Measuring Text Complexity: Three Factors

text complexity

Qualitative evaluation of the text

Levels of meaning, structure, language conventionality and clarity, and knowledge demands

Quantitative evaluation of the text

Readability measures and other scores of text complexity

Matching reader to 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)

Note

More detailed information on text complexity and how it is measured is contained in Appendix A.

Progression of Reading Standard 10

Grade(s) Reading Standard 10 (individual text types omitted)
11-12 By the end of grade 11, read and comprehend literature [informational texts, history/social studies texts, science/technical texts] in the grades 11–CCR text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend literature [informational texts, history/social studies texts, science/technical texts] at the high end of the grades 11–CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.
9-10 By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature [informational texts, history/social studies texts, science/technical texts] in the grades 9–10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literature [informational texts, history/social studies texts, science/technical texts] at the high end of the grades 9–10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
8 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature [informational texts, history/social studies texts, science/technical texts] at the high end of the grades 6–8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
7 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature [informational texts, history/social studies texts, science/technical texts] in the grades 6–8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
6 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature [informational texts, history/social studies texts, science/technical texts] in the grades 6–8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
5 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature [informational texts] at the high end of the grades 4–5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
4 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature [informational texts] in the grades 4–5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
3 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature [informational texts] at the high end of the grades 2–3 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
2 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature [informational texts] in the grades 2–3 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
1 With prompting and support, read prose and poetry [informational texts] of appropriate complexity for grade 1.
K Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

 

Staying on Topic Within a Grade and Across Grades

Building knowledge systematically in English language arts is like giving children various pieces of a puzzle in each grade that, over time, will form one big picture. At a curricular or instructional level, texts—within and across grade levels—need to be selected around topics or themes that systematically develop the knowledge base of students. Within a grade level, there should be an adequate number of titles on a single topic that would allow children to study that topic for a sustained period. The knowledge children have learned about particular topics in early grade levels should then be expanded and developed in subsequent grade levels to ensure an increasingly deeper understanding of these topics. Children in the upper elementary grades will generally be expected to read these texts independently and reflect on them in writing. However, children in the early grades (particularly K–2) should participate in rich, structured conversations with an adult in response to the written texts that are read aloud, orally comparing and contrasting as well as analyzing and synthesizing, in the manner called for by the Standards.

Preparation for reading complex informational texts should begin at the very earliest elementary school grades. What follows is one example that uses domain-specific nonfiction titles across grade levels to illustrate how curriculum designers and classroom teachers can infuse the English language arts block with rich, age-appropriate content knowledge and vocabulary in history/social studies, science, and the arts. Having students listen to informational read-alouds in the early grades helps lay the necessary foundation for students’ reading and understanding of increasingly complex texts on their own in subsequent grades.

 

K 1 2-3 4-5
The five senses and associated body parts Introduction to the systems of the human body and associated body parts Digestive and excretory systems Circulatory system
My Five Senses by Aliki (1989) Under Your Skin: Your Amazing Body by Mick Manning (2007) What Happens to a Hamburger by Paul Showers (1985) The Heartby Seymour Simon (2006)
Hearing by Maria Rius (1985) Me and My Amazing Bodyby Joan Sweeney (1999) The Digestive System by Christine Taylor-Butler (2008) The Heart and Circulationby Carol Ballard (2005)
Sight by Maria Rius (1985) The Human Body by Gallimard Jeunesse (2007) The Digestive System by Rebecca L. Johnson (2006) The Circulatory System by Kristin Petrie (2007)
Smell by Maria Rius (1985) The Busy Body Book by Lizzy Rockwell (2008) The Digestive System by Kristin Petrie (2007) The Amazing Circulatory System by John Burstein (2009)
Taste by Maria Rius (1985) First Encyclopedia of the Human Body by Fiona Chandler (2004)
Touch by Maria Rius (1985) Taking care of your body: Healthy eating and nutrition Respiratory system
Taking care of your body: Germs, diseases, and preventing illness Good Enough to Eat by Lizzy Rockwell (1999) The Lungs by Seymour Simon (2007)
Taking care of your body: Overview (hygiene, diet, exercise, rest) Germs Make Me Sick by Marilyn Berger (1995) Showdown at the Food Pyramid by Rex Barron (2004) The Respiratory System by Susan Glass (2004)
My Amazing Body: A First Look at Health & Fitness by Pat Thomas (2001) Tiny Life on Your Body by Christine Taylor-Butler (2005) The Respiratory System by Kristin Petrie (2007)
Get Up and Go! by Nancy Carlson (2008) Germ Storiesby Arthur Kornberg (2007) Muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems The Remarkable Respiratory System by John Burstein (2009)
Go Wash Upby Doering Tourville (2008) All About Scabs by GenichiroYagu (1998) The Mighty Muscular and Skeletal SystemsCrabtree Publishing (2009)
Sleep by Paul Showers (1997) Muscles by Seymour Simon (1998) Endocrine system
Fuel the Body by Doering Tourville (2008) Bones by Seymour Simon (1998) The Endocrine System by Rebecca Olien (2006)
The Astounding Nervous SystemCrabtree Publishing (2009) The Exciting Endocrine System by John Burstein (2009)
The Nervous System by Joelle Riley (2004)

Range of Text Types for K-5

Students in K–5 apply the Reading standards to the following range of text types, with texts selected from a broad range of cultures and periods.

