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

Gender Representation Lessons: Downloadable Resources

This page contains all the downloadable resources for the Teaching Gender Representation in the Media lessons.  While each lesson is a classroom-ready three part lesson, the various resources have all been collected in this location for teaching convenience.


Gender Lesson Resources

All resources and lessons can be used for non-commercial classroom use.



Regardless of age, everyone has a memory of a toy that they loved when they were a child, or a toy they wanted but they were never given.  The things we play with help determine the people we grow into.  This lesson focuses on separating boy toys from girl toys while pausing to take a look at why we sorted the objects the way we did.


Toy Box – Brother Sister Handout.pdf



Building off of the foundation from The Toy Box we look further into the gender normative roles students feel they need to fulfill.  By confronting prejudices and allowing students to speak openly about their experiences, the foundation is strengthened with shared experiences and concepts.


Gender Box – Minds On.pdf

Gender Box – Handout 1.pdf

Gender Box – Handout 2.pdf

Gender Box – Exit Slip.pdf



By examining a number of historical and contemporary advertisements, students will begin to see how ludicrous modern messaging is when primed through the problematic advertisements of decades past.  Students will then have an opportunity to examine advertisements that they experience through the same lens.


Flipside – Bar Handout.PDF

Representation in Media Handout.pdf

Goldieblox vs. Lego – Comparison Assignment.pdf



Building on the concepts from the last lesson, students will choose specific advertisements, analyzing them through all three sides of the Media Triangle.  Students will then present their findings to the class, allowing all students to take an in-depth look at a variety of contemporary texts and the problematic nature of their messaging.


Fixing Contemporary Advertising.PDF



Students will consider the reasons behind Gender Normative behaviours, and create a R.A.F.T. (Role, Audience, Format, Topic) letter that will help them formalize their thoughts.


RAFT Assignment – Minds On.pdf
Lego vs. Goldieblox Comparison RAFT Assignment.pdf
Effects of Gender Messaging in Advertising RAFT Assignment.pdf



Students will be challenged to explore their personal space, school, community, and beyond.  During their explorations, they will identify both positive and negative messaging, while seeking to understand how to create lasting impact and change


Venn Diagram – Communication.pdf
Letter Writing to Enact Change.pdf


PART 1: Gender Representation in the Media

PART 2: Lesson – The Toy Box

PART 3: Lesson – The Gender Box

PART 4: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 1

PART 5: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 2

PART 6: Lesson – Annotating Texts

PART 7: Lesson – Gender R.A.F.T.

PART 8: Lesson – Reshaping Roles

PART 9: Final Thoughts

PART 10: Gender Representation – Resources

Gender Representation in the Classroom: Final Thoughts

Gender representation is a serious issue that is constantly changing.  Each month brings new issues to the forefront; strong teachers will use current events to help shape their dynamic lessons.

This lesson is part of a large mini-unit on Teaching Gender Representation in the Media.  It can be used as a stand-alone piece or part of a larger conversation.



There are a wealth of resources available to help you continue exploring the issue of gender representation.  While some specifically target classroom teachers, many are essayists who write passionately about feminism and contemporary concerns.

You will find a currated list that will help focus your ongoing exploration here.


Classroom Specific

The British Council: How to approach teaching gender equality to boys and girls

Australian Aid – Tool Kit on Gender Equality Results and Indicators

Teaching Tolerance – ‘Good Morning Boys and Girls’: When a simple greeting engenders stereotypes.

Pacific Standard – The Importance of Teaching Gender in International Relations Classrooms

Vanderbilt University – Teaching Beyond the Gender Binary in the University Classroom


Important Blogs

Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls

The Mary Sue

Ms. Magazine

The Guardian | Feminism




Toronto District School Board – 2012 Gender Report


Next Steps…

As mentioned, Gender issues are constantly changing.  Be sure to add updated sites that you follow in the comments below.  I’ll work to add them to this living document.

If you haven’t seen the full Teaching Gender Representation in the Media unit, be sure to look at through all the different classroom-ready lessons.  Or, you can just head straight to the Gender Lessons: Resource Download Page.


PART 1: Gender Representation in the Media

PART 2: Lesson – The Toy Box

PART 3: Lesson – The Gender Box

PART 4: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 1

PART 5: Lesson – The Past is Present – Part 2

PART 6: Lesson – Annotating Texts

PART 7: Lesson – Gender R.A.F.T.

