Reader skills, characteristics, and text


Reader skills

  • Literacy skills in content areas, including language arts
  • Ability to analyze text for structure and style
  • Determine an author’s purpose
  • Understand the intended audience for the text
  • Balance the reader’s skill and the readability of the text
  • Students comprehension levels with similar text complexity

Characteristics of text

  • Structure of text
  • Arrangement of ideas
  • Amount of distracting information and unity of text
  • Logical connection of events
  • Background knowledge of author’s intended audience

Match readers with text

  • Student engagement levels in reading for pleasure and reading to learn
  • Task teacher expects to be completed with text
  • Comprehension success with similar text complexity
  • Scaffold and support system in place to assist student success
  • Formative assessment models that increase complexity in appropriate increments
  • Instructional practice to increase complexity levels over time with students

Source: Text Complexity: Raising Rigor in Reading Frey, Fisher, and Lapp

Help struggling content area readers


Good habits for struggling readers

Reading independence happens when students purposely use their reading skills to enhance learning.

What skills do our students need to independently learn from reading informational text?

  • Basic reading skills to comprehend text
  • A vocabulary to support learning from content area reading
  • Approach text based on common subject area text structure
  • Able to read age-appropriate text fluently
  • Understand the reasons for using text to learn
  • Background knowledge to support meaning from the text

Prepare struggling readers for content area reading

  • Preview key concepts or vocabulary
  • Plan pre-read discussions
  • Write pre and post reading to target key learning
  • Read complex text in chunks to scaffold learning and check for understanding
  • Practice making inferences from text at central learning points
  • Model and practice thinking techniques while students are using complex text
  • Teach, model, and practice word strategies
  • Implement targeted vocabulary curriculum along with increased reading time

Reading and Language Arts assessments


Classroom reading assessments

Passage considerations

  • Rigor and complexity appropriate for current students
  • Context of instruction and content knowledge
  • Students have background knowledge to understand reading

Passages not in context to instruction and requiring extensive background knowledge will hinder student performance. The resulting data will not provide appropriate insight into learning. It will be especially true with English learners and students struggling with current content.

The length of passages will determine the time to complete the assessment.

If the reading load is too high, students will rush to finish the assessment. Performance suffers, along with inferences or decisions from the assessment data.

Text complexity should be balanced across the assessment.

The balance of grade level appropriate text complexity provides the best environment for gauging student achievement. If a classroom test pushes the boundary of complexity, look for indicators within the passage that help plan future instruction.

The question, ‘Was the reading too hard, or the content too difficult?’, is common in analyzing passage performance in a content area.

Appropriate number of items per passage.

The length of the passage justifies the number of items used to assess the reading. Make reading on an assessment worth the student’s time.

Too many items with a passage.

A lengthy passage supports more questions, but using too many items will over-burden the text. It also causes an overlap or queuing. Queuing occurs when one question helps a student answer another question.

Passages typically support items from different standards, but you have to be careful not to ask too much of the passage.

Appropriate vocabulary in passages and items.

The passage mix should challenge students, but not all reading has to be complex. Including only the most challenging and complex passages, will negatively impact performance for many students, especially those struggling with grade level reading.