Designed by Judy Wilson and Robyn Dickinson
Critical Question: How can Aboriginal storytelling methods help you discover yourself?

Overview/ Rationale (Learning Outcomes)

Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin Jr. And John Archambault illustrates how Aboriginal cultures pass knowledge from generation to generation through an oral tradition. In this story, a child gains knowledge and a sense of his past from his grandfather. This story is used to stimulate students into thinking about their own family history and then identify individual strengths and/or personal qualities. Please note:
Do not show pictures. A discussion of the stereotyping that this book portrays is necessary. The teacher may also want to stress that this stroy takes place years ago.

Relevent Learning Outcomes:

Social Studies: It is expected that students will:

English Language Arts:
It is expected that students will:

Personal Planning:

It is expected that students will:

Shared Learnings:

Social Studies:

English Language Arts: Personal Planning:

Requisite Tools:

Background Knowledge:

Criteria for judgment:

Critical Thinking Vocabulary:

Thinking Strategies

Habits of Mind:


Beginning of mini unit:

A. First lesson from Shared Learnings
    1. Listening: The First Lesson For Aboriginal Children p.133

Discuss how in Aboriginal stories, in addition to the regular parts, there are usually two special features:
1. there is a lesson for humans and
2. there is a mnemonic device.
Identify the lesson for humans: see page 133
#1. Brainstorm and record appropriate listening behaviours. Extension: play the telephone game and Musical Hot/Cold game to reinforce the importance of listening
B. Teacher reads the story Knots on a Counting Rope. Students listen for details of the story map.
Materials required: a knotted rope (mnemonic device)

Identify what the lesson for humans is in Knots on a Counting Rope and what is the significant of the counting rope. Record both answers on the attached story map sheet. Together as a class, fill in the rest of the sheet.

C. Read Knots on a Counting Rope again. Have students listen for powerful words. Record the word on cards. Distribute the cards to small groups. Each group creates movements to illustrate the words while speaking them. The goal is to have students feel comfortable at playing with words and verbalizing them in different ways to enhance their story.

D. Second lesson based on Aboriginal Storytelling p.136 Bring in an aboriginal storyteller to tell a story. As a whole class:
      Optional: In small groups, students make a story line of the events in the story either by drawing pictures, recording them in words, or acting them out. Share with classmates and the storyteller as time permits.  

1. Distribute KWL chart to students. Individually students record three non-physical characteristics/traits about themselves under the What I Know heading.

2. As a class: create a list of questions that will help the students find out more information about themselves.

3. Individually: students complete What I Want To Know heading.
F. Students use their KWL sheet to complete Story Map of their own story.

G. Students take story map home and tell story to parents.

H. Use Pair-Share strategy for practicing in classroom. Click here for an extra worksheet to help guide your questions.


Assess how this process helped students learn more about themselves by:

* Note: look at Justice books on storytelling and check with reference list created with students. Assess studentsí understanding of each otherís diverse heritage:



Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault ISBN: 0-8050-0571-4

Teacher resources:

Aboriginal Education Initiative, British Columbia, Ministry of Education, SHARED Learnings ISBN: 0-7726-3654-0

Collins, Rives and Cooper, Pamela J. The Power of Story Teaching Through Storytelling, Second Edition

Goodfellow, Anne FIRST NATIONS JOURNEYS OF JUSTICE Building Bridges of Understanding Between Nations -Training For Storytelling, ISBN: 0-7726-2271-X

McDiarmid, Tami, Manzo, Rita and Musselle, Trish Critical Challenges for Primary Students ISBN: 0-86491-147-5

Harrison, John, Smith, Neil and Wright, Ian Critical Challenges in Social Studies for Upper Elementary Students ISBN: 0-86491-192-0   With Special thanks to: Lyn Daniels, First Nations Resource Teacher, School District #71

Andy Everson, First Nations Resource Person, School District #71
Anne Jack, First Nations Resource Person, School District #71