Supplementary Lessons - Grade 3
The development of the syllabics writing system is credited to James Evans, a Methodist missionary. Evans developed the writing system in 1840 initially for the Ojibwa language. It was later adapted to Cree and translated to all Cree dialects. Most dialects in Cree can be written with just 12 basic signs. Each sign can be written facing four different directions relating to the vowel attached to it. Currently, there are four different versions of Cree Syllabics, which are related to the different dialects in Cree. The Cree syllabics system has also been modified to write Siksika (Blackfoot), Carrier, Dene Tha, Naskapi, and Inuktitut.
Unfortunately, there are not very many people left who are fluent in Cree syllabics.
Ask students to give examples of different ways in which people communicate. Write these on the board. Students may or may not suggest communication through symbols, so make sure that it does get added onto the list. Inform students that another word for symbols is syllabics. Syllabics are characters or symbols that have alphabetical (consonants and vowels) sounds attached. Hold up some examples of syllabics and translate their meaning, each symbol represents a consonant or vowel. You can download and print off the syllabics chart here. Hang these in the classroom. Ask the students if they have ever noticed syllabics before and wondered what it meant.
Share with students the information in the Teachers Zone about the development and meaning of Cree syllabics. Explain a brief history of the Cree people as well.
The students will be responsible for creating a storybook with illustrations and their own syllabic system. Students may borrow ideas from the Cree syllabic system but they should try and create their own as well. The book is only expected to be a few pages long, but must include a book cover page and a key to their syllabic system. Students may even wish to give their new language system a name. To aid students in the book development you may wish them to follow this process:
Supplementary Lesson 1
Set up a “book fair” in your classroom where students can display their finished books and take turns looking at each other’s work and describing their syllabics story to one another. This could be a fun day where parents are invited into the classroom as well. You may also wish to find actual books that contain Cree syllabics.
Supplementary Lesson 2
Create a Word Wall in your classroom that includes terminology associated with syllabics. Some words to include would be:
These words can then be used for spelling and comprehension tests.
Supplementary Lesson 3
Contact a local Aboriginal organization or a community member who is fluent in syllabics. Ask the individual to be a guest speaker in your classroom who can write a story or sentences in syllabics and share the process with the students. You may also wish to invite this individual to the “Book Fair” as well so that parents will have an opportunity to meet him or her.