Literature

Informational Text

Stories Dramas Poetry Literary Nonfiction and Historical, Scientific, and Technical Texts
Includes children’s adventure stories, folktales, legends, fables, fantasy, realistic fiction, and myth Includes staged dialogue and brief familiar scenes Includes nursery rhymes and the subgenres of the narrative poem, limerick, and free verse poem Includes biographies and autobiographies; books about history, social studies, science, and the arts; technical texts, including directions, forms, and information displayed in graphs, charts, or maps; and digital sources on a range of topics

Range of Text Types for 6-12

Students in grades 6–12 apply the Reading standards to the following range of text types, with texts selected from a broad range of cultures and periods.

Literature

Informational Text

Stories Dramas Poetry Literary Nonfiction and Historical, Scientific, and Technical Texts
Includes the subgenres of adventure stories, historical fiction, mysteries, myths, science fiction, realistic fiction, allegories, parodies, satire, and graphic novels Includes one-act and multi-act plays, both in written form and on film Includes the subgenres of narrative poems, lyrical poems, free verse poems, sonnets, odes, ballads, and epics Includes the subgenres of exposition, argument, and functional text in the form of personal essays, speeches, opinion pieces, essays about art or literature, biographies, memoirs, journalism, and historical, scientific, technical, or economic accounts (including digital sources) written for a broad audience

 Texts Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, & Range of Student Reading K–5

Grade

Literature: Stories, Drama, Poetry

Informational Texts: Literary Nonfiction and Historical, Scientific, and Technical Texts

K1
  • Over in the Meadow by John Langstaff (traditional) (c1800)*
  • A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog by Mercer Mayer (1967)
  • A Story, A Story by Gail E. Haley (1970)*
  • Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie DePaola (1978)
  • Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes (2004)*
  • My Five Senses by Aliki (1962)**
  • Truck by Donald Crews (1980)
  • I Read Signs by Tana Hoban (1987)
  • What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (2003)*
  • Amazing Whales! by Sarah L. Thomson (2005)*
11
  • “Mix a Pancake” by Christina G. Rossetti (1893)**
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater (1938)*
  • Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak (1957)**
  • Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel (1971)**
  • Hi! Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold (2006)
  • A Tree Is a Plant by Clyde Robert Bulla, illustrated by Stacey Schuett (1960)**
  • Starfish by Edith Thacher Hurd (1962)
  • Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean by Arthur Dorros (1991)**
  • From Seed to Pumpkin by Wendy Pfeffer, illustrated by James Graham Hale (2004)*
  • How People Learned to Fly by Fran Hodgkins and True Kelley (2007)*
2-3
  • “Who Has Seen the Wind?” by Christina G. Rossetti (1893)
  • Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White (1952)*
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (1985)
  • Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens (1995)
  • Poppleton in Winter by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Mark Teague (2001)
  • A Medieval Feast by Aliki (1983)
  • From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons (1991)
  • The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles (1995)*
  • A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonderby Walter Wick (1997)
  • Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca (2009)
4-5
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandby Lewis Carroll (1865)
  • “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer (1888)
  • The Black Stallion by Walter Farley (1941)
  • “Zlateh the Goat” by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1984)
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (2009)
  • Discovering Mars: The Amazing Story of the Red Planet by Melvin Berger (1992)
  • Hurricanes: Earth’s Mightiest Storms by Patricia Lauber (1996)
  • A History of US by Joy Hakim (2005)
  • Horses by Seymour Simon (2006)
  • Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea by Sy Montgomery (2006)

Note

Given space limitations, the illustrative texts listed above are meant only to show individual titles that are representative of a wide range of topics and genres. (See Appendix B for excerpts of these and other texts illustrative of K–5 text complexity, quality, and range.) At a curricular or instructional level, within and across grade levels, texts need to be selected around topics or themes that generate knowledge and allow students to study those topics or themes in depth. On the next page is an example of progressions of texts building knowledge across grade levels.

 Texts Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, & Range of Student Reading 6-12

Grade

Literature: Stories, Drama, Poetry

Informational Texts: Literary Nonfiction and Historical, Scientific, and Technical Texts

6-8
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1869)
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyerby Mark Twain (1876)
  • “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost (1915)
  • The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper (1973)
  • Dragonwings by Laurence Yep (1975)
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor (1976)
  • “Letter on Thomas Jefferson” by John Adams (1776)
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass (1845)
  • “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: Address to Parliament on May 13th, 1940” by Winston Churchill (1940)
  • Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad by Ann Petry (1955)
  • Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck (1962)
9-10
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1592)
  • “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1817)
  • “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe (1845)
  • “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry (1906)
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)
  • The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (1975)
  • “Speech to the Second Virginia Convention” by Patrick Henry (1775)
  • “Farewell Address” by George Washington (1796)
  • “Gettysburg Address” by Abraham Lincoln (1863)
  • “State of the Union Address” by Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1941)
  • “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964)
  • “Hope, Despair and Memory” by Elie Wiesel (1997)
11-CCR
  • “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats (1820)
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1848)
  • “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson (1890)
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
  • Their Eyes Were Watching Godby Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
  • A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (1959)
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (2003)
  • Common Sense by Thomas Paine (1776)
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)
  • “Society and Solitude” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1857)
  • “The Fallacy of Success” by G. K. Chesterton (1909)
  • Black Boy by Richard Wright (1945)
  • “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell (1946)
  • “Take the Tortillas Out of Your Poetry” by Rudolfo Anaya (1995)

 

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