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Courageous Canoe - A Tale of Leadership & Courage, for Young and Old: Teacher's Resource Guide

Resource site for the Upper Canada District School Board's publication "The Courageous Canoe": Leadership and Character Development


Courageous Canoe was written as both a leadership tool for adults, and to introduce to students a new character trait in the UCDSB Character Always! Initiative - Courage.  While the story is about a group of people who find themselves on a journey without knowing what they are looking for, it really is about the internal journey we must all take to find what makes us passionate, and use that knowledge to make and embrace changes in our life.  Of course, how we do that – the journey – requires an understanding that demonstrating positive character is the ultimate key to a successful life.


To print this resource, click on the 'Print this guide' option above the top blue navigation bars.

To print the templates supporting class activities, click on the document links below.

Do you have an activity to share with your colleagues across the board?  There are many ways to share:



The TeachAble Project:  Aligned with the Ontario K-12 School Effectiveness Framework, the Accessibility Awareness Continuum is a tool designed to stimulate reflection and discussion about how accessible your school is, how accessible your classroom is, and how aware your students are of what a fully accessible world means. It can help you clarify.

Ontario Ministry of Education SpeakUp! Student Voice Project

Ontario Ministry of Education Equity and Inclusive Education in Ontario Schools

Roots of Empathy building caring, peaceful, and civil societies through the development of empathy in children and adults. 

Discovering our Personality Style through ‘True Colours’ (link – can be downloaded)

We appreciate.....

Dedicated to

The Upper Canada District School Board Family

Read-Aloud Tips & Starters



Ask the students if they ever did something new that they were initially afraid to do. What was the situation (going to the dentist, meeting a new friend, performing in front of an audience)? How did they feel before they started? How do they feel when something is difficult or scary to do? How did they feel when they were finished?



The characters in the ribbon at the bottom of each page represent different character traits from Character Always!  You may wish to point out the traits, or include prompts, as you are reading the story (eg. Page 7 –someone yells, "Stay calm, and grab my hand!" Prompt: Who do you think is saying this? (allow students to make connections (text:self:world) What character trait is this person demonstrating?


  1. At the beginning of the story, canoe was sad, not because he had to go on a journey – he really wanted to go on the journey – but because sometimes it is hard to get everyone to go along and get along as a group.  Ask the students if ever they had to persuade their friends or family to ‘do something’.  What did they do?  Was it easy or hard?  How did they feel?
  2. Discuss in more detail what ‘why’ is (passion, purpose), why it is different for everyone, and why it is important to find one’s own ‘why’?  Ask the students if one ‘why’ is better than another?
  3. Have the students describe the characters in the story in terms of character traits. 
  4. Ask the students which character they relate to the most.  Why?
  5. On page 4, Abby thinks “I hope that they don’t ask me to go home if I fall too far behind.”  Ask the students why they think Abby may worry that she will be asked to go home.  Ask the students “How would you help Abby along the journey”?
  6. Explore with the students – Has there been a time when they encountered someone who was different than themselves (eg. Intellectually, socially, physically etc.)?  How did they feel at the time?  If in that situation again, would they do anything differently?
  7. What characters changed the most along the journey?  How did they change? Why?
  8. Have the students describe the challenges faced by the group along the journey.  How did they overcome the challenge (tip – have them relate their response to words/phrases eg. perseverance, resiliency, empathy, etc.)
  9. Canoe was very wise and probably could have just taken everyone to the Why tree. Why do you think canoe let everyone figure out what they needed and what ‘why’ was instead of telling them?
  10. Canoe and his friends demonstrated a lot of courage.  They went through dangerous portages, rocky rapids and scary storms.  But they also showed courage by going on the journey when they didn’t know what to expect or what it was all about.  You may want to emphasize that courage can be demonstrated in all situations.  Remind the students about the question that was asked before the story (if they did something new….) Ask them to reflect on how they may have shown courage in that circumstance.


  • Write 2-3 character traits demonstrated in the book on a blackboard or flip chart paper (eg. courage, empathy, perseverance).  Ask the students to find other words or phrases to describe what these traits mean (eg. perseverance - keep on trying, even when it's hard).  Note that some words can be used to describe more than one character trait (connections).  Note: dictionaries/thesauruses can be used to incorporate research skills into the activity.
  • Have the students draw a picture representing one of the character traits
  • In the story, each character’s ‘why’ looked like a different coloured glowing orb.  Ask the students to imagine what their ‘why’ might look like.  Have them draw a picture or write a description.  Have the students describe their picture or talk about their description to the class.
  • Have the class decide what the ‘important things’ are to bring on a journey (pg 11/12) Draw two columns on the blackboard/flip chart under the heading ‘What we need to bring on our journey”. Label one column ‘things’ and another ‘attitude’.  Explain that successful journeys require that you be both prepared and positive/willing to try.  Have the students suggest what things need to go in both columns.
  • As a class – sing the song from the book.  Have the students make up more verses to add to the song.  Include hand gestures (paddling) and physical movement if appropriate.
  • On the last page, Nelly asks “Where do we go next?” Have the students write a story about canoe’s next adventure.
  • Craft idea – have the students make their own super spy glass


UCDSB Character Always!

CARING is...showing concern and interest in others and yourself

EMPATHY is...the ability to feel with another, show understanding and express it

HONESTY is...speaking and doing what you believe is right, no matter what the consequences

RESPONSIBILITY is...leading the way, helping to accomplish tasks through initiative and hard work

PERSEVERENCE is...having the courage and strength to never give up

FAIRNESS is...being open-minded, taking turns and trusting others

RESPECT is...honouring differences, caring for yourself and others

RESILIENCE is...having a positive attitude and inner strength to bounce back from a tough time

COURAGE tell us what courage means to you @

GENEROSITY tell us what generosity means to you @

While the spirit of a word remains the same, sometimes the language we use to describe it changes over time.  The UCDSB is in the process of updating how we describe each of the traits in our Character Always! initiative.  Tell us what these traits mean to you.  Download the Character Trait template on the far left hand side of this page and give it to your teacher, or send your definitions to


Language Arts (1-8), English (9-12)

Ontario Elementary Curriculum: Language

Successful language learners:

• understand that language learning is a necessary, life-enhancing, reflective process;

• communicate - that is, read, listen, view, speak, write, and represent - effectively and with confidence;

• make meaningful connections between themselves, what they encounter in texts, and the world around them;

• think critically;

• understand that all texts advance a particular point of view that must be recognized, questioned, assessed, and evaluated;

• appreciate the cultural impact and aesthetic power of texts;

• use language to interact and connect with individuals and communities, for personal growth, and for active participation as world citizens.

Guidance and Career Education (9-12)

Ontario Curriculum Secondary: Guidance and Career Education

also....connect to our UCDSB student leadership curriculum initiatives - Link CREW and WEB (Where Everybody Belongs)



How do you support teamwork and collaboration in your classroom?  Share your strategies in the comment box.