Literacy Strategies


Literacy is listening, viewing, thinking, and expressing through multiple symbol systems, speaking, reading, and writing. Being literate in the 21st Century includes being digitally literate as well as media literate.

Developing a lesson with the four strategies of focus model helps teachers provide direct and indierct instruction. It is most meaningful to the learner. Students need to be provided multiple opportunities to gather information in order to retain it. Incorporating a variety of learning styles gives all children the opportunity to garner information in a way that helps them learn.    

Consider dividing up your lesson into four parts using a variety of strategies. The parts include an activating strategy, an organizing strategy, a comprehending strategy, and a summarizing strategy.


Activating Strategies: These strategies set a purpose for the lesson/unit. Prior knowledge of a concept must be activated in order to retain new knowledge. These strategies are most effective when linked to emotions or the senses. Examples are:

  • Probable Passages: Allows students to make sense of vocabulary words or key concepts by making connections through inference. They also allow students to strengthen thought process skills such as predicting, elaborating and confirming essential information.
  • Probable Sentences: Takes what a student knows of a topic and their familiarity with the English language sentence structure to activate prior knowledge. After new information is introduced through the use of cognitive teaching strategies, possible sentences are re-evaluated for accuracy.
  • Three Step Interview: A cooperative activity that helps students personalize their learning while listening and appreciating the ideas and thinking of others. Students must actively listen and paraphrase thinking of others.
  • Writing Roulette/Fast Write: A writing strategy in which students write about a topic non stop for a designated amount of time. Writing Roulette is a springboard variation of Fast Write in which students exchange their writing with peers and extend it by adding their own thoughts. The writings are not limited by grammar and mechanics.
  • You Ought to be in Pictures: Students write down their individual reactions to pictures, photographs, artwork, or images. This strategy is used to elicit students’ prior knowledge and allow them to make personal connections in order to motivate them to read and comprehend new texts.
  • Anticipation/Reaction Guides: Students make predictions upon prior knowledge and evaluate those predictions after exposure to new information. This strategy also focuses students on the essential elements to be learned.
  • The First Word: Is a variation on traditional acronyms. By going through the process of analyzing words and creating related sentences, students will gain a deeper understanding of the material.
  • Mindstreaming/2 Minute Talks: Provides students the opportunity to talk to a peer about everything they may know about a given topic given a specific time limit and are unable to stop speaking until time is up.

Organizing Strategies: Provides a structure for learning and a method of organizing the information for transference to long term memory. Examples are:

  • Sticky Notes: This strategy helps students, sort, highlight, and distinguish between main ideas and supporting details. Students can pose questions about the content, make comments, and draw visual representations or symbols during the reading process.
  • Jigsaw Reading: This is a collaborative reading strategy in which students are divided into groups. Each group member is responsible for pulling major facts from a small portion of a reading selection and presenting those facts to the rest of the group.
  • Story Plans: Identifies structures of a reading passage, its literary elements and their relationship to one another. There graphic organizers are helpful in sequencing and connecting the elements of different narrative text. There is more than one form of story plans.
  • Content Frames: Using content frames as a visual representation, students construct a table model to organize their information. Teachers or students can determine categories and subcategories by which to organize the information.
  • Two Column Notes: Assist students in organizing learning by differentiating between key information and supporting details during reading assignments. Very versatile and can be designed for any lesson.
  • Target Notes: A graphic organizer designed to help students expand their thinking while focusing on a main idea, topic or concept. Ask students to consider what is at the center of the inquiry.
  • Thinking Text Patterns: An outline/graphic organizer used to help students organize thoughts for writing, but can also be used to help students become more familiar in recognizing various text patterns used to organize information. Emphasizes categorizing information in a comprehensible format on a single page.

