Keys to Literacy Newsletter  April 2008
Volume 1

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Our quarterly newsletter for educators provides helpful information about literacy and comprehension instruction in grades 4-12.  We hope the information and links will enhance your teaching.  Please forward this newsletter to your friends and colleagues!

This Issue's Topic:  SUMMARIZING
  Comprehension Teaching Tips
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Summarizing is one of the most effective activities for improving both comprehension and writing skills.  Summarizing enhances comprehension as students select, condense, and synthesize in their own words the big ideas of what they have learned.  Summarizing also lets teachers monitor student comprehension.

    However, summarizing is a difficult skill to teach and use.  In order to summarize, students must be able to understand what they are reading, separate the main ideas from the details, organize their thoughts, and then apply several writing skills.  The best way to teach summarizing is to provide direct, systematic instruction and to model the application of the skill.  One way to scaffold this instruction is to use a summary template such as the one provided below.  It is also helpful to give students a list of transition words that help them link the sentences and ideas in their summary.

Click here for the summary template and an example of a summary.

Click here for a list of transition words.

Recommended Resources
Four Books

There are several excellent resources related to teaching summarizing that we would like to recommend.  In Reading Next, summarizing is included as one of 15 elements of effective adolescent literacy programs.  In Writing Next, summarizing has been found to be the second most effective element of writing instruction for students in grades 3 and above.  Both reports are excellent for news about secondary literacy in general and can be downloaded for free at the Alliance for Excellent Education website.

    For classroom instruction we recommend several publications.  Classroom Instruction That Works by Robert Marzano, Debra Pickering and Jane Pollock (ISBN#0-087120-504-1) includes several hands-on suggestions and templates for teaching summarizing.  Anita Archer's Rewards Plus: Reading Strategies Applied to Social Studies Passages (ISBN#1-57035-803-6) includes summarizing and comprehension activities for social studies.  Also, The Neuhaus Educator Center has a vocabulary and reading comprehension book, Developing Metacognitive Skills, that includes summarizing strategies applied to narrative and expository text. Finally, we recommend a page from the Reading Quest website that offers teaching tips for summarizing.

What's New in Adolescent Literacy?
Four Books

After more than a decade focusing on how to improve reading instruction for children in grades K-3, attention at the state and federal levels is shifting towards students in grades 4-12 and the difficulty many of them have with reading and writing.  A leading organization for learning more about upcoming legislation, grant projects to support adolescent literacy research and programs, and position papers about grades 4-12 literacy is the non-profit Alliance for Excellent Education based in Washington, DC. Their recent report, Literacy Instruction in Content Areas: Getting to the Core of Middle and High School Instruction, recommends ways to support teachers as they integrate literacy instruction with content.

    There is a quality new website devoted to adolescent literacy issues,  A sister site of LDOnline and Reading Rockets, this site is produced by the non-profit WETA in Washington, DC.  It is a clearinghouse for information about teaching materials, research, articles for parents and teachers, and books/authors related to adolescent literacy issues.  This site includes blogs for adults and teens.  There is also an "Ask the Experts" panel that answers questions about adolescent literacy.  Joan Sedita is a member of the panel, so look for some of Joan's answers when you visit the site!
Keys to Literacy News

Archive of Key Three Routine Webcast, April 9: "The Key Three Routine: Comprehension Strategy Instruction" was featured on a webcast on Wednesday, April 9 by Schools Moving Up.  Joan Sedita reviewed the research about effective comprehension instruction and gave an overview of her program, The Key Three Routine, for embedding comprehension strategy instruction into the content classroom.  This webcast has been archived at the Schools Moving Up website and is available to be viewed now.
Click here for more information about viewing the Webcast Archive.

ANSWER Key to Open Response:  Keys to Literacy is adding a follow-up training topic to its offerings. The ANSWER Key to Open Response is a one day training that incorporates main idea, question answering, and two-column note strategies from the Key Three Routine to the specific task of writing open responses. The first training session will be held July 11, 2008 in Wakefield, MA. Click here for more information. 
Keys to Literacy

Keys to Literacy specializes in professional development for teaching comprehension and vocabulary that is embedded in the content classroom.

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A Message From Joan Sedita
Joan's Photo
Hello, and welcome to the first edition of our Keys to Literacy newsletter! For over 30 years I have focused on literacy instruction for students in grades 4-12, especially those who struggle with reading and writing. Over the past several years I have been fortunate to be part of a number of national initiatives and projects that support adolescent literacy. 

Our goal for this newsletter is to share with you what we are learning about resources and instructional practices to help you improve the literacy skills of your students.

Joan Sedita
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