Burkins and Yaris, Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy, say if Text Complexity had a synonym it wouldn’t be hard, it would be thought-provoking.
In their post titled The Four Types of Text Complexity, they explore complexity along four dimensions. Many texts are a combination of these. In this post they give examples of books in each type below.
“Complexity of knowledge: The primary purpose of the text is to communicate information.
Complexity of ideas: The ideas in the book communicate something substantive or connected to a universal theme.
Complexity of structure: The way the book is organized requires readers to stop and think.
Complexity of craft: The language, vocabulary, or sentence structure of the text demand attention. The author may employ devices, such as metaphor or alliteration, which make the meaning of the text more subtle.
Whether the words are hard for a student or not will depend on the student, but we would share this complex text with students from a range of elementary grades, scaffolding it in read aloud, shared reading, guided reading, or independent reading, depending on the needs of the group. Selecting a complex text is much more complex than picking out a book in which students struggle with the words!”
I love the way Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris systematically look at each factor related to literacy from many different angles allowing us to absorb the enormous amount of information out there. By following the breadcrumbs that their frequent posts leave, we can all keep up on the newest understandings and best practices in literacy.
They have a digest of posts directly related to understanding text complexity here: http://www.burkinsandyaris.com/text-complexity-blog-digest/ You can find them on twitter: @BurkinsandYaris