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When We Were Alone

By Caitlin Davey 90 minutes
Grades 4-6
English Language Arts,
Social Sciences
  • Programming
  • Technology and Society
Tools & Languages

Key Coding Concepts

  • Events
  • Loops
  • Operators
  • Random Numbers
  • Sequences



One thing causing another thing to happen i.e. ‘when clicked’ block



Running the same sequence multiple times i.e. repeat or forever blocks



Identifying a series of steps for a task; computers and Scratch read and perform commands in order from top to bottom



Mathematical and logical expressions i.e. X+X block

In this lesson, learners will hear about Canada’s residential school history through the story of a little girl and her grandmother, as told in ‘When We Were Alone’ by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett.

We have partnered with the CBC to support teachers with historical content for what is a very sad part of Canadian history.

Note to Teachers:

The exploration of sensitive and controversial issues may provoke emotional responses in learners. A high degree of care should be taken before the lesson to ensure that the learning environment allows for conflicting sets of values to be processed analytically and with respect for differences in peoples and their cultures, identities, and world views. As with all activities that involve complex thinking, teachers should build in time for reflection and metacognitive activities.

This lesson was made in partnership with David Alexander Robertson, Julie Flett, and Portage and Main Press.


Historical Context

This video from Historica Canada is a powerful reminder of the history of residential schools in Canada. Please review the video to ensure it is appropriate for your classroom.

Explore the material and links in the References section of this page for additional material about this topic.


Have learners turn, pair, and then share the 3Ws:

  • What do I know about residential schools?
  • What do I want to know about residential schools?
  • And what do I want to learn about residential schools after reading ‘When we Were Alone’?

In pairs, have learners select a scene that resonated most with them to recreate using Scratch. Learners may want to act out the scene to get a better understanding of how the dialogue works between the two characters.


Show the example project so learners know what they are working towards. Ask them what they see/hear - what is happening in this project?

Open the starter project and review the Sprites and backgrounds.

Have learners open the starter project on their screens and click "See Inside" or “Remix” (The remix button will only be visible once they are signed into their accounts.)

Use the solution sheet to guide learners through the following steps:

  1. Make Nosism say something
  2. Talk to the other sprites
  3. Make Nokom respond
  4. Add to the conversation
  5. Flashback
  6. Make the leaves fall

Do learners use broadcast and when I receive blocks? Have learners thoughtfully completed the above activities?

Reflect: Have learners share some of the challenges they had while coding. Discuss strategies learners used to debug coding problems. Make a list of strategies (e.g. reread your code, try a different block, change a line of code, guess and run code to check, have a friend review your code, look it up on the How do I website for Scratch.

Art: Have learners create new Sprites of a variety of flowers using the Paint feature in Scratch. Then have them code the new flowers to appear in the project.

Writing: Have learners add their thoughts about today’s lesson to a Digital Computational Thinking Journal (Example: Digital or paper-based).

Teach lessons that are tied to your existing curriculum!


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    The K-12 Computer Science Framework

    Although learning how to build digital projects is a key part of Computer Science education, students should also learn a wider set of skills and competencies that will help them to harness the power of digital technologies as both creators and consumers. A comprehensive approach to K-12 Computer Science education includes learning about the following five focus areas:

    View Framework ➝


    By the end of high school, students should be able to create a simple computer program.

    Computing and Networks

    By the end of high school, students should understand and be able to use the tools and devices commonly used to build digital projects.


    By the end of high school, students should be able to explain how we use computers to create, store, organize, and analyze data.

    Technology and Society

    By the end of high school, students should be able to explore the ways in which technology and society have mutually shaped each other.


    By the end of high school, students should be able to apply design principles to the digital projects they create.