Comprehension Strategies: These strategies require students to expand on their learning and demonstrate understanding of information delivered. Examples are:

  • Give One-Get One: This strategy gives students an opportunity record personal ideas related to the new learning, exchange ideas with each other, and review the different perspectives gained during the exchange. This activity can be used as an activating, comprehending, or summarizing activity.
  • Question Answer Relationship (QAR): Helpful is assisting students in recognizing the construction of quality questions by writing questions that prepare them to answer the four basic types of questions.
  • 3 X 3 Vocabulary: Used to promote the development of complete sentences as well as the identification of relationships between concepts. By using related words, ideas and concepts students will have to combine them together based on certain directions.
  • Problem/Process Chart: Used to demonstrate the importance of showing how a problem is solved. The strategy involves having students explain step by step how to complete a particular task, activity or solve a problem and verbalize the reason(s) for doing each step.
  • RAFT Writing: Used to increase comprehension of key concepts through a structured written format. Provides unique opportunities for students to apply content information engage creatively in the learning process and demonstrate their understanding of information from different points of view.
  • Talking Drawings: This strategy allows students to draw pictures of their mental images of a topic, event, or character before reading a passage. After reading the passage, students construct a second drawing that reflects newly learned material.
  • Trading Cards: Students create a trading card for a person, item, idea, or topic of study. By transforming their knowledge of a topic in both visual and written format, students’ retention of information will be increased.

Summarizing Strategies: Provide an outlet for information to transfer to long term memory. These strategies promote retention by being engaging for students. It offers opportunities to rehearse and practices concepts, skills and information exposed during course of lesson/unit.

  • Learning Logs: Students have the opportunity to personalize their learning, monitor their progress, assess their own needs, and review essential details. A variety of formats are used: free or peer response, visualizations, dialogues, summaries, journal entries, etc.
  • Free Form Mapping: Through the use of visual representations of the text, students demonstrate their understanding. The can be created before, during, and/or after the reading.
  • 3-2-1 Countdown: Used to engage students in reflecting, summarizing, evaluating and integrating their learning.
  • Vanity Plates: Promotes summarization of a lesson through creative thinking. Students will create a vanity plate that is based on the information presented in the lesson.
  • Four Corners: By responding kinesthetically to visual, written and oral information students are allowed to defend an idea learned from the lesson.
  • One Sentence Summary: Students generate a single sentence that best represents the major ideas learned from the lesson. Through this strategy, teachers can quickly determine students’ level of lesson comprehension.
  • Shaping Up Review: Through the use of shapes, students synthesize major concepts from the lesson using four different shapes.

These strategies are credited to North Carolina Teacher Academy program for Literacy Coaches.

Twenty-first Century Middle School Literacy Coaches

In July 2006, the North Carolina Teacher Academy was directed through the state legislature to provide training and support for one hundred twenty-first century middle school literacy coaches as an integral piece of the 21st Century Middle School Literacy Coach Initiative. The initiative was implemented as a result of statistical research highlighting that only sixty percent (60%) of the students entering ninth grade graduated from high school in five years, and nineteen percent (19%) of the same freshman class completed an associate or bachelor’s degree from a school of higher learning. The Middle School Literacy Coach initiative has focused attention at the middle school to insure that students are competent readers before entering high school.

A literacy coach position was offered to the 100 lowest performing (based on a three year composite of reading EOG scores) middle schools in the state that contained an 8th grade class, along with $1,000,000.00 of non-recurring funds to the North Carolina Teacher Academy for training. In 2007, a second cohort of 100 literacy coaches was added by the North Carolina General Assembly with $2,000,000.00 in recurring funds for training. In 2008 the North Carolina General Assembly reduced the funding for training by $500,000.00. In fall 2008, a third cohort of literacy coaches was created to address the training needs of new coaches in the 200 schools, replaced as a result of attrition of the original coaches. There is approximately a 12% annual attrition rate as a result of retirement, promotion, and transfer.

The Teacher Academy identified researched best practices for literacy coaches and provided the following training for each cohort of literacy coaches. At the completion of each component of training, the coaches were required to develop instructional materials as evidence of mastery of the concepts. The instructional materials were consolidated in an online learning community using Blackboard Learning System, where each literacy coach may access all of the resources developed by the entire cohort of coaches. The combined accumulated resources available to the coaches include more than 1600 lesson plans that incorporate literacy strategies, as well as presentation resources and internet resources that the coaches can use with the teachers in their schools.

