The Threads of Reading – Karen Tankersley

On my blog, you will find many new reading strategies, ideas and suggestions for becoming a masterful “weaver” of the threads of reading in your own classroom.

Nothing is more important for a teacher than to know how to use good reading strategies and practices. Making a difference with our students is why we all became educators. Becoming strong and proficient readers and writers is critical for our students.

The goal of my website is to help you create strong and effective readers in your classroom. I have gathered hundreds of tips, tricks, and reading strategies that will help you meet the literacy needs of your students.

Many of these ideas featured here come from my own work as a reading specialist, literacy coach and professional developer.

Other tips and reading strategies are from the successful instructional strategies of great reading teachers I have known over the years.  Other ideas are from important research being done in the field that translates into effective instruction.

I will also pass along good ideas from other literacy experts in the field that you might find helpful for your own classroom instruction.

Share Your Own Effective Reading Strategies and Tips

Feel free to leave suggestions on great reading tips you use with your own students as you read. Also, feel free to ask questions or comment on the ideas and suggestions found here.

Please be an active participant when you visit here.  Return again and again for ideas, teaching strategies, and inspiration. 

Teaching students to read well is not an easy job. The more we share great ideas and identify what works to improve student proficiency, the better readers our students become.

Thank you for the work that you do every day!  You are valued and appreciated!

Karen’s Books on Teaching Reading

In addition to the information presented here, you may enjoy reading some of my books on teaching reading and working with struggling readers:

The Threads of Reading: Strategies for Literacy Development

Literacy Strategies for Grades 4-12:  Reinforcing the Threads of Reading

Tests that Teach: Using Standardized Tests to Improve Instruction

How to Help Your Child Become a Great Reader: Easy Literacy Games and Activities to Do at Home

Instructional Coaching Impacts Teacher Performance

My Book on Literacy Coaching for Reading Effectiveness

If you are a relatively new Instructional Coach or Reading coach in your school, then you may also enjoy reading my book on literacy coaching:

Coaching the Threads of Reading: Helping Teachers Build Reading Success

You may also enjoy these posts on Literacy coaching on my blog:

Coaching the Threads of Reading for Literacy Coaches

Instructional Coaching That Gets Results

New Class for Literacy Coaches

Check out my new Literacy Coaching course, Coaching Heroes and Champions.

In this course, you will be able to improve your ability to inspire and coach the teachers in your school. You will be able to:

1: cultivate success as a literacy coach who facilitates adult learning that changes practice.

2: understand how to build trusting and caring coaching relationships that enable teacher success.

3: use coaching strategies to increase student academic performance and facilitate student-centered practices that instill joy in the classroom.

4: use data to hone instructional performance and improve student engagement and mastery of state standards.

Here is a list of what you will learn in Bringing Out the Heroes and Champions in Teachers: Instructional Coaching that Gets Results

Module 1: Clarifying the Coaching Role, Purpose and Vision for Success

Module 2: How to Differentiate Support to Meet Individual Teacher Needs

Module 3: Adult Learning, Mental Models and Teacher Career Stages

Module 4: Using Formative and Summative Assessment to Maximize Student Achievement

Module 5: Planning and Teaching for Maximizing Achievement

Module 6: Powerful Communications

I would love to hear your feedback on what you like and how the course might be improved for future students!

Qualitative Measures of Text Complexity

It is important to understand how to use qualitative measures to evaluate how well reader needs match a specific text.

When we want to determine if a text is a “good fit” for our students, there are three measures that teachers need to consider.   These measures are: “qualitative measures,” “quantitative measures,” and “reader and task.” This post will examine the Qualitative Measures of text.

Qualitative measures focus specifically on the inherent complexity of the text itself. In this post, we will learn more about what to look for when using qualitative measures.

Qualitative measures include analyzing the levels of meaning found in the text, the structure of the text, the complexity and clarity of the language and the overall amount of background knowledge that a reader would need to understand this text.

One element to consider when reviewing the text complexity of a book is the richness of the plot and the levels of meaning found in the text.

Teen girl in a velvet hoodie reading a book.
Matching readers to Qualitative Measures improves comprehension

Judging the Match of a Text to Reader Needs

Texts that have a single level of meaning and purpose are easier to understand than texts that have multiple layers of meaning. A text containing a high level of satire would expect many assumptions and would be much more complex for readers to understand.

The presence of charts and/or graphs in the text may improve a readers ability to understand the text.

Texts that are written in a straightforward, chronological manner are easier to understand than texts that contain many flashbacks or unconventional structures such as stream of consciousness narration.

When texts are written using a clear, literal, conversational style, they are much easier to read. Texts that use figurative language, irony, unusual dialect, domain-specific language or archaic language are much more difficult to understand.

Some texts make assumptions about the reader’s background knowledge, cultural understandings, or content knowledge. When these elements are present in a text, it raises the level of reading difficulty.

Analyzing the Complexity of a Text Using Qualitative Measures

For example, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels could read at a simplistic level as a story about the travels of a guy who visited a strange land called Lilliput. 