PART 8: Lesson – Reshaping Roles

PART 9: Final Thoughts

PART 10: Gender Representation – Resources

Video Tutorial Series: ThingLink, the Digital Annotation Tool

ThingLink is a free online tool to digitally annotate images. There area wide variety of reasons for using ThingLink in your classroom, ranging from visualizing complex ideas, to streamlining presentations.

Here you will find a number of tutorials that walk you, step-by-step, through the tool. You will move from complete beginner to expert in less than ten minutes.

Feel free to like, share, and comment on any of the videos so that can work towards increasing its ability to help you help your students.


ThingLink: An Introduction for Beginners

This video will introduce you to ThingLink and help you learn how to upload an image, add digital pegs, and change their colour and sizes.  It will also show you how to save, and share your work with your students for easy presentations, and inclusion in Digital Classrooms.



ThingLink: Visualizing Point, Evidence, and Explanation

This video will show you how to use the basic ThingLink functionality to help students visualize their Point, Evidence, Evaluation – PEE – Paragraphs.



ThingLink: Analyzing with the Media Triangle

This video will help teachers use ThingLink in conjunction with The Media Triangle.  By annotating and colour coding all three sides of the triangle, students will be able to ensure they are using sufficient evidence when determining the meaning of a media text.  Using ThingLink also allows students to quickly, and beautifully, explain their choices to their teacher, or the entire class.

For a related assignment, please see Gender Lesson: Using the Media Triangle to Annotate Advertisements.



Comment about how you’ve successfully used ThingLink in your classroom!

Introducing The Media Triangle

The Media Triangle was first created by Eddie Dick, and has since been used as a way for people to fully analyze the messages and meanings of media texts.  By focusing not only on the text itself, but also the audience, and the production, one is able to tease out complex concepts that might otherwise go overlooked.

The Media Triangle

The media triangle is the lens through which students should be encouraged to view Media Texts.  Below is a visual representation of the Media Triangle, along with a number of guiding questions to help students analyze its three sides.

Questions can be simplified so that even grade 1 students can begin to view the world around them through this lens.

Media Triangle - Sized

The Three Sides

While it’s important to see the Media Triangle, and have a selection of questions that students can use to navigate their way through any given text, you must ensure that you fully understand what each question is looking for.  They are explained, in detail, below.


1. What type of text is this?

This question is asking students to identify if the text is a song, video game, short story, photograph, etc.  Once they have identified to the type of text, they will be able to compare it to other texts of the same type, helping to identify common tropes or intentional deviations.

2. What story does this text tell?

Each text tells a story.  In the case of a short story, a summary may be simple for a student to create, however when looking at a song, or a photograph, or a corporate logo students will need to delve into symbolic representations to ensure they are aware of what the text is trying to express.

3. How does this text tell a story?

Some texts tell their story through written words, while others use symbols or images.  Some texts may use sound, and no visuals at all, to communicate their story.

4. Is equity depicted in this text?

Students should be asked to identify the presence or lack of representation based on:

  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Race
  • Culture
  • Socio-Economic Status
  • Abledness
  • Mental Health

5. What stereotypes are present?

Once students have identified which groups are represented in the piece, they should look to see what that representation looks like.  Are certain groups stereotyped, and if so how does that impact the text as a whole?  Students should consider why those stereotypes are present.

6. What values does this text express?

Once an understanding of the literal pieces of the text has been ascertained, students should have an understanding of what values the text is putting forward.  They should be able to tell what is being said about specific groups, and if those are positive or negative messages.

7. Do I share the values of this text?

Once there is an understanding of the values being espoused by the text, students should consider if they share those values or not.  Coming to this conclusion is a strong place to leap from the Media Text side of the triangle over to the Audience.


1. Who is the Target Audience of this text?

Having looked at the Media Text, students should have an understanding of who the target audience of the text is.  The target audience should be specific, and should include as many of the following as possible:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Race
  • Culture
  • Socio-Economic Status

2. What elements of this text target that specific audience?

Once the Target Audience has been identified, students should Identify Main and Supporting Details that specifically link the text to each of the aspects of the Target Audience.

3. Does this text appeal to me?

Regardless of if the student is or is not the Target Audience, they should describe whether the text appeals to them, focusing on specific elements that either attract or detract from their enjoyment of the text.

