MT Elective: Why you should enroll in the Downsview Literacy Program!

Updated: Apr 16, 2019

Are you an MT student and in desperate need of an elective? Say no more. As per usual, I got your back and I am about to inform you about one of MT's best kept secrets!

The Truth about MT Electives

Let's have a small discussion about Electives. Electives in the MT are um...rough to say the least. You can attempt to beat the system and take an online course for less commuting time, as I once did. However, you'll soon learn that these online courses are more work than the in class courses themselves. They demand many online summary posts and weekly online interactions based on EXTREMELY lengthy readings. Fun. So, why not take the in class elective Jordan? Good question padawan, because electives in year 2 are full year round, MEANING that classes continue through placement. Now I may not know you, but I am absolutely sure you do not wish to teach from 9:00 - 2:00 PM, head downtown for 3 hour class at 6:00 PM, get home by 10:00 PM and THEN start your lesson planning for the next day.

Downsview Literacy Program

So what are we to do? This is what we shall do. The Downsview Literacy Program (cue inspiring and motivational music). During the summer session of the MT, we were visited by Sharda Veoli, a teacher and assistant curriculum leader for Literacy/English Language Learning at Downsview Secondary School. This school is a diverse and vibrant learning community filled with wonderful, bright and resilient students. It is located in the Keele and Wilson area, and is a part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). During her visit, Sharda shared details and discussed the practical MT elective taking place at Downsview Secondary School.

Downsview Secondary School

The community surrounding Downsview Secondary School is filled with an abundance of bilingual and newly immigrated students. Some of the students struggle with their English proficiency, whether it be with their decoding of words and sentences or comprehension. This results in some students reading below the appropriate grade level. Now I know what some of you are thinking, "Meh, literacy isn't really my thing". Nor was it mine my friend, you are talking to a guy with Biology and Health and Physical Education as his teachables. However, I was drawn to the program when Sharda made this persuasive statement:

"A lot of these students struggle with their academics because they are not able to read at grade level. This means they could be vibrant, bright, and understand subject-specific content, but their literacy challenges act as a barrier to their academic success or to them achieving their full potential in school...which is pretty heartbreaking"

Could you imagine that? Performing poorly across many subjects and or not being able to enjoy your favourite subject to the fullest extent just because of poor literacy skills. This is something we don't often think about for those of us who were born in Canada and are very proficient in the English language. Hence, I was inspired to get out of my comfort zone and take on the program.

Program Details

The program will start around the beginning of October, in which you will be assigned 3 students to help over the course of the year. Prior to starting in October of year two, you will receive a highly specialized training from respected TDSB literacy specialists. This training teaches you a variety of techniques to assess and improve your student's reading and writing abilities. In the training you will learn fun opening literacy games, writing interventions techniques and cut up story activities. You will also be taught how to complete a running record, which I have attached a sample of below.

Sample Running Record

To keep it brief, after your minds on you will ask your student to complete a reading of a chosen text out loud. As they read, you will check mark on the running record sheet the words they pronounce correctly and make specific annotations for the words they pronounce incorrectly. Easy, right! After this, you will then use the techniques given to you in training to help students comprehend readings and pronounce the words they pronounced incorrectly.

Why you should join the program?

1) The students

The change you see across the students is incredible. Students jump up in grade level and become more confident in their literacy skills. The embarrassment and stigma tied to being unable to read and comprehend slowly dissipates. Not only that, the students become more confident in themselves! They make a friend in you and their self-esteem rises. This is a practical course that makes an actual difference! You will be contributing to a more equitable environment within the school by providing students with the skill set needed to access information across all their courses.

2) Your resume & future interviews

Let's face reality. Near the end of year 2 of the MT you will be applying to boards and looking for a job. This elective course gives you experience and this experience is far more valuable than the typical essay you are going to do in most other electives. That is because you can put this experience on your resume, and you can you pull and elaborate on this experience during a job interview. Everyone can do research in an elective course to complete the standard OISE essay. Not everyone is given a high specialized literacy training that can help students thrive no matter the subject. Long story short, this elective and its associated experience would help make you a more viable candidate when looking for a job!

3) Your own professional development

Imagine having a student barely pass your course and then you find out it was simply because they had difficulty reading, writing and comprehending. With this elective and the experience you will acquire at Downsview, you will be better suited to spot these students when they land in your future classes. This elective will provide you with a unique skill set that will allow you to better help students succeed throughout your teaching career.

4) Schedule

For this elective, you have the freedom to choose the day you would like to come to Downsview each week and whether you would like to come in the morning or afternoon. All that is asked is that if you for example choose Monday, that you come in on Monday each week. With this choice, you can best fit the program into your schedule.


Given that you can only help students at Downsview during school hours, this is impossible to do during placement. So...while other people are weeping about elective courses during lesson planning for placement, you will have the freedom to solely focus on placement and help your students (as you should be).

What do you think scholar? I hope I made a decent argument. Nervous? Trust me on this one and make the leap of faith. Be practical and add to that teacher tool kit. You will thank yourself in the long run.

Good luck scholar!

- Jordan Guerrero Martinez

Decoding Wizard | Builder of Confidence | Comprehension Sorcerer | Master of the Literacy