Keys to Literacy Newsletter  February 2009
Volume 3

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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:  Generating Questions
  Comprehension Teaching Tips
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Teaching students how to generate questions has been identified as a powerful strategy for improving comprehension. Generating questions helps them make predictions about what they will learn from the reading, focus on the most important information, and read with greater purpose because they are looking for answers to their questions. It also helps students review and study for a test.

However, many students cannot generate questions beyond the factual level. Educators, therefore, need to provide direct, systematic instruction to teach how to create questions. They also need to teach and provide common question terms. The Key Three Routine uses Bloom's taxonomy of different levels of thinking as a model for teaching question generation.

Click here for a Bloom's taxonomy chart.
Click here for a list of question terms organized according to Bloom's taxonomy.
Click here to order posters and laminated student guides with Bloom's question words.

Teaching tips: Topics on top-down topic webs or headings from a textbook can be used to generate questions at every level of Bloom's taxonomy. First, the teacher can create the questions and ask the students to label the Bloom's level of each question. After enough examples have been provided, students can then work in small cooperative groups to generate their own set of questions. If the teacher then selects some of the student-generated questions to use on a quiz or test, the students can see a direct connection between question generation and test preparation.
Recommended Resources
Four Books

There are several resources related to question generation, including the book Quality Questioning (ISBN #978-1-4129-0986). Teaching Reading in the Content Areas: If Not Me, Then Who? includes several question generation models, such as QAR, Concept Question Chain, and SQ3R. It is available at . The book Questioning the Author by Beck et al. (ISBN # 0-87207-242-8) presents a model for questioning the ideas presented in text while students are reading.

The following websites offer helpful ideas about question generation: (with criteria for measuring the quality of student questions) and (with examples of types of questions and activities).

These websites have good information about Bloom's taxonomy:,, and
What's New in Adolescent Literacy?
Four Books

The Center on Instruction,, which supports the federally sponsored Comprehensive Centers, offers the following new guides for free in pdf format: Assessments to Guide Adolescent Literacy Instruction; Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Programs; Effective Instruction for Adolescent Struggling Readers.  

For an update on federal policy regarding middle and high schools and adolescent literacy, including key pieces of secondary school legislation pending before Congress, visit Also, the School of Education at the University of Connecticut sponsors The Literacy Web which includes a page of links to articles and information about adolescent literacy issues (

Finally, Keys to Literacy is joining with The Reading Institute of Williamstown, MA and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Department of School Psychology to sponsor a one-day, New England based Adolescent Literacy conference on September 24, 2009 in Southbridge, MA. Keep checking our website for details. 
Keys to Literacy News
We are pleased to announce that we have begun offering two new professional development options: The Key Vocabulary Routine (a model for embedding research-based vocabulary instruction in the content classroom) and The ANSWER Key to Open Response (a one-day training for applying main idea, top-down topic webs, and two-column notes to open response questions). Click here for a list of upcoming sessions that are open to the public.

In addition to Joan Sedita and Becky DeSmith, Keys to Literacy has added two more professional development trainers since last summer: Shauna Cotte and Noel Foy. This has enabled us to work with more schools.

Posters and laminated student cue cards are now available: How to Write a Summary, Summary Template, Transition Words, and Bloom's Question Generation Words. Click here to see examples and 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
T 978-750-4200; F 978-750-4254
A Message From Joan Sedita
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I am delighted to report that during 2008, Keys to Literacy provided training to teachers at over 60 schools in 9 states. We also trained over 300 teachers at 12 Keys to Literacy workshops that were open to the public.  In December, we offered our first annual Key Three Coaches' Summit, which was attended by 35 building coaches & administrators from schools that are implementing the Key Three Routine. 

As a result, thousands of students are being taught essential content literacy skills. I did not imagine just two years ago when I was an individual teacher trainer that my professional development programs would reach so many teachers and students.

I am so grateful to my Keys to Literacy partner, Brad Neuenhaus, our staff and trainers, and all the educators in our client schools who have the wisdom to see the importance of teaching literacy in every classroom, every day.  

Joan Sedita
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