About Us

Who we are and
how we got here
Applied Literacy's evidence-based learning practices boost significant higher student achievement and greater engagement in all subjects. We grow teacher capacity by establishing model classrooms in each school with online and onsite training.

Applied Literacy is an established research and evidence-based school improvement provider to K-12 public and private schools since 1986. The progress of the students we serve is measured on state tests. Our three instructional routines – Applied Grammar, Applied Vocabulary, and Applied Reading and Writing – Paired Texts Packets – show a consistently positive impact on student achievement in combination or standalone.

Recent definitive research in writing, Writing Next, identifies 11 effective writing practices that blend reading into writing practices. Click here to see the full correlation between the three Applied Literacy routines and Writing Next recommendations.

A positive and engaging learning environment in every classroom

Classrooms using Applied Literacy instructional routines are developed with intention. Student materials (Applied Grammar, Applied Vocabulary, or Applied Reading and Writing – Paired Texts Packets) are positioned for ease of access. Students know what to do when they enter their classrooms and are eager to engage in a day of learning. Teachers follow an Applied Literacy pacing guide. Online resources spring into action with a click on the computer. Projected writing prompts activate or close the work sessions. Self-assessment and peer-response rubrics guide student responses to the quality of their own writing and that of their PALs.

Exemplary teaching and learning in every classroom

Teachers see writing as the ultimate differentiator for learning. Students work with the Applied Literacy tools in group-assigned tasks to report to the rest of the class. They eagerly participate in whole groups in oral-kinesthetic mini-lessons (Applied Grammar online). They read their writing aloud to a PAL and cite evidence to support their self-assessment (Applied Vocabulary). They assume the task as spotters who analyze and report the role of key terms in reading texts (Applied Reading and Writing – Paired Texts Packets). Teachers practice small-group conferencing and facilitating student progress.

An emphasis on purpose in learning

With every writing task, students understand the purpose of their writing for specific audiences – a small group, whole class, the class next door, or a special person that they choose. Students write with engagement since their audience provides rubric-based responses. Their narratives entertain, surprise, or provoke empathy. Their informational essays intrigue or marvel as they explain content-rich texts. Their argument / opinion writing compels readers to agree, rethink, or act. In student-centered learning and specific reading-writing tasks, students take the lead in their learning. As they write they show what they understand and misunderstand about course standards.

Applied Literacy solutionApplied Literacy titleImproved student achievement
Applied Grammar (online / print)Sentence Building, levels 1-10 End-of-grade ELA tests; end-of-grade and end-of-course tests of written expression; benchmark writing tests
Applied Vocabulary (online / print)Applied Vocabulary, gr PreK-12Benchmark tests, end-of-grade and end-of-course tests, ELA, math, science, social studies, CTAE
Applied Reading and Writing – Paired Texts Packets (print)Applied Reading and Writing – Paired Texts Packets, gr 3-12Tests of reading comprehension and constructed and extended responses to texts

Our Partners

Our Team

Warren Combs
Arnelle Combs


Ph.D. in English Education and Child Language Development

Dr. Combs began his career in teaching and learning with his dissertation which defined a paradigm shift in the teaching of English grammar. With systematic sentence-combining practice, 7th graders wrote essays typical of high school juniors. Later studies verified that sentence combining improved scores of reading comprehension and written expression for students from gifted to special education. In Applied Grammar Online, Dr. Combs has compiled sentence-combining lessons that cover all K-12 language standards. Classroom action data shows that this routine solves the problem of ensuring that students actually use the language patterns they are taught.
With this paradigm shift in place, Dr. Combs noticed a need for two more. For the first of these, he developed a system that used short frequent writing for vocabulary building in math, science, and social studies. Applied Vocabulary Online solves the problem of learning and retaining core content. For the second, he developed Applied Reading and Writing-paired text packets to ensure that students used the writing process to respond with ease and insight to content-rich texts. These three instructional routines fully integrate reading and writing from the level of words to sentences to full texts.
In his career, Dr. Combs has taught at several universities from Washington state to Georgia. As an author of three best-selling professional development books, nine Writing to Win titles, and multiple journal articles, he has spoken at conferences across the U.S. Dr. Combs champions the Applied Literacy core values of integrity and communication.



Arnelle Norwood Combs taught elementary school where she excelled at her adaptation of the Glasser Classroom Meeting model. There she honed a unique ability to motivate and inspire students without coercion or cheerleading. That gift she brought to the Applied Literacy team, especially in the recent transition from print to digital media. She is especially adept at making Applied Literacy materials teacher and student-friendly. She is the project coordinator for the team and has directed several projects like the popular Daily Writing Prompts. She keeps the team’s core values of humor and enjoyment at the forefront of our work together.