4. What changes to this text are required for it to appeal to me?

This question can be answered even if the text appeals to the students.  There are always ways to improve the piece, and understanding the specific ways that the text could be altered to make it more relatable will further their understanding of how different audiences will react to it.

5. What audiences would be put off by this media text?

While each text is made with a specific Target Audience is mind, there will be many more people outside that audience.  Not everyone will appreciate the text the same way as others will.  Students should consider which groups might not like the text, while identifying details that support their decisions.


1.Who created this media text?

While a text may look empowering at first glance, it’s important to understand who created the piece.  There is a big difference in the meaning of a text if the creator is a for-profit company, versus a charity, or an independent creator.

2. What do I know about the creator of this text?

Looking at what the students know about the creator is a great way to understand the impact that the creator has on the creation.  If the creator has a history of creating texts with contrary meanings to the current piece, that is worth considering.  If the creator has long since expressed a similar message, be it positive or negative, that is also worth considering when trying to infer the meaning of the piece.

3. What has the creator done to grab the Target Audience’s attention?

While students have already identified what aspects appeal to the target audience, this question forces them to understand that things aren’t placed on the text by accident.  Students must confront the fact that the text does not exist in a vacuum, but was instead made with a purpose.  What specific choices were made by the creator to ensure that the Target Audience would find themselves drawn into this piece?

4. Who profits from this media text?

Similar to the first question under Creation, students must now consider who is profiting from this piece.  They must also consider what that profit looks like.  An author who sells her painting is directly profiting through the sale; however, a writer who freely distributes their text on the internet may profit through exposure and name recognition.  Something freely given still has value, as there are always ways the creator is profiting.  Even anonymous graffiti artists eventually profit from the creation of their text, as their works can gain a following despite the free distribution of their works.

5. How can I influence the creation of a similar text in the future?

Students must now identify their own agency.  If they don’t like a text, what can they do to influence it going forward?  While this was once a difficult task, today’s Social Media allows them to have direct influence over a variety of texts.  They can successfully alter future texts through Twitter petitions, Facebook sharing, or direct messaging to authors and content creators.  When students identify things they agree or disagree with, they now have a voice to express themselves and enact real change.

The Centre of the Triangle

Once all the questions have been asked and answered its time for students to combine their knowledge and determine the true meaning of a text.  By looking at only the Text itself, they will lose out on the understanding that comes from realizing the Creator actually markets a competing message.  By looking only at the Creation, students will not have a full grasp on why specific details have been included, as they won’t be trying to see how the piece is only directed to one small group of people.

Armed with an understanding of The Media Triangle students will have a tool that they can use on a forward basis to identify, analyze, and discover meanings and messages from each and every text they encounter.


Media Triangle – WhatBinder.PDF

Pixabay: Royalty Free Stock Photos for Teachers and Professionals

One thing that few people realize is that not every picture on the internet is fair game for teacher use.  At the end of the day, will you face legal reprimands for using a picture you downloaded from someone’s website?  Probably not.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to stick to using legal images.  This is also a great way to introduce your students to the ideas of plagiarism, and let them know where they can find images they may want to use for commercial works they are planning to create.


Street Art and Handouts

I once looked at a co-workers handout and saw something very familiar about the street art image they used.  A quick check later showed that it was one of my own pictures.  I gave that teacher explicit consent to use it, lest you think I’m a terrible person.

The copyright of a photograph of street art is an entirely different, far more complicated, question.  So we’ll avoid that.  This example just proves that once pictures are posted on the internet, they often find their way around, legally or otherwise.


Can I Legally Use that Image?

This question is a great one to ask before you start adding them to your documents.  To discover the answer there are three main questions you should ask yourself.

Did you create it?

The first question you want to ask yourself is “did I create that image?” This means, you either drew it or pressed the shutter button on the camera that took the picture.  Just because you’re in the picture doesn’t mean you own it.  Whoever literally pressed the button is the legal copyright owner.  That’s why I can’t make millions on that beautiful picture of me on the sand dune, and also why there’s someone involved in legal battles against a monkey.

Is it fair use?

