Read Your Way Across Canada

bigstock-Book-Covered-With-Canadian-Fla-20361425Have you ever met any students who don’t want to improve their speaking skills?  I haven’t.  It’s more of a challenge to get them to read and write. I did something that got them into reading.

A few years ago, I was trying to encourage my students to read. Fortunately, there was a public library nearby. Once a week we would go there, and I would help them find books. Still, I wanted to give them more motivation to read, so I decided to get them to read across Canada.

I believe this activity will work regardless of your level. All you have to do is adapt the activities to the abilities, and that includes the books that they read.

I did this with my level 1 students. For those who were particularly weak, I had them take out books by Mo Willems. They are fun and easy to read.  Here is an example of one:

Canada is about 7,250 km from coast to coast. I had about 10 students. For every book they read, they earned 100 km, which comes to about 70 books each. Adjust the mileage per book depending on the number of students. This was only the start of it, though. I decided to make it a full cultural experience.

I created a chart where students put their names and the books they had read. I also created a rating system so they could look at books others had read for recommendations. As each book was read, the length of the trip was adjusted, and we marked the progress on a map.

As we wended our way through each province, we explored many aspects.

First, we would watch a video for each province. You can find them easily on YouTube. We would identify the capital and take some notes on some of the things that make the province unique. What natural resources are important? What are the main tourist attractions? What are some of the main cities?

Next, we would look at a recipe or food associated with the province. We actually prepared some of them in class. The sugar pie from Quebec was popular. The favourite, by far, was the smoked salmon from British Columbia.

We also mentioned famous musicians from each place, playing some of their music and reading the lyrics. Many were surprised to find out that Bryan Adams is Canadian.

I think you get the idea of how you can adapt this idea to fit the abilities and interest of the students. As a bonus, they get an idea of the size of each province. While relatively breezing through the Atlantic provinces, they finally hit Ontario, which seemed to take forever to get through.

If you want, you can even weave the story of Terry Fox into the theme.

Let your imagination run wild and have fun with this.

Before I started this unit, I had contacted all of the provincial and territorial tourism offices for brochures, maps and posters. Most were quite happy to send something along.

As a final activity, I paired my level 1 students with a higher group in teams of about 3 or 4, and we played The Amazing Race. I created 20 questions or so and had them find the answers using the material that had been sent to me from the provincial tourism offices. Using cell phones and the Internet was forbidden.

For example, using the Ontario mileage chart, they would find the distance between Toronto and Ottawa. They might find out how many highways there are in Nunavut. The answer is none, which is amazing to somebody from another country. It really gives them an idea of how isolated some places are in Canada.

You can end the unit with a song like Canada Is ( or Something to Sing About (

If you have any ideas of what you could add to this to make it better, why not leave a comment?

Hi, I’m John Stevens. After adventures working in radio and television, teaching computer courses in Canada and internationally, managing the Canadian Association of Journalists, and acting as the technical director of Softball Canada, I have settled into teaching ESL. As well as experiences teaching in Ottawa and London, I have had stints in Harbin, Jeddah and Istanbul. Since I am currently trying to find a full-time teaching position in Ontario, I help my wife with our bed and breakfast business in St. Marys, Ontario.


4 thoughts on “Read Your Way Across Canada”

  1. GREAT idea. Can be modified ( presentations).

    Do you know “Six String Nation” by Jowi Taylor? So interesting (Canadian).

    1. Six String Nation
      NAVIGATE THE GUITAR. Introduction to Voyageur by Jowi Taylor Explore an interactive map of the guitar, piece by storied piece. Explore the map of Canada …

      Here is some information about Six String Nation. There is a fantastic presentation – but $$$ so good for organization or TESL Ontario affiliate special occasion or AGM. Or Keynote.

      I think I will take up your idea. I teach Level 6/7 . I have a large ” corridor ” outside my classroom – exclusive use – so can create a visual – map – ss writing – pics- not so concerned about tracking how many books read – just awareness of Canadian literature – sadly lacking in CLB guidelines. Will try to document with video ( if you do it again maybe this is a good idea – just get signed permission from students.)

    2. Actually, I do! When Jowi presented Six String Nation at a TESL Ontario conference a few years ago, I had the pleasure of being the first one to play it to the group. I am not expert at the guitar, but I enjoy the experience. Not only is it historically significant, it is a finely-crafted instrument. My biggest fear that day was dropping it.

      Thanks for reminding me about it. I will incorporate it into my lessons.

      1. I was there too! I miss Cheryl from ESL Shop who organised the presentation/ experience. See what delights being an active TESLONTARIO conference goer can bring! Pity it is getting so $$$ and less funding now.

        Do you have a booklist? If not let’s try to create one .(can make PINTEREST Board).

        Sure to would include The Hockey Sweater in it. It is available online.

        I still believe in ( physical) books. (Every time I say this a book fairy gets his/ her wings.) I actually gave (optional) homework for March break – connected to St Patrick’s Day – read a book by an Irish author ( gave list) and write book report. I’ll post pic on my Eslclaudie’s teaching reading PINTEREST board.

Comments are closed.