Text Complexity

“Understanding how texts are complex will help us all teach and teach students based on high expectations rather than exist with the tyranny of low expectations.”

“When teachers analyse texts for the levels of meaning or purpose, structure, language conventionality and clarity, and knowledge demands, they can plan appropriate instruction and guide learners’ development”

Visual attention to print is essential in the development of reading but not a given among emergent readers. Studies show that young readers attend to print 3-7% of the time. This can be increased through an adult’s verbal inquiries and gestures – nonverbal interactions resulted in more fixations on print than the verbal ones. Furthermore a child who is read to for 10 minutes a day attends to print significantly more.

“Variances among the students in our classrooms cannot result in lowered expectations for their learning, especially by systematically denying them access to the kinds of rich text experiences of others. Instead, we must find ways to scaffold their reading experiences by differentiating instruction and providing accommodations and modifications as warranted. These are teaching concepts that we have known for decades…”

This makes me realise why I was stumped a few years ago by an AP who challenged us to start differentiating our practice.

At that school it was all words, brought back from conferences that the select few were able to attend. Instead of actually describing ways to differentiate and support learners, and actually model good practice, we were left wondering what was expected.

To me at that time, I worried that this differentiating would mean dumbing down curriculum. Yes, obviously we have to recognise the different abilities and skills of students in our complex classes. Having a clear picture of the current skills and abilities of students in a class, a thorough knowledge of the curriculum expectation at that year level, and being able to locate and access resources that will suit students at different levels are all key factors. As is a knowledge of how to teach important, relevant strategies explicitly to students, so that they can gradually develop skills that they will then apply with automaticity. This is the challenge.

From my new perspective I see that the main challenge for a school is to:
• collect relevant, diagnostic data
• identify starting points for whole class instruction
• identify individual students, and cohorts that have particular needs
• have a clear plan (scope and sequence) of what is important for the particular year level(s)
• make this “flight plan” clear for students and people who can support student learning (parents, support staff)
• involve students in self assessment and short term, specific, measurable (SMARTA) goal setting
• resources appropriate for students at different levels that will allow them to practice particular strategies
• know what the important and relevant strategies are that will benefit students and understand how to best teach these.

Reading this text has reaffirmed my strong belief in the importance of:
• modelling what good readers do
• explicitly teaching strategies
• providing structured opportunities for students to practice using a variety of strategies
• providing a range of texts to support students at different levels
• providing opportunities for students to work with others for structured support
• have a clearly communicated plan to show students the direction of learning
• involve students in the assessment process
• provide opportunities for students to have a degree of choice and decision making within a framework
• setting assignments that provide scaffolding but also the necessary challenge to stimulate and enthuse
• multi-media, visual texts, and group collaboration projects (especially global ones) can all provide opportunities to transform learning

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