Tier I,II

Keys to Literacy is a professional development program designed to train teachers to provide content literacy instruction embedded in classroom instruction using existing reading and curriculum materials.


This professional development program is designed for grades 4-6 elementary teachers, 7-12 content classroom teachers, and educators who provide support to struggling readers.


This program embeds comprehension strategy instruction in all content areas with the use of existing reading and instruction material. The Key Comprehension Routine teaches students comprehension strategies for understanding and learning from an increasing “staircase” of text complexity.


The Common Core Literacy Standards place significant emphasis on having teachers of all subjects and grades teach literacy skills. The Key Comprehension Routine provides instruction that all teachers can immediately use to teach these skills and activities:

Comprehension skills: for close, analytic reading of both narrative and expository text

Main idea skills: categorizing information and vocabulary, and identify/stating main ideas during reading

Text structure knowledge: at the sentence, paragraph, and longer text levels

Top-down topic webs: a flexible, foundational graphic organizer that can be used with all subjects

Two-column notes: a note taking format that supports active reading and that can be used for reading or lecture

Summarizing: students comprehend, analyze, and synthesize information to develop a summary of the most important ideas in their own words

Generating questions: students create and answer questions along a continuum of thinking using Bloom’s Taxonomy

Cooperative learning: students learn, practice, and become independent with the comprehension strategies by working in whole group, small collaborative groups, and individually


Note- The research presented here is for the concepts taught in this Keys to Literacy professional development program, not the program itself.

Alvermann, D.E. & Moore, D. (1991). “Secondary school reading.” In R. Barr, M.L. Kamil, P. Mosenthal, & P.D. Pearson (Eds.) Handbook of Reading Research 2 : 951-983. White Plains, NY: Longman.

Biancarosa, G., & Snow, C.E. (2004). Reading next: A vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy: A report from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Block, C.C., & Lacinda, J. (2009). Comprehension instruction in kindergarten through grade three. In S.E. Israel & G.G. Duffy (Eds.). Handbook of research on reading comprehension. New York: Routledge.

Carlisle, J. & Rice, M. (2002). Improving reading comprehension: Research-based principles and practices. Baltimore: York Press.

Curtis, M.E., & Longo, A.M. (1999). When adolescents can’t read. Manchester, NH: Brookline Books.

Dewitz, P., Jones, J., & Leahy, S. (2009). Comprehension strategy instruction in core reading programs. Reading Research Quarterly, 44(2).

Duke, N. K., Pressley, M., & Hilden, K. (2004). Difficulties with reading comprehension. In C.A. Stone, E.R. Silliman, B.J. Ehren, & K. Apel (Eds.). Handbook of language and literacy: Development and disorders, 501-520. New York: Guilford Press.

Duke, N.K., & Pearson, P.D. (2002). Effective practices for developing reading comprehension. In A.E. Farstrup & S.J. Samuels (Eds.). What research has to say about reading comprehension, 3rd ed. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Gaskins, I.W. (1998). “There’s more to teaching at-risk and delayed readers than good reading instruction.” The Reading Teacher, 51(7), 534-547.

Graham, S. & Hebert, M. (2010). Writing to read: Evidence for how writing can improve reading. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007). Writing next: Effective strategies to improve writing of adolescents in middle and high schools – A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Greenleaf, C. & Schoenbach, R. (2004). Building capacity for the responsive teaching of reading in the academic disciplines: Strategic inquiry designs for middle and high school teachers’ professional development. In D. Strickland & M.L. Kamil (Eds.), Improving reading achievement through professional development, pp. 97-127. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers.

Heller, R., & Greenleaf, C. (2007). Literacy instruction in the content areas: Getting to the core of middle and high school improvement. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Kamil, M.L., Borman, G.D., Dole, J., Kral, C.C., Salinger, T., & Torgesen, J. (2008). Improving adolescent literacy: Effective classroom and intervention practices: A Practice Guide (NCEE #2008-4027). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from

Lieberman, A., & Wood, D. 92002). The National Writing Project. Educational Leadership 59: 40-43.

Meltzer, J., Smith, N.C., & Clark, H. (2003). Adolescent literacy resources: Linking research and practice. Providence, RI: Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory at Brown University.

National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Pearson, P.D., & Duke, N.K. (2002). Comprehension instruction in the primary grades. In C.C. Block & M. Pressley (Eds.). Comprehension instruction: Research-based best practices. New York: The Guilford Press.

Pearson, P.E., & Gallagher, M.C. (1983). The instruction of reading comprehension. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 8, 317-344.

Peverly, S.T., Ramaswamy, V., Brown, C., Sumowski, J., Alidoost, M., & Garner, J. (2007). What predicts skill in lecture note taking? Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 167-180.

Pressley, M. (2000). What should comprehension instruction be the instruction of? In M. Kamil, Mosenthal, P., Pearson, P.D. & Barr, R. (Eds.), Handbook of reading research 3: 545-561. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Pilonieta, P., & Medina, A.L. (2009). Reciprocal teaching for the primary grades: We can do it, too! Reading Rockets Retrieved from

Reutzel, D.R., Smith, J.A., & Fawson, P.C. (2005). An evaluation of two approaches for teaching reading comprehension strategies in the primary years using science information/texts. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 20(3), 276-305.

Shanahan, T. (2006). Relations among oral language, reading, and writing development. In C.A. MacArthur, & S. Graham, J. Fitzgerald (Eds.). Handbook of writing research. New York: Guilford Press.

Shanahan, T., Callison, K., Carriere, C., Duke, N.K., Pearson, P.D., Schatschneider, C., & Torgesen, J. (2010). Improving reading comprehension in kindergarten through 3rd grade: A practice guide (NCEE 2010-4038). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from guides.

Snow, C. (2002). (Chair). RAND reading study group: Reading for understanding: Toward an R&D program in reading comprehension. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.

Stotsky, S. (2001). “Writing: The royal road to reading comprehension.” In S. Brody (ed.), Teaching reading: Language, letters, and thought. Milford, NH: LARC Publishing.

Research Summary

CAUTION: The following summary was prepared by the program developers and may contain bias

Keys to Literacy Research Summary

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Four implementation options are available: full onsite support, blended online/onsite, licensed level I train the teacher, and self-guided.

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