complex texts and close reading in the common core
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Complex Texts and Close Reading in the Common Core. Presented by Erin Alvarado and Sarah Smith. Goals. Discuss what makes a text complex Discuss close reading of complex texts Explore resources that provide complex texts for your subject matter

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complex texts and close reading in the common core

Complex Texts and Close Reading in the Common Core

Presented by Erin Alvarado and Sarah Smith

  • Discuss what makes a text complex
  • Discuss close reading of complex texts
  • Explore resources that provide complex texts for your subject matter
  • Learn how to make text-dependent questions for close reading activities
why are complex texts important
Why are complex texts important?

Reading demands in college, workforce and life have increased while complexity of K-12 texts have declined.

Clearest differentiator on ACT was students’ ability to answer questions on complex texts.

One of the key requirements of the CCSS for Reading is that all students must be able to comprehend texts of steadily increasing complexity as they progress through school.

By the time they complete the core, students must be able to read and comprehend independently and proficiently the kinds of complex texts commonly found in college and careers.

a three part model for measuring text complexity
A Three-Part Model for Measuring Text Complexity

1. Quantitative Measures-Readability and other scores of text complexity are often best measured by computer software. Useful for placing texts initially within a grade-band.

Word length

Word frequency

Word difficulty

Sentence length

Text length

Text cohesion

text complexity grade bands and lexile bands
Text Complexity Grade Bands and Lexile Bands

The CCSS advocate a "staircase" of increasing text complexity so that students can develop their reading skills and apply them to more difficult texts.

At the lowest grade in each band, students focus on reading texts within that text complexity band.

In the subsequent grade or grades within a band, students must "stretch" to read a certain proportion of texts from the next higher text complexity band. This pattern repeats itself throughout the grades so that students can both build on earlier literacy gains and challenge themselves with texts at a higher complexity level.

text complexity grade bands and lexile bands1
Text Complexity Grade Bands and Lexile Bands

Grade Current band “Stretch” band

 K–1  N/A N/A

 2–3  450L–725L 420L–820L

 4–5  645L–845L 740L–1010L

 6–8 860L–1010L 925L–1185L

9-10 960L–1115L 1050L–1335L

11–CCR  1070L–1220L 1185L–1385L

the lexile framework for reading
The Lexile Framework for Reading
  • Lexile will help you analyze text complexity and match readers with appropriate texts.
  • Lexile analyzer is free to use once you register.
  • Site also includes a database with recorded Lexiles of many popular texts.
  • Advanced search feature in Gale will allow you to search for texts by Lexile level.
a three part model for measuring text complexity1
A Three-Part Model for Measuring Text Complexity
  • 2. Qualitative Dimensions-Levels of meaning, structure, language, conventionality and clarity, and knowledge demands are often best measured by an attentive human reader. Useful for placing a text in a specific grade level.
    • Purpose/Meaning
    • Text Structure (organization of main ideas, text features, use of graphics)
    • Language Features (conventionality, vocabulary, sentence structure)
    • Knowledge Demands (subject matter knowledge, intertextuality)
hints for assessing qualitative complexity
Hints for Assessing Qualitative Complexity

Initially place a text in appropriate grade-band by quantitative measures, and then think of a “general” reader in that grade-band as you complete the qualitative review, particularly knowledge demands dimension.

There is no correlation between complexity “score” and grade level. A text that is “very complex” in all dimensions is not a high school text, just as one that is “slightly complex” in all dimensions is not an early elementary text.

