Complex Text: It’s Complicated

Laura Varlas shares a piece for Education Update on the importance of text complexity and strategies for accessing standard 10 (here). She underscores the importance of keeping instruction anchored in the text with these notes:

Instructional time: Complex texts take time, and the more time you spend outside the text, the less time you spend inside the text. Many materials and discussions spend as much time on student feelings about the text, or how the text relates to their experience, as they do with what’s going on inside the text.

Equity: When you go outside the text to students’ experiences, you privilege those students who happen to have those experiences or have practiced having these types of personal meaning making discussions in their home setting. That’s usually students from more affluent households. If you focus on just what’s in the text everyone has read and studied, you have more of a level playing field.

Rigor: It’s easier to go outside the text, and it’s a shortcut to student engagement. But it sends the message that the texts are not engaging on their own and that working hard to wrestle with texts is not a worthwhile endeavor.

About Aaron Grossman

I am a 5th grade teacher at Roy Gomm Elementary in Reno, Nevada. I started working with elementary students as part of the Montana Reads program and AmeriCorps. In 2001, after graduating from the University of Montana and moving to Reno, Nevada, I student taught at Rita Cannan Elementary before receiving a 6th grade position at Veterans Elementary. I moved out of the classroom to be a Literacy Coordinator, then an Instructional Coach, and finally a School Improvement Program Coordinator. In 2011, I began working on the Nevada Academic Content Standards in the district’s Curriculum & Instruction Department. I returned to the classroom for the 2015-2016 school year to teach 4th grade at Huffaker Elementary. Before returning to the classroom, I helped develop the Core Task Project that has been featured by National Public Radio, the Gates Foundation, American Radio Works, Eduwonk, the Fordham Institute, Vox, and the Center for American Progress. In 2014, I received the Leader to Learn From Award for my teacher-centered initiative and work to bring college, career, and civics ready outcomes into Northern Nevada classrooms (here). In 2015, I was appointed by Governor Sandoval serve on the Statewide RPDP Council. The same year, Nevada’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Canavero placed me on the state’s State Improvement Team. This year I will be part of the National Council on Teacher Quality’s Teacher Advisory Group. I am Google Certified Educator and a Nevada Teacher Ambassador. I believe strongly that teaching content is teaching reading and I make sure my students have ample opportunities to work with social studies, history, science and art outcomes. I do what I can to blend the learning for my students and this blog is part of that effort. You can contact me at
This entry was posted in Close Reading, Common Core State Standards, Complex Text, Student Achievement Partners, text complexity and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Complex Text: It’s Complicated

  1. Profound. Exactly what many of us are struggling with in the field – students used to “connecting” but not really thinking about the text.

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