|1. Complex, but Irrelevant
Texts that are complex in some or many ways, but which are not engaging.
|2. Complex and Relevant
Texts that are complex in some or many ways and that are interesting/relevant enough that students want to read them.
|3. Simple, but Irrelevant
Texts that are accessible in some or many ways, but which are not engaging for students.
|4. Simple and Relevant
Texts that are accessible in some or many ways and that are interesting/relevant enough that students want to read them.
It is difficult to think about the four quadrants above without seeing the connections between them. For example, texts that students see as complex but irrelevant (quadrant 3) can be scaffolded by teachers with simple and relevant texts (quadrant 4). Most importantly, the texts in these four quadrants, supported in formats from independent reading to guided reading, can all connect and build content knowledge for students. As articulated in reading anchor standard 9 of the Common Core, teaching students to think across books and connect ideas is the pinnacle of what we want for students, within and beyond their college-and-career experiences.
For example, if you are studying the planets in science in a third-grade classroom, you might consider these four books and use them to support each other across your literacy block.
READ ALOUD-You could read aloud from Robert Burleigh’s captivating narration of humankind’s first step on the moon. The vocabulary is as expansive as the moon trip and Mike Wimmer’s illustrations are stunning. You could read it straight through, just to enjoy the words and capture the students’ interest. Of course, this book would be available during independent reading.
SHARED READING-You could take a related passage from The Moon by Seymour Simon and put it under a document camera. You could also make a copy of that one passage and give it to students (We feel comfortable copying just one page, knowing that we have purchased the book and that it is for educational purposes.) This book is dense with facts and challenging to read; it is an above-grade-level, complex text for most third grade students. During shared reading you could look at the passage with the students. You could read a chunk and then talk about what we noticed and what we need to find out more about. You could make notes of what you learn on an anchor chart that would hang in the classroom. Of course, this book would be available during independent reading.
GUIDED READING-You could use this book for guided reading with two different groups. For students who are reading a little below grade level, Meghan McCarthy’s book, Astronaut Handbook, is written as if the reader has just arrived at astronaut school. It pulls the reader in and is absolutely engaging. For students who are reading a little above grade-level, you could have them read the text as well, but you could focus on the “Fascinating Facts” at the end, which are written at a higher level and are content dense (but truly fascinating). Of course, this book would be available during independent reading.
With another GUIDED READING or with a small-group, SHARED READING experience, you could use Binky To the Rescue. Binky books (there are 3 in the series) are actually complex because the students have to reconcile the text and the illustrations. The text represents what Binky imagines while the illustrations show the reality. It is quite hilarious and you will have students laughing out loud. It will only really make sense, however, once students have a sense of the elements and risks of space travel, which they would have learned during read aloud and shared reading. Of course, this book would be available during independent reading.
INDEPENDENT READING-You could open independent reading by letting students who had read some of the books above tell others about them. If you have a few copies of each title, it is even better. You could also pull out other Seymour Simon books related to space, Meghan McCarthy’s book The Aliens are Coming, the other “Binky” books, and other Robert Burleigh books about people who were the first to do something (He has lots!). You could tell children to remember any new facts they learn as they are reading so that you can add them to the anchor chart (the one started during shared reading).
But wait there’s more! Tomorrow we will explicitly connect these four books to the four quadrants and talk about ways to recycle them.