Getting Started with Questions of Text Complexity

  • File Type: Tool/Protocol
  • Sample Questions
    How do we ensure that all students are appropriately challenged by the texts used for instruction?
    What strategies do students need to independently learn from increasingly complex texts?
    How do we strengthen our students' abilities to draw upon multiple texts to make and support claims?
    How do experts read and understand texts differently, depending on the discipline and purpose? 

    Issues related to the use of challenging texts span across the disciplines. Many groups
    associated with the National Center for Literacy Education and from across the 30+ stakeholder organizations are wrestling with varied aspects of student success with complex texts. While some strategies and questions are appropriate for any discipline, other strategies and questions will be discipline specific. Regardless, we have much to learn from one another.

    These resources are meant to be starting points for digging into the topic of text complexity.

    Before you begin:

    • Use evidence to name a key question that will lead to strengthened teaching and learning.
    • Establish a set of steps toward addressing the question, perhaps incorporating one or more of the resources below.
    • Use templates such as NCLE's Inquiry Guide and tools such as the Questions that Matter Primer for formalizing this process. 


    Consider the following to begin digging into questions of text complexity:

    The Why and How of Multiple Texts in Middle and High School with Cynthia Shanahan. (This web seminar is full of science and social studies examples.)

    Representing Close Reading in Academic Writing by Eileen Murphy. (This book chapter and audio recording focus on the process of reading strategies for developing claims and arguments in writing.)

    Everything's a Conversation:  Reading Away Isolation by Sarah Brown Wessling. (This book chapter provides multiple examples of high school English language arts considerations that keep student needs and interests at the center of Common Core implementation.)

    Follow Maine's Cross Disciplinary Literacy Network group and consider the group's discussion about Creating Text Sets.

    Conversational protocols guide collaborative discussions. Try the Four A's protocol for discussing a shared reading or the Thinking Lenses protocol for considering text selections within the curriculum.

    Share your team's story of collaboration and inquiry by joining the
    NCLE network of collaborative teams.