Text Complexity

We have studied correlations between TCRWP’s bands of levels (which rely on Fountas and Pinnell levels—in turn based on the work of Clay) and the factors taken into account to determine text complexity grade level bands by the Common Core and found that, not surprisingly, there is tremendous congruence. Both TCRWP band of levels and the CCSS grade bands rely on analyzing texts by qualitative factors that include examining the extent to which a text is straightforward, the complexity of characters, the degree of prior knowledge the text assumes, etc. Then, too, TCRWP, Fountas and Pinnell, and the CCSS also take into account quantitative factors such as the word count, page count, and the complexity level of sentences. And, the CCSS, Fountas and Pinnell and TCRWP all ask teachers to take the individual reader and the purpose for reading into account, suggesting that when deciding upon an appropriate text for a reader, the text cannot be considered in isolation. We do not recommend you re-sort your library in order to weigh more heavily on CCSS grade bands. Instead, we advise you to devote your time to helping kids read with high volume, strong rate, and increasing fluency, and to help them move up levels. There will be further information coming out from the Common Core about bands of text complexity, and we are convinced that even if you are determined to be absolutely aligned, jumping now to reorganize all your books doesn’t seem to make sense. If you need to produce a rationale for the basis of your current levels, look at Fountas and Pinnell’s website, and there you will find the correlation between Fountas and Pinnell Levels, the Common Core grade bands and the TCRWP bands of text complexity. In most cases, the TCRWP bands of text correlate to the grade bands expected by the Common Core (e.g. TCRWP text band K/L/M correlates to the low end of CCSS grade band 2-3 while TCRWP text band N/O/P/Q correlates to the high end of grade band 2-3). A larger question, to us, seems to be how often kids should be reading at text levels that have been calibrated to be the highest level of text difficulty at which they can read with a high degree of comprehension (another way of saying “just right”), and how much time students should spend working in grade level complex texts (which may be too hard or too easy for them). People tend to use the term “instructional” and “grade level texts” synonymously, but actually, an instructional level text is one that a student can read with 96% accuracy and strong comprehension, and independent reading level is 99% accuracy. A grade level text, then, may not be remotely aligned to a reader’s instructional or independent level. No one is suggesting that a child in fifth grade reading at level M would find it helpful to have Bridge to Terabithia in his or her book baggie, for example, but there is widespread agreement that such a child profits from hearing Bridge to Terabithia read aloud. That is, there is widespread agreement that all students should have access to the complex structures, text features, vocabulary, concepts and ideas found in the texts within their grade level bands. This means, it is important to include the use of texts from grade level bands in read alouds, and it is important for students to closely study very short shared texts. Sometimes teachers will use these texts in minilessons. Then, too, when your students encounter primary documents in history, these will often be beyond their grade level. You will want to infuse texts you have used in one area of the curriculum throughout the day, using historical fiction, for example, in both reading workshop and social studies, perhaps letting a quote from one text inform thinking and work across the curriculum.

What is most important is to help your students strengthen his or her reading abilities and move up levels to reach the grade band. Some things are still open to debate. The question which still remains and over which there are differences of opinion is whether kids who can’t read “grade level complex texts” should be spending time trying to do so. Correlations between Grade Bands and TCRWP Bands of Levels
This is an abridged version of what you find in text at certain text complexity levels. This matches the bands of level features we have discussed.

Text Complex ity Grade Band

Text Complexity Descriptors
(abridged version from research on which the Common Core’s work on text complexity is partially based—Hess, K. & Biggam, S. (2004). A discussion of “increasing text complexity.” Published by the New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont departments of education as part of the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP). Retrieved from www.nciea.org/publications/Text Complexity_KH05.pdf)

Correlat ing Bands of Levels

Bands of Levels Descriptors

Text Grade Band 1

Literary text includes especially realistic fiction, poetry, fairy tales

C, D

One to two sentences across a page A range of illustrations that support selected parts of the text One subject or story idea

Complexity in story structure—tends to contain a single episode, or a string of many small episodes

Texts often have between one to a few sentences on a page • Straightforward text structure

E, F, G

Text doesn’t change from beginning to end Illustrations have more detail and story in them and students need to be able to use the pictures to talk about the text The reason the text is written is displayed early in the text but may change in the text. For example, characters’ feelings might change at the end, or through dialogue. Text requires students to think about what is going on in the story and infer a character’s feelings to assist with decoding the word. (Grandpa shouted, “A girl! The baby is a girl! Baby Emma is here.”) Stories and characters become more complex with a clear beginning, a series of events, and an ending.

