Text Matters—a Magazine for Educators

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

    Both recycling and remixing have a number of forms that can be useful for teachers to keep in mind when creating lessons and holding discussions.

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  • 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.

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

    How do teachers guide their students, especially struggling readers, as they encounter new text?  This article provides teachers with a remarkably easy-to-use, yet proven program for giving struggling students the support they need to comprehend — Article-A-Day™.  This program was applied in a group of New York City (NYC) schools that were designated as having high percentages of economically challenged students according to district criteria. The performances of students in these schools illustrate the effectiveness of the program.

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

    It’s a compelling idea—a set of texts on the same topic but with different text complexity levels. With a range of texts on the same topic—easy, moderate, and hard—all students should be able to engage in the same follow-up discussion after reading. No one is stigmatized by getting a text that is clearly aimed at lower readers. If the texts are provided on the computer, even better! It’s a teacher’s dream come true! Indeed, several publishers offer just such sets of texts for schools and districts to purchase. In this essay, I analyze multi-level text sets from three publishers in order to establish if these text sets—especially the versions aimed at students who need the most support—have the features that support reading development. In other words, do these texts fulfill struggling readers’ needs for—and dreams of—becoming proficient readers? 

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  • Preparing Students in Writing Responses to Open-Ended Questions

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

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  • 7 Actions that Teachers Can Take Right Now: Text Complexity

    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!

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  • 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?

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  • Readability and the Common Core’s Staircase of Text Complexity

    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?

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  • TextProject Answers: Beginning Reading

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

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  • 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.

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  • TextProject Answers: Text Complexity

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

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  • Generative Vocabulary Instruction

    It is hard to put an exact number on the number of words in the English language, but there is agreement that English has more words than most languages.1 In everyday conversations, people, even highly educated adults, use only a small portion of the words available to them. Print is a different matter. Many more words from the English lexicon are used in written language. Even so, a very small group of words continues to account for the majority of the words in texts, but authors also use many rare words to define, describe, elaborate, or add nuance to their ideas. One of the signatures of complex texts is the presence of rare vocabulary. Not all of the rare words that students will encounter in complex texts, whether in school or in their careers, can be taught. There are simply too many words in written English. 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.

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  • TextProject Answers: Core Vocabulary

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

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  • Text Complexity and English Learners—Building Vocabulary

    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.

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  • Unique Words Require Unique Instruction

    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.

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  • 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.

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