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

Gender Lesson: Reshaping Gender Normative Roles

Students need to be empowered to become agents of change in the world.  Digital communication and social media are powerful tools that our students are already familiar with; showing them how to utilize these tools to enact real change allows them to reshape the media landscape that surrounds them.

Having already looked at targetted writing focused on gender normativity during our previous RAFT assignment, students are familiar with how to write about their concerns.  Now they will be shown how to take that writing outside of the classroom, and send it to those that can make a difference.

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.


Minds On

There are three separate things that should be on the board at the beginning of class.  Students should be encouraged to choose one, two, or three of the activities to engage with.  Depending on their level of interest, they may be willing to completely focus on one of the pieces, or they may wish to quickly complete each of the three.

The Set Up

The first thing you will need to do is pick a still image or video that displays problematic gender messaging.  This could be the picture of a toy store, a specific toy, a commercial, a television show, a video game, or anything else that depicts problematic gender messaging.

Once you have selected and displayed the image, students will be able to choose one to three of the following activities to complete using that piece.

Hashtag #Problems

Students should think of hastags that draw attention to the problem.  Hashtags are normally short (less than twenty characters) terms that draw attention to something.  Using sarcasm or irony is a great way to interest a reader and lead them to share it on their own social media account.

Students should also be asked to find at least three social media accounts they could share the hashtag with.  These could be accounts owned by the creator, or related critics.

Students should feel free to use their personal devices during this activity, sharing their hashtags with the internet if they feel comfortable.

Address Unknown

Students should consider three people they might write in order to raise the problematic nature of the piece you have selected.  Similar to the Hashtag #Problems assignment, students may choose the creator or a critic.  They may also select newspapers or magazines that run reader letters.  Publications relating to the content of the piece, that run stories with a favourable bias are best.  They may also consider a number of politicians or not-for-profit groups that draw attention to their concerns.

Social Media Engagement

Students should make a list of their top three social media platforms (these may include, but are not limited to, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.)

Students should write a sample post, 50 words or less, that they could post on one of those sites in order to get their concerns across.  @ing, or #tagging specific users or terms should be encouraged as a great way to spread their message.

Students should then look at their three pieces, and consider what similarities and differences exist between each of them.  Through this activity, they will gain an understanding of the different strengths and weaknesses of each social media tool.

Once again, students should be encouraged to use their personal devices, actually posting their written pieces to their social media accounts, if they feel comfortable.

Once the Minds On activity is complete, you should host a discussion with your students, sharing the ideas and concepts learned throughout this part of the activity.

After the discussion has concluded, you should move on to the focus of the lesson, where students will write long-form pieces, sending them to an appropriate address in hopes of enacting real change in the world.



The focus of this lesson will be on enacting change through letter writing.  Once students have a focus for their piece (a television show, advertisement campaign, song, story, etc.) they will need to select a target audience that has the ability to make the change they are looking to create.

Who to Contact

Students may choose to write to one of the categories below, but they should not be limited.  The landscape is constantly changing and those that can create change often come from previously unknown sources.

  • Corporations
  • Authors
  • Publishers
  • Politicians


In 2017 Pepsi pulled a large-budget advertisement based on public pressure.  The advertisement used Black Lives Matter Imagery suggesting Pepsi could solve their problems.  Public backlash was successful in making real change in the advertising landscape.  They can be reached through a number of mailing addresses, both electronic or otherwise.


Due to the ubiquitous nature of content creators’ internet presences, there are many ways to directly contact an author about something that a reader finds concerning.  Social media accounts, e-mail addresses, and snail mail addresses attained through the publisher are often easily accessible.  J.K. Rowling has been the target of a number of protests throughout her career.  Many contemporary authors will directly reply to those who write in – either with questions, concerns, or praise.


After the American Psychological Association demanded researchers take links to their articles down from their websites, there was heavy backlash looking to enact change in how the system works.  Concerns were raised over the use of the DMCA to restrict the rights of authors.  E-Mail and Snail Mail addresses can often be found on the contact page of their websites.


Before contacting a politician, it’s best to focus your ideas.  Are you writing to express displeasure in something, or is there a legal backdrop to your complaint?  The Canadian Criminal Code Section 318 – 320 deals with Hate Speech This may be useful in making a number of complaints.  You’ll then need to decide who to contact.  In Canada, it’s easy to find your Member of Parliment.  A quick google search should yield similar results for other locations.


Writing the Letter

Now that students have selected their audience, they will need to write their letter.  The letter should be similar regardless of the target.

I suggest having students hand write their letter, providing stamps and envelopes for them to be mailed out.  However, it can also be a powerful experience to e-mail their messages as well.  The important part is that the letters are sent to their audience after they are submitted to their teacher.

While it is important for students to create assignments within their classroom, it’s far more valuable to show them how to create impact in the world around them.

There are ten main pieces that should be included in their letter:

  1. Polite greetings
  2. An introduction of who the writer is
  3. A paragraph explaining the problem through specific details
  4. An explanation of what change they would like to see
  5. A suggestion for how the change could be created
  6. An offer to help work with the target to create the change
  7. A thank you for taking the time to read the letter
  8. A request for a reply
  9. Salutations
  10. A reply address

Teachers can use the Enacting Change Letter Assignment which includes a sample outline.  Once students feel comfortable with the format they are free to use the period to create their piece.

Students should submit a second copy of the letter which will be mailed out by the teacher.



Students will fill out the Communication Venn Diagram exit slip before they leave the class.  Using their personal knowledge, combined with what they have been taught through class lessons, they identify the areas of strength for enacting change through three different forms:

  • Social Media
  • Letter Writing
  • Phone Calls

They will use the diagram to take note of similarities and differences between the three forms, allowing them to select the best tool for their situation.


Next Steps

This is the final lesson in the Gender Representation in the Media unit.  The next page includes some final thoughts that will provide you with a suggested timeline.  As well, it offers some extension ideas for how to continue to weave the thread of representation throughout your curriculum.



