Teaching Literacy Skills through Assignment Creation

The best way to demonstrate that you understand something is to explain it to someone else.  Allow students the opportunity to demonstrate that they understand a concept by flipping expectations and allow them to create assignments rather than complete them.



This lesson focuses on having students READ A SHORT STORY and then break into small groups (I suggest four as a manageable number).  Each group will be assigned one of the TEN KEY LITERACY SKILLS and work to create an assignment that will allow other students to demonstrate their mastery of that skill.

Required Foundation

Students must have already been introduced to the ten literacy skills.  I recommend using a one or two page short story before spending two days quickly running through each of the ten skills.  For more information on teaching the skills please refer to the LITERACY SKILLS – AN INTRODUCTION series.

Students will need to have read a SHORT STORY and be prepared to apply their Literacy Skill knowledge to the piece.

Required Materials

At least one student per group will require access to a device capable of using GOOGLE DOCs or MICROSOFT WORD.  While Microsoft Word is an effective tool, it is more beneficial if students use Google Docs.  That way they can SHARE their working assignment with each other, using multiple devices to co-author their piece at the same time.


Girl Reading - PIXABAY.jpg


Assignment Creation Assignment:

Lesson Plan

This lesson plan will reinforce student knowledge of the ten key literacy skills, while also strengthening their knowledge of their group’s assigned skill.  By creating an assignment they will learn how to use digital HEADINGS to format and chunk their work, creating a framework of expectations for assignments their teachers create for them.  Students will also engage in METACOGNITIVE reflection, exploring why their choices were most effective.



Desks must be arranged into groups of four.  A copy of Ten Key Literacy Skills.PDF  must be printed out and cut into ten slips (one per literacy skill).


Minds On

Desks will be prepared in groups of four when students walk into the classroom.  Each desk group will have one Literacy Skill slip (see preparation) on it.  One of the following images will be made available for students to see.


Students will be tasked with applying their specific skill to the image.  Each group should write a brief P.E.E. PARAGRAPH that supports their use of the group’s skill.

Students should then present their paragraph to the class, while explaining the importance of their assigned literacy skill.



Once students have a strong understanding of their specific skill, and have applied it to a visual image, they will be ready to begin the focus of this lesson.

This lesson can be run completely in the computer lab, or it can be split into two days – the first day for IDEATION and the second day for typing up and formatting their assignment.

Students will be instructed to take out their SHORT STORY from a previous class and consider how they could apply their Literacy Skill to that story.  They will have five minutes to plan and take brief notes as a group.

After some time has been given to consider the application of their skills, students will be handed a copy of Assignment Creation Assignment – Literacy Skills (No Example).PDF

Using that handout, students will see that rather than answering questions, and creating a traditional assignment, as they are used to, they will – instead – be the ones responsible for creating the assignment.

The various sections of a strong assignment are laid out of the sheet, and the specific headings that each title needs to be typed in are recorded.

Students will notice that they are creating an assignment in the same style and format as the one they have been handed.  The assignment itself is an exemplar.

Should you wish to offer an additional exemplar, student can be given the Strength through Synthesis – Working Through the Short Story.PDF assignment.

At this point, students are free to work on their creation.



Just before the end of class, each group will be asked to write down ONE question, concern, or problem that is hindering them in the completion of their assignment.  This will be handed to the teacher before they leave the classroom.

The teacher will then read through those slips, noting any difficulties students are having with this new style of task, and work to create resources or instructions for tomorrow’s class that will help students find success.


What’s Next?

Continue to learn about the best ways to TEACH THE KEY LITERACY SKILLS, or choose to focus on one of the following: Summarizing, Determining Importance, Inferring, Predicting, Connecting, Visualizing, Comparing, Questioning, Annotating, or Synthesizing.



Ten Key Literacy Skills.PDF

Assignment Creation Assignment – Literacy Skills (No Example).PDF

Strength through Synthesis – Working Through the Short Story.PDF

Top 10 Key Literary Devices

Literary / Poetic devices are used throughout both fiction and non-fiction to add depth, understanding, and beauty to otherwise dreary prose.  Students need to have an understanding of the devices, as well as how they’re used, before they develop the ability to appreciate the author’s careful crafting.


The Top Ten Devices

  1. Metaphor
  2. Simile
  3. Alliteration
  4. Hyperbole
  5. Imagery
  6. Onomatopoeia
  7. Symbol
  8. Repetition
  9. Allusion
  10. Personification


Teaching the Devices

Even though most of us are familiar with these devices, what they’re used for, and how they work, it can be difficult to explain their value and importance to students.  By offering a definition of the device, along with an example, followed by a visual teachers will ensure students gain a strong understanding of the key concepts.  Finally, you can offer an auditory example for students to identify and explain the device to illustrate mastery of the concept.

Note: Ensure you preview all songs, and are comfortable using them in your classroom.



