Why Text Complexity Matters? - New Jersey Educator Resource

CORE MATTERS: Understanding and Utilizing
Neal Webster
Crystal Siniari
Mark Cacciatore, Ph.D.
Literacy Specialists
Office of Literacy
New Jersey Department of Education
CORE MATTERS: Understanding and Utilizing TEXT
AM Session: 9:00-11-30
• Polleverywhere (Mark)
• Video & CCSS Shifts: Overview (Crystal)
• Quantitative, Qualitative, Reader and Task (Neal)
• Modeling Session of Text Analysis: (Mark)
Lunch: 11:30-12:30
PM Session: 12:30-2:30
• Debriefing
• Breakout Session: K-5 (Crystal), 6-8 (Neal), 9-12 (Mark)
– Interactive Session: (Participants analyze fiction
and nonfiction texts)
What are the Features of
Complex Text?
Why Text Complexity Matters?
The biggest predictor of student success in college is the
ability to comprehend complex text (ACT, 2006)
Only 51% of students are ready for college-level reading
(ACT, 2006)
According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy
(2003), 27% of adults read nonfiction at the “below basic”
and “proficient level” (Kutner, Greenberg, Jin, Boyle, Hsu, &
Dunleavy, 2007)
30% percentage of first-year, incoming college freshmen are
required to take remedial courses in reading, writing, or
math (ACT, 2006)
Why Text Complexity Matters?
Performance on complex texts is the clearest differentiator
in reading between students who are more likely to be ready
for college and those who are less likely to be ready.
Historically, many students are engaged in shallow reading,
skimming text for answers, focusing only on details and
failing to make inferences in order to integrate different
parts of the text. Years of reading in this superficial way will
cause a student’s reading ability to deteriorate.
For many students the decline of text demands in the
courses that they take has both an immediate and long term
impact on student achievement.
Guiding Questions
What do the Common Core State Standards mean by
text complexity?
How do we ensure the texts our students are reading
are in the appropriate text complexity band?
How can text complexity help me in my classroom
How can knowledge of text complexity help raise
student achievement?
Text Complexity and the CCSS
Included within the Standards is an enhanced focus
on text complexity. Specifically, within reading
Standard #10:
• R.CCR.10 Read and comprehend complex
literary and informational texts independently
and proficiently.
Example Grade-level Standard (6th grade):
• RI.6.10 By the end of the year, read and
comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 6-8
text complexity band proficiently, with
scaffolding as needed at the high end of the
Overview of Text Complexity
Text complexity is defined by:
Qualitative measures – levels of meaning, structure,
language conventionality and clarity, and knowledge
demands often best measured by an attentive human
Quantitative measures – readability and other
scores of text complexity often best measured by
computer software.
Reader and Task considerations – background
knowledge of reader, motivation, interests, and
complexity generated by tasks assigned often best
made by educators employing their professional
Where do we find texts in the appropriate text
complexity band?
We could…
Choose an excerpt of text
from Appendix B as a
starting place:
Use available resources to determine the text
complexity of materials
on their own.
Common Scale for Band Level Text Difficulty Ranges
Source: Supplemental Information for Appendix A of the Common Core
State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy: New Research
on Text Complexity:
Determining Text Complexity
A Four-step Process:
Determine the
quantitative measures
of the text.
Analyze the qualitative
measures of the text.
Reflect upon the reader
and task considerations.
Recommend placement
in the appropriate
text complexity band.
Step 1: Quantitative Measures
Measures such as:
• Word length
• Word frequency
• Word difficulty
• Sentence length
• Text length
• Text cohesion
Step 1: Quantitative Measures
ATOS by Renaissance Learning
Degrees of Reading Power® (DRP®) by
Questar Assessment, Inc.
Readability Test Tool Partnered with
Flesch-Kincaid (public domain)
The Lexile® Framework For Reading by http://www.lexile.com/analyzer/
Easability Indicator by Coh-Metrix
Htt p://
For a description of each of the tools of analysis, please refer to CCSSO (2012).
Step 1: Quantitative Measures
Additional Resources
 Lexile Measures and the CCSS
 Accelerated Reader and the CCSS
 Coh-Metrix
Coh-Metrix calculates the coherence of texts on a wide
range of measures. It replaces common readability
formulas by applying the latest computational linguistics
and linking this to the latest research in psycholinguistics.