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 Lesson: The Gender R.A.F.T. Assignment

Advertisers constantly push messages at our students.  Our students need to learn how to push back at the advertisers.  Having already presented on the importance of creating better advertisements, this lesson will encourage them to take on a Role, select an Audience, choose a Format, and finally select a Topic as they write a piece aimed at raising awareness of problematic gendered messaging in the media.

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.


The Importance of R.A.F.T. Assignments

Differentiated assignments allow students to fully engage with an assignment, as they have agency over the piece that they are creating.  By using RAFT assignments in your classroom, you ensure that whatever interest your student has in a topic, they can tailor their response appropriately.

I find it best to give four options for each of the four parts of the RAFT.  This allows for over 256 unique arrangements for the assignment.  Offering limited choice often helps focus students that would perseverate over an embarrassment of options; however, if you’re feeling up to it, you are free to add an option for students to write in an appropriate Role, Audience, Format, and Topic of their choosing.

Minds On

As your students come into the classroom, you should have the following image displayed on the board.

Summer Man and Dog - Pixabay

Students should be asked to discuss the image from a variety of perspectives.  What is the dog thinking?  why is the woman smiling?  What’s in the man’s cup?

Once they’ve had a brief introduction to the image, students should be given a copy of the RAFT Minds On Assignment.  By completing this piece, they will have a foundation upon which you can build the main focus of your lesson.



Once students have been granted a foundational understanding of R.A.F.T. assignments, through the Minds On the portion of this lesson, they should select from one of the two assignments:

Once again, ensure that students understand that they need to tailor their piece to all four parts of the R.A.F.T.


This is the perspective from which the student will be writing their piece.  For example, they may be a specific individual with an established job, or a certain gender, or age.  As the teacher, you are free to set whatever roles you think best suit the assignment.


Students will be writing their piece to a specific individual.  This will determine the language they use.  A blog post on the internet would look very different than a formal letter to a politician.  A note to self might include different information than a letter to a best friend.  Ensure that students have a strong grasp on who they are writing to before they begin.


This is the type of written piece the students are creating.  It could be a formal essay or a business proposal.  It could be a piece of short fiction, or a poem, or a diary entry.  You could have students writing a memoir, or an instructional guide.  The type of piece they select will direct the shape of their final piece.


The final part of a raft is the topic.  While all topics will fall under a general thematic umbrella, you can offer a variety of lenses through which to view and explore the main concept you want students to address.

Once students have a strong understanding of their RAFT choices, let them know that they must write a multi-paragraphed P.E.E. Formated response.  They should then be left to complete the writing task for the remainder of the period.



Using the bottom of the assignment sheet as an exit slip, you can ask students to students write in what Role, Audience, Format, or Topic they wished were on the assignment.  This will help you understand student interest and debrief the lesson through a focused student discussion over the following few days.



Next Steps

When we addressed the Media Triangle we took a look at how we could impact future messaging, and in this assignment, we wrote some targeted pieces.  In our next, and final gender lesson, students will have agency to affect the future of gendered messaging by writing and sending letters to people in charge of the decision making process.



RAFT Assignment – Minds On.pdf
Lego vs. Goldieblox Comparison RAFT Assignment.pdf
Effects of Gender Messaging in Advertising RAFT Assignment.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 Lesson: Using the Media Triangle to Annotate Advertisements

It’s important that students know how to identify and name problematic messaging in the media they consume.  From Facebook to Twitter to Television and Websites, our students view hundreds of advertisements a day.  Having already seen how problematic messaging exists in the media we consume, in our past lesson, this lesson will arm our students to identify the true meaning and message of the piece by viewing it through all three sides of the media triangle.

Students will need to already have a foundation using The Media Triangle.  You are encouraged to use the Introduction to the Media Triangle assignment to familiarize them with the basic concepts.

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.


Minds On

As students enter the classroom, one of these images should be displayed at the front of the room.  Teachers can either use an overhead projector, or they can use a photocopier to enlarge the image, and tape it to the board.


On their desks, students should each have a smaller copy of the advertisement, as well as three different coloured sticky notes.

Students should be told that each sticky note colour relates to a different side of the Media Triangle.  For example:

  • Green – Text
  • Red – Audience
  • Blue – Creation

Once the entire class has a uniform understanding of which colours will be used for which aspects they are free to annotate the image.  To do so, students will look at their copy of the Media Triangle, and choose one question from each of the three sides.

They will write their response on the appropriate coloured sticky note, and then place it on their advertisement near the evidence for their response.

For example, if students answer “Who profits from this text?” they would take a blue sticky note and write Pepsi profits from this text, as it’s selling their product.  They would then place that sticky note beside the can of Pepsi.

If students were answering “What stereotypes are present in this text?” then they would take a green sticky note and write This text shows that women must wear make up and lipstick.  This sticky would then be placed near the dark red lips on their advertisement.

Once students have annotated the text in front of them, you can move on to the main focus of the lesson.



Having been given time to consider aspects of the Media Triangle at their own desk, students should now be ready to form into small groups.  I recommend groups between four and six students in size.

Debriefing the Minds On Activity

The first part of the class will debrief the annotated advertisement, to ensure all students have a full understanding of how to use the media triangle to annotate their texts.  This will be important, as there will be a release of responsibility that requires them to complete this task on their own for the second part of this lesson.

Small Group Discussions

Students should consolidate their sticky notes onto one of the sheets, still being sure to place them near the appropriate evidence on the advertisement.

While students discuss the questions they answered, and the evidence that supports their response, teachers can circulate the ensure that students have a full understanding of the material.

Sharing with the Class

Next, one student per group should bring their group’s sticky notes to the front of the classroom, and stick them to the large version of the advertisement at the front of the room.

