Text Complexity…that phrase has been tossed about a lot since the launch of the Common Core State Standards conversation, but aside from that, it really is just good teaching practice to monitor and increase text complexity. So, for those of you that have been busy trying to keep up on the zillion other things in education, here’s a very brief introductory overview with some links for further information.
What it is NOT:
Text complexity is not necessarily more or longer. It really isn’t about higher reading level per se, more homework, or even more reading.
What it IS:
Increasing text complexity is a way to provide rigor in thinking and understanding by including texts with complex vocabulary, sentence structure and text organization. This can be done at every reading level and with any length text.
In light of the Common Core State Standards, the document identifies three inter-related aspects of text complexity: qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis, and matching readers with texts and tasks. The authors define each of these as follows:
Qualitative evaluation of the text: Levels of meaning, structure, language conventionality and clarity, and knowledge demands.
This can best be measured by an actual attentive human being.
Quantitative evaluation of the text: Readability measures and other scores of text complexity.
This is usually measured by computer software. This takes into account text complexity features such as: sentence length, word length, and text cohesion.
Matching reader to the text and task: Reader variables (such as motivation, knowledge, and experiences) and task variables (such as purpose and the complexity generated by the task assigned and the questions posed).
Again, this is a human job.
As you can see, monitoring text complexity is no simple task. A trained teacher can effectively provide students with increasing levels of text complexity in a variety of formats. The key is training and practice. I see teachers all over the country working with Professional Learning Networks to increase their understanding and skill. Here are a couple really solid places to go for information. Find a group you resonate with and follow along through RSS feed, twitter, or facebook. There is no end to the professional generosity in our field.
Burkins and Yaris