If you’re using the image for educational purposes you’re almost always covered.  This is explained in Section 29 of the Copyright Act under Fair Dealing.  Now you think, ah hah!  I need not be concerned with this advice, as I can use any images I want because “Fair dealing for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody or satire does not infringe copyright.”  And while that’s true, if you want to sell your lessons, or post them on a website (not unlike this one) that’s where it becomes murkier.  Is this website for education, or is it for commercial gains?  I’d rather not have to hire a lawyer to figure that out for me.

Is the image covered under Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a movement all about sharing.  There are a number of types of creative commons licenses, but the one that you really want to keep your eye out for is CC0 1.0 which allows you to use the image without attribution for commercial purposes.  Basically, it allows you to use the image for anything you want.  You can put them in a book you plan to sell, add them to an app, or use them on a commercial website.  In theory, you could create a photobook of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 images and sell it.  But, you shouldn’t.  Because that’s not nice.

Why do people add their own images?

For the same reason people update Wikipedia, and upload free 3D printer models.  To make the world a better place.


Where can I find CC0 1.0 Images?

Surprising no one, the answer is Pixabay!  When you go to the site, you can download images in various resolutions for personal use.  Each image explains what Creative Commons license applies to it.  Most of them are CC0 1.0 (beware images of Lego or Disney toys, those ones will almost always be covered by a different license.)

You can upload your own images to help grow the community, or give donations to people whose images you really enjoy.  But you don’t have to, and you’ll never be bothered to do that.  It’s just an option made available to you.

For all your royalty free image needs, be sure to start your search at




Student Vote in Canadian Classrooms

Student Vote allows students to learn about Canadian democracy by taking part in a mock election.  Through this initiative, students learn about the different parties in their local riding, while also walking through a realistic election process that will prepare them to cast their first official ballot when they read the age of maturity.


What is Student Vote?

“Coinciding with government elections, students learn about government and the electoral process, research the parties and platforms, discuss relevant issues and cast ballots for the official election candidates. The results are shared with the media for broadcast and publication following the closing of the official polls.”


Connections to the Global Competencies

Student vote connects to the Global Competencies in a number of ways.  Teachers are free to make explicit or implicit connections to these when running the program in their building.

Critical Thinking & Problem Solving

Use a wide variety of digital tools and resources

While researching election issues, students should be directed to major party websites, party platforms, poll tracking sites, and vote compasses to help them determine what party most lines up with their beliefs.

Global Citizenship & Character

Gain an enhanced sense of personal and community responsibility

By participating in the Student Vote process, students will gain a deep understanding of the election process, and its importance of shaping their community.


Oral, written, and nonverbal communication skills

By watching election debates students will have the opportunity to analyze multiple forms of communication.  They will be challenged to determine if the non-verbal communication from candidates matches up with their written, and verbal statements.  Inferring why discrepancies may exist will allow them to further impact their own oral presentation skills in the future.

Collaboration & Leadership

Discover how to successfully navigate digital learning spaces

The myriad of digital sources students will engage with will prepare them to navigate their digital world when seeking specific information.  They will come to see that some websites prioritize one piece of information, while others prioritize another.  Through these experiences, students will learn to look beyond what is presented in the forefront, in order to navigate to the information they desire.

Creativity, Inquiry, & Entrepreneurship

Working on real-world problems

Students are challenged to look at some of the major political issues that are influencing the election.  They can be asked to come up with their own solutions, before looking at party platforms to see if their ideas are represented or not.


The Four Steps to Success

Student Vote runs programs during all major elections.  If there is an upcoming election in your area, you should direct yourself to the Student Vote website, and prepare to run the program in your building.

Registering your School

The first step in preparing to run Student Vote with your school is the visit the Registration Link.  From there you will need to enter your ProvinceSchool Board, and School.

Next, you will be asked to fill out information about your school such as, have they ever run Student Vote before?  Do you need voting screens, or do you have them from last time? How many ballots are required for your building? What grade level do you want resources for?

Receiving Materials

After you have registered you should prepare to receive the materials.  These include the teaching tools, ballots, and voting screens.  You will also be given a number of posters to place around your building.

One word of warning is that when the voting screens have been folded together they can take up a lot of space.  Ensure you have a location to store the materials in once they arrive.

Engage with the Campaign

During this step, students should be encouraged to research the candidates in their riding.  Cross-curricular lessons should also be run in order to ensure that students have a strong foundation as to the importance of voting, and the various platforms in your area.