Once all sticky notes have annotated the large advertisement, the teacher can highlight a number of key points, demonstrating all three sides of the media triangle.

Leave the class-annotated text on the board for students to reference in the second half of this lesson.

Fixing Contemporary Advertising

In the second half of this lesson, students will form small groups of one to three and be assigned the Fixing Contemporary Advertising Assignment.  They will then need to select a Contemporary Advertisement to work with.  They are free to select their own, or you may want to have them select from those attached below.


The assignment is broken into five main parts:

  • Annotating the group’s advertisement
  • Summarizing a related article
  • Creating an engaging advertisement
  • Making a class handout / brochure
  • Presenting the information

Annotating the Group’s Advertisement

Similar to the Minds On activity at the start of this class, groups will annotate their advertisements by using the media triangle, focusing on all questions for all three sides.

While students can annotate their advertisement using sticky notes, I recommend that they use the digital tool ThingLink which is free for digital image annotations.  If you’d like to know more about using this tool for this assignment please view the ThingLink Tutorial: How to annotate Texts using the Media Triangle.

Summarizing a Related Article.

Each group must also find an article that explores the problematic nature of contemporary advertisements.  The article must specifically link advertisements to a problem in our society.  It must relate to the same problem the students are attempting to fix with their piece.

A great starting place to find specific articles can be discovered using this Google Scholar Keyword Search.  By using Google Scholar, students will also ensure that the texts they find are suitable for classroom use.

Creating an Engaging Advertisement

Having identified the problems with the existing advertisement, and the negative impact such messaging can have, students will be responsible for making a high quality piece that works towards solving the problems from the initial advertisement.

Making a Class Handout / Brochure

Dividing their information under appropriate headings and titles, students will create a handout or brochure that includes the information they gathered throughout the assignment.

The handout will feature the students’ written pieces as well as the created advertisement along side the original advertisement.  the piece must be engaging for the reader.  A folded booklet, or brochure is encouraged.

Presenting the Information

The oral marks for each group member will be based on their individual contribution to the overall presentation.  Due to this, each member must participate in an equal share of the presentation as they communicate their ideas to the class.



As they leave the classroom, students should tell you who (if anyone) they will be working with, and they should show you the advertisement they will be working with.

This will set the groundwork to ensure they are prepared to work on their assignment during future classes.


Next Steps

Using The Media Triangle and creating a multi-faceted presentation, students will have demonstrated their knowledge, while discovering research articles that illustrate the dangers of media messaging.

They will now be prepared to move on to The Gender R.A.F.T. which will be a final written consolidation of their information.


Fixing Contemporary Advertising.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 Lesson: The Past is Present – Part 2

Advertisements often have problematic gender messaging; however, advertisements can also be used to combat negative messaging, drawing attention to problematic norms.

Building on the negative messaging from The Past is Present – Part 1 students should have a strong notion of the problematic messages that are inherenant in media pieces, and gendered advertisements.  This lesson will focus on how things have, and can continue to be, improved.

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.

Minds On

The minds on for this project will take a look at the Demand Better Media in 2015 video by The Representation Project.  This video demonstrates how things improved in the media during the year 2014, but also how it failed to change fast enough.

After watching this video, students will record their thoughts about how “Some things are improving…” / “But others things didn’t change fast enough…”  Students can use their own paper, or you are use the Representation in Media Handout.

The Representation Project

After watching the above video, students should be able to reflect on the current state of gendered messaging in the media.  On a sheet of paper, they should Think-Pair-Share about some of the positive changes they’ve seen over the past year, as well as some of the more problematic things that still need to change.

Just like the above video, students can discuss:

  • Television shows
  • Advertisements
  • Video Games
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Sports
  • News Events
  • Politics

Once this discussion has ended, students should see that there is hope for positive change, although it is happening slower than many of us would want.  The focus of this lesson will be on how the media can help create change for the better.


Just like the previous lesson, this will be very teacher driven.  You will guide students through a number of videos, leading them to come to their own conclusions.  The first step in this lesson will be to revisit Goldieblox.

Goldieblox: From Then to Now

This will take students on a journey from the Goldieblox Kickstarter launch in 2012 all the way to 2018.

Kickstarter Launch

Having discussed gender normative toys in the Gender Lesson: The Toy Box students should now be ready to Compare those pieces to Goldieblox.  After watching the above video, allow students a moment to discuss how Goldieblox is both similar, and different from other – more traditional – toys.

Next, have them discuss why this toy is important, and the positive impact it can have.

Three Years Later

Lead into this video by asking students if they think the toy succeeded, or not.  Despite its success, the toy is still relatively unknown outside of those with young children.  As such, students are probably unaware of the answer, and will be able to have rich discussion about this.

After viewing the video, the success of the product is obvious.  Students should think about how toys can have a large impact on those that play with them, as well as the parents that purchase them.

Optional Activity: Four Corner Toys

Assign students into four groups:

  • Barbie Dolls
  • Goldieblox
  • Thomas the Tank Engine
  • Lego

Students should separate into four different corners of your room.  Once there, they should talk to each other about the toys.  Their discussion should be focused around these three guiding questions:

  1. What makes this toy fun to play with?
  2. What are five different ways children could play with this toy?
  3. What positive impacts can playing with this toy as a child have on the individual when they become an adults?

For the third question, students should consider life skills, possible careers, personal development, or – if you’re feeling up to it – have them consider how these toys can connect to the Global Competencies.

After debriefing this, you are free to move on to the modern incarnation of Goldieblox.

Robot Runway

Goldieblox has expanded beyond being a simple toy.  Their YouTube Channel has more than 200 000 subscribers, and has programming aimed towards girls, with a focus on construction and creativity.

Where toys like Lego once provided an outlet to build, and create, Goldieblox has taken up the mantle, by becoming more than a simple toy.  Their how-to videos, and creative content provides a space that turns girls from consumers into creators.

