Using Depth and Complexity to Raise Your Students’ Comprehension of Informational Text

Reading comprehension of informational texts is one of the foremost interdisciplinary skills we teach our students. Whether they are reading a nonfiction article for a language arts assessment, researching scientific journals for a project, or reading a chapter of a social studies textbook, the skillset of understanding informational text is paramount to acquiring and using new knowledge.

Oftentimes, students need help to comprehend informational texts. Anyone who has done a quick online search knows that there are many strategies for teaching students how to decode and interpret what they read. But a deep and complex teacher understands that the quickest, most effective strategy for internalizing information is to use the iconic prompts. Take a look at two tried and true ways to use Depth and Complexity to help students interpret what they are reading.

Annotate with Depth and Complexity

An easy, low-prep strategy to get students to interact with informational text is through annotation. Annotating with icons helps them focus on the most important pieces of the text. It is as simple as providing the class with an article and a pencil. 

Some teachers like to guide students through the process of annotation by having them first read the text and find the Big Idea, then read again looking for important Details, and then read one more time with a third iconic lens such as Patterns. This guided annotation practice engages students in close reading and gives them a scavenger-hunt-style task to mark up the text. 

Other teachers let the students decide how to approach their reading and annotation. Watch the following video clip where our trainer Kim Tredick gives an example of annotating as you go.

Use a Graphic Organizer to Get Kids Talking

Students that engage in meaningful discussion about what they read are more likely to internalize the information. A favorite discussion strategy is the Summary Pyramid. This strategy invites students to read a piece of informational text, decide on the most important Details, and engage in discussion and debate to determine the Big Idea and supporting details.

Watch the following video to see an explanation of how to use this graphic organizer in the classroom to boost students’ comprehension of informational text.


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