However, Gulliver’s Travels – as it was originally written by Swift -rates as a complex text because of the parody and satire that it contains. Most unsophisticated readers would not understand the deeper meaning presented in these genres.

Since Gulliver’s Travels as an adult political satire, we would generally consider the content complex and reserve this book for high school students.

In order to fully understand the nuances in this book, students would need to know that the author’s intent of the story was to satirize English politics of the 1720s.

Students would most likely need the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher to grasp the complex content. This is the reason most teachers would reserve this novel for high school students.

The Lexile Level of Gulliver’s Travels would be 1300 or an ATOS reading level of 13.5. This book is advanced and is more appropriate for advanced high school students or even college students.

Analyzing Qualitative Measures of Text Complexity

An easy way to determine the qualitative measure match between a text and your readers is to create a simple rubric for each of the 4 main categories: Text Structure; Language Features; Purpose; and Knowledge Demands.

Rank each section on a 1-5 scale with 1 being basic to 5 being highly complex. Under text structure, consider the organization of the text, the features of the text itself and whether there are any graphics that could help the text be more clear.

When evaluating language features, consider the level of complexity ranging from 1- explicit and easy to understand, to 5 – dense and complex with a substantial amount of abstractness, irony or figurative language. Examine not only the writing and sentence structure but also the level of vocabulary used in the text for this element.

Evaluate the purpose of the text as well as the knowledge demands the text requires. Rank these elements with a 1 being minimally complicated to 5 being highly complex and demanding.

Achieve the Core has a good discussion of how to evaluate the qualitative elements of various texts that you can review. They also have a downloadable rubric that you might want to use to evaluate the 4 critical features of qualitative complexity. You can find their rubrics for informational text and literary texts here.

Learn more about Quantitative Measures of Text Complexity

Learn more about the impact of Reader and the Task on Text Complexity

Teaching Similarities and Differences

Why is This Skill Important?

Teaching similarities and differences are essential for students in grades 4-12. This skill is crucial because it helps students develop critical thinking and analytical skills necessary for academic success and lifelong learning. If you have read Marzano’s research in his book, Classrooms That Work, you know that helping students identify similarities and differences is considered a “high yield” strategy. It is an essential skill for teaching content and helping students improve academic performance in all content areas.

How to Teach Similarities and Differences with Graphic Organizers

One effective way to teach similarities and differences is by using graphic organizers. Graphic organizers are visual tools that help students organize and synthesize information. They provide a framework for students to compare and contrast different concepts and ideas. You use this technique with literature, for example, by asking students to write about how two stories connect. Students should describe all the ways the two stories are similar and how they are different. Provide a graphic organizer to help students organize their information before writing their papers.

Many graphic organizers can be used to teach similarities and differences. One common type is the Venn diagram. Venn diagrams are circles that overlap to show the similarities and differences between two or more items. They are an excellent tool for comparing and contrasting different concepts and ideas.

Another type of graphic organizer that can be used to teach similarities and differences is the T-chart. T-charts are charts with two columns, one for similarities and one for differences. They are a simple yet effective tool for organizing information and identifying similarities and differences between concepts or ideas.

Using Real World Examples to Deepen Thinking Skills

In addition to using graphic organizers, teachers can also use real-world examples to teach similarities and differences. For example, teachers can ask students to compare and contrast different types of food or different countries. This approach helps students understand the practical applications of similarities and differences and makes the topic more relatable and engaging.

Teaching Similarities and Differences Through Text

Another effective way to teach similarities and differences is with text. Teachers can use books and stories to teach students how to compare and contrast different characters, settings, and plot points.

In content areas, teachers can use two or more informational articles to help students understand how different authors might have different perspectives or viewpoints on a topic. This approach helps students develop critical thinking skills and helps them see the importance of reading to build knowledge.

Teachers can create activities that require students to compare and contrast different concepts and ideas. For example, teachers in younger grades might ask students to create a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting two different animals. Teachers in middle or high school might use this skill to complete a T-chart comparing two different types of technology, a scientific process or the perspectives of two or more versions of a historical event.

Another effective activity for teaching similarities and differences is a gallery walk. Gallery walks involve displaying different objects or images around the classroom and asking students to compare and contrast them. This activity encourages students to think critically and analyze information from different perspectives.

Using Similarities and Differences to Deepen Thinking Skills

Since teaching similarities and differences are essential for students in grades 4-8, including these strategies in your teaching is essential. A critical aspect of teaching similarities and differences is to provide students with opportunities to practice the skill. Understanding how to compare and contrast concepts helps students develop critical thinking and analytical skills. Both of these skills are essential for academic success and lifelong learning. By using graphic organizers, real-world examples, literature, and engaging activities, teachers can help students master this skill and become confident, competent learners.

If You liked this article, you might also like: Visualizing Text to Deepen Comprehension and Retention

Learn more great strategies for teaching reading in 4-12 with Literacy Strategies for Grades 4-12: Reinforcing the Threads of Reading.