In the next part of this lesson, students will look at how Lego – once the king in the creator space – has been failing girls since the launch of their Lego Friends line.

Lego Friends

In 2012 (the same year Goldieblox was created) Lego introduced a new line, specifically for girls.  This meant more Pink and Purple, which fed into a number of Gender Normative tropes.

Saving the Dolphins

Students should consider both the positive and negative messaging in this short Lego Friends clip to introduce them to the line, before they watch a longer breakdown of the toy by Feminist Frequency host Antia Sarkeesian.

Lego and Gender

A number of students may groan at the mention on Antia Sarkeesian.  You can remind them that she was addressed in the first video you watched, about how some things aren’t changing fast enough.  She has been a target of online hate since she began her feminist YouTube series.

Students may point out one or two reasons why they disagree with her.  You should honour their disagreement, but instruct them to criticize the idea, not the person.  You should also point out that disagreeing with one or two points does not invalidate all of her points.

Having watched the Lego Friends video, students should be able to see how toys can have both a positive and negative impact on young children.  They should also now realize that even when toy companies try to make change for the better, they can often end up creating a more problematic landscape that children need to navigate.

At this point you can choose to conclude the lesson, or assign students the: Lego vs. Goldieblox Comparison RAFT Assignment which will be the focus of a future lesson.


Now it’s time to see if other companies are looking to make positive change through their products, and advertisements.  The answer is a resounding YES!  A number of companies are using Feminism in their marketing.

Students will look at two strong examples of this, before discussing why they feel companies are moving along these lines.  While the answers is almost definitely, “because it makes them more money.” the fact that Feminism, and creating a positive space for women, is now profitable is a worthwhile thing to consider.

Always #LikeAGirl

Pantene – Labels Against Women

Exit Slip

Finally, students should look back on the representation of women from 2014 in the first video, and consider how things have changed from then until now.  They should then be asked to consider what they think the media-landscape, in regards to gender normativity, will look like five years from now.  They can write their assumptions about positive changes, and things that they feel won’t change fast enough on the back of their minds on notes.

Students should hand this in before they leave.  You can use these comments as a way to host a discussion at the start of your next class.

Next Steps

Now that we have explored media representation, giving students a strong foundation to do their own research and explore the world around them, you can move on to the lesson where they will analyze a variety of advertisements.

If you have not already done so, students should be introduced to The Media Triangle which is the lens through which they will analyze works of media, moving forward.


Representation in Media Handout.pdf

Goldieblox vs. Lego – Comparison Assignment.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 Lesson: The Past is Present – Part 1

Ads from past generations had problematic messaging.  This has not changed.  The negative gender normative messages will be addressed in this lesson.

Having already familiarized students with the concepts raised from The Gender Box, and enhanced through the study of the short story X: A Fabulous Child’s Story it’s time to take those concepts and use them to form a lens through which both past and contemporary advertisements and media are viewed.

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.


Minds On


The Flip Side – Christmas Holidays










Start by playing the above video.  A cold start is the best way to introduce this video, as prefacing it may take away from student discovery.

While watching students will notice that some things are humorous, and seem out of place.  Before the clip is done, they will undoubtedly realize this is because the gender normative roles of the characters have been swapped.


Once the video has finished playing, you can pause and discuss why they thought the film was odd, or funny.  Taking a moment to explore the idea that these gender roles are so deeply ingrained in us that people acting against them appears as absurd is an excellent way to drive home the power that they have in our society.


The Flip Side – Bar

Before watching the second The Flip Side video, students should be asked to create a T-Chart, or use the Flipside Bar Handout to track all the gender normative behaviours that are being displayed in the video.







Students should be asked to group the gender normative behaviours into categories.  It should become obvious that there are a number of stereotypes that show the females in the videos as aggressors, as sexual harassers, or sexual assaulters.

This is a good opportunity to explore how gender normative behaviours not only hurt women but also negatively condition men to view elements of toxic masculinity as things they feel they must identify with.

Students often react to the man slapping the woman in this scene, which is an excellent opportunity to address both Male Violence towards women, and the normalization of Female Violence towards men.

Once you feel the conversation has run its course, you should move on to the focus of the lesson.




This lesson is mostly Teacher-Directed, where you will lead students through a number of pieces of media in a set order.  They will have the opportunity to answer a few quick questions or voice their opinion before you move on to the next piece.  However, this should be viewed as a quasi-lecture that aims to reinforce skills and concepts that were learned in the previous lessons.

Apple Macintosh – 1984









After showing this advertisement, ask students to explain what elements stood out to them.  They most likely saw the people walking in unison, without emotion.  They also probably picked up on Big Brother speaking and issuing commands from the large screen.  Finally, they would have noticed the spark of colour as the woman rushed in to overthrow the regime with her hammer.

You can briefly touch on how this vision of a strong and empowered woman, in an advertisement for technology, sends a strong message about empowerment.

Then transition into how that was not always the case…


Postage Meter – Is it Always Illegal to Kill a Woman?

Is it always illegal to kill a woman.jpg

I find it helpful to first explain what a postage meter is.  Students are probably familiar with the letters they get that don’t have traditional stamps on them, as postage meters are still in use today.

At over 60 years old, this advertisement is incredibly problematic.  Simply looking visually can lead students to make their conclusions about the piece.  The obvious answer they should be shouting is, “YES!” even if it’s in hushed tones, as you’ve not explicitly drawn attention to the words yet.

Next, I recommend that you read the small print, drawing attention to the woman’s need to put a bow on the machine before she enjoys it, as well as her true reason for liking the tool – it allows her to gossip in the washroom.

Noting that this advertisement plays on the idea that women can’t possibly understand machines, and the use of gender-based violence as an attempt at humour, students will quickly see how this advertisement is in stark contrast with the previous one.

Prepare to move on from this advertisement by asking students how far they think we’ve come, trying to pretend as if women are no longer portrayed as unintelligent in advertisements.  Because, really, we’d hope that was the case.


