Tag Archives: Text Complexity

More on Text Complexity


Burkins and YarisThink 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

Text Complexity 101


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.

Engaging Educators

Burkins and Yaris 

Darren Burris 

Increasing Rigor in Your Classroom


Rigor, (and its counterpart, text complexity), has been the focus of my latest professional quest. As teachers, we know that rigor is key to high standards and high performance, but how do we ensure appropriate rigor for each child in a class of diverse learners? Well, of course providing for that diversity is the continual challenge for teachers in so many areas every day in classrooms around the world.

This ongoing quest to ensure rigor sent me out into the twittersphere and beyond, where I ran across an upcoming webinar by Barbara Blackburn hosted by Eye on Education.  As I did my usual online vetting before I spent an hour of my time, I saw that my favorite team, Ben Curran and Neil Wetherbee from Engaging Educators,  had interviewed Blackburn some months back. That was a good sign in my book, so I registered.

It was worth the hour. She had some great ideas that could be used in your classroom tomorrow. Layering texts by starting with a simpler version, and then after background knowledge has been established, layering in a more complex text, is an effective strategy that I’ve used often. Using multiple texts for each student to investigate a topic provides opportunity for differentiated rigor, as well as possibilities for comparison and more complex thought.  Her Question Matrix for Opening Focus is not only good for widening the class conversation, but a good way to teach thinking skills. She even provided a word problem template for math.  And just like any good party, attendees left with a bag full of helpful downloads. I do not own Dr. Blackburn’s book, Rigor is Not a Four Letter Word (second edition), but looks like it may be a good guide and toolbox to increase rigor in your classroom.

The conversation about rigor and text complexity will no doubt continue in the many online Professional Learning Networks, so let’s make sure keep each other posted as we go!