English Language Arts & Content Area Literacy

Useful Ideas and Tools for Teaching Literacy Skills and Strategies

Reading, Writing, and Thinking Skills  

Options to access info contained in the chart below:

  1. Click on a skill in the FIRST column & it will take you to ALL the resources for THAT skill.
  2. Download a copy of the chart shown below (pdf)
  3. Complete list of ALL the Graphic Organizers
  4. Complete list of all Summary Templates
  5. Complete list of all Questions/Prompts
  6. Intro and explanation of the use of Hand Signals
  7. See all the Hand Signals
  8. FULL video containing ALL the Hand Signals
Reading Skills Graphic Organizers Summary Templates Questions/Prompts Hand Signals
Main/Central Idea
  • spider map
  • network tree map
  • cluster map
  • bubble map
  • main idea paragraph and two-sentence summary
  • MEL-Con
  • main/central idea
  • Hold a fist (main idea) and dangle and wiggle fingers (details).
Significant Details/Evidence
  • spider map
  • network tree map
  • cluster map
  • bubble map
  • w’s chart
  • topic sentence evidence/detail
  • MEL-Con
  • significant details/evidence
  • Dangle and wiggle fingers (details)
Sequential/Order Relationships
  • cycle map
  • flow map
  • storyboard
  • continuum/timeline
  • sequence paragraph
  • chronological summary
  • sequence/ order
  • Say put things in order with one hand pounding on the open palm of the other hand while moving both hands from left to right.
Comparison Relationships
  • venn diagram
  • comparison/contrast matrix
  • comparing diamonds map
  • comparison paragraph
  • MEL-Con
  • comparing
  • Hold two hands up and facing forward the same way (similar). Then turn one of the hands the opposite way so that it faces towards you (different).
Causal Relationships
  • multi-flow map
  • fishbone
  • human interaction outline
  • cause-effect paragraph and two-sentence summary
  • problem-solution paragraph and two-sentence
  • MEL-Con
  • cause-effect
  • Slap your left palm and say cause with your right hand and then bounce the right hand off away from the left hand  and say effect in an arc.
Knowledge of Vocabulary/Key Terms
  • three-column chart
  • concept of definition map
  • definition and two sentence summary
  • definition, use, and elaboration
  • Point three fingers up like a W (word) and then three fingers down like an M (meaning).
Generalizations & Conclusions
  • network tree map
  • layered hierarchy
  • brace map
  • problem/solution map
  • conclusion summary paragraph
  • two sentence summary
  • MEL-Con
  • inferences, conclusions, and generalizations
  • Hold you hand up in the air and pretend you are holding a crayon. Then draw in the air and clinch your fist (draw conclusions). 
Problem-Solution Relationships
  • problem-solution
  • Scrunch both hands in front of your waist, tighten your face (problem) and then raise your hands in the air to celebrate (solution).
Multi-step Instructions/ Directions
  • series/chain map
  • cycle map
  • flow map
  • storyboard
  • continuum /timeline
  • sequence summary paragraph
  • chronological summary frame
  • instruction and directions
  • Pat your hand downward moving it from left to right saying step, step, step, and then say directions.
Author’s Purpose, Views, & Arguments-Claims
  • rising action map
  • brace map
  • problem/solution map
  • argument/claim map
  • network tree map
  • character-trait paragraph and two-sentence summary
  • MEL-Con
  • argument-claim paragraph and two-sentence summary
  • author’s purpose, views, & arguments-claims
  • Hold your hands up to your eyes like binoculars focusing in front of your of eyes (author’s point of view).
  • Point your finger straight out (author’s purpose).
  • Shake your finger as if you are scolding someone (author’s argument).
Knowledge and Use of Maps, Charts, and Graphs
  • maps
  • charts
  • graphs
  • Use summary templates above depending on the purpose for interpreting the maps, charts, and graphs
  • knowledge and use of maps, charts, and graphs
  • Draw a shape of the US  in the air (map)
  • Draw a pie chart in the air (chart).
  • Draw and arrow moving the line up, down, then a straight diagonal to show (high score on a graph).
Literary Analysis


  • chronological paragraph
  • sequence paragraph
  • two sentence literary analysis summary


  • main idea paragraph
  • two sentence literary analysis summary


  • character trait paragraph
  • two sentence literary analysis summary


  • problem-solution paragraph
  • two sentence literary analysis summary


  • main idea paragraph, conclusion-generalization paragraph (theme)
  • chronologic paragraph
  • main idea paragraph (setting)
  • character trait paragraph (characterization)
  • problem-solution paragraph (conflict)
  • main idea paragraph, conclusion-generalization paragraph (theme)

two-sentence summary MEL-Con

  • Varies by purpose
  • Say scene, scene, scene-plot while moving your hand left to right (plot).
  • Point to a pretend watch and say time and then hold both hands up together in front of you and split your hands shaping the whole room and say setting.
  • Scrunch both hands in front of your waste, tighten your face, and say (conflict/problem).
  • Hold your arms apart and then move them together to clasp your hands and say theme.

Character Traits

  • Hold to your head with both hands (characters think)
  • Bring your hands from your mouth outward (characters speak)
  • Hold your hands to your heart (characters feel/have emotions)
  • Move your hands from your heart outward to the group (characters relate to/interact with others)
  • Pretend you are walking (characters take action)



  • Research Notes
  • Double Entry Journal Form
  • Paraphrasing
  • Metacognitive Researching
  • Source Credibility Evaluation


MEL-Con Writing Strategy  

Graphic Organizer and Writing Rubrics 

Common Core Speaking and Listening Activities

Vocabulary Development 



Useful Websites for Teaching Literacy

Quest Research and Writing Tools

Education Place (Spanish Graphic Organizers)

Web English Teacher

Greece School District—Reading Strategies

National Counsel for Teachers of English (NCTE)—Read, Write, Think


Content Area Reading Strategies


Graphic Organizer Sites

The Education Place

Index of Graphic Organizers


Write Design Online

Family Education Network

North Central Regional Education Lab



Everything ESL

Enchanted Learning

Houghton Mifflin

Graphic Organizers and Rubrics

Spanish Graphic Organizers

Graphic Organizers for Acceleration, Acquisition, and Vocabulary Development