Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Keys to Literacy: A Proven Research-Based Approach for BPS

Comprehension has been deemed “the essence of reading” (Durkin, 1993). According to Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction, a comprehensive report from the National Reading Panel (2000), it is critical for teachers to provide adolescents with direct and explicit comprehension-based strategy instruction, such as the Keys to Literacy paradigm. The panel described comprehension strategies as procedures that facilitate students’ awareness of how well they are able to understand what they read, write, and hear. Further, the panel emphasized:

Explicit or formal instruction on these strategies is believed to lead to improvement in text understanding and information use. Instruction in comprehension strategies is carried out by a classroom teacher who demonstrates, models, or guides the reader on their acquisition and use. When these procedures have been acquired, the reader becomes independent of the teacher. Using them, the reader can effectively interact with the text without assistance. Readers who are not explicitly taught these procedures are unlikely to learn, develop, or use them spontaneously. The past 30 years of the scientific study of instruction (NRP, 2000, p. 40).

Finding and utilizing effective methods for teaching reading comprehension skills is a hurdle that many educators face, as students have various entry points for their foundational reading skills and understanding of subject-matter texts and content materials. The panel echoed this by stating that the biggest obstacle to teaching reading comprehension strategies is “that of implementation in the classroom by teachers in a natural reading context with readers of various levels on reading materials in content areas (NRP, 2000, p. 47). There are several comprehension strategies and teaching procedures endorsed by the panel and there is a vast body of valid and research-based evidence supporting these best practices for the explicit and methodical teaching of comprehension skills. In fact, five randomized experimental studies and a single subject design study demonstrate that the teaching of main idea summarizing affects adolescents’ comprehension of narrative and informational texts. 

These research-based practices include the components of the Keys to Literacy routine, such as systematic teaching of the following skills: summarizing, asking and answering questions, locating the main idea, and paraphrasing. Additionally, comprehensive comprehension strategy instruction is best when it encompasses purposeful teacher-driven and captivating activities such as eliciting students’ answers for targeted questions and providing and using graphic organizers. These strategies can be particularly beneficial to passive readers, as they are challenged to engage with text. Moreover, the panel argued that teachers must model the comprehension strategies, provide guided practice, and scaffold instruction. Furthermore, research suggested that multiple-strategy training has stronger effects than single-strategy instruction and leads to increased comprehension outcomes. 

The Keys To Literacy approach for teaching and learning reading comprehension skills embeds all of these skill-based practices and this district-wide focus on increased comprehension abilities for all students empowers both students and teachers alike.


Durkin, D. (1993). Teaching them to read (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

National Reading Panel (U.S.), & National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (U.S.). (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching children to read : an evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction : reports of the subgroups. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health.

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