Adventures in Literacy Land: text complexity

Showing posts with label text complexity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label text complexity. Show all posts

Close Reading ~ What is it?

Hello everyone!

This  is Laura from Where the Magic Happens  and this is my first time blogging with this great crew! I have  been crazy busy at school and have had a million things going on!
Anyhow, I have been reading and reflecting A LOT about how to transform my literacy teaching  in this era of higher standards.  For about a year I have been a close reading groupie enthusiast.  There is so much literature out there and so many materials that, I did not know what to read or where to begin. I am so lucky to have my BFF Marie from The Literacy Spot… she always recommends the best reads.   My Amazon wish-list is about to pop!


So really what in the world is close reading?

According to Fisher and Frey, close reading is:

“an instructional routine in which students are guided in their understanding of complex texts.”  Basically, close reading is a component of dynamic reading instruction where students:
  • Read strategically
  • Interact with the text
  • Reread to uncover layers of meaning that lead to deeper understanding
  • Analyze multiple component of the text and illustrations
  • Focus on the author’s message
These are some of the most important things that I have learned about close reading:
  • Not all texts deserve a close reading
  • Close reading is also not necessary when the text is fairly accessible. In other words,  when choosing texts for close reading… you want to pick a text that do not give up their meaning easily or quickly.
  • Close reading is MORE than a worksheet!!! Our students need to interact with their peers and their teachers using academic language and  argumentation skills as they discuss the text.
  • Close reading is not one-and-done reading! Rather, it is purposeful, careful, and thoughtful.
And honestly, I could go on and on…


I really could give you a million reasons.

Close reading is not to be confused with guided reading. They are two extremely important instructional approaches that must be part of your balanced literacy.  Close reading  is not exclusively about eyes on print or reading accurately. In close reading we seek to explore the comprehension of ideas and structures more deeply. In other words, there will be times (especially during the first read) that my students will read, but some texts demand to be heard  and read aloud – poems are a good example.
These are some of the benefits of close reading:
  • It leads students on a cognitive path that begins with discovering the literal meaning of a text and ends with the exploration of deeper meaning and  a plan of what should occur as a result of the reading.
  • Close reading will help our students understand the mechanics of a text, especially vocabulary, text structure, and the author’s craft.
  • Close reading will require that all students cite textual evidence in their products. 
These are some of the differences between close reading in the primary and upper elementary grades:




If you are thinking that a close read is an easy task for the teacher… then you might be like Santa Claus in the month of August.
Close reads are divided into four different phases:
  • What does the text say? (general understanding and key details)
  • How does the text work? (vocabulary, structure, author’s craft)
  • What does the text mean? (author’s purpose)
  • What does the text inspire you to do? (extended thinking)
These four phases provide our students to explore, practice, review, and navigate through literary and informational text-dependent questions. {Hello again mCLASS!} Text-dependent questions drive close reading!

You go right ahead and download this evidence based terminology poster to use during your close reading time! {click on picture!!}

And just in case you are wondering, this is what Fisher & Frey recommend as the best think marks for close reading based on their research.


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Until next time!


Tackling Text Complexity

Hi Literacy Land Readers!  This is Wendy here from Read With Me ABC.  

I recently attended a literacy workshop where we discussed text complexity.  I had a few "ah-ha" moments during the session that I'd like to share with you today.  

Text complexity is something many teachers struggle with when selecting reading material for their students.  We want a "just right" fit, a book that will engage students and provide the appropriate amount of challenge.

There are three aspects of text complexity we should consider:

Quantitative Measures

Quantitative measures look at the readability of the text based on syllables per word, words per sentence, and so forth.

When determining how difficult a text is, most teachers use a book leveling system of one sort or another.  Quantitative measures, like Lexile scores, are a great starting place.  However, they may not accurately represent the complexity and deeper meaning of the text.

Qualitative Measures

Qualitative Measures consider the quality of the text by evaluating the text structure, language, complexity of the ideas in the text, and knowledge demands on the reader.
Here are a few examples:
  • single plot v. multiple plot lines
  • one narrator v. multiple narrators or perspectives
  • sequential order v. non-sequential
  • literal v. figurative language
A text's qualitative measures rely on our professional expertise.

Reader and Task Considerations

When determining a text's complexity we have to think about the Reader and the Task.  The reader's motivation, knowledge of the topic, and experiences all factor into the text's complexity.  Each reader transacts with a text differently.  Features that one reader may handle with ease, another might stumble upon.  Here are some questions to ask as you consider the reader and task:
  • What do I want students to learn while reading this text?
  • Will this text keep students engaged?
  • How will students' past experiences influence their responses to the text?
  • Do students have the knowledge needed to comprehend the text?
Reader and Task is also based on our professional expertise and common sense.

Student interest is critical to their motivation to learn.  We must get to know our students well, in order to match them with books that will engage and entice them to persevere through the most challenging tasks.

I loved this video explanation by Carol Jago.

Graphics in this post were courtesy of Ashley Hughes and Oodles of Doodles.  Check them out!