Keys to Literacy Newsletter  April 2010
Volume 5

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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:  Note Taking
 Teaching Tips about Note Taking
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Note taking is an essential skill for recording information from reading, lectures, or class lessons. When students take notes, their comprehension is enhanced as they process, organize, and state information in their own words. Note taking is also a valuable tool for gathering and organizing facts for a report or research paper. Note taking can be introduced as early as second grade, but it should become a major focus of instruction in middle school.

Taking notes, especially from lectures, is a difficult task because it requires the integration of skills in auditory processing, writing, reading or listening, and sustained attention. Taking notes from reading is an easier task because students can re-read portions of text at their own pace. Therefore, note taking from reading should be taught and practiced before students can be expected to take notes independently from lectures.

The best structure for taking notes is one that organizes information in a simple visual format and is easy to use. While traditional outlining is often used for note taking, it is cumbersome to use because of indenting and the different levels of letters and numbers. We recommend using a two-column structure instead, which adapts a college format called Cornell Note Taking. This consists of a vertical line drawn 1/3 of the way across the page with a horizontal line at the top, forming a T shape. Click here for a template.

Two-column notes are extremely flexible and can be used in any subject. Click here for classroom examples.
Recommended Resources
Four Books 
We recommend the following resources to support instruction of note taking:
How to Study in College by Walter Pauk (2007) ISBN 061876645
Note Taking Made Easy by Judi Kesselman-Turkel (2003) ISBN 0299191540
Classroom Uses for the Two-Column Notetaking Method (Landmark School Website) Click here for the article. 
Two-Column Notes (Just Read Florida) Click here for the article.
What's New in Adolescent Literacy?
Four Books

Five States' Efforts to Improve Adolescent Literacy  This report describes efforts by Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, and Rhode Island to improve adolescent literacy. Highlighting common challenges and lessons, it examines how the states have engaged key stakeholders, set rigorous goals and standards, aligned resources to support adolescent literacy, built educator capacity, and used data to measure progress. Click here for the report.
Meaningful Measurement: The Role of Assessments in Improving High School Education in the Twenty-First Century (Alliance for Excellent Education)   Topics include: measuring students' college and career readiness, performance assessments, the role of benchmarking, assessing high school students who are English Language learners and students with disabilities, the benefits of international assessments, the role of technology in improving measurements, and how assessment design affects the implementation of a growth model at the high school level. Click here for the publication.
Keys to Literacy News


Keys to Literacy has a new professional development offering: The ANSWER Key to Open Response. This one-day training presents a routine for students to help answer open response questions that measure reading comprehension on statewide tests. Participants learn a direct and systematic routine that incorporates two-column note taking as an organizing step before writing. Click here for more information.

We are also pleased to announce that we received a grant from the MA Dept. of Education to work with two districts to help them develop K-12 literacy plans. We have expanded our literacy planning process to include elementary schools. Many districts are realizing that they need to have a long-term, district-wide literacy plan that addresses both adolescent literacy and beginning reading instruction. Our model's foundation is a set of eight essential components: Leadership, Resources, Assessment Planning, Literacy Instruction for All, Literacy Intervention, Grouping and Scheduling, Professional Development Planning, Parents and Community. Our literacy planning process is also a good first step to instituting a Response to Intervention (RTI) model. Click here to learn more.
Finally, Keys to Literacy was recently in the news! The Boston Globe interviewed us for an article about content literacy instruction ("New Focus on Reading, Writing: Improving Literacy Offers Gains in All Subjects"). A number of the  districts where we work were part of the article, including a photo of a math teacher demonstrating how to use a top-down topic web! We are mentioned at the end of the article. It is a good piece that supports the importance of teaching literacy throughout content areas. Click here for a copy of the article.
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
Joan's picture
Governors and Education Commissioners from 48 states have committed to developing a common core of standards in English-Language Arts and Mathematics for grades K-12.

The Common Core Standards movement is to be commended for placing a greater focus on the literacy skills all U.S. students need to be ready for both college and careers.

However, to meet these standards, literacy instruction should be infused throughout all grades, and teachers desperately need quality professional development to be prepared.

For the past decade, educators and policymakers have focused almost exclusively on the reading abilities of our
youngest students, viewing the transition to middle school as the point at which literacy instruction is

Those who work with middle and high school students recognize that nothing could be further from the truth; the real work in literacy instruction and learning begins in the middle grades. 
If all students are to possess the required reading skills, we need a strong K-12 literacy curriculum that emphasizes the importance of reading comprehension.

We cannot neglect the instructional and professional development realities that go into meeting these ambitious goals. It is my hope that as these standards are adopted, we ensure that we are addressing the training, professional development, and ongoing support required of our teachers. Click here to read the draft standards.
Joan Sedita
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