily Pearson

As we read each text, we carefully examined each of the characters and their actions.  The students used this graphic organizer in small groups, partners, and independently to record their ideas and use proof from the texts.

Name of Person and their Action

Yes, they changed the world.

No, they did not change the world.








The texts provided opportunities for incredible dialogue with the students.  Throughout each story, the students identified world issues such as homelessness, poverty, racism, gender discrimination, lack of education, and more.  We then continued on by examining children of the past and present who have taken action about various social issues, which included Iqbal Masih, Craig Kielburger, Hannah Taylor, Bilaal Rajan, and Nickole Evans.  The students researched information on each of these individuals using non-fiction articles, as well as carefully selected websites.  These sources allowed the children to see real-life child activists, which provided a different perspective then a story in a picture book format.

While the students focused mainly on the guiding question, we also used questioning as a strategy for deepening our thinking.  During read aloud sessions, the students recorded questions that came to their mind, and used their own inferences to answer in a “Reading is Thinking” journal.  We often shared these questions and had discussions about how our ideas were connected to each other.

At the end of the unit, the students were asked to answer the guiding question in any way that they wanted.  Most students recorded their response in writing.  They also recorded their responses on film, which we created into a documentary called “It Starts With One.”  The film has been shared with all of the other classes in our school, and the students have become empowered to share their thinking about the world as a result.

My learning throughout this process has been incredible.  I have learned about the value of creating an inquiry question to guide instruction and student learning.  I have also reaffirmed my desire to teach children about global issues, even in the primary years, as students are never too young to start thinking about how they can contribute to making the world a better place!

Here are some samples of student work:

Watch Young People Taking Action

June 17th is the World Day to Combat Desertification, and this year, the Day’s slogan is “Enhancing soils anywhere enhances life everywhere. ”

Check out this short video on UNICEF’s You Tube Channel to see how young people around the world are combating desertification and enriching their local environments through planting trees.

You can also check out UNICEF Canada’s resource guide on Climate Change, Children and Youth: Local Connections to Global Issues for activities to explore related issues in more detail with your classroom.



Activity: The Candy Game

Have you ever wondered how to initiate a conversation about rights with your students?  “The Candy Game” is a great way to spark discussion about the concept of fairness, which ultimately leads to an understanding of wants, needs, and rights.  I have used this activity with primary and junior students, and even adults, and have had great success.  You can never go wrong when candy is involved!  Here are the details:

Materials: A variety of coloured candy (wrapped), paper bags

  1. Prepare one paper bag for each student.  Each bag should contain a variety of candy.  Some bags will have no candy, some will have a few pieces, some will have many pieces, and others will have exactly four pieces.
  2. Explain that the students are going to be given one paper bag.  The goal of the game is for each child to collect four pieces of candy that are exactly the same.
  3. Tell the students that they must not speak during this game. Discuss some ways to communicate without speaking (i.e. eye contact, gestures, etc.).
  4. Allow the students to have approximately three minutes to play the game.
  5. Once students seem to be finished, the game can come to end. Have students gather in a circle, and allow each child to tell how much candy they did (or did not) collect.
  6. Once each student has shared, ask students about their feelings about this game.Guiding Questions:‐ How did you feel when we started playing the game?
    ‐ What did you think when you were told you could not speak during the game?
    ‐ What was fun about the game?
    ‐ What was difficult about the game?
    –  What does this game teach us about the real world?

    After this discussion, collect the candy, and allow students to enjoy one piece each!