At this point, try not to think about your particular students. The qualitative review considers a wider grade-level audience.

tools for assessing qualitative dimensions
Tools for Assessing Qualitative Dimensions
  • provides:
    • Rubrics for evaluating text complexity (informational or literary texts)
    • Scales to help determine when a text should be read and what features make it complex
    • Example of a completed qualitative scale
a three part model for measuring text complexity2
A Three-Part Model for Measuring Text Complexity
  • 3. Reader and Task Considerations-Background knowledge of reader, motivation, interests, and complexity generated by tasks assigned are often best made by educators employing their professional judgment.
    • Motivation
    • Knowledge and experience
    • Purpose for reading
    • Complexity of task assigned regarding text
    • Complexity of questions asked regarding text
text complexity analysis tool and examples
Text Complexity Analysis Tool and Examples
  • Use this tool to gather information about the three parts of complexity for any text:
    • Quantitative Measures
    • Qualitative Dimensions
    • Reader and Task Considerations
    • The Model In Action: Sample Annotated Reading Texts
    • Text Exemplars and Sample Performance Tasks-scroll to your grade level
where can i find complex texts
Where can I find complex texts?

Gale password “elvis” offers complex texts for every subject, searchable by Lexile level, keyword, etc.

American Academy of Poets offers a wide range of poems by a diverse set of classic and modern authors.

American Literature features short stories.

American Rhetoric provides audio and written transcripts for 100 great speeches.

Authorama provides free books that are in the public domain.

Bartleby links to a wide variety of literary and informational texts.

Bibliomania offers over 2000 free classic texts for download.

Complex Text Wiki is a resource for articles and tools to use in the search for complex texts.

Children’s Classics offers a large selection of children’s stories.

Discovery and Discovery Kids are resources for informational texts and videos, especially those on scientific topics.

Discover Magazine offers digital articles on a variety of topics in the areas of science, technology, and the future.

Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts is a great resource for folktales and myths, a focal text type in the CCSS.

Kids Ahead is a division of National Geographic and includes articles about a variety of science topics.

where can i find complex texts1
Where can I find complex texts?

Librivox has a great selection of free audiobooks.

NASA includes articles, videos, and other scientific informational resources.

National Park Service offers informational texts on scientific and historical topics related to each national park.

National Geographic includes a variety of scientific and historical informational texts and multimedia resources.

The National Women’s History Project provides information about important women in history.

Project Gutenberg connects users to sources for free books.

Science News for Kids offers articles about science topics for elementary or middle school students.

Shanahan on Literacy explores a variety of topics related to literacy learning and assessment, including text complexity and close reading.

Smithsonian Institution contains primary sources as well as links to other sites pertaining to the topic being researched.

Time for Kids and Washington Post for Kids offer articles on current events appropriate for elementary or middle school students.

what is close reading
What is close reading?
  • Is a careful and purposeful rereading of a text.
  • Students read a passage independently and circle important points, underline confusing words, and make notes in margins.
  • Teacher reads passage out loud with the class following along without commentary.
  • Teacher reads passage a second time and models the process of how to decipher difficult passages and vocabulary.
  • Students answer text dependent questions.
  • Additional work may consist of having the students write an analysis of the passage or to compare and contrast.
why is close reading important
Why is close reading important?
  • Fosters student confidence when reading complex text
  • Helps improve vocabulary
  • Prepares students for college and career
  • Increases higher order thinking skills
  • Improves fluency
  • Encourages students to be independent readers
  • Ties in with Common Core State Standards--“The CCSS place a high priority on the close, sustained reading of complex text…Such reading focuses on what lies within the four corners of the text. It often requires compact, short, self-contained 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. Reading in this manner allows students to fully understand informational texts as well as analyze works of literature effectively” (Coleman and Pimentel 4).
where can i find close reading sample lessons and assessment questions
Where can I find close reading sample lessons and assessment questions?
  • Arts
  • - History/Social Studies
  • - Science/Technical Subjects
what are text based questions and tasks
What are text based questions and tasks?
  • are focused on the text
  • are generally text-specific rather than generic questions that could be asked of any text
  • do not get students off of the text (e.g., tell me about a time you went to the beach…)
  • require students to re-read the text closely to
    • draw inferences
    • develop interpretations
    • find evidentiary support for ideas
    • analyze ideas and language
  • may promote convergent (comprehension) and divergent (interpretation/analysis) thinking about a text
  • move away from I-R-E (initiate, respond, evaluate) teacher led Q&A
studying text based questions
Studying text-based questions
  • Study and compare the moving from and moving to questions
    • What differences do you see between the “moving from” and “moving to” questions?
    • What is the intellectual work required of students to answer the “moving from” questions? The “moving to” questions?
    • What patterns do you see among “moving from” questions? In other words, with what do writers of questions usually struggle?
characteristics of text based questions
Characteristics of text-based questions

