Overview of the Ten Key Literacy Skills

These ten key literacy skills are used in every classroom, regardless of subject or grade area.  Using these, or slightly modified, headers on your assignment sheets will help students understand that the skills exist from one subject area to the next.  It will also help you chunking your assignments so they are easier for students to process.


When you summarize an article, you are selecting only the most important pieces of information that are needed to fully communicate the author’s ideas. By looking at the highlighted passages you and your group have constructed, you may find you have already identified Main and Supporting details, required for a successful summary.

Determining Importance

An article can have more than one Main Idea.  The Main Idea is the focus of the article.  It is supported by Supporting Details that answer “how”, “what”, “when”, or “where”.  The Main Idea is often stated in the topic sentence of a paragraph, or group of paragraphs.  The more specific details that follow are the Supporting Details.


When you infer, you are reaching a conclusion on the basis of evidence and reasoning.  An inference is an “educated guess” that is supported by your own personal knowledge as well as specific details from the text.  You are making an assumption based on the facts you have in front of you, as well as your prior experience.  An inference can be about something that has happened, or that will happen in the future.


Predicting allows you to form expectations about what is to come.  Predicting requires that you use prior knowledge and information from the text to form an opinion about a text’s meaning, content, or intended audience.


There are three main types of connections: Text to Text, Text to World, and Text to Self. Remember, a text can be – but is not limited to – a book, an article, a song, a video game, a painting, etc.  A Text to Text connection requires you to draw specific links between the assigned text, and another text of which you are familiar. A Text to World connection requires you to draw specific links between the assigned text, and events occurring in the world around you. A Text to Self connection requires you to draw specific links between the text, and your own personal life.  Specific examples must be used from both sources when creating a textual connection.


Visualizing is the act of creating an image in a readers mind.  The image should stimulate as many of the five senses as possible: Taste, Touch, Sight, Sound, and Smell.  By visualizing a reader can enhance their connection to a text, or create stronger inferences.


When you compare like, or unlike, things you are identifying details in each of them.  Those details allow for a better understanding of the compared things.  By knowing what the thing is like or what it is not like you will be able to better focus your thoughts.


There are three main types of questions – Literal, Inferential, and Evaluative. Inferential questions require you to use personal knowledge, combined with knowledge from the text to answer them. Evaluative questions ask your personal opinion, which must still be backed up with specific examples from your life. Literal questions require you to restate, in full sentences, information that is directly stated in the text.


You may annotate by writing directly on a text, or using sticky notes to arrange and re-arrange your thoughts.  Annotations force you to identify details and consider the text as an artefact.  They also allow you to return to a familiar text at a later date, with your notes already collected.


By combining ideas from your text, with ideas from additional texts, as well as your own prior knowledge you can come to a new, fuller, understanding of a topic.  Synthesizing allows you to combine knowledge from multiple sources allowing for new insights into a topic.

Stop and Think

Rank each of the key literacy skills in order of importance, from 1 to 10.  Write a brief sentence explaining why #1 is the most important, and #10 is the least important.

Consider how students use these skills in your classroom, then consider how they use them in their daily lives outside of the classroom.

Finally, question if you explicitly teach these skills, or if you assume that students should already be aware of them.  Recognizing that students need to have these skills explicitly refreshed each year, determine how you could modify existing assignments to allow for literacy skill chunking.




Written by…

Michael Barltrop has been teaching since 2006, integrating comics, video games, and TTRPGs into his classroom. He has been the head of English, Literacy, Special Education, and Assessment & Evaluation and Universal Design. Feel free to reach out through Twitter @MrBarltrop!

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