This is a collection of over 120 texts appropriate for use in Common Core instruction. They come from across periods of US History spanning from Exploration through the Civil War.
The text resources include well known and lesser known texts; texts written by well-known and little known historical figures; texts that appear fully in their original language and that appear with modified wording; and texts that are informational, argumentative, and narrative.
Each text includes (1) a paragraph that provides brief historical/contextual information, (2) a list of vocabulary words that may cause difficulty in understanding the text, and (3) the text itself.
Each text is followed by a complexity rating sheet that gives quantitative measures of complexity (both in Lexile & SoureRater3 measures) and measures of qualitative complexity using the PARCC qualitative complexity rubric for Informational Texts.
The final complexity determinations on each text's complexity rubric have been left blank. The reason being that qualitative measures of text complexity are a bit subjective. Each complexity analysis includes enough information for teachers to be able to fully use them "as is" and based on our analysis. However, we have left open spaces for notes and the final complexity determination in order to allow the teacher or groups of teachers to conduct their own qualitative analysis in order to make a final complexity determination.
NOTE ON TEXT COMPLEXITY ACCORDING TO THE COMMON CORE
The CCSS defines text complexity as having three aspects: (1) a Quantitative measure (such as Lexile and SourceRater3), (2) a Qualitative measure (based on things such as the academic vocabulary load, the explicitness of the central ideas or themes, and the amount of assistive text features present in the text), and (3) the considerations of Reader and Task. It is well worth any teacher’s while to read up on how to determine text complexity and guidelines for selecting texts for use as literacy resources, but the topic is much too detailed to thoroughly discuss here. An attempt will be made at explaining how it applies to instructional decisions it in a nutshell.
To generally summarize how text complexity translates into appropriate text-choices for literacy instruction, it is not necessary for all three aspects of a text to be at a student’s current instructional level for it to be appropriate to use. For instance, a certain text may have a Quantitative measure at a student’s instructional level, but the text may be far above the student’s instructional level in terms of its Qualitative measure due to its archaic or discipline-specific vocabulary load. This text could still be rendered appropriate to use if the teacher provides supports to mitigate the vocabulary issue, say by giving students the definitions of the archaic or discipline-specific terms that would impede a student’s ability to understand the text. A teacher could adjust for Quantitative complexities through adapting the text by either breaking complex and compound sentences into simple sentences or creating reasonable paragraph breaks if an author of a primary source did not use paragraphs.
The “reader and task” aspect of complexity is the easiest for a teacher to control, because they are typically created by the teacher. In short, the more explicit and guided a path to an idea is for a student, the less complex it is. For instance, in reading the Declaration of Independence, students could be given any of a variety of tasks that range across the spectrum of complexity. Students could be given a significantly complex task if they were instructed to “read the introduction and preamble to the Declaration and identify the central ideas expressed there.” A far less complex task could be given if students were instructed to “read to determine and delineate the argument made the authors concerning and under what circumstances it was right to break away from and disobey the existing government.” A very simple task would be given if students were asked to, “put in your own words what the authors meant by, ‘…all men are created equal…’”
Content area teachers should be on their guard not to make Reader and Task complexity too simple. PARCC and other CCSS standardized assessments are far more likely to ask something akin to our most complex example at the eighth grade level. While our text is obviously Quantitatively and Qualitatively too complex for second or third grade students, the complexity of our simplest example of a task is actually closest to a second or third grade level CCSS Reading standard.
What content area teachers can do, however, is make use of complexity modifications to adjust the three aspects of complexity in order to differentiate and appropriately use the resources for literacy practice with students of varying abilities. Generally speaking, Quantitative and Qualitative complexity aspects of a text are easier to adjust in order to make a text simpler than they are to make a text more complex. Reader and Task complexities are easily adjusted either to make the task in relation to a text more complex or more simple.