Text-based questions

  • require students to “read like detectives”
  • are open ended
  • can be answered by using evidence from the text
  • are specific to the text being discussed
  • are important, significant or integral to understanding the text
  • work toward the focus and purpose of the unit
  • are derived from or connected to one or more of the CCSS
  • are authentic and allow for multiple plausible responses
what are open ended questions
What are open-ended questions?

Open-ended questions

  • have more than one possible response that can be supported with evidence from the texts
  • provide teachers with a window into students’ thinking and comprehension of a text
  • allow students to construct an overall understanding of a text
  • mirror the kinds of questions proficient readers ask themselves about a text and are not concerned with insignificant details that are often the subject of close-ended questions
types of text based questions
Types of text-based questions
  • Prior-knowledge (open-ended, non-text-based)
    • Share important prior knowledge about a topic
  • Comprehension (open-ended, text-based)
    • Sort out characters, setting, plot (literary text) or speaker, audience, purpose, flow of events, big ideas (informational text)
  • Significance (open-ended, text-based)
    • Identify and explain moments that are significant to the text
  • Interpretive (open-ended, text-based)
    • Deep discussions of and writing about the ideas in individual texts or across multiple texts
types of text based questions1
Types of text-based questions
  • Analytic (open-ended, text-based)
    • Deep discussions of and writing using the author’s methods or craft in individual texts or across multiple texts
  • StepBack (open-ended)
    • Students step back after key tasks and reflect on their learning by analyzing what and how they learned.
  • Retrospective (open-ended)
    • Students revisit the big ideas of the unit (i.e., overarching questions) to add to or revise their thinking given what they just read, wrote about, and discussed
food for thought
Food for thought
  • Different types of text-based questions ask for different kinds of mental work and invite particular kinds of writing and talk from students.
  • Text-based question sequences are scaffolded so that earlier responses in writing and talk provide the foundation for later responses.
  • Text-based questions require responses that stay deeply connected to the text so that students make evidentiary arguments.
  • Text-based questions require students to revisit text for evidence to support their argument in a thoughtful, careful, and precise way.
how do i create text based questions
How do I create text-based questions?
  • Identify the standards
    • list the standards that support the skills you want the students to master
  • Select your text
    • remember to scaffold your texts so that they build on each other
  • Identify key ideas
    • identify the key insights or major points you want students to understand from the text (historical information, results of experiments, theme, main idea, purpose, etc.)
  • Write your questions
    • begin with questions that are specific enough for students to answer so they gain confidence
    • create questions that require the student to return to the text for evidentiary support
evaluating question quality
Evaluating question quality
  • Checklist for evaluating question quality.
    • Use this checklist as a guide to write your text-based questions.
  • Helpful hints:
    • use the text-based questions resource from TNCore to see which type of questions align to the standards.
    • use the CCSS standards on the TNCore training site to help. Just rewrite the standards to make your questions.
where can i find complex texts with text dependent questions
Where can I find complex texts with text-dependent questions?
  • --scaffolded informational texts that include text-based questions and tasks
  • --informational and literary texts paired with text-based questions and tasks
  • –sample lessons and links to readings paired with text-based questions and tasks. Separated by subject area.
  • Materials and worksheets are available at
    • Look for your subject and explore the training materials area
    • The participant packet is in the curricular resources section
  • Username: tneducation
  • Password: fastestimproving
    • Direct links to curricular resources:
      • TNCore (ELA)
      • TNCore (SS)
      • TNCore (Science)