Election Day

Not only will students have the opportunity to vote on Election Day, many more will be required to run the election itself.  This will grant them the opportunity to learn about the election from all sides of the process.


Teaching Resources

A wealth of resources have been created to support the Student Vote program, and they are available on the Website.

There you will find a number of lessons which tie into specific curricular connections.  Different lessons have been created for both Elementary and Secondary students.

Though there are suggestions as to where these lessons should be placed, they can be dropped into a number of classrooms with little or no modification required.



Be sure to share your Student Vote stories and experiences in the comments below.



John Malloy’s Keynote Speech at TDSB Unleashing Learning 2018 (Summarized)

Unleashing Learning – April 3rd, 2018
John Malloy, Keynote Speaker
“We serve and support students.”
-John Malloy

On April 3rd, 2018, I was lucky enough to be present at the Toronto District School Board’s Unleashing Learning conference.  I manned a small booth in the Marketplace talking about how to enhance your classroom through the creation of Choose Our Way tale using Twine 2.  It demonstrated how high school students can easily create Andoird Apps allowing for their short stories to have life outside of the classroom.

The most powerful moment that day was John Malloy’s keynote speech.  It was an engaging one-hour speech that had the audience captivated.  While I encourage you to watch the full video (posted above) I understand that teachers are busy people.  For that reason, you are free to read my synthesis of the speech.

On April 13th I received an e-mail from John Malloy stating, “I have read everything and appreciate the time you took,” so this can be considered a fairly accurate representation of the hour-long presentation.

Feel free to add any corrections, or additions to the comments below.

Activating Student Voice and Agency

“When I go into a classroom and I see that level of engagement there’s nothing like it …  when I see that level of engagement in students I see the happiest most satisfied teachers in the Toronto District School Board.”

Happy Teachers

  • Satisfied and happy teachers are created by engaged students.

Student Voice

  • Teachers must change their interests to suit the strengths of their students.
    • Students should not have to change themselves to fit the teacher’s box
    • Teachers should be transforming to meet the needs / strengths of our students
  • Students must be allowed the space to speak
  • Teachers must actually listen to students when they speak

Student Agency

  • What is changing because student voice was encouraged?
  • How have you changed because students have spoken?
  • Student Agency must be embedded in classrooms, schools, and all of the TDSB

Equity in Student Voice and Agency

  • Teachers need to reflect on their context and decide whose voice needs to be brought to the centre of discussions and recognized.  
  • Teachers must question whose voices are often not heard in their specific situations.

Shared Leadership

“We build confidence in one another together not alone.”

  • Shared leadership only happens when every voice is heard.

Global Competencies

“Our students are preparing for a world that we can’t even imagine.”

Critical Thinking

Global Citizenship


Collaboration and Leadership

  • When students are on fire how do we reproduce those conditions?

Creativity, Inquiry, and Entrepreneurship

  • How will we unleash student creativity so that positive change occurs in schools, the community, and beyond?
  • We must lead to student inquiry that changes:
    • Classroom
    • Community
    • The world!


“I’m betting that there are other perspectives in this room right now that are not being shared because it’s probably not safe in light of how intense the one or two voices are.”

Educators must examine themselves.  They must:

  • Confront barriers to remove them
    • It’s difficult for someone with privilege to understand that no space is neutral.
  • Interrogate their own practice
    • Personal improvement must be communicated
  • Not be afraid to understand their identity in relationship to their students’ identities
    • power, privilege, and how that impacts every environment.
  • Invite students to engage in Social Justice inquiry
    • We must be Anti-Racist, Anti-Oppression, and Pro Human Rights

The Principles of Equity and Anti-Oppression

  • Intent vs. Impact
  • No such thing as a neutral environment
  • Majority / Minority are not about numbers
  • Systems and structures drive practice
  • Voice and experience of marginalized youth must be brought to the centre of discussions

The Majority Doesn’t Rule

  • When 70% want something, what happens to the 30% who don’t want it?
  • We need to focus on all voices.
  • Putting things to a vote is problematic, as it excludes voices.

Systemic Changes

  • Special education classrooms, away from the classroom, don’t show results we want.
    • They lead to behavioural issues,
    • which leads to suspensions,
    • which leads to lack of high school success.
  • This systemic pathway must change.
  • Systemic pathways create a culture that is hard to break
  • We must have the courage to interrupt the system and culture that has been in place

Our Equity Commitment

  • We must challenge the existing structures by:
    • Interrogating our practice
    • Enabling student agency
    • Analyzing our structure
    • Ensuring positive student outcomes in effective learning communities that are reflective of all students

Inclusive Design

“The student … must be engaged [through] inclusive design, authentic learning, [and] global competencies.”