A Metaphor is a comparison of two unlike things – without using the words like or as – with the intention of offering a stronger understanding to the reader.


The girl is a Cheetah on the gridiron.

By comparing the girl to a Cheetah, the reader has an understanding that she is fast.  They may also picture her as sleek, agile, and slightly predatory.  The use of this comparison offers a far deeper understanding of the girl than had the author simply said “the girl is fast”.


Cheetah - Pixabay.jpg

Audio – Commodores: Brick House




Simile is similar to a Metaphor in that it is a comparison of two unlike things, with the intention of offering a stronger understanding to the reader.  However, a Simile must include the words like or as.


She’s as big as an Ox.

This simile informs the reader that she is big.  It also gives that idea that she might have broad shoulders, and strength beyond that which would normally be expected.


Ox - Pixabay.jpg

Audio – Madonna: Like a Prayer




Alliteration is the repetition of the same letter, or sound, at the beginning of a string of connected words.


Though the winter was cold, a number of crafty crimson cats cuddled on the covered porch.

By repeating the “c” sound, the reader’s attention is focused on the crafty crimson cats, even if only unconsciously.


Crimson Cat - pixabay.jpg

Audio – Blackalicious – Alphabet Aerobics





A hyperbole is a large exaggeration to draw the reader’s attention to a specific feature or concept.


This homework is going to take forever!

The homework will not take forever.  It might take an hour or two, but odds are time will not end before the homework is completed.


Homework - Pixabay.jpg

Audio – Katy Perry – California Gurls




Imagery uses descriptive language to paint a detailed image in the reader’s mind, allowing them to better transport themselves into the world of the story.


Walking out of your hostel in Bangkok you go from dry to wet in the time it takes to cross the threshold.  Ash from the nearby noodle stand clings to your arms, made both slick and sticky by the ninety percent humidity.  The scent of burnt pork reminds you of the emptiness from not having eaten last night, choosing instead to spend your last few Baht on the bracelet that still shimmers and shines, while also cutting into your wrist ever so slightly.  Though it growls, your stomach will not be filled today, the only flavour you’ll taste is that of the other passengers sweat as you’re pressed against them on the two hour bus to the Cambodian border.

By describing all five senses, the author attempts to place the reader into the setting, allowing them a better understanding of the needs and feelings of the protagonist.  By writing in Second Person the author attempts to fully place the reader within their text.


Bangkok - Pixabay.jpg

Audio – Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven




Onomatopoeia is used to replace sounds with words.


The fire engine went woosh as it drove past.  Wee-ew! Wee-ew! Its siren let the cars know it was coming.

While there is no word that mimics the sound of a vehicle rushing past, or a siren blaring, we can approximate the noise by doing our best to spell what the noises sound like.


Firetruck Pixabay.jpg

Audio – Nursery Rhyme – Old MacDonald Had a Farm




symbol is when a shape or object is used to represent a much larger concept.


An apple rested on his desk, freshly plucked and ready to be offered.

Due to the literary significance of apples there are a number of implications that could be made based on the above sentence.  Apples are closely tied with teachers, though they also carry the connotation of being poisoned gifts.  Biting into an apple is also related to loss of innocence.  Due to the apple in the above example, the reader can infer a number of things that would not be possible if the fruit were, instead, a kumquat.


apple - pixabay

Audio – The Rolling Stones – Paint it Black




When a particular phrase, or word, appears over and over in a written work, that is an example of Repetition.


A lion looked at me from the porch, its face frozen in stone.  Walking home a lion followed me halfway around the block, until it jumped over the neighbours fence.  A lion looked down at me from my father’s bearded face.  Even as I lay in bed, a lion watched from the stars above.  And I wondered, would I ever find my way back to K2-18b and finally escape from this unspoken persecution?

By repeating the word lion the reader is offered great insight into what the character is perseverating about.


Leo - pixabay

Audio – Daft Punk – Around the World

Looking for more songs that use repetition?  Try here.




An Allusion is when an author references something well known, without literally stating what they are talking about.


“Contrary to the rumours you have heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor-el, to save the planet Earth.”
Barack Obama

By making this statement, Barak is alluding to the fact that he is not Jesus Christ, while at the same time telling people he is Superman.  Through this statement people are given an understanding of who he is, as well as his personality.


cape - pixabay.jpg

Audio – Five For Fighting – Superman




Personification occurs when human characteristics are given to something non-human, including animals.


The lamp hung its head in shame, unable to offer Sandra the answers she so thoroughly needed.

By ascribing the emotion of shame to the lamp, the author draws attention to the natural shape of the desklamp, while also highlighting Sandra working tirelessly, to no avail, on her current task.


lamp - -pixabay.jpg

Audio – Frank Sinatra – New York, New York




A Final Recap

For those looking to use a song as an evaluation piece, I Love the Way you Lie by Eminem featuring Rihanna has a number of devices.

