What is text complexity? What are complex texts?
Pearson (n.d.) describes text complexity in reference to its design as part of the Common Core State Standards:
In the article A Big Idea in Education That May Have Been Wrong All Along, Steve Figurelli (2016) notes that
today's traditional classroom looks like this:
If you’ve ever experienced an English language arts classroom—especially at the elementary level—I’m certain you can picture this: 3rd grade children are working in small pockets around the classroom. Some are independently reading a “just right book.” Others are seated in a book club engaged in a dialogue around a work of fiction at their level. Still another group is listening to interactive, leveled e-books on devices. And all of this is happening while the teacher is working with a small group of struggling readers to facilitate a guided reading lesson with a level J book. All students are reading—some are engaged in grade-level texts; some are not, as determined by a running record assessment.
But what if for more than two decades, we’ve been doing it all wrong? What if by leveling children—specifically in the elementary classroom—we as educators have been inadvertently setting up students (specifically those “struggling” readers) to perpetually be behind? And, in spite of our best intentions, what if we have actually sustained (or perhaps slightly widened) the achievement gap?
He goes on to point out:
What’s been most overlooked is that knowledge is the largest factor that affects a student’s reading comprehension ability. Strategies alone won’t solve the problem. To catapult our students to future success, we must build and strengthen their knowledge base and, subsequently, their vocabulary.
A child doesn’t simply have one level; rather, a child has many levels depending on knowledge and content.
Figurelli further explains:
Students can think critically. Students know how and can utilize comprehension strategies. The research concludes that it all boils down to knowledge. Students may enter our classrooms with a roughly 30 million word gap. We know that inequity exists based on several factors outside of school. ...We must commit as an educational entity to maximize our time inside the classroom to expose students to increasingly complex texts to help build their knowledge, their vocabulary, and their understanding of the world. It’s our ethical and moral obligation. “We’ve spent so much time accessing students’ background knowledge, that we’ve ignored the necessity to grow this knowledge,” researcher David Liben poignantly stated during a recent presentation at Student Achievement Partner’s Annual Core Advocate Conference, Elevating Instructional Advocacy, in Denver, Colorado. Leveling students—and only exposing low-ability readers to texts that are “on their level”—may actually preclude them from future success.
He suggests the following:
In the primary grades, this exposure manifests through read alouds of rich texts, thoughtful discussion, and the explicit commitment to developing students’ fluency.
In the intermediate grades, this manifests through consistent exposure and scaffolding so students can read complex texts independently
At the upper end of each grade band. In both, it manifests through the building of knowledge about the world from high-volume reading.
Furthermore, this author suggests:
We must also give students multiple opportunities to experience various texts on singular topics to build knowledge and vocabulary. Research by Landauer and Dumais illustrates that “students acquire vocabulary up to four times faster when they read a series of related texts.”
Texts sets are a means to this end, as they merge various genres, media, and complexities to capitalize on students’ interests while simultaneously exposing children to a wide range of tier two and three vocabularies.
Figurelli concludes: Knowledge, not isolated strategies, drives comprehension
One of the biggest challenges educators face - when aligning instructional practices that encompass complex text - is leaving our own comfort zone.
*Educators must reconsider instructional practices that are designed to scaffold students through increasingly complex texts; these practices will intentionally build knowledge and vocabulary through critical thinking.
Cognitive Rigor is the superposition of Bloom's Taxonomyand
Webb's Depth-of-Knowledge levels and is used to categorize the level of abstraction of questions and activities in education. The Cognitive Rigor Matrix assists applying Cognitive Rigor in the classroom. http://edge.ascd.org/blogpost/what-is-cognitive-rigor Shared From ASCD Eric Francis
Cognitive rigor is marked and measured by the depth and extent students are challenged and engaged to demonstrate and communicate their knowledge and thinking. It also marks and measures the depth and complexity of student learning experiences. This instructional model developed by Karin Hess, Dennis Carlock, Ben Jones, and John Walkup (2009) superimposes two educational frameworks that are commonly used to establish performance objectives and learning targets:
Bloom's Revised Taxonomy: The revised version by Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl (2001) defines the kind of knowledge and type of thinking students are expected to demonstrate in order to answer questions, address problems, accomplish tasks, and analyze texts and topics. In their revised version, Anderson and Krathwohl distinguishes between knowledge and thinking by splitting the Cognitive Domain of Bloom's Taxonomy into two dimensions that address the following:
Webb's Depth-of-Knowledge Model: The depth of knowledge levels in the model developed by Norman Webb (1997, 2002) establishes how deeply or extensively students are expected to transfer and use what they are learning. This model consists of four levels:
Also, Webb's Depth-of-Knowledge Model is not a taxonomy that scaffolds based on complexity like Bloom's. Hess (2006) describes the Webb's levels as "ceilings" that designate how deeply or extensively students are expected to transfer and use the knowledge and understanding they have acquired and developed
Marzano's (2004; with Simms, 2013) methodology of deepening background academic knowledge through direct vocabulary instruction and language development fosters and promotes communication of depth of knowledge by challenging and engaging students to do the following:
Questioning for cognitive rigor is an instructional method that supports teaching and learning for higher order thinking, depth of knowledge, and language development. It involves rephrasing academic standards, performance objectives, and learning targets into good questions that prompt and encourage students to think deeply and express and share the depth and extent of their learning. It also makes learning environments and educational experiences more active and authentic, challenging and engaging students to attain and explain answers, outcomes, results, and solutions using the content, concepts, and procedures they are learning. It also supports differentiated instruction, encouraging students to show and tell the depth and extent of the self-knowledge and awareness they have acquired and developed in their own unique way.
The instructional delivery of questioning for cognitive rigor can be scaffolded in the following manner:
By using good questions instead of performance objectives that direct students simply to do something to prove they are learning, we not only prompt students to think deeply about the texts and topics they are reading and reviewing but also express and share how they can use the concepts and procedures they are learning in detail, in-depth, insightfully, and in their own unique way. That's what truly marks and measures rigorous learning!
Hess’ Cognitive Rigor Matrix & Curricular Examples: Applying Webb’s Depth-of-Knowledge Levels to Bloom’s Cognitive Process Dimensions - ELA - With CCSS strand 5
Gina Pepin, Ed.D.
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