Save 10% today on your lessons using the code GIVEME10


Fantastic Orange Shirt Day Resources For Middle School Teachers

September 30 is known as Orange Shirt Day. Find Orange Shirt Day resources for middle school students in this blog post.

Find Orange Shirt Day Resources in this article. September 30 is known as Orange Shirt Day. This day is for raising awareness about the true history of residential schools in Canada. The Canadian government has also made it the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

What is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (Orange Shirt Day)?

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was started in 2008. It is a day to raise awareness and recognize the responsibility of the Canadian government, which took Indigenous children away from their families and put them into residential schools.

Orange Shirt Day was started by Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor who was given a new orange shirt by her grandmother when she went to a residential school for the first time. The shirt and all her clothes were taken from her at the residential school, and since then, Phyllis has attributed the colour orange as one that reminds her of the residential schools.

In 2013, Phyllis started Orange Shirt Day as a day to honour the children who were forced to go into residential schools.

This blog post contains information about resources for Orange Shirt Day resources that can be used with grade 7 and 8 students. It also contains information about Indigenous-owned businesses. This is not an exhaustive list of resources, but a starting point for teachers who want to learn more about this topic – Orange Shirt Day resources.

What were Residential Schools in Canada?

Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald wanted to find out how the country could provide Indigenous youth with an education. He commissioned Nicholas Flood Davin, a journalist and politician, to study schools in the United States and their approach to educating Indigenous children. Following his study, Davin recommended Canada follow the U.S. model of “aggressive civilization,” with the ultimate goal of erasing Indigenous culture in the children. Public funding was used for the Residential School System.

Children were taken away from their families and put into residential schools run by the government and churches. Upon arrival at a school, students had their hair cut and their clothing replaced with the school uniform. They were forbidden to display any affiliation to their culture. If the children spoke their first language, they were punished. The goal of these schools was to assimilate Indigenous children and make them into Europeans.

Parents would receive letters from their children detailing the inhumane discipline and poor conditions they were forced to endure. The educational staff would attempt to censor all communication between the youth and their families, but letters would eventually get out. Once parents found out about the terrible conditions at the residential schools they tried to remove their children, but faced many obstacles.

It is estimated that approximately 6,000 Indigenous youth died in residential schools. The Government of Canada stopped accurately recording these deaths, so the exact number is unknown. The last Canadian residential school closed in 1996.

Sample Orange Shirt Day Lesson For Grades 7 and 8

  1. Watch the video All about Orange Shirt Day from CBC.
  2. As a class, read the poem – “I Lost My Talk” by Rita Joe
  3. Ask students what they think the message behind the poem is.
  4. Read the poet’s background information on the Facing History and Ourselves website.
  5. Re-read the poem and have a class discussion using the questions provided on the Facing History and Ourselves website.
  6. Watch the video Phyllis Webstad Orange Shirt Day Presentation to help students gain an understanding of this important day.
  7. Watch the video Heritage Minutes: Chanie Wenjack
  8. Then, read this article Residential Schools in Canada (Plain-Language Summary) from the Canadian Encyclopedia. 
  9. Finish the lesson by explaining to students that the impact of residential schools continues. This article “Shoes honour loss of 215 children at former residential school” explains why students might see shoe displays in their hometowns. 
  10. Have a discussion about why shopping choices matter with this article from the CBC – Where you buy your orange shirt matters — here’s why.
  11. If time permits have a discussion about how sports teams have started the renaming process to remove inappropriate team names and mascots. The article “Edmonton Elks: CFL club announces new name” is about a Canadian sports team.

Orange Shirt Day Resources

Use these Orange Shirt Day resources to help your students better understand the importance of this day.

Picture Books About Residential Schools

Picture books are fantastic literacy resources to help students learn about a variety of topics and reinforce literacy skills. Please purchase these books from Indigenous-owned bookstores. Use the books on this list as Orange Shirt Day resources.

  • When We Were Alone by David Robertson
  • Stolen Words by Melanie Florence
  • Not My Girl by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
  • When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
  • Phyllis’s Orange Shirt by Phyllis Webstad
  • I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer
  • Shi-shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell
  • Shin-chi’s Canoe by Nicola I. Campbell

Truth and Reconciliation Videos 

Many students enjoy video content. Use these videos to help plan your Orange Shirt Day lessons.

Indigenous Book Lists

Instagram Accounts

Learn from these Indigenous-run Instagram accounts: 

@tiplerteaches – Megan Tipler educates on current Indigenous issues, Truth and Reconciliation, how teachers can support Indigenous peoples, as well as inspiring Indigenous individuals in all kinds of fields. She also frequently shares amazing book recommendations for students across all grade levels! 

@nativegirlsreading – Mallory Whiteduck shares her reviews and thoughts on a huge selection of books by Indigenous authors. This is a great account to go to for book recs both to use in your classroom, and to read for yourself.

@alyssagtyghter – Alyssa Gray-Tyghter posts about Black and Indigenous culture and history, racism in Canada, being a parent and teacher, and she shares a wealth of resources and recommendations for teaching middle school.

Indigenous-Run Bookstores

Also, check out these Indigenous-run bookstores the next time you or your classroom need some new reads:

  1. Good Minds – This store sells at their store in Brandford, ON, and online.
  2. Strong Nations ​​- This store is based in Nanaimo, BC, but sells exclusively online.
  3. Iron Dog Books – This is a bookstore and book truck in Vancouver, BC. They sell online as well. 
  4. Barely Bruised Books – This bookstore is located in Ottawa, ON, but ships worldwide.
  5. Massy Books – This bookstore is located in Vancouver, BC, but ships internationally.
  6. Librairie Hannenorak is located in Wendake, QC.

Orange Shirt Day Resources – For Teacher Use Only

This content is for teachers to learn more about Indigenous Peoples.  

  • University Course The “Indigenous Canada” course through the University of Alberta is free to take for informational purposes, or you can pay a fee and get a certificate of completion. 
  • Podcasts – The Secret Life of Canada and Unreserved from CBC Podcasts
  • Video – Watch the TVO documentary “There Are No Fakes” is a compelling story about art fraud, and the legacy of Anishinaabe artist and Canadian icon Norval Morrisseau.

I hope you can use some of these Orange Shirt Day resources in your classroom.

Canadian History Resources

If you teach Canadian History and are looking for additional resources to support your classroom instruction check out these links:

  1. Grade 6 Social Studies
  2. Grade 7 History 1713-1850
  3. Grade 8 History 1850-1914

Related Posts


This FREE persuasive writing unit is

By using highly-engaging rants, your students won’t even realize you’ve channeled their daily rants and complaints into high-quality, writing!

FREE persuasive writing unit is