This song can also be used to transition into a unit on Gender in the Media.  A full unit plan can be found at this link.



10 Key Literary Devices – With Examples and Definitions and Explanations.pdf

10 Key Literary Devices – With Examples and Definitions.pdf

10 Key Literary Devices – No Examples.pdf

10 Key Literary Devices – No Definitions or Examples.pdf

10 Key Literary Devices – Song Identification.pdf

Spotlight On: Udon Entertainment Comics

UDON Entertainment publishes graphic novels based on well-known properties such as Street FighterOkamiMega ManDark Souls, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Robotech.1

Their new line, Manga Classics, has positioned UDON as leading publishers for educational and classroom use.  Their Cheif, and founder, Erik Ko stated that his mother asked why UDON didn’t make graphic novels that students could relate to, while also engaging with well know – and important – novels.  In that instance, Manga Classics was born.

This article will take a look at both Manga Classics and the traditional UDON Entertainment line of comics, highlighting a number of their texts, and how they should be placed within your classroom.

WhatBinder wrote a series for those who want to know more about using Comics in the Classroom.

Manga Classics

Bringing classic novels to life for students is the main focus of UDON Entertainment’s Manga Classics line.  They have an ever-growing list of texts which can be found here.

While the primary focus of their books has been on classic novels, they are also expanding to include a number of Shakespeare plays.  While they currently offer Romeo + Juliet, their next two upcoming projects include the Shakespearian play Macbeth, as well as the classic Stoker novel, Dracula.

A number of teachers have been using Manga Classics in their classroom.  You can read their testimonies and blog posts to gain a deeper understanding of how others have put these books into practice.  But, there are few better ways to gain an understanding of the value these Manga Classics offer than by taking a look at some sample pages.



Art by: Julien Choy | Adapted by: Crystal Chan

The crisp line art complements the text, adding a layer that improves students’ ability to decode complex texts.  Furthermore, the authentic retelling of the classic texts allows the student to have a full understanding of the material, leaving them well positioned to demonstrate their Literacy Skills.

For teachers looking to imbue a love of the classics in their students, there are few greater texts to look at than the Manga Classics like by UDON Entertainment.

Pop-Culture Graphic Novels

UDON Entertainment publishes Comics based on a number of well-known properties.  As we know, students read at a higher level when they are familiar with the material.  By introducing texts the student connects to and feels an intrinsic desire to read, they will be fully able to demonstrate the extent of their literacy skills.

Street Fighter: Akuma

This graphic novel is based on the popular Video Game series Street Fighter.  The character of Akuma was first introduced in Super Street Fighter II Turbo, released in 1994.  Since then he has been an enigmatic character who is most often viewed as a villain.

This comic tells the tale of how a young boy faced tragedy, made different choices than his brother did in dealing with his emotional turmoil, eventually rising to power, becoming the man he is in the video game series.



Though it might be difficult to believe, this comic deals with the importance of familial relationships, the unforeseen consequences of  seemingly well-intentioned choices, a lust for power once one has felt a small taste.



This text is based on a popular video game series that was first introduced on the Play Station 2 in 2004.  Katamari Damacy was the first in a long line of games that has seen its latest iteration of iPhones and Android devices.

The basic concept of the game is that a small Prince (of the Cosmos) pushes a little ball around, sticking things to it as it grows larger and larger.  Though simplistic in nature, the game has themes and concepts that the comic greatly expands on.


This text deals with the – sometimes painful – relationships between father and son.  By demonstrating examples of how gender-normative emotional expression can have negative repercussions on children, students will be able to make a number of connections between this text and the world around them.

Introducing a variety of characters, each with their own unique style, concepts such as selfworthinward validation, and personal growth are also greatly touched upon.


Mega Man

Mega Man, known as Rockman in the original Japanese, was first introduced to the public in his eponymous 1987 NES game.  Since then, he has appeared in dozens of video games.

Known by almost all students, Mega Man is a character who chooses to stand up for what he believes in.  Standing against the other robotic creations, he has a sense of justice that goes beyond what he was created to be.  Having spanned decades, there is a rich history that explores a number of key themes that are relevant to your classroom.


One of the key concepts in Mega Man is society’s dependence on technology.  With a near complete automation of manual labor, and service level jobs, the world seemed at peace; however, one rogue hacker was able to greatly disturb the existing system.

Comparisons between this fictional world, envisioned long before the Internet was carried around with us in our pockets, Mega Man allows students to use it as a basis for insights into our own technology-driven world.


1. About|UDON Entertainment







SPOTLIGHT: Udon Entertainment

SPOTLIGHT: Boom! Studios


Comic Book Publishers for Teachers to be Aware Of

There are a wealth of Comic Book publishers out there.  Obviously, there are the big two: Marvel and DC.  There are also the two other large houses, Image and Dark Horse.  But those are only a small handful of the many publishers in the Comic Books scene today.