Informational texts are clear and consistent (the print location is consistent on all the pages), the illustrations and simple graphics support reader’s understanding of content • Simple punctuation is used H, I, J

Mainly literal easy sight words. Episodes in earlier books were patterned in a way, because the same episode repeated with different characters or events that were very similar. (Think of the repetition in The Little Red Hen.) Level I books have different episodes, as in Quack, Quack, Quack, and the episodes are more elaborate. Some assumed personal experience and/or cultural knowledge Abstract ideas are supported by the illustrations and words Comprehension beyond the literal level in this story requires the student to infer how characters’ feelings change as they read the text Some literary language (similes, metaphors, etc.) begin to appear. These help us discover more about the character Some figurative or literary language A range of recognizable ideas and challenging concepts

Text Grade Band 23

Literary text includes especially realistic fiction, poetry, fairy tales, biography, fables.

K/L/M

According to the CCSS certain grades need to be meeting certain benchmarks we agree with this and what is discovered is that our benchmarks align with the text gradient band levels. In this chart you will notice the correlation between the Text Complexity chart on the standards and our Independent Reading Level Charts. CCSS Lexile ranges that TCRWP end of grade Lexile levels that expected CCSS expectations benchmarks TCRWP benchmarks reading translate into translate into benchmark s K–1 N/A By end of 1st grade I/J/K N/A 2–3 450L–790L By end of 2nd grade M M= 200 – 500L By end of 3rd grade P P= 750 – 820L 4–5 6–8 9-10 11–CCR 770L–980L 955L–1155L 1080L–1305L 1215L–1355L By end of 4th grade T By end of 5th grade W By end of 6th grade X By end of 8th grade Young Adult Lit T= 640 – 820L V= 880 – 1100L X= 700 – 1070 Young Adult = 900 – 1190L

The standards call for teachers to help the students move towards and read complex texts. These books are taken from the standards. They are used in multiple places in our curriculum calendars and maps. Sample of Complex Texts at Various Grade Levels Grade Narrative Text Example Narrative Informational Text Example Informatio s Text nal Text Example Example Level Level K Kitten’s First Full Moon G My Five Senses F and 1 By Kevin Henkes By Aliki Pancakes for Breakfast By Tomie De Paola Poppleton in Winter By Cynthia Rylant The Stories Julian Tells By Ann Cameron Where The Mountain Meet The Moon By Lin Grace Bud Not Buddy By Christopher Paul Curtis Eleven By Sandra Cisneros F J N T U W Truck By Donald Crew From Seed to Plant By Gail Gibbons Where Do Polar Bears Live? By Sarah Tompson Horses By Seymour Simon Discovering Mars: The Amazing Story of the Red Planet By Melvin Berger Hope, Despair, and Memory By Elie Weisel I M O R T U

2 and 3

4 and 5

6-8

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry By Mildred Taylor

W

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings By Maya Angelou

Z

Support to Help Your Students Does Not Change Tasks, like texts, become more complex as students think about ideas and information in different ways. This is apparent as we see students move from literal to inferential to interpretative thinkers. When considering the complexity of the texts we pick, we need to take into account the tasks we set, as well as our knowledge of our students as readers.

When using complex texts teachers need to consider the challenges in the text and the strategies, skills and behaviors students will need to understand the text. They also have to take into account who their students are as readers.

Gradients in Complexity: Informational Texts
NYC Secondary Literacy Pilot by Aussies A Chart Some People Are Using to Help Schools That Don’t Have Leveling Texts Move Toward Matching Readers to Books Simple Texts Somewhat Complex Texts Complex Texts Consistent May have longer Longer passages of Layout
placement of text, regular word and line spacing, often large plain font passages of uninterrupted text, often plain font uninterrupted text may include columns or other variations in layout, often smaller more elaborate font

Experience with

Very Complex Texts
Very long passages of uninterrupted text that may include columns or other variations in layout, often small densely packed print Extensive, intricate, essential integrated tables, charts, formulas necessary to make meaning of text Abstracts, footnotes, citations and detailed indexes, appendices, bibliography Integrated signposting conforming to disciplinary formats. No enhancements Purpose may include examining/evaluati ng complex, sometimes theoretical and contested information Meaning is intricate, with abstract theoretical elements The organization of the text is intricate or specialized for a particular discipline Connections among events or

Graphics and pictures that directly support and help interpret the written text Simple Indexes and glossaries

Graphs and Pictures table charts that directly support the text

Simple indexes, glossaries, occasional quotes, references Reduced signposting and enhancements

Essential integrated graphics, tables, charts, formula (necessary to make meaning of text) Quotes, concluding appendices, indexes, glossaries, bibliography Minimal signposting and/or enhancements

Supportive signposting and handling

Purpose and Meaning

A single or simple purpose conveying clear or factual information

Purpose involves conveying a range of more detailed information

Purpose includes explaining or interpreting information

Meaning is clear, concrete with a narrow focus

Meaning is more involved with a broader focus The organization of the text may include a thesis or reasoned explanation in addition to facts Connections among events or

Structure

The organization of the text is clear or chronological and/or easy to predict . Connections among events or