True Car dot Com


As you sigh, after watching this, quickly explore how women are still being portrayed as being incapable of doing things on their own.  Discuss that normally she would require a “dude with [her]” in order to do something like purchasing a car.

I normally point out how I know nothing about cars, but was taught how to change my own oil and tired by my buddy’s wife.  And he doesn’t know how to do it himself.

By pointing out that the gender roles these advertisements prey on simply aren’t true, you can move to the next piece.


Hardee’s – Women, Don’t Leave the Kitchen


Once again, we return to an advertisement from the past.  The problematic nature is obvious, from the large print claiming that women shouldn’t leave the kitchen, to the small print reading, “We all know a woman’s place is in the home, cooking a man a delicious meal.”

Quickly explore why this is troubling, and allow students to voice if they agree or disagree with these statements.  Keep control of this short conversation, and lead them towards the damaging nature of agreeing with it.

Next, say something along the lines of, “luckily things have become better, right?  We can’t possibly still have advertisements like that…  Although, that Star looks familiar.  Hmm, doesn’t Carl’s Jr. use the same logo?  I’m pretty sure they’re the same restaurant.  Let’s see what Carl’s Jr. advertisements look like these days.”


Carl’s Jr. – Great Buns

Of course, you’ll sigh as you watch this video too, realizing that things have not changed at all.  This is a great opportunity to discuss the concept of the male gaze – the camera assuming an implied male viewer.

As the women are literally cut into pieces, during both the yoga scene and the dance scene, you can discuss the objectification of women.

I try to play this video through twice.  Once to allow the whole “twist ending” to sink in, and a second time to explore how that twist ending makes the video even worse.

First: We have the female lead in yoga trying to change her body because she believes that’s what her boyfriend wants her to do.

Second: The woman’s father is oggling her, and her mother as she dances at her wedding.  The new husband, and his wife’s father bond over appreciating specific body parts (keeping in mind that the father doesn’t understand that his son-in-law is actually looking at the burger).

Third: We have the male gaze appear once more on the escalator, before one of the most problematic parts of the commercial where…

Fourth: The wife realizes that she was wasting her time.  Her husband never meant that he wanted to change her body, instead, he just liked good hamburger buns.  This moment of realization on her face is obvious at 0:23.  Once again, this draws attention to the fact that women are incapable of understanding simple concepts (which connects back to the advertisements for technology).

But, maybe you’re just choosing examples that fit your narrative, tell your students you’re willing to watch other ads by Carl’s Jr. to see if they differ.


Carl’s Jr – Buffalo Blue Cheese Burger (Female)








Once more, address the male gaze, and the problematic nature of this advertisment.  Next, tell studnets you’re going to watch the advertismenet for the Blue Cheese Burger that uses a male model instead.

You can address the groans you will likely hear in class, and then proceed to that video.


Carl’s Jr – Buffalo Blue Cheese Burger (Male)




Take a moment to explore the differences – namely that the focus is on eating, and doesn’t objectify the model through close up camera angles, and rapid cuts.

If you want to further prove the difference between advertisements that use male and female models, you can show the two Carl’s Jr. advertisements for their Cod Fish Sandwich.  Otherwise, you can move on to the consolidation activity.


Carl’s Jr – Buffalo Blue Cheese Burger (Male / Female)







Having watched this advertisement, have students try to predict how the female version of this advertisement will appear.






Things aren’t much better than they were with the Blue Cheese Sandwich.  End by explaining that while advertisements may not be as explicitly problematic as they once were, the negative messaging is still very much present.

But, let them know things are changing.  End with a message of hope in the consolidation.





Play this advertisement for your students.  It is for a Goldiblox Action Figure.  After rocking out to the first playthrough, tell your students that they should look back on the first advertisement they viewed in this lesson.

Have students draw specific paralells (walking in unison, the Big Sister giving orders, the one person who looks different using a hammer to destroy things).

Students should be tasked to write a P.E.E. Text-to-Text Connection between the two advertisements.  The focus on the piece should be using those connections to further explore the meaning and messages in the Goldiblox advertisement.  This connection should be handed in as students leave the classroom.



Next Steps

The next lesson will focus on other media representations, building upon what was learned in this piece.  In The Past is Present – Part 2 there will be a focus on toys, how advertisements can help change the narrative, and also the future of activism.



Flipside – Bar Handout.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 Lesson: The Gender Box

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

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.

Minds On

Display two images in your classroom.  One of a young boy, and the other of a young girl.  You are free to use the following two images, or search for your own.  Alternately, you can use my The Gender Box – Minds On Handout.


Ask students to make notes about the following:

  • Write two things you think each person enjoys playing with
  • Write two joys you think each person will be good at when they grow up
  • Write two words you’d use to describe each of the people

Ensure you do not lead your students to give gender normative responses to the props.  Be prepared to fully discuss their answers, making note of gender-normative ideas for a future discussion.

Debriefing the Minds On

Once students have had time to make their notes, they should pair up with a few elbow partners and compare notes.  They should highlight similarities they share with their partners.  Next, partners should attempt to find an overlap between how they described the male character, and how they described the female character.

Allow students an opportunity to share their responses with the entire class, and take note of any commonality or different opinions that are raised.  You will want to return to those when you debrief the lesson’s focus.



During the Minds On part of the lesson, students probably raised a few gender-normative ideas, be in in the toys they are assumed to like, the jobs they were assumed to excel at, or the words used to describe the individuals.

Dividing the Class

Now, divide your class into groups.  You may choose to divide the class randomly or break them up so students are equally distributed by gender.  It is also possible that you might want to divide the class in half by gender for this activity.  How you split your class can change the dynamics of the lesson.

Once you have two large groups, they will each need a space in the room to congregate.  Should you have an exceptionally large class, you may want to create three or four groups.