  • Teachers must honour identity, social location, family, culture, language, abilities, human rights, and the potential that they bring to the classroom.
  • Teachers need to think about learning needs and strengths of the students.

Six threads of inclusive design

  1. Student voice and agency
  2. Designing instruction
  3. Engaging parents, family, community, and elders
  4. Establishing environment as the third teacher
  5. Build leadership capacity and sustainability
  6. Analysis of data

Numbers are Not Students

“Looking at numbers does very little unless we know the story behind the student who represents that number.”

  • System data means nothing about the students in your building or your classroom.

Student Strengths

  • Teachers often think about learning needs, but they don’t spend the same time thinking about considering the strengths of their students.
  • Rather than trying to find ways to accommodate student needs, they should be looking to build activities that allow students to utilize their own strengths!

Ask students tough questions to ensure engagement

  • “Help me understand you so I don’t inadvertently create barriers for you.”
  • How do we accommodate strengths, not only their needs?
  • How do we deal with intersectionality?
    • It can be difficult for a white male teacher to understand the needs of a white male student with LD; it is far more difficult for them to understand the needs of a black female student with LD
  • We go to challenging places together with support!

Designing a Space for Success

  • If students have strong knowledge, but can’t write, we must create an environment where we allow them to have their knowledge assessed through oral submissions.
  • Do we encourage all voices to come to the centre of a discussion and be heard?
  • Students are empowered when they co-construct success criteria and learning goals
    • Students should help construct course outlines
  • Are we naming biases (personal, and otherwise), identifying barriers, and removing the structures that prevent success?
  • There are times we need to take an observant stance in our classroom and let the students lead the way.
    • We must honour student experience, and give students opportunities to succeed
  • Don’t be attached to every curricular expectation
    • Achievement means more than Literacy and Numeracy
  • Experiential learning is important
    • Connect what you’re doing in class to something relevant outside the classroom.


“Transformation happens in classrooms and in schools supported by a system, not the other way around.”

Confronting the Silos

  • Equity (anti-racism, anti-oppression)
  • special education
  • indigenous education
  • global competencies
  • mental health
    • These things can not stand alone.
    • They must be worked together and de-siloed without our system to best serve our students.

Asking the Right Questions

  • How do we wrap the curriculum around our students?
  • How will student voice influence us?  
  • What does strong instruction look like?
  • What does strong engagement look like?
  • How is our environment supported by students?
  • How do we build, and share leadership capacity?
  • How does analysis of data change our practice?
  • How does our environment reflect our supporting of student needs?

Thinking Locally

  • What will be the transformation in your school?
  • When educators collaborate with each other, families, and students, nothing will stand in our way

Mobilizing Schools

“Mobilizing means that we will only bring about the transformation … when all through this system you, our educators, our leaders, feel excited … desiring to make this kind of change!”

  • How do we show / communicate that we are making a difference with our students?

Evidence of Mobilization

  • What are people talking about in the building?
  • What questions are people asking?
    • We can’t figure out how to make this work, what can we do to enhance it?
  • How are teachers celebrating their successes?

The Digital World

“Our digital world … is not going away[. It] opens tons of doors and … has to support health, not diminish it.  That’s why global competencies have to include … how we might help our students to connect to the land, respect our earth, and strengthen environmental sustainability.”

  • How can technology help us connect to the land, and respect the earth?
  • Students are more interested in their screens then they are about going out with friends, or doing things in person.
  • The digital world is part of the physical world, not separate.
  • The digital world needs to support our students, not diminish them.

Grade 9 Academic Classes in the TDSB

  • There are no specific directions for 2018/19
  • We are not destreaming, we are moving to students being placed in academic classes
  • We move towards grade 9 and 10 academic for the majority of students
  • We must ensure we are paying attention to their needs
  • There is no direction on how to get there
  • 2020/2021 – fully academic across the grade 9 and 10 levels

Steps Forward

“I’m not a huge fan of big room meetings unless there is impact the next day … What we do today … make[s] a difference because as I’ve said: we serve students.