• Questions and/or concerns
about quantitative
Step 2: Qualitative Measures
Measures such as:
• Structure/Organization
• Language Demands and Conventions
• Prior knowledge demands
• Levels of Meaning/Purpose
Qualitative Features of Text Complexity
Structure (could be story structure
and/or form of piece)
Simple  Complex
Explicit  Implicit
Conventional Unconventional
Events related in chronological order  Events related
out of chronological order (chiefly literary texts)
 Traits of a common genre or subgenre  Traits specific
to a particular discipline (chiefly informational texts)
 Simple graphics  sophisticated graphics
Qualitative Features of Text Complexity
Language Demands: Conventionality and Clarity
Literal  Figurative or ironic
Clear  Ambiguous or purposefully misleading
Contemporary, familiar  Archaic or otherwise unfamiliar
Conversational  General Academic and domain specific
Light vocabulary load: few unfamiliar or academic words
Many words unfamiliar and high academic vocabulary present
 Sentence structure straightforward Complex and varied
sentence structures
 Though vocabulary can be measured by quantifiable means, it
is still a feature for careful consideration when selecting texts
 Though sentence length is measured by quantifiable means,
sentence complexity is still a feature for careful consideration
when selecting texts
Qualitative Features of Text Complexity
Knowledge Demands: Life Experience
(literary texts)
Simple theme  Complex or sophisticated
Single theme  Multiple themes
Common everyday experiences or clearly
fantastical situations  Experiences distinctly
different from one’s own
Single perspective  Multiple perspectives
Perspective(s) like one’s own  Perspective(s)
unlike or in opposition to one’s own
Qualitative Features of Text Complexity
Knowledge Demands: Cultural/Literary
Knowledge (chiefly literary texts)
 Everyday knowledge and familiarity with
genre conventions required  Cultural and
literary knowledge useful
 Low intertextuality (few if any
references/allusions to other texts)  High
intertextuality (many references/allusions
to other texts
Qualitative Features of Text Complexity
Levels of Meaning (chiefly literary texts) or
purpose (chiefly informational texts)
• Single level of meaning Multiple
levels of meaning
• Explicitly stated purpose  Implicit
purpose, may be hidden or obscure
Step 2: Qualitative Measures
 Qualitative Measure Rubrics for
Literary and Informational Text
 See Materials Handouts for the
Rubrics we will Use Today!
Qualitative Analysis
Questions and/or concerns
about quantitative analysis?
– Do I understand the
– Am I comfortable with the
language of qualitative
– Do I need more clarification
on a point(s)
Step 3: Reader and Task
Considerations such as:
• Motivation
• Knowledge and experience
• Purpose for reading
• Complexity of task assigned regarding
• Complexity of questions asked
regarding text
Step 3: Reader and Task
Ten Guiding Principles
1. Make close reading and rereading of texts central to
2. Provide scaffolding that does not preempt or replace
3. Ask text dependent questions from a range of
question types.
4. Emphasize students supporting answers based upon
evidence from the text.
5. Provide extensive research and writing opportunities
(claims and evidence).
Step 3: Reader and Task
Offer regular opportunities for
students to share ideas, evidence and
Offer systematic instruction in
8. Ensure wide reading from complex
text that varies in length.
9. Provide explicit instruction in
grammar and conventions.
10. Cultivate students’ independence.
Shorter, Challenging Texts
The study of short texts is useful to enable students at
a wide range of reading levels to participate in the
close analysis of more demanding text.
Place a high priority on the close, sustained reading of
complex text. Such reading emphasizes the particular
over the general and strives to focus on what lies
within the four corners of the text.
Close reading often requires compact, short, selfcontained texts that students can read and re-read
deliberately and slowly to probe and ponder the
meanings of individual words, the order in which
sentences unfold, and the development of ideas over
the course of the text.
Reader-Task Analysis
Questions and/or concerns
about reader-task analysis?
– What is my role as a teacher in the
consideration of reader-task analysis?
– How can I best motivate my students
to read complex text?
– What other strategies (in addition to
close reading), have I used to scaffold
students’ reading abilities?
– What other info/clarification would I
like regarding reader-task analysis?
Reflection: Where do we go from here?
Evaluation of PD
Contact Information
Neal Webster
[email protected]
Crystal Siniari
[email protected]
Mark Cacciatore, Ph.D.
[email protected]
Literacy Specialists
Office of Literacy
New Jersey Department of Education
Student Achievement Partners:
ACT (2006). Reading between the lines:
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