Thinking in Groups

In their new groups, students should be instructed to divide a sheet of paper in half.  One half of the chart will represent males, and the other half will represent females.  You are, of course, free to use my Gender Box Handout instead.

On the male side, students should write everything they think males like.  On the female side, students should write everything they think females like.  You should allow students five minutes to fill out their chart.  Telling students that there will be a prize (be it a pencil, a sticker, or simply bragging rights) for the students in the group that has the most words on their chart is often a great way to motivate them.

During this time, students will often talk about what they are writing down, and this can cause conflict.  Advise students to keep writing, and that the more they talk, the less they’ll get down.  Also, advise them that they’re giving their peers more ideas which will detract from their chance of winning the prize.

After five minutes pass, tell them to share their ideas with the group.  If someone says the same word (or a similar word) as what they have on their sheet, they should circle it.

This sharing will take some time, and – again – there will be conflict as students disagree with each other.  Constructive conflict can be an excellent learning tool.  Ensure that students are not belittled or demeaned for their ideas.  Explain that while everyone may not disagree, all ideas are valid at this stage.

A Public Record

Your two large groups should now be invited to areas where they can write lists in big letters.  If you have two chalkboards, this is a perfect place to direct them.  Large chart paper can also be used.  Each group may require two sheets.

On the public record, students will recreate their Male and Female charts, writing down every circled word their group members have come up with.  If at least two people thought it made sense to have a word under male, it should be added to the male side of the public record; the same should be done for the female side.

You are free to allow each group to add up to five more words they think belong, even though two or more people didn’t write them.

Taking Control of the Conversation

Once students have created their Male and Female public records, they should return to their seats.  At this point, you should look at the two public records, and circle the words that appear on both male lists and the words that appear of both female lists.

Next, place a star beside any circled words on the male side that also appear on the female side.

You can start your discussion by talking about why the starred words appear on both sides.  See if there’s a common thread that links them together.  Normally there will be very few starred words.  Highlight the idea that if so few words appear between the two lists, then we must have very different ideas of what it means to be male, and what it means to be female.

At this point, you can talk about how these ideas are often with us from birth.

Use this opportunity to connect the words on the board, to the thoughts students had about the two children from the Minds On discussion.  This will show that he allow these ideas to influence our ideas of people regardless of their age.

Grouping the Terms

There are often a number of different types of words on the board.  You can group them into the following sections (or create your own).

  • Clothing (Skirts vs. Cargo Shorts)
  • Acceptable Relationship Partners (Boys vs. Girls)
  • Activities (Hiking vs. Cooking)
  • Chores (Garbage vs. Laundry)
  • Types of Media (Violence vs. Fantasy)

You may also find that sexual content appears on these lists.  Often the male list will list pornography, sex, or specific body parts.  Rarely do these things appear on the female list.

Be sure to highlight the different ideas students have when it comes to all of these categories.  Feel free to have a brief discussion about where they got their ideas, and how they know that males are supposed to like one thing, while females are supposed to like the other.

Bringing Disagreement Forward

Now is the time a number of students will have been waiting for.  Allow them to point out the words that they think should absolutely NOT be under the male or female headings.

Students will have an opportunity to share their ideas with each other, and debate whether the categorization is right or wrong.  This is often the part of the discussion when sexual content is challenged, with some students claiming that those things should be under both categories, while others claim they shouldn’t be under either.

As the teacher, it’s your job to moderate this discussion and allow that all voices are respected.

Once this discussion has run its course students should be asked to further think about where their ideas of gender norms came from.



Students should take a scrap of paper to use as an Exit Slip.  These slips will be collected by you as they leave the classroom.  On the slip of paper they should write at least one sentence explaining how the following four things can influence, and enforce gender norms:

  • Television / Video Media
  • Magazines / Print Media
  • Parents / Friends
  • Religion / Culture

You may also wish to use my Gender Box Exit Slip for this part of the assignment.



While Intersectionality should not be ignored, it is something best discussed once a strong foundation already exists.  There are a wealth of articles available to delve into at The Mary Sue; they can help lead future discussions.

If you feel your students have the necessary foundation to understand intersectional feminism, you can use my Slightly Modified Gender Box Handout.  The one difference is the column to the side.

While they fill out the main box the same as described above, they should be challenged to come up with another label relating to either:

  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Race
  • Ability (Physical / Mental)
  • Sexuality
  • Gender (Cis vs Trans)
  • Religion
  • Socio-Economic Status

In the side box, students will fill out words that describe someone who would be identified as both the box’s gender, as well as the newly assigned label.  Students may wish to use a label they identify with, as an opportunity to express their own ideas or frustrations.

You may wish to specify a label, or category for the entire class to look at, or you may wish to ensure each large group has representation from all eight of the above categories.


Next Steps

After learning about The Gender Box students will have a strong foundation for discussing X: A Fabulous Child’s Story – Literacy Skills Assignment.  This story will be used to assess a number of literacy skills while reinforcing and growing concepts discussed in both The Gender Box and The Toy Box.

Or, you may wish to move on to the next lesson, The Past is Present, which examines gender messaging in both contemporary and historical advertisements.


Gender Box – Minds On.pdf

Gender Box – Handout 1.pdf

Gender Box – Handout 2.pdf

Gender Box – Exit Slip.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 Lesson: The Toy Box

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.

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.

Minds On

On the board, display a picture of a toy box.  You can either use a projector and take a moment to draw a chest using a chalkboard or whiteboard.  Chests aren’t hard to draw.  Rectangles are your friend here.  Add the words “Toy Box” to the image.  Below the image write the words, “What’s in the box?”

There should be a clear instruction on the board that students should consider what toys they had in their toy box when they were children.  On a sheet of paper, students should be encouraged to either make point form notes or draw quick sketches, of their favourite childhood toys.

