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Supporting Classroom Instruction: Excerpting Text

The Common Core State Standards expect that students are able to "Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently" (CCSS ELA Literacy Standard 10). To support students to meet Standard 10, teachers select grade-level complex text to be at the center of classroom instruction. When wanting to use a lengthy and dense piece of grade-level complex text with students, excerpting can be a wonderful tool.

In recent lesson planning collaboration with an English teacher, excerpting text was a helpful part of the work. Rather than plan to use entire chapters from the American Gothic by Steven Biel, we planned to use shorter excerpts from the chapters 'Iconoclasm' and 'Parody'. To start, we reviewed the chapters' text complexity to determine appropriate placement in the course and instructional supports to consider. Using the Lexile analyzer the text measured with a 1550L, a score that places the text in the College and Career Readiness grade band. Next, we applied a text complexity rubric to find the text is highly complex in the areas of knowledge demands and language features (both vocabulary and sentence structure). These measures are helpful not only in knowing the text is appropriately placed for use in the senior English class, but also will inform the tasks we create to scaffold learning as students read the challenging text. Knowing we had a strong text to use, we then worked to excerpt it and asked ourselves a series of questions: what is the author's purpose? what portions of this text best serve this purpose? what might we exclude from the text and still keep it's tone and focus? The result was a much shorter selection of text that was typed-up, complete with sourcing information and line numbers.

Our next lesson-planning step will be to create text-dependent tasks for these excerpts. As the purpose for using these texts is to better understand the multiple interpretations of the satirical painting American Gothic, we might consider having students use text annotations and creating a series text dependent questions for use during classroom instruction.

For more information and resources on using complex text, there is information on the centrality of complex text in CCSS Appendix A , there are excerpted examples of grade-level complex text in CCSS Appendix B, and there are resources to support determining text complexity in the resource collection available on Student Achievement Partners website


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