I posted the following comment in response to Kathleen Porter-Magee’s post “Are ‘just right’ books right for the Common Core?” Kathleen discusses three types of reading levels: independent (those students can read on their own), instructional (those that are slightly challenging), and frustration (those that cause too much frustration).
Though the Common Core stresses the use of grade-level appropriate texts, I’m beginning to think about how we can build context for a text (without giving away the content of the text) through Sarah Brown Wessling’s strategy of fulcrum, context, and texture texts, and I’m combining all of this thinking with the RtI framework for supporting students…
I’d like to conjecture (using previous responder’s term) a little for a moment. I, too, agree with having students read grade-level appropriate texts. I also agree with the text-dependent questioning and deep reading strategies advocated by Coleman and others. I think there is a way we could begin combining approaches to see these concepts through to fruition in ELA instruction.
Let’s look at the RtI framework for addressing the needs of struggling students. If students in need of Tier 2 and 3 intervention begin receiving grade-level appropriate intervention in the earliest grades, perhaps some of the comprehension issues we see at the secondary levels will be weeded out.
But for those students for whom additional interventions in earlier grades do not correct comprehension issues, maybe we could combine RtI thinking with the fulcrum/context/and texture text framework discussed by teacher Sarah Brown Wessling. A fulcrum text is the “centerpiece of any unit of study.” It is the most complex text the student will read in the unit. This would be, instructionally, the grade-level appropriate text. In my thinking, this would also be the text which would receive Coleman’s deep reading treatment–little prereading, focus on text-dependent questions, etc.
Brown Wessling defines “texture texts” as those read in conjunction with and/or after the fulcrum text. These are used to highlight or draw attention to elements of the fulcrum. “Context texts” are those that come before the fulcrum reading and build prior knowledge (establish context) for the fulcrum. The use of context and fulcrum texts to build up to and deepen the comprehension of the fulcrum is both paramount to the reading of the fulcrum and it stays true to the reading expectations of the common core.
I don’t see any reason why students receiving Tier 2 and 3 interventions and/or students with comprehension issues couldn’t read texture and context texts at their reading ability while receiving appropriate scaffolding on the fulcrum text. If they are provided with supplemental texts at their independent and instructional level and taught comprehension skills using those texts that can translate to comprehension of grade-level appropriate texts, is this not providing them with necessary skills while keeping them appropriately challenged?
I think combining many of the literacy and comprehension strategies is an excellent direction for driving instruction. We can’t expect a struggling student to simply jump into a challenging text, but by intervening with skills and strategies at their independent/instructional levels and showing them how to translate those skills/strategies to grade-level appropriate texts, it is possible to provide necessary supports and hold those high expectations.