Keys to Literacy Newsletter  October 2008
Volume 2

KTL Logo
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:  Graphic Organizers - Topic Webs
  Comprehension Teaching Tips
Joan's Photo

Research clearly supports the use of graphic organizers as a strategy to improve comprehension. Graphic organizers help students see the big picture and the relationship among ideas. They also help struggling readers access content.

Teachers must be careful not to overwhelm students with too many different types of graphic organizers. Students are more likely to use them independently if they are exposed to just a few basic formats. The Keys to Literacy programs focus specifically on a top-down topic web format because it is flexible enough to be used with any subject matter and clearly differentiates between broad main ideas and supporting facts.

Click here for a description of how to construct a top-down topic web.

Click here to see a comparison of a topic web and a brainstorming web.

Topics webs can be generated on any size paper, and colored markers can be used to emphasize the relationship between ideas. However, the use of mapping software makes creating topic webs easier for teachers and generates more interest among students for developing webs themselves. Inspiration ( and Smart Ideas ( are two excellent mapping software products.

Recommended Resources
Four Books

There are several resources related to the use of graphic organizers that we recommend. Teaching Reading in the Content Areas: If Not Me, Then Who? includes a collection of graphic organizers for both narrative and expository text.  Click here for more information.  The white paper Graphic Organizers and Implications for Universal Design for Learning: Curriculum Enhancement Report is also helpful. Click here to download this paper.

Here are some additional helpful websites:
Reading Quest - Includes a page on graphic organizers and the Power Thinking approach using top-down webs.
North Central Regional Educational Lab
Houghton Mifflin's Education Place

What's New in Adolescent Literacy?
Four Books

There are three new publications available for free downloading related to secondary literacy instruction:
What Content Area Teachers Should Know About Adolescent Literacy.  National Institute for Literacy, 2007. Click here to download.
Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices. National Centre for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Aug 2008. Click here to download.
Double the Work: Challenges and Solutions to Acquiring Language and Academic Literacy for Adolescent English Language Learners. Click here to download.

The website that was launched last year continues to provide excellent content and resources for teachers, students and parents. They update the site frequently, so it is worth book marking and returning to regularly.

Keys to Literacy News
We are very excited to announce the availability of our Key Three Routine: Comprehension Strategies Online Training modules. This is being used as a hybrid option (one day live with completion of the training online) for our typical two-day training. Individuals may also take just the online version of the training. Click here to try a demo of the course.

We are pleased to announce our partnership with two literacy professional development centers: The Stern Center in Vermont, and the Rawson-Saunders School in Texas. 

Posters and laminated student cue cards are now available: How to Write a Summary, a Summary Template, a list of Transition Words, and a list of Question Generation Words. Click here to order.
Keys to Literacy

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

491 Maple Street, Suite 307
Danvers, MA 01923-4026
T978-750-4200; F 978-750-4254
A Message From Joan Sedita
Joan's Photo
Over the past six years, we have seen a significant emphasis in funding for supporting K-3 beginning reading instruction. I am heartened to see this focus expand to grades 4-12 literacy, supported by a growing research base about what works.  There have also been some increases in funding at the federal and state levels.

The key is connecting the research and policy decisions to teachers in everyday classroom instruction. This is part of the Keys to Literacy mission and the goal of this newsletter.

 I hope you find the resources about using graphic organizers and "What's New in Adolescent Literacy" helpful! 

Joan Sedita
Quick Links
Join Our Mailing List