Shi-Shi-etko by Nicola I Campbell   I have included several reading comprehension strategies that could be taught with the book Shi-shi-etko. If the students already know the strategies, then reading the book and keeping track of the metacognitive thinking that is happening while reading would be a great lesson. Ultimately my focus would be on questioning. Leading students to ask the important questions about Residential Schools and do some inquiry work  into Residential Schools.

Anchor Chart  ( I would do this on a chart paper)

Strategy Used: Check mark for each time used
I had a question  
 I visualized  
 I made connections  
 I inferred  


Second anchor chart:

Before Reading: During Reading: After Reading:
What I think know about residential schools: New Learning: Misconceptions I had about residential Schools:
 Questions I still have:     


Shi-Shi-etko by Nicola I Campbell

Shi-Shi-Etko is an excellent model text. All of the super 7 strategies can be used when reading this picture book but at the same time we incorporate First Nation Content to set a purpose for powerful reading rather than just  going through the motions of learning the strategies. .  Shi-Shi-Etko is the story of a young Salish girl preparing herself to be sent away to residential school. I have used this book in grades 3-8.

The ultimate goal in comprehension instruction is for students to be able to read a text and decide while reading, which strategy they need to use, in order to fully comprehend the text. It is also possible to go back and forth between strategies,

Questioning (before , during and after reading to clarify meaning, focus on the text, monitor their understanding-was my question answered? Does it matter if it wasn’t answered or do I still have more questions?)

The first time I looked at the cover of this book  I thought the story was about a Japanese girl. I was unfamiliar with the name, and the art made me connect to my prior knowledge about Japan. I asked myself questions like-who is the little girl?, what is she doing? , is she looking for something?, what does Shi-shi-etko mean?.

As the story unfolded I realized I was wrong and had to quickly change my connections.

Have students stop periodically as they are reading and note questions on a chart paper.

Why does she bury her special things? Why are they taken away in a cattle car?? Who takes them away???

 Go back and see if their questions have been answered and if the answers changed their thinking, At the end of the book the teacher should lead students to ask many more questions and begin an inquiry-

Why did this happen? Who allowed this to happen?  Does this still happen? What happened to the families when the children were taken from them? Does anybody have the right to take children away? All of these questions lead to further investigation.

Making Connections (also known as using background knowledge or schema)

Good readers access their background knowledge before, during and after reading. They use their knowledge about their own world to make text-to-self,, text-to-text and text- to- world connections. Good readers decide if the connections help them to understand the text better or if the connection really does not apply to the text at all.

In Shi-shi-etko there are many connections that children make. A connection as simple as a connection to their own relationship with their mother,  to observing nature,  to family gatherings as well as counting down the days to an event. Some children make the deep personal connection to stories their own families have told about being sent away to a residential school.  When discussing the possible connections they have to their own lives, it is important to ask students how the connection helps them as a reader.

“Mom, wake up. It’s time for us to bathe down by the creek.” Many children say that reminds them of trying to wake their mum (or dad) up to do something exciting, that connection helps them understand how the little girl is feeling-excited-worried-frustrated…


Visualizing  (Making a movie in your mind. Asking yourself what would I: see, taste, feel, smell, hear)

Good readers use their connections to help them visualize. If they are reading about fishing and they have gone fishing, it is much easier to visualize what fishing is like. Visualizing helps readers interpret the author’s message and also to remember what they read after they have finished, Visualizing is on-going somewhat like a movie the Images in the reader’s mind change as more information is read.

Nicola Campbell uses such descriptive language in her book that it is easy to picture the story as it is told. Phrase such as “…watched the sunlight dance butterfly steps across her mother’s face…” Even very young children are able to think about those words and how the sunlight is moving…

Tall grass swaying is easy to act out-younger students love to stand and sway and imagine they are grass thus visualizing that phrase.

Senior students usually notice “determined mosquitoes” and make connections to being annoyed by a mosquito that won’t go away, visualizing how Shi-shi-etko must be feeling.

Other powerful phrases include:

 “rhythmic sound of Yayah’s cane” “..footsteps pitter pattered “ for sound

Sky changing navy to brilliant blue” for sight

“water exhausted sleep”that squirmed between her toes” for feeling …”

“the path was dark and smelled alive with rain” “…wood smoke and scents of bar B qing sock eyed salmon” for smell

It is essential for students to visualize this story in order to properly understand the loss this little girl is about to experience. All the sights and sounds and comforts of nature and her culture are woven through this story.


Inferring (to create personal meaning from the text,we use what the author tells us ,combine with what we already know to infer how the people are feeling in the story. We use details to infer the time of year and location) This story requires a great deal of inferring in the place of that charater

 Doing a Step Into the Book activity is a great way to get students to infer. Have a backdrop of nature prepared. Ask students to stand in front of the backdrop and take on the role of one of the characters-tell the class how they are feeling. Have two students simulate a conversation between Shi-shi-etko and another person from the story. Discuss the reasoning they used to portray the characters in the way they did.

“I am Shi-shi-etko-I know I have to go but….”

How did Shi-shi-etko feel?-readers have to use their  prior knowledge to imagine how they  might feel.

How did her mother feel ?  Her Father?  Her Yaya?


Determining Importance  (Looking for the Big idea-what did the author want you to know about this little girl. How did you decide what was most important? Children need to be able to say why they think that was the most important part)

Ask students to draw one picture to explain the big idea of the story. Older students can do a fast write-everything I know about Shi-shi-etko and then choose-what is the most important thing of all the things I listed?