2007-2008 Twenty-first Century Literacy Coach Training

The Teacher Academy provided the following Year II training for the literacy coaches hired in 2006-07 (cohort 1). Each component of training required an additional product for completion.

September 2007

9 hours Visual /Early Literacy and 6 hours The English Language Learner

January 2008

12 hours Media Literacy Training

February 2008

18 hours English Language Learners, part 2 and 6 hours The Roles of the Literacy Coach and the Principal; Dr. Jim Knight, University of Kansas

March 2008

18 hours Classroom Management

April 2008

18 hours Differentiated Instruction

May 2008

18 hours Word Study, Vocabulary and Writing strategies

June 2008

24 hours Portable Computing and Digital Story Telling

24 hours Cooperative Learning or Learning Styles

Total 153 hours

The Teacher Academy provided the following Year I training for the literacy coaches hired in 2007-08 (cohort 2). Each component of training required an additional product for completion.

October 2007

9 hours Qualitative Reading Inventory Training 9 hours Early Literacy Component 12 hours The Coaching Process/Adult Learning (part 1); Ann Kilcher and Lawrence Ryan, Paidea Consulting Group

November 2007

42 hours Reading in the Content Area Srategies

December 2007

18 hours Reading/Vocabulary in the Content Area

January 2008

12 hours Media Literacy Training and 18 hours Classroom Management

February 2008

12 hours Word Study and Writing Strategies 12 hours The Coaching Process/Presentation Skills (part 2); Ann Kilcher and Lawrence Ryan, Paidea Consulting Group 6 hours The Roles of the Literacy Coach and the Principal; Dr. Jim Knight, University of Kansas

March 2008

12 hours School Leadership, Dr. Linda Lambert

April 2008

18 hours Creating a Literacy-Rich School; Dr. Rosemarye Taylor, University of Central Florida

June 2007

24 hours 21st Century Instructional Technology

24 hours Using Data to Build Classroom Learning Communities

Total 228 hours

2008-2009 Twenty-first Century Literacy Coaches Training

The Teacher Academy is providing the following Year III training for the literacy coaches

hired in 2006-07(cohort 1). Each component of training requires an additional product for


At the conclusion of the third year of training, the State Board of

Education has approved Licensure for Middle School Literacy Coaching for the

literacy coaches who have successfully completed the entire training cycle.

September 2008

18 hours Rosemayre Taylor

December 2008

18 hours Teacher Leadership

January 2009

24 hours Building Professional Learning Communities

February 2009

24 hours 21st Century Skills, Metiri Group

March 2009

24 hours Marzano Classroom Strategies that Work

Total 108 hours

The Teacher Academy is also providing the following Year II training for the literacy

coaches hired in 2007-08 (cohort 2). Each component of training requires an additional

product for completion.

October 2008

18 hours English as a Second Language training

January 2009

18 hours Brain Research and 18 hours Cooperative Learning

February 2009

24 hours Marzano Classroom Strategies that Work

April 2009

18 hours Coaching for Transfer, Robin Fogarty

June 2009

24 hours Portable Computing and Digital Story Telling

24 hours Cooperative Learning or Learning Styles

Total 144 hours

The Teacher Academy is also providing the following Year I training for the literacy coaches

hired in 2008-09 (cohort 3). Cohort 3 is composed of literacy coaches who have replaced

personnel in schools that were previously selected for a literacy coach. Each component of

training requires an additional product for completion.

September 2008

18 hours Early Literacy

October 2008

12 hours Coaching Skills and 18 hours Reading in the Content Areas strategies

November 2008

24 hours Reading in the Content Areas Strategies

January 2009

18 hours Reading in the Content Areas Strategies 18 hours Classroom Management

February 2009

12 hours Coaching Skills 6 hours The Roles of the Literacy Coach and the Principal

March 2009

18 hours Literacy Training, Rosemayre Taylor 18 hours Early Literacy

June 2009

24 hours 21st Century Instructional Technology

24 hours Using Data to Build Classroom Learning Communities

Total 210 hours

The program particpants were assured longevity of the program. Unfortuantely the program as well as North Carolina Teacher Academy was cut when Beverly Perdue was voted into office as North Carolina.