Reading Tough Texts: Resources for Teaching

  1. 6 Tips to Identify Complex Texts: In Big Skills for the Common Core: Literary Strategies for the 6-12 Classroom Amy Benjamin and Michael Hugelmeyer outline six traits that can be used to identify complex texts and the difference between informational texts and literary nonfiction.
    1. Subtleties. Are there layers of meaning? Is it possible to derive new meaning from reading the text more than once? Is there symbolism? Figurative language? Wordplay?
    2. Author’s assumptions about the reader. How much background knowledge does the author assume that the reader has?
    3. Eye appeal. Does the physical layout of the text (also called text features) make it easier or more challenging for the reader? Are there pictures? Is there symbolic and numerical information, such as graphs, tables, and charts? If so, sometimes this kind of information is translated clearly into words anyway, so the reader actually has a choice of how to process the information. Other times, the reader is expected to interpret the graphic information, and will not be able to comprehend the information without examining it carefully.
    4. Vocabulary. How rare are the words? In the case of rare words, how necessary is it to understand them in order to get a gist of the text? Does the author provide contextual clues to the meaning of unfamiliar words? Are these words that can be broken down into components (prefix, root, suffix) that the reader knows? Are unfamiliar words repeated? (This can be either a help or a hindrance, depending on whether the reader can figure out the word in multiple contexts, or whether she has stopped to find its meaning.) Remember that a reader who stops, even briefly, to consult an outside source for a word’s meaning has to break the flow of comprehension.
    5. Level of abstraction. The less we can picture and touch something, the more difficult it is to understand it, let alone the subtleties and details of it. Processes, concepts, theories, and systems of organization are examples of abstractions. Certain word endings create abstract concepts. When you see a lot of words ending in -tion, -ity, -ment, -ism, -ness, -acy, you know you are in Abstraction Land. Interestingly, the world of fiction (narrative and literary text) is populated by people, things, and specific actions. These people, things, and actions are usually vividly described with adjectives and adverbs. Hence, stories tend to be concrete (and easy to visualize) rather than abstract (not so easy to visualize). This is one of the reasons students with limited experience in a wide variety of text often find it difficult to comprehend science text even though they have always been good at reading narrative text.
    6. Era in which the text was written. Was it written before the twentieth century? If so, the style is likely to have archaic words, long sentences, long paragraphs, and unfamiliar references to nouns (things no longer in use). Even text written before the middle of the twentieth century can be challenging. Language changes surprisingly fast, and today’s student may be unfamiliar with the sentence styles and nouns of not too long ago.

Resource Lists

  1. CC Math Children's Book Lists
  2. Understanding CC Text Complexity Great Video
  3. Best Book Lists: Lists of books based on topics and skills!

Teaching Tips
  1. Most important information: What is Omiitted:
  2. Pinterest Close Reading Board
  3. Great Article Condensed Handout Here:

Worksheets for Students
  1. 5 Close Reading Tips
  2. Students rate understanding after each reading! Best case, understanding goes down!!! With confusion can breed deeper understanding.
  3. LOC DESCRIBE Handout
  4. Understanding Author's Purpose Handout
  5. Scholastic NonFiction Features Search

  1. NYT Tips!! Reading/Responding/Using Informational Texts
  2. How to Select a Common Core Text WSWHEBOCES
  3. From Snorkeling to Deep Sea Diving: Great PowerPoint about teaching Challenging Texts
  4. Engaging Adolescent Readers Article Packet
  5. Free Report on 5 Ways to Increase Text Difficulty!

Reading Digital Texts
  1. "Digital Literacies" Larson
  2. "Digital Readers: The Next Chapter" Larson
  3. "Transmedia Education" Jenkins

Transmedia Stories
  1. Sean Rosen
  2. 39 Clues
  3. 3:15 by Patricia Carman
  4. Amanda Project
  5. Cathy young adult series
  6. Dark Eden
  7. Skeleton Creek Series
  8. The Search for WondLa