Many people are probably familiar with Scholastic, as there is no warmer feeling that opening a coloured newsprint book order, and searching for all the best deals to be had.  And, of course, there is the Canadian publisher Drawn and Quarterly that looks towards showcasing talent from coast to coast.  But these are still just a small handful of publishers in the wider landscape.


Publishers with an Educational Focus

There are a number of Comic Book publishers with a clear focus on Education.  They see their texts not only as escapist fiction, but also as a tool that can help students focus on their Literacy Skills, or enhance other areas of their academics.

Four key publishers to watch out for are UDON Entertainment, Boom Studios, Renegade Arts Entertainment, and Top Cow.


UDON Entertainment – Manga Classics

UDON Entertainment is the leading Comics Publisher when it comes to focusing on education.  Not only have they created strong manga adaptations of classic stories such as Pride and Prejudice, The Scarlet Letter, Jane Eyre, and many more.

While maintaining the integrity and writing style of the original versions, Manga Classics translates texts for student consumption, while helping with decoding by juxtaposing images and text.

Not only has UDON Entertainment created strong texts for students, they have also created a number of Education Resources for their texts, including teacher guides that conform to Common Core standards, as well as a number of text-specific Lesson Plans.

Striving to make their products as classroom-friendly as possible, they continue to develop new resources, leading the way in Educational Graphic Novels and Comics.

“We were inspired to create Manga Classics as way to bring classic stories to a new generation of readers.  This format is a brilliant tool for providing context for the reader.  Once the student has a sense of what the world looked like during the time of Dickens, Austin, Twain or Bronte, their embrace of that story becomes permanent.  Their ability to retain and recall the story, as well as the themes is so much greater than if they were to rely on text alone.”
-Manga Classics and UDON Entertainment Inc.


Boom! Studios

Boom! Studios is a fantastic Comic Publisher that focuses on high-interest texts for young adults.  Their texts range from those that tackle complex gender issues, such as About Betty’s Boob, to coming of age stories like Giant Days.  Their most popular text is currently Lumberjanes.  As you may have noticed, a number of their texts feature strong female protagonists.  While this wasn’t entirely by design, the strong female representation within their Editorial Department has ensured an equitable spread of topics throughout their catalogue.

You can view their entire collection at their Series Website.

Understanding that students read at a higher level when consuming familiar subject matters, Boom! Studios also offer a number of texts based off of popular IP.  While some might easily overlook a number of their mainstream titles, doing so would be a great disservice.  Their Mighty Morphing Power Rangers and WWE: World Wrestling Entertainment comics both deal with complex themes, wrapped in a familiar narrative.  These texts are both excellent for encouraging young male readers to explore difficult concepts while making strong emotional connections to the material.

Understanding that classroom-ready material aids in comic integration into wider unit plans, both Teacher Guides and Parental Guides have been created for their title The Not So Secret Society.  They can be downloaded from the NS3 Website.  These guides are highly engaging, well designed, and include all handouts needed to use this text in your classroom.


Renegade Arts Entertainment

Renegade Arts Entertainment is a wonderful place to look if you want to infuse comics into your History curriculum.  They have a number of texts which focus heavily on historical events, such as The Loxleys and the War of 1812, as well as Redcoats-ish.  Both texts have lesson plans.  The Loxley’s has a number of Teacher resources, including a film created in partnership with the National Film Board.  The resources for Redcoast-ish can be downloaded at this link.

“The importance of graphic novels as a gateway to reading must not be underestimated. As many teachers and librarians will attest, using graphic novels to engage reluctant readers is a proven and effective strategy to cultivate a love for reading that will grow to encompass all forms of literature. At Renegade we are well aware and actively invested in our stories engaging readers of all levels, whether it is to foster a love of our history or to entertain whilst giving our readers an insight to do different viewpoints and aspects of society.”
-Alexander Fishbow, Publisher – Renegade Arts and Entertainment


Top Cow

Top Cow has made a number of their comics available for free download.  These issues can be used with your class without any budgetary concerns.  While their comics may not be strictly geared to the needs of your classroom, their title Think Tank includes a 14-page Afterword titled Science Class which explains the real-world connections to the text.

The entries include information on Carbon Nanofibers, Military Golf Courses, Love [as] a Biochemical Response, and Albert Einstein.  These entries often include weblinks so students can continue their personal research.  This makes for the perfect jumping off point for a personal research project in your Science Class.


What’s Next?

Next, we will look at what comics are well suited for your classroom, shining a spotlight on both UDON Entertainment and their Manga Classics line, as well as Boom! Studios diverse line of texts.






SPOTLIGHT: Udon Entertainment

SPOTLIGHT: Boom! Studios