Comprehension & Text Complexity - Meet Strand 2

Strand 2 may look a little familiar – just a little name change, same ol’ comprehension skills you found in Figure 19. But don’t forget about text complexity. It’s more important than ever.

Strand 2 contains the comprehension skills you used to see in Figure 19

If you hear fellow teachers talking about the state getting rid of Figure 19 – it’s in name only. Figure 19 was an add on to the old TEKS because comprehension had for some reason been left out of the bag, hence the added “figure.” So the name is gone, but the standards aren’t. What was once in Figure 19 now lives in Strand 2 – Comprehension skills.

These are K-12 standards, and they don’t collapse as you go up in grade level. For you high school teachers out there, you only remember A&B, right? Now everyone gets A-I.

Some of the repeats (similar content): establish purpose, generate questions, monitor and adjust comprehension, make inferences, make connections.

Some new friends: create mental images, evaluate details, and synthesize information.

Those are simplified lists. Each grade level or grade band is differentiated, but all grade levels have some form of the above standards. As I mentioned earlier, the previous TEKS Figure 19 was different for high school.

So what does this mean for you?

Just like with Figure 19, strand 2 – comprehension skills will need to be integrated into your lessons across the board. They will be used with every genre, in every unit. And with the similarity in the standards across the grade levels, it will become imperative (if it wasn’t before) to pay attention to that knowledge and skills statement where it reads “increasingly complex texts.” It will be important that you figure out what that means for the students in your district. You don’t want your 7th graders reading the same level texts that they were reading in 5th grade.

You will, of course, be looking at lexile levels of the texts, but it may not be limited to that. There are also several qualitative measures of text complexity. According to Fisher, Frey, and Lapp (2012), there are multiple measures that may make that text more complex.

Level of Meaning and Purpose: Is the text dense and ambiguous? Is there sophisticated figurative language? Is the purpose implied or directly stated?

Structure: Is the genre familiar? Is the structure nonlinear and deliberately out of sequence? Is the narrator unreliable? What type of text features and graphics are available?

Language conventionality and clarity: Is the text written in language the students are familiar with or in a vernacular that might be more difficult to understand? Is the language archaic or scholarly?

Knowledge demands: Do the students have the background knowledge to comprehend the text? Do they need specialized prior knowledge? Does the text rely heavily on intertextuality or other symbols or artifacts the students may not know? Is the vocabulary demand extensive or domain-specific? Are there adequate context clues?

If you’d like to learn more about text complexity, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Text complexity: Raising Rigor in Reading by Fisher, Frey, and Lapp.

Bottom line:

Strand 2 is essential to your lessons and asks that you pay attention to the texts you assign students. If you have any questions or comments, please comment or send me an email. More to come next week on Strand 3 – Response skills!

Fisher, D., Frey N., Lapp, D. (2012). Text Complexity: Raising rigor in reading. Newark, DE: International Reading Association

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