Growing up in a very large family (11 siblings!) made for a somewhat energetic, noisy, and chaotic homelife. My younger sister and I found an escape; we would lock ourselves in the bathroom, each armed with a book. And for an hour, or until our brothers would kick us out, we were transported into literary bliss.

I turned into a lifelong reader (thank goodness!) and eventually took my love of literature into the high school classroom. For fifteen years, I did my best to share this love of books with teenagers.

Since I left the classroom, I’ve realized how much I miss the incredible book discussions, the indelible and noteworthy moments witnessing students analyzing, interpreting, and connecting with literature.

When I began working at Prestwick House, I was asked to help create an online program to help students understand and analyze literature. This resource should incorporate instructional content and provide practice using critical reading and thinking skills—all while limited to the objective question types that work well online.

Quite a shift from the open-ended questions and discussions that were so successful in my classroom. Quite a challenge. But I’m not one to run from challenges!

So, I began brainstorming. As I did, I asked myself the same questions I had asked myself as a teacher:

  • What do I want the students to learn?
  • What standards am I addressing?

When creating this program, I added a third question: How can I make multiple-choice questions engaging and stimulating?

After numerous concepts, outlines, and prototypes, KeyLit was born.

The KeyLit Methodology

The KeyLit lessons are designed to support a close reading of the text—addressing reading comprehension, providing instruction by using immediate feedback and defining literary terms and devices, and allowing practice with close reading and critical thinking. Each book is divided into 8 to 10 reading sections with questions that support comprehension and guide students to analyze what they’ve read. A final Unlocking Meaning lesson wraps up the book with post-reading questions and ideas that tie everything together. In addition, every book includes an objective summative assessment focused on comprehension and the key skills students have developed.

To encourage the types of discussion that I always loved in my classroom, KeyLit includes an online discussion board. In this section, students can respond to the text, ask clarifying questions, make personal connections, and respond to what their classmates post.

As I write the content for KeyLit, I make sure the lessons and questions deepen students’ understanding and appreciation of literature.

My goal is to:

  • create a series of questions that are engaging and challenging, but not overwhelming;
  • allow students to interact with a text, providing opportunities for thinking and connecting to the characters and storylines;
  • encourage students to want to read, and to keep them reading to see how the story unfolds; and
  • write quality content so students get something out of it—that it’s not busy work.

It’s not just about the students; I also want to help ease a teacher’s workload without compromising content.

And how does KeyLit do this?

It includes:

  • objective self-grading resources that are tied to standards to give teachers data without taking a lot of time to review;
  • scaffolded reading questions that guide students from basic comprehension to deeper close reading and critical thinking skills;
  • a flexible format designed to take approximately 20 minutes; and
  • lessons that are easily adaptable to class times, schedules, and routines.

The bottom line is that KeyLit is not only instructional, but also helpful, useful, and flexible.

Stepping out of the classroom has been a big change, but I’m excited by the challenges that come from creating a new program from scratch, and I’m proud to work on a program I believe in. I’m excited for the chance to share more about KeyLit as we get closer to launch over the next few months.

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