After five minutes have passed, students should be asked to turn to an elbow partner and discuss their favourite toys.  These groups may organically grow larger as the discussion brings in other neighbouring voices.

Before you move on, honour the student’s voice and time by asking them to share their opinions.  Be sure to draw all voices into the conversation.  While some students may be more eager to share, work to bring every voice to the centre of the conversation.

It goes without saying, that this is a great opportunity for you to discuss your favourite toys as well.


Now that the students have talked about their favourite toys, you’re ready to start looking into the gender messaging inherent in the toys we play with.

Building a Collection

Your first step will be to form a collection of toys or images of toys.  I have used both models with my students, and while hands-on toys can work well with small groups, teachers in larger classrooms may find it easier to manage images displayed through a projector.

When looking for images, I would also suggest teachers use Pixabay as their first stop.  If you’d like, you can use the six images below as a start to your collection, or you can run a smaller version of this activity with those images alone.




Collection Suggestions

I suggest that you get some tricky toys that will have students questioning their choices.  For example, Lego vs. Lego Friends, or a toy kitchen with a washing machine attachment, versus a toy kitchen with a BBQ attachment.  I also use images of female and male soldier dolls to juxtapose barbie and ken.

Another favourite image of mine is the Nerf Rebel crossbow, which is a pink and purple dart-firing weapon.

Running the Lesson

The lesson is broken into three parts.  The first is categorizing the images, the second is discussing their choices, and the third is reflecting on the similarities.

Categorizing the Images

  1. Ask students to draw a T-Chart on a sheet of lined paper, or provide them a copy of the The Toy Box handout.  They should label one column “Brother” and the other column “Sister”.
  2. Display the first image, or toy, for students to see.  Ask students to think about the toy and decide if they would give it to their imaginary fraternal twin brother, or imaginary fraternal twin sister for their birthday.  At this point you will have many students saying, “I’d get it for either!” but insist that there is only one in the shop, and they must decide: does it go to the brother or the sister?
  3. Students will write the name of the toy on their T-Chart.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have gone through all of the images.  I recommend using at least 12 images.
  5. Once students have sorted each image into a column, draw your own T-Chart on the board, and ask students to raise their hand if they decided to give the toy to their brother, and then ask students to raise their hand if they decided to give the toy to their sister.
  6. Record the name under the column with the most amount of votes.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for all of the toys.
Possible modification

If you were using real toys, you could give them to a group of students, and have them sort them into two groups – or, better yet, have them create a line where the ones they would definitely give to their brother is at one end, and the ones they would definitely give their sister is at the other end.  They will still need to create a line that breaks the toys into two sections, but by thinking about which ones are closer to being gender neutral, you will have an opportunity to delve deeper into the next part of this lesson.


Discussing their Choices

You will now have a list of toys categorized as being for boys or for girls.  There will undoubtedly be some descent in your classroom.  Some students may become incredibly vocal about how they disagree with the order, or that this activity was sexist.

Use those comments to open the discussion, and allow students a voice to explain why they either agree or disagree.  You should do your best to remain neutral in this conversation, allowing students to voice their opinions.  Highlight some key concepts that you will want to return to in later lessons, but do your best not to influence their thoughts.

Once the discussion has run its course, you can proceed to the next part of the lesson.


Reflecting on the Similarities

Students should now be asked to look at all the toys of the different lists.  In small groups, challenge them to find similarities between the items.  Some concepts that often float to the surface is that the toys in the brother column are often “active” where the user engages in some creative active play, interacting with the world, while toys in the sister column are often more “passive”.  Violent toys are often in the brother column, while fluffy toys find themselves in the sister column.  Colours are often grouped together as well.  The presented gender of the toy normally influences the column.

Once students have created their lists of adjectives that describe each side, ask them to read them to the class.  You will add these words to a new T-Chart on the board.

Once all students have shared their ideas, ask the class to find words and concepts that overlap between the brother side and the sister side.  There are often very few overlapping ideas.  Next, discuss the terms that are on each side.

You can now ask the class, “what is the difference between the brother and the sister?” which will lead to some deeper discussion but will ultimately return to the concept of gender.  At this point, talk about how there must be something about their gender that made them think the brother would like one thing and the sister the other.

Have them extrapolate that those terms are not only describing the toys, but also cultural assumptions about Gender Normative expectations for boys and girls.

Once that idea has been introduced, you can move on to the final part of the lesson.



Ask students to write a P.E.E. Paragraph, or draw a picture, or in some other way communicate how those gender-based expectations have affected their lives.  They can express either positive or negative examples.

Let them know that you will be discussing their pieces at the beginning of the next class.


Next Steps

I suggest using The Toy Box to lead directly into a lesson about The Gender Box.  You are, of course, free to use this as a stand-alone lesson or skip to a different lesson you find more appropriate.



Toy Box – Brother Sister Handout.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

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 Civix.ca 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.



Writing a Palm Story: Ideation for Creative Writing

Palm Stories are short stories that students write using nothing more than the palm of their hand, and a little bit of imagination.  Teachers ask students to close their eyes and picture a number of different things, making point form notes along the way.  At the end of their meditative journey, they will have the framework for a detailed story.


Running a Palm Story

The first things teachers need to do is ensure their students have something to write with, and write on, in front of them.  Next they need to ask their students to close their eyes.  This is a large ask, and requires teachers to have already created a caring environment that fosters trust.

Teachers will act as a guide through the story, instructing students to take notes along the way.  Alternately, teachers can provide their students with my Palm Story Handout to aid in the ideation process.

Handout: Palm Story Notetaking Sheet


Every Journey Begins…

Teachers need to ask students to look at their hand.  They should find one of the major lines on their hand.  They should then look for another line that passed through the first.

Students should then draw those two lines as a quick sketch.  If using the Palm Story Notetaking Sheet they can draw it in the space provided.