Meaning includes more complex concepts and a higher level of detail The organization of the text may contain multiple pathways, more than one thesis and/or several genres . Connections among events or

ideas are explicit and clear.

ideas are sometimes implicit or subtle

ideas are often implicit or subtle

ideas are implicit or subtle throughout the text Includes sustained sections that utilize different modes of communication and/or hybrid or non-linear texts Mainly complex sentences, often containing multiple concepts

One mode of communication is evident

May include different modes of communication

Includes smaller sections that utilize different modes of communication of varying complexity Many complex sentences with increased subordinate phrases and clauses or transition words Objective/passive style with higher conceptual content and increasing nominalization

Language Features

Mainly simple sentences

Simple and compound sentences with some more complex constructions Increased objective style and passive constructions with higher factual content Vocabulary includes some unfamiliar, context-dependent words General topic is familiar, with some details new to reader Both simple and more complicated, abstract ideas

Simple language style, sometimes with narrative elements

Specialized disciplinary style with dense conceptual content and high nominalization Includes extensive academic and domain specific (content) vocabulary General topic is mostly unfamiliar with most details unknown to reader Many new ideas and/or complex, challenging, abstract and theoretical concepts

Vocabulary is mostly familiar

Knowledge Demands Informational

General topic is familiar, with details known by reader Simple, concrete ideas

Includes much academic vocabulary and some domain specific (content) vocabulary General topic is somewhat familiar but with many details unknown to reader A range of recognizable ideas and challenging abstract concepts

Gradients in Complexity: Literary Texts
NYC Secondary Literacy Pilot by Aussies A Chart Some People Are Using to Help Schools That Don’t Have Experience with Leveling Texts Move Toward Matching Readers to Books

Simple Texts
Layout
Consistent placement of text, regular

Somewhat Complex Texts
May have longer passages of uninterrupted

Complex Texts
Longer passages of uninterrupted text may include

Very Complex Texts
Very long passages of uninterrupted text that may

word and line spacing, often large plain font Supportive signposting and enhancements Extensive illustrations that directly support and help interpret the written text Purpose usually stated explicitly in the title or in the beginning of the text One level of meaning

text, often plain font

A range of illustrations that support selected parts of the text Reduced signposting and enhancements

columns or other variations in layout, often smaller more elaborate font A few illustrations that support the text Minimal signposting and/or enhancements Purpose is implicit and may be revealed over the entirety of the text Several levels of meaning that may be difficult to identify/separate

include columns or other variations in layout, often small densely packed print Minimal illustrations that support the text Integrated signposting conforming to literary devices. No enhancements Purpose implicit or subtle, is sometimes ambiguous and revealed over the entirety of the text Several levels and competing elements of meaning that are difficult to identify/separate and interpret Theme is implicit or subtle, is often ambiguous, and is revealed over the entirety of the text The organization of the text is intricate with regard to elements such as narrative viewpoint, time shifts, multiple characters, storylines and detail Connections among events or ideas are implicit or subtle throughout the text. Includes sustained sections that utilize different modes of communication and/or hybrid or non-linear texts Many complex sentences, often containing intricate detail or concepts

Purpose and Meaning

Purpose tends to be revealed early in the text, but may be conveyed with some subtlety More than one level of meaning, with levels clearly distinguished from each other Theme is clear and revealed early in the text, but may be conveyed with some subtlety The organization of the text may have additional characters, two or more storylines and is occasionally difficult to predict Connections among events or ideas are sometimes implicit or subtle. May include different modes of communication

Theme is obvious and revealed early in the text

Structure

The organization of the text is clear, chronological and/or easy to predict One mode of communication is evident Connections among events or ideas are explicit and clear.

Theme may be implicit or subtle, is sometimes ambiguous and may be revealed over the entirety of the text The organization of the text may include, subplots, time shifts and more complex characters Connections among events or ideas are often implicit or subtle Includes smaller sections that utilize different modes of communication of varying complexity Many complex sentences with increased subordinate phrases and

Language Features

Mainly simple sentences

Simple and compound sentences with some more complex

constructions

clauses

Simple, literal language

Mainly literal, common language

Some figurative or literary language

Vocabulary is mostly familiar

Some unfamiliar vocabulary

Includes much academic vocabulary and some domain specific (content) vocabulary Much assumed personal experience and/or cultural knowledge A range of recognizable ideas and challenging concepts

Knowledge Demands Fiction

Little assumed personal experience or cultural knowledge Simple ideas

Some assumed personal experience and/or cultural knowledge Both simple and more complicated ideas

Much figurative or literary language such as metaphor, analogy, and connotative language Includes extensive academic and domain specific (content) vocabulary, and possibly archaic language Extensive, demanding, assumed personal experience and/or cultural knowledge Many new ideas and/or complex, challenging concepts

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