The Common Core State Standards and Text Complexity

The Common Core State Standards focus on increasing text complexity. What does that mean? How can we address that in the classroom?

The Common Core State Standards are one of the hottest topics in education today, especially since they are designed to increase rigor in the classroom. Increasing text complexity, or the level of text students are expected to understand is embedded in the standards. It’s important to keep in mind that text does not mean only books. The CCSS emphasize non-fiction, informational text materials that will prepare students for college and the workforce.

Choosing Appropriate Text

Common Core State Standards

There are really three aspects to think about when choosing appropriate materials for students. First, consider the reading level and the complexity of the text. For example, a more difficult text is easier to read when there are support features, such as headings, charts, and bold-faced words that help a student chunk the information.

Next, reflect on your knowledge of your students. What is each student’s current reading level, his or her interests, and his or her developmental level. Is this a text that is appropriate for your particular students? Finally, the purpose is important. Are students reading for fun or for instruction?

The Lexile Framework

The recommendations in the CCSS include sample texts that are designed to prepare students for college and the workforce. The Lexile Framework, which matches a student’s reading comprehension with leveled texts, is used to determine sample recommendations. Lexiles determine readability by measuring sentence length and word frequency, so you may need to consider the other aspects to choose the most appropriate text materials for your students. For example, just because a text is at a student’s reading level does not make it the best selection. The material may not be age-appropriate, especially for students who are either very high- or very low-level readers.

Addressing Text Complexity Through Classroom StrategiesSuch as Using Multiple Texts

A teaching strategy that can help your students move to higher levels of complexity is to use multiple texts. For example, if your students are reading The Watsons Go to Birmingham, they might also read a nonfiction article about that time period and compare the two.

At the high school level, they may read about requirements of a certain job. Then, the students may be asked to go online where they will read and complete a job application. By pairing text materials, students are working at higher levels of thinking that are expected in the Common Core State Standards.

Layered Meaning and Text Materials

One of the challenges with increased text levels is working with students who are not reading at that level. Simply asking them to jump to a harder text is frustrating, both for teachers and students. A great strategy is layered meaning. Find an easier text on the same subject they are expected to read. Students read the simpler text, which builds background knowledge and vocabulary, then they return to the higher level text, with your support.

Final Thoughts

Implementing the Common Core State Standards is challenging for many teachers. However, there are classroom strategies that can make the transition easier. Teaching with multiple texts and layering meaning can help your students grow into new levels of learning. a�+���