Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Text Complexity ...Is It In the Stars?

Deep down I am a science girl with a passion for reading.  I have surrounded myself with books of all lengths, genres and points of view.  I read blogs, magazines, news articles and...when there is nothing else, cereal boxes.   Tonight, as I stood outside on my front porch, telescope focused on Jupiter and Venus, I thought about how the reading that students do in a standard school day - worksheets, chapters in a textbook, an occasional news article, a chapter in a novel is very much like looking at the night sky with the naked eye.  You see a few bright stars, maybe a familiar constellation, the moon and not much else.  This is especially true in the city where lights around you block all but the brightest stars from view. People who grow up never experiencing the night sky in the country or through a telescope have a very limited exposure to all the millions of stars and galaxies there really are in the night sky.  Students who have not learned close reading strategies and students who are given less complex reading materials may only focus on obvious, surface level ideas and limited vocabulary words.  They miss the opportunity to wrestle with more sophisticated ideas, connect content to existing background knowledge , learn new vocabulary and make new insights into material. Kelly Gallagher, in his book Readicide, shares some informal research he did with an average high school class.  He asked them to track how much time they spent reading in a school day.  When he tabulated the results, he found that even his honor track students were actively reading on average 17 minutes during a 6 hour day. 

Just like I can use my telescope to focus in on an unfamiliar star or Jupiter and 4 of its moons in orbit around it, I can give my students reading material at a higher level of text complexity that challenges them to read and comprehend new words or find familiar words in a new context.  I can share reading materials that challenge them to expand their world view, test their existing beliefs, or build background knowledge that they may not be exposed to in their daily life.

What is text complexity?  It is a combination of vocabulary use (tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3 words), sentence complexity, content, knowledge demands and matching the reader to text and task

How can I learn more about text complexity?
Common Core Shift 3 - Staircase of Complexity   (NY Engage website) Video and resource links
Understand Lexile As A Measure of Text Complexity
Common Core Appendix A - with definitions of the 3 components of text complexity
Ohio Resource Center - links for how to evaluate text complexity
Engage NY Rubrics for Qualitative Analysis of Text Complexity and Determining Appropriate Task to Text Complexity balance
Minding the Gap - Focusing on Vocabulary  Char's prior blog focusing on Vocabulary
Reversing Readicide (ASCD EdLeadership Article) Kelly Gallagher


1 comment:

  1. Hi--The resources you posted here are fantastic. I hope you don't mind that I reposted them on my common core blog also. I especially like the Gallagher article.

    Keep blogging :)
    Christina Hank

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