Text Complexity Tools for the Common Core

As promised, we are continuing our discussion of text complexity in this blog post since it is an issue of utmost importance when preparing students for success in meeting the Common Core Standards. In our last blog, we encouraged readers to break out Appendix B and re-examine its contents in an effort to better understand the type of text students are expected to encounter at specific grade levels.

Many teachers are still struggling with the basic questions: What is text complexity? What does it mean for my content area? How do I know if a text is complex? The resources shared with New York teachers on EngageNY (and referenced below) come from the Council of Chief State School Officers.

A four-step process is recommended to assist teachers in determining a text’s appropriate placement on the text complexity band:

artStep 1: Determine the quantitative measures of the text
Quantitative measures refer to those aspects of text that are routinely identified through computer software such as sentence length, word difficulty, word frequency, and the like. Any number of tools can be used to determine the readability of a text. Two common resources are Lexile Analyzer and AR BookFinder .

Step 2:   Analyze the qualitative measures of the text
Qualitative measures are best attended to by an attentive human being and not a computer program. These features include such things as the purpose of a text, its language conventionality and clarity, text structure, and the knowledge demands required of the reader. Qualitative rubrics for Informational Text and Literary Text are helpful tools in this stage of the process.

Step 3:  Reflect upon the Reader and Task considerations
The third step also requires a human touch: the professional judgment of the teacher. In this phase, teachers need to consider a variety of questions concerning students’ cognitive capabilities, reading skills, and motivation and engagement with the text.

Step 4: Recommend placement in the appropriate text complexity band
Once all three steps have been considered, teachers can make informed decisions concerning the level and grade band a text should be placed. To find a blank template (referred to as a “placemat”) for use in recording final recommendations of a text’s placement, click here.

Teachers seeking to better understand text complexity and its impact on instruction will need practice in looking at text using the descriptors provided. A PowerPoint detailing how the classic book, To Kill a Mockingbird, was analyzed for placement using qualitative, quantitative, and reader & task measures can be found on EngageNY.

If you are looking for support for your instructional team on how best to address text complexity, contact the OCM BOCES Network Team at rburnett@ocmboces.org.

Renee M. Burnett,
OCM BOCES Network Team

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