by Thomas DeVere Wolsey (Walden University), Dana L. Grisham (National University), and Elfrieda H. Hiebert (TextProject)
For more than a decade, TextProject, a nonprofit organization, has worked to link substantive research to useful professional development tools and materials for students that challenge and support struggling and beginning readers. With the emphasis in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS, 2010) on college and career readiness, teachers will challenge students to step up their capacity to read challenging texts like never before. To help teachers meet this challenge, TextProject created the Teacher Development Series for both veteran teachers and novices.
Because the CCSS calls for an emphasis on text complexity that transcends quantitative readability measures, we collaborated on the development of five modules that teachers (including those working on their teaching credentials) and teacher leaders, titled “Text Complexity and the Common Core State Standards,” may find particularly valuable. This set of modules provides guidance for teacher leaders, teacher educators or staff development leaders as well as activities for teachers or teachers to be as they work to meet the challenges of the Common Core. The first module is currently available online, and the next four modules will be available on or before August 16, 2012.
The first module defines text complexity and introduces the three-part model from the Common Core.
Traditional quantitative notions of readability are usually based on sentence length and word length (often by syllable count). However, the text complexity model found in the Common Core introduces broad new concepts of how complex texts might look and what teachers should consider. Text complexity includes the traditional quantitative ideas of readability, but they add qualitative data about aspects of text that are not countable. These include layers of meaning found in some texts that might otherwise appear easily readable, use and appropriateness of graphics, and so on. The new model also addresses teacher knowledge about the reading capacities of their specific students. While state standards often included references to grade-level texts, the Common Core now identifies a staircase of complexity, embedded in the Common Core State Standards (2010), that the texts students are asked to read and the tasks related to those readings are increasingly and steadily more complex and challenging.
The features of complex texts, with an emphasis on the role of vocabulary, and how beginning and struggling readers can be supported will be found in the next four modules. Each module includes concise reading resources for professional development, an opportunity to reflect and respond to other teachers and teachers-to-be, and an application opportunity wherein the principles of complexity are applied to exemplar texts typical of those that might be used in grades 2 through 12.
We look forward to seeing you on the TextProject site. Besides the free Teacher Development Series materials, you will find a plethora of materials for classroom use and a library of research resources. TextProject encourages educators to explore the website and ask questions about text complexity through the firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail address. What are your concerns about text complexity and what it means for your classroom and your own professional development? How might TextProject be of help?
Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSS). (2010). Appendix A: Research supporting key elements of the standards; Glossary of key terms. In Common Core State Standards for English language arts & literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_A.pdf
Dr. Thomas DeVere Wolsey is a literacy specialization coordinator in the Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership at Walden University.
Dr. Dana L. Grisham is core adjunct faculty at National University.
Dr. Elfrieda H. Hiebert is President and CEO of TextProject.
This article is part of a series from the Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).