In spending time with classroom teachers, I commonly receive requests to help them address text complexity. In order for students to be truly "college and career ready" they need to have a deeper understanding of the multitude of texts they will encounter in college classrooms and/or the workplace setting. One way to address text complexity in your classroom is to look at the following four dimensions: 1) text structure, 2) language use/conventions, 3) background knowledge, and 4) text meaning and/or purpose.
Focusing on Text Structure
Text complexity as it relates to text structure can range from simplistic (conventional structures) to highly complex (unconventional structures). A literary text, for example, that relates basic events in chronological order is simplistic while a text that manipulates space and time, uses multiple point of views, or flash-back/flash-forward sequencing of events can be highly complex. One way to teach complex text structures with older students (middle/high school) is through the use of postmodern picture books with highly complex text structures. Because picture books are short in length, instruction can focus on the complexities of the structure at a much deeper level.
The following lesson on ReadWriteThink.org provides an example of how you can use postmodern picture books (using David Macaulay's popular text Black and White) to teach your students about text complexity.
Picture books are typically thought of as texts for young readers. This lesson uses the postmodern picture book Black and White, by David Macaulay, to engage students in a deep analysis of writer's craft. Macaulay's book presents four separate story lines that playfully interact with one another throughout the text. Students explore ways in which authors use words and illustrations to create unexpected plots and connections within a text. Students also study relationships between words and illustrations represented in the text.
What are some mentor texts that you use with complex text structures to help your students develop a deeper understanding of complex texts (both literary and informational)?