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Text Matters—a Magazine for Educators

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Text Matters provides educators with a series of accessible articles on hot topics in reading instruction, such as the emphasis on text complexity in the Common Core State Standards. Backed by the latest reaseach, Text Matters articles highlight important background knowledge along with practical ideas for improving reading instruction.

Recycling and Remixing: Multiple Meanings and Uses of Words


From E.H. Hiebert (2019).  Teaching words and how they work: Small changes for big vocabulary results.  New York, NY:  Teachers College Press. 

The Vocabulary Filter Process


In every 100 words of text, two to three words are likely rare—a word that is not frequent in written language. What this pattern of rare words means is that texts with 700 to 1,000 words can have numerous rare words and a chapter book might have several hundred rare words. Which rare words should be the focus of valuable instructional time? The Vocabulary Filter process provides a set of six questions for teachers to ask in choosing the words to teach. Further, teaching students about the different types of words represented by each filter can support independent vocabulary recognition proficiency.

Building Background Knowledge and Reading Proficiency: One Article at a Time


Article-A-Day” is an open-access program from Readworks.org. Daily, students read an article from focused topics that ensure their development of background knowledge. Evidence shows that daily reading of an article supports students’ comprehension and engagement.

Text Complexity Systems: A Teacher's Toolkit


By knowing the strengths and weaknesses of a text complexity system, a teacher can better match student to text. What are the strengths and weaknesses of a specific text complexity system? When should a teacher use Guided Reading Levels to match students to text? When is it better to use Lexiles?

Multi-Level Text Sets: Leveling the Playing Field or Sidelining Struggling Readers?


Several current programs promise that, at the touch of a button, teachers can precisely match texts to students’ reading proficiency. An analysis of the most popular of these programs suggests, however, that the modifications made to texts for students most in need may create obstacles to their progress in reading.

Preparing Students in Writing Responses to Open-Ended Questions

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New approaches to answering test questions are needed with the new evidence-based SBAC and PARCC assessments.

7 Actions that Teachers Can Take Right Now: Text Complexity

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A separate standard for text complexity in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) means that this feature of reading development is at the center of many conversations among educators. How this standard translates into classroom instruction is less clear. Even with current texts, teachers can take some important actions to support their students on the staircase of text complexity—right now!

The Text Complexity Multi-Index

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The Text Complexity Multi-Index (TCMI) is a process for matching texts with students. The process attends to all three dimensions that were recommended by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS Initiative, 2011) for selecting texts: (a) quantitative, (b) qualitative, and (c) reader-text match. Qualitative measures are of two types: comparison with a set of benchmark texts and a scheme for analyzing core traits of texts. The two types of qualitative measures mean that the TCMI process has four steps.

Readability and the Common Core’s Staircase of Text Complexity

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For a long time, educators have asked questions about what makes a text complex. Why is it harder for students to read some books than others? How are we to help students select texts that will challenge them without frustrating them? What type of texts will increase their reading achievement most effectively?

TextProject Answers: Beginning Reading


Freddy Hiebert answers a collection of frequently asked questions on the topic of Beginning Reading.

Essential Insights into Text Complexity and the New Assessments: Three Articles from Reading Today


A collection of Freddy's published articles in Reading Today on text complexity and the upcoming assessments.

TextProject Answers: Text Complexity


Freddy Hiebert answers a collection of frequently asked questions on the topic of Text Complexity.

Generative Vocabulary Instruction


To successfully understand complex texts, students need to be able to generate the meanings of new words, based on their knowledge about how words work in English.

TextProject Answers: Core Vocabulary


Freddy Hiebert answers a collection of frequently asked questions on the topic of Core Vocabulary.

Text Complexity and English Learners—Building Vocabulary

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The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are changing curriculum planning and classroom instruction in many ways. One significant change involves the difficulty levels of text. In the past, standards documents have referred to proficiency with grade-level texts. However, grade level was not defined. The CCSS represents a departure from this practice. Standard 10 of the CCSS specifically calls for increasing levels of text complexity across the grades to ensure students’ proficiency with the texts of college and career. This standard affects all students, but it represents a special challenge to English Learners. Many educators ask what increases in text complexity mean for English Learners, many of whom struggle with their current texts.

Unique Words Require Unique Instruction

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The Common Core State Standards include a component that has not been included in previous standards documents of either states or national organizations—a staircase of text complexity. The goal of this series of ever-accelerating text levels over students’ school careers is to ensure proficiency with the complex texts of college and the workplace on high school graduation (CCSS/ELA, 2010). One of the signatures of complex texts is the inclusion of low-frequency or rare vocabulary. That means as students take on increasingly complex text, they will need strategies for dealing with unknown words.

Text Findings


In addition to a reader, any act of reading or of reading instruction, by definition, involves a text. The texts offered to support students in reading instruction and deliberate practice are many. Lexiles and Guided Reading Levels are used to sort texts in complexity but neither system gives educators information about the level of vocabulary challenge or the specific words in a text that might be difficult for students. A tool developed at TextProject called the Word Zone Profiler gives detailed information on the features and distributions of the vocabulary in texts.

In TextProject's latest resource, Text Findings, educators can get insight into the features of the vocabulary in texts. Each Text Findings summarizes a project in which the Word Zone Profiler was used to establish the vocabulary demands of a specific type, program, or level of text. Text Findings are the only resource now available where educators can get information on the vocabulary demands of different types of texts.

What Do "Levels" Really Mean? A Closer Look at Text Leveling


A recently developed tool, derived from theory and empirically validated with student performances and teacher ratings, makes it possible to examine both the within-level consistency and the across-level patterns of texts within beginning reading programs. In this study, this tool is applied to the two most prominent text types currently used in many beginning reading classrooms–decodable and leveled texts.