The Road

Ask students to look at the major line on their hand and envision it as a path.  They should then take a moment to close their eyes and picture the path.  They can envision it as a dirt road, an asphalt highway, a raging river, or even a pathway made of clouds that rests high above the world.  There is no limitation to where their story is set, or what their path looks like.

Once they’ve envisioned the road, ask them to look around and take in their surroundings.  What do they see?  Is it peaceful, or post-apocalyptic?  Are they in a fantasy forest, or a gritty urban centre?

Next, ask them to listen carefully and take note of what they hear.

Once students have had enough time to fully picture their surroundings they should pause, open their eyes, and take notes about what they heard and saw.

The Protagonist

The next time students close their eyes, rather than looking around, they should look down.  They should see their own feet, view their hands, or pull back and look at the protagonist in the third person.

Does the protagonist look like them, or are they someone different, entirely?  Next, becoming the protagonist they should be asked to consider what the protagonist wants.  What are the things that drive them into action, or make them pull away in fear?

After being given a few moments, they should make notes about the protagonist.

The First Steps

With knowledge of the protagonist and the path, students should be asked to close their eyes and begin their journey.  They should be asked to look around as they move through their world – note that I didn’t say walk through their world.  For all we know, they could be flying, swimming, or moving in a vehicle – while taking careful note of the sights, sounds, and experiences.

After some time, let them know that they suddenly see something!

The Item

Students should be informed that they see an item on the ground.  They’re not sure what it’s used for, but it’s definitely something interesting.  Even though they can’t be sure what its exact purpose is, they have a few good ideas.

Students should be asked to open their eyes and take notes about what the item was, and what it could be used for.  You may also want to ask them to draw a quick sketch of it.

At this point, redirect their attention at the line on their hand.  Tell them that soon they will be coming to the other line that crosses through it.

The Crossing

The other line on their hand is a crossing.  Something that is difficult for them to pass.  Perhaps it is a river, a checkpoint, a wall, or a crevasse erupting with flames.

They should be picturing this problem, when they realize how to overcome the issue.  Gaining the ability to pass the crossing, they will continue on their way.

All goes well until they seem something on the horizon.  As they get closer they realize that they’re not alone.  Just before them is…

The Other

The other in another character.  It could be a wise bearded man (I’m partial to those), or a talking rabbit.  It might be a little girl in a white dress, or a teenage boy in a flannel jacket.  Once again, it could be anything.  Though the protagonist has never seen this character before, they feel as if they know something about them.

The protagonist feels as if they know what the other desires.  Just as they pass this character, the character leans towards them and says just one thing.  That one line of dialogue would prove immensely useful to the protagonist.

Students should be asked to open their eyes, take notes about what the character looked like, what they wanted, and most importantly what they said.

Walking for some time, the protagonist has almost reached the end of the line of the student’s hand.  Soon they will reach the end of their journey.

The End in Sight

Before them looms the thing towards which they had been journeying.  Is it a concert venue?  A place of enlightenment?  A treasure chest full of cursed gems?  Maybe it’s a cat cafe where the protagonist can enjoy a latte while cuddling cute marmalade kitties?

As they reach the end, they suddenly become aware of why they’d needed the item all along.  With its use, they reach the end of their journey.  However, there are always new things on the horizon.

Students should pause and take notes about what the end was, why they were there, and how they reached it.

Distant Mountains

Finally, students should close their eyes and take a moment to appreciate the efforts of their protagonist.  They should enjoy the moment of denouement.  But, of course, things can’t stay the same forever.  Even though things seem well know, they should consider two things they experience in their journey that led them to feel as if a change would soon be coming.

Writing those final notes down, students should open their eyes and appreciate a palm, well journeyed.


Sharing the Stories

Sometimes I like to pause during the palm journey and allow students to share different parts as they make their way along the line on their hand.  I give them a chance to talk about their path and hear from other students what the paths before them look like.

Other times, I allow the students to complete the journey on their own.  Some teachers may find music helps the experience, though others may decide that they don’t want to influence the students’ visualizations with auditory stimuli.


Writing the Story

Students will now have the following elements:

  • A Protagonist
  • A Setting
  • An Important Object
  • A Rising Action blocking their way
  • A Secondary Character
  • A Line of Dialogue
  • A Destination

With these elements, you can ask them to chart them on a plot graph, or just allow them to dig in and start writing their own story with this new framework.


Possible Roadblocks

This is a very powerful activity, but there are a few things that can hold students back.  As I mentioned previously, feeling comfortable closing their eyes in an important step, but it is not the only possible concern.

An Inability to Visualize

Some people do not have the ability to visualize.  When you are asked to close your eyes and picture an apple, you can probably flip through an album of different apples from smell and yellow, to large and green.  But take a moment to appreciate that this is a gift that not all possess.

If asked to picture yourself canoeing on a lake as a loon calls out, you may be able to see the mist rise and hear the paddle splash as it enters the water.

Your students might not be able to do this.

How do People Know?

The easiest way to know if you have this ability is to think about when you read a book – when you read, do the words come to life like a movie playing in your head, or do you simply see black and white text in front of you as you read each and every sentence?

Some students may respond by saying, “it’s obvious that they see the book like a movie,” while others will be shocked that their peers have a personal holodeck inside their own brain.

Full disclosure

There are multiple levels of visualization.  Some can transport themselves to a strange world through the power of imagination, others can only hear sounds, or see objects, while some can do nothing at all.

I am one of the people who has no ability to visualize.  I’ve tried, I’ve practised, but I can’t even picture a green square with my eyes closed.  All I see are the rapidly changing blues and blacks as my brain tries to process what it is literally seeing.

I mention this because even though I can’t see or hear things in my mind, I can still think creatively, and this palm story still works wonders for my own creative writing ideation.

This is something to be aware of though because some students feel like they’re missing out on something.  They may need to be encouraged to participate even though it will be different for them – just as it is for me.


Downloadable Resources

Palm Story Notetaking Sheet