We know one of the biggest blended learning challenges teachers face is the time-consuming process of gathering a variety of resources together into coherent units and individual learning experiences. With this in mind, we built grade-level text sets into the platform that teachers can use to differentiate instruction quickly. These sets are developed using both quantitative and qualitative measures as well as practical knowledge of classrooms and students and are designed to support any curriculum. Whether you teach these sets alongside a novel, as part of a hands-on science experiment, as a stand-alone unit, or within a separate RtI or test prep setting, ThinkCERCA's differentiated sets are designed to help students develop critical literacy skills through practice with complex texts. Our content developers consider much more than algorithms when thinking about text complexity. We also analyze other qualitative aspects of a text, including knowledge demands, themes, structural complexity, and words and phrases that implicitly or explicitly create sentence- and paragraph-level cohesion. These factors often have far greater impact on student success.
Qualitative and Quantitative
When determining text complexity, qualitative aspects must be considered alongside quantitative measures. One aspect of a text's complexity is the knowledge required to understand it: knowledge developed in the course of everyday life or specialized, disciplinary knowledge (qualitative). The length of a sentence or the number of times a word is repeated indicates a different aspect of the text's complexity (quantitative). The reader's interest, which is heavily influenced by the background knowledge and vocabulary one brings to a text, is probably one of the most influential factors, but there is also the task we apply to it. For example, Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" is accessible to a very broad range of readers, the youngest of whom would be able to illustrate the action of the poem. Yet if we were to ask students to analyze the way Frost uses certain syntactical moves and punctuation to underscore themes within the poem, the poem might become exceedingly complex for many of those same readers.
Our Standards-Aligned Process
We consider the background knowledge required to access a text at the appropriate level of challenge. In addition, the maturity of the topics should be evaluated. For example, students in upper grades with lower literacy skills still need content that makes sense for their level of maturity. Relevance is also key to the student's interest and motivation, so we select topics and texts to which students can make a personal connection.
Next we ask, is the text able to do the job we hired it to do? In other words, does it have the elements it needs to bear fruit for the reader who is practicing a particular standard? If the standard requires the student to analyze two central themes, it obviously needs to have two central themes. We ensure every text meets grade-level text complexity requirements as well.
As practitioners who have spent decades in the classrooms, we also ask, is it worth reading closely? Will it make the study of the content area more relevant and interesting? Will it provide the students with another stepping stone or perspective to increase their chances of success in the study of the topic or the level of rigor they bring to thinking about the topic? The time we have to make school meaningful for students is limited, so we strive to make sure our texts spark courageous thinking in vibrant classrooms where students enjoy learning. Just like any of the great teachers who use ThinkCERCA would.