The new Common Core State Standards require that students read more complex texts. What are ways teachers can provide support for new levels of rigor?

One of the areas of emphasis in the new Common Core State Standards is to move students to higher levels of text materials. Supporting students to read and learn at higher levels of text can be challenging, especially if you teach students who are reading below grade level. However, the Common Core State Standards require that we move students to higher levels of text. Providing extra help and scaffolding becomes a critical aspect of helping students succeed. There are three simple ways you can scaffold learning for your students.


The first effective strategy is to model for students. In addition to thinking out loud, or talking students through your own learning process, you can model by providing a list of steps to follow as they read. For younger students, at-risk students, English Language Learners, or students with special needs, adding a picture to those steps is helpful.

Layering Meaning

Common Core & Text ComplexityNext, you can use a strategy called layering meaning. Often, we choose easier texts for students; ones they can read without struggling. But, when we do that for students reading below grade level, then we are not truly meeting the CCSS. With layering meaning, if students are unable to read the text material, whether it is a book, article, or piece on the internet, provide a simpler version of the text to jumpstart their learning.

When I was teaching North Carolina history to eighth graders reading at an elementary level, I found a fourth grade textbook and pulled sections from that book. Once my students read the easier material, they returned to the text that was on grade level. Reading the simpler article provided needed background knowledge and content specific vocabulary that helped them better understand the complex text. With my guidance for assistance, my students could successfully navigate more difficult, grade level materials.

Making Connections

A third strategy that helps students handle complex text is making text connections. Ideally, students make three types of connections: the text to themselves, the text to other materials they have read, and the text to the outside world, or to real life. Providing a simple chart with three boxes for them to complete is a good way to reinforce the need to look for connections with different topics. Without this step, students continue to see each text as an isolated piece of information, and therefore, will not remember the material later.