Help All Readers Access Complex Texts

You’ll notice that text complexity is an important part of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). (You can read more about this in this my previous post.) The “staircase of text complexity” will give students more opportunities to learn from complex texts, and the hope is that by setting a benchmark for students to read grade level complex texts “independently and proficiently” by high school graduation, students will be ready to read college and career level texts.

However, I know from my own time in the classroom that many students struggle with grade level complex texts. Teachers ask me every day about how to help such readers. “I give them complex texts like the standards say, and they can’t do it!” is a common refrain. I always begin by asking them about their approach to planning, because thoughtful planning holds the key to student success with complex texts.

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Tackling the Misconceptions of Text-Dependent Questions

I’ve worked with many school leaders over the past year who list text-dependent questions (TDQs) as their major strategy for improving literacy achievement. (Reading Anchor Standard 1 of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) emphasizes reading text closely, drawing inferences from it, and supporting conclusions from text.) Any time an idea becomes a “buzzword,” I fear that we will lose sight of what that word or idea really means. I started asking leaders to define text dependent questions, and asking them to show me examples of effective TDQs. I found their responses often fell into one of the following two misconceptions.

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