Professional Book Reviews

Joan Masaryk is an educator extraordinaire retired from Hayward Unified School District.  Joan now lives in Arizona and offers her professional book reviews to several reading councils.  We’re grateful to Joan for broadening our reading horizons. 

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Text Complexity: Raising Rigor in Reading By Fisher, Frey & Lapp
A Review by Joan E. Masaryk

In the past we used inventories and readability formulas to place students in leveled reading. This helped us match students with books they could read. However, these formulas did not necessarily deal with text complexity. Fisher, Frey and Lapp explore how to understand and teach text complexity. Not an easy read, but it’s valuable. The book’s focus is to help students read and comprehend complex literary and informational text independently and proficiently. In order to teach students to read complex text, teachers need to understand what makes a text complex. The authors delve into complex issues including compare/contrast, temporal sequence, cause/effect, problem/ solution, ideas, concepts, phenomena, events, purpose genre, figurative language, organization, narration, vocabulary text features (sub- headings, maps, photos, charts, and graphs).

The authors show what appropriate instructional support looks like so students can re-read and analyze to unearth complex structures, themes and insights. There are many examples of lesson plans. Pages 122-126 gives an example of a fourth grade plan:

  • Reading Up Close with Post-it notes
  • Establishing Purpose with Students
  • First Reading: Independent Reading
  • First Discussion: Partner Talk to Check Meaning
  • Second Discussion: Assessing for Understanding and Confusions
  • Second Reading: Teacher-Led Shared Reading and Think-Aloud
  • Third Discussion: Text Dependent Questions
  • Journal Writing