Keys to Literacy in Lower Division

In Lower Division, foundational reading and writing skills are the prime focus in the early grades. As students move to fourth-grade level content and beyond, reading and writing become tools for learning. The Keys to Literacy program provides a consistent approach to writing, vocabulary, and comprehension skills that begins in our youngest classroom and continues throughout Lower Division and beyond.

Keys to Writing

For written expression, the Keys to Literacy approach begins with the writing process that emphasizes the “think and planning” stage of writing. During this time, students begin to think about a topic and organize their ideas using a simple graphic organizer known as a two-column note.  Whether the topic is favorite weekend activities, characters from a class read-aloud, or reasons schools should require uniforms, all students in Lower Division utilize a two-column note to begin their writing journey.  As their ideas take shape, they are ready to develop these ideas into sentences and, later, paragraphs.  By the end of Lower Division, students recognize the importance of planning and the tools that support success in the production of quality writing.

Keys to Vocabulary

In 2000, the National Reading Panel listed vocabulary as one of the five components that must be addressed to successfully teach students to read and comprehend.  As vocabulary supports reading, it also enhances the quality of writing. In Lower Division, the Frayer Model, as outlined in the Keys to Literacy approach to vocabulary, is used to introduce new vocabulary in any given content area (science, social studies, math, and language arts). This model supports in-depth teaching of a new word, emphasizes many encounters with the word, and provides a definition in everyday connected language for all students to comprehend.  

Keys to Comprehension

The goal of all reading is comprehension. The Keys to Literacy approach incorporates the same strategies for writing instruction into comprehension instruction. Using content area text, students in all Lower Division classes develop understanding by breaking down passages into a visual format. Once again, the two-column note structure, allows students to list the main ideas on one side and supporting details on the other.  A horizontal version of this format, known as a top-down web, is also used for comprehension instruction.  

The Keys to Literacy approach provides a consistent structure throughout the Marburn language arts program.  As students move from class to class and from subject to subject, the foundational Keys strategies provide a consistent structure that supports literacy progress for all.


Miriam Skapik
Head of Lower Division