Text Complexity

Text Complexity – It’s a whole new world out there.


The NYS Common Core Learning Standards have presented a unique opportunity for teacher librarians to partner with classroom teachers.  The Common Core requires teachers to incorporate real world textual material into their lessons and they are looking for help with this task.

I have developed a four step Text Complexity Determination Protocol (TECDEP) that addresses this need. It is designed to be used by classroom teachers in partnership with their school librarian. Informational Text and Literary Text are addressed and the guiding documents are attached.

The four step protocol includes:

First:                    Definition of reader, task, NYS Common Core Standard, Informational or Literary Text

Second:                How to objectively determine a text’s reading level

Third:                   How to qualitatively evaluate the text.

Fourth:                 Usage determination

Steps of the TECDEP include

Step 1

This is a simple recording of information about the student, the teaching goals, NYSCC Standards addressed and the materials to be used.

First -Define the reader and task.  Areas for consideration include: cognitive capabilities of the student; reading skills of the student; student motivation and engagement with task and text: prior knowledge and experience; content/or theme concerns and finally complexity of associated tasks.

Next – what is the unit/lesson and what is the NYS Common Core Standard being addressed?

Finally – Specifics about the material to be used – title author etc.

Once this has been recorded you are ready to address the quantitative and qualitative analysis of the material.

Step 2

Using one of the standard text level tools, determine the text complexity band for the material.  There are several services available for this purpose. For example: Accelerated Reader, Degrees of Reading Power, Fleisch-Kincaid, Pearson Reading Maturity Index and Lexile.com.

A commonly used tool used to determine reading level is Lexile.com These videos provide an overview of it. You will see how to quickly and simply assess material and make adjustments if needed in order to accommodate various learning needs.

Resources: Overview of Lexile


What Does Lexile Mean?


Lexile Measures and the Common Core Standards


Step 3

Qualitative Assessment- In order to determine the level of complexity a variety of text features must be assessed for informational and literary text.

These two rubrics can be used for that purpose:

Informational Text – Purpose; Structure/Layout; Writing style; Language and Informational Knowledge Demands.

Literary Text – Meaning; Structure/Writing Style; Language; Informational Knowledge Demands

Upon completion of the rubric the teacher can place the material on the spectrum of complexity at: simple text, somewhat complex text, complex text or very complex text.

Step 4

At this point the teacher can review the information they have gathered and make a determination about the appropriateness of the material.  They have: a clear statement of the reader and task – an objective assessment of the reading level (and text adjusted for differentiation if needed), and a qualitative assessment of the complexity level of the material.

Together with this information and their professional expertise/experience a decision can made whether or not to use the material.

The Common Core requires teachers to move beyond textbooks and use real world informational text with their students.  It is not uncommon to hear teachers express some frustration about this aspect of the Common Core as they ask: “Where do we find this text?”

In addition to this there is a misconception that the “List” of examples from the state is in fact a recommended or suggested list of titles to be used.  As Susan Pimentel explains on this video, this is not the case http://mediasite.k12.hi.us/HIDOE/Viewer/?peid=1d2454866ec44a769623b25c287efe691d  

This new requirement provides school librarians with an opportunity to collaborate with teachers in a new and exciting way as we share with them the resources and search strategies to help them.  As we know, the Common Core and the Empire State Information Fluency Continuum are strongly aligned and collaboration provides not one but two professionals the opportunity to create units/lessons that meet both Common Core and ES IFC standards.

This is a marvelous opportunity for collaboration that benefits everyone involved.  In sharing this protocol with it is hoped that it will provide you with a tool us can use to  lead the teachers as you create new, exciting and meaningful instruction for your students.

Empire State Information Fluency Continuum








Question: What is the difference between OASIS and M3?

Many times, we are asked at the office, what is the difference between M3 and OASIS? Hopefully after reading this blog, you can get a better understanding of what unique differences each offers.

First, it is important to note that M3 and OASIS are the interface to access your catalog. Any changes you make in OASIS are reflected in M3 and vice versa. You do not need to make changes in OASIS and then go to M3 and make the same change, changes are pushed throughout.

Also, it is important to note, M3 and OASIS use the same username (1) and password (Your School Code) to login to your system.


Where do I find OASIS: The internet and more specifically, a web address usually started by ocm.mlasolutions.com/….

OASIS is a web based interface. It is not installed on your computer; instead you access your catalog by going onto a website.  This is the newest product put out by Mandarin. Being web based, you access OASIS through a web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, etc.). This is no different than using email, Facebook, or any other website you already visit on the web.


Image: First screen you will see upon arriving at OASIS, sign in is located at top right hand corner of screen. Once signed in, Cataloging window will look almost identical to this image.

Image: Circulation screen for OASIS. Same functions as M3 but displayed on a different interface

Image: Circulation screen for OASIS. Same functions as M3 but displayed on a different interface

M3 Windows Client

Where Do I Find M3: M3 can be found on your desktop or menu located on the bottom of your screen (See Images Below)

M3 icons   OR   M3Desktop

M3 is the traditional Windows based product. It is installed on your local computer. This is the system that many have been using for years.  Cataloging, Circulation, Group Editor, and Report Tool are its own separate module for M3.


Image: M3 Cataloging Screen


Image: M3 Circulation Screen

Why Should I Bother With Cataloging?

pic4blogMandarin is coming out with a new update to the display in OASIS. The new display will highlight not only the author, but also the book title and series title. This makes for a cleaner, easier to read format for all search results on OASIS.


Image: Mandarin’s new OASIS display. Note the links for Author and Series Title (Click Image for Enlarged View)

This is a great feature that makes it easier for teachers and students to find what they are looking for and also give them the ability to easily link to related resources via the “series title link”. What I mean by this is if you find a book in the series, by clicking on the series title, a new search (clicking the link) will bring you all the books in that series.

Now here is the BAD news.

If you don’t have consistent records, you will not be able to use this feature.

Many librarians, whether purposely or not, tend to put cataloging on the back burner because of time constraints that are inherent with the job. Without a dedicated block of time, many see the process of cleaning up their catalog as a daunting task. And let’s be honest? How many of you actually have dedicated blocks to do cataloging?

Now here is the GOOD news.

Utilizing Mandarin’s M3 global edit (Find and Replace) can help you cut down the time that is necessary to edit or insert your 490#a and 490#v fields making your catalog more searchable for students and teachers. Editing and standardizing hundreds of records can be done in a free planning period or during a slow time in the library. You can edit, insert, or delete hundreds of 490#a and 490#v record fields in minutes with this feature making your catalog more interconnected.


Image: Find and Replace Global Edit can replace hundreds of record fields in a matter of seconds (Click Image for Enlarged View)

Meograph: A New Timeline Creator


Timelines are a staple in social studies and ela.  They help students keep track of dates and facts.  I have been searching for a good online-timeline creator for awhile.  I have tried dipity which is good but I find that it is very slow to load and is limited to the number you can create and information mediums.  So I searched and searched for an alternative and lo and behold I found Meograph.  Not only is it free (YAY!) it can embed videos, text, audio, and uses Google Maps.  I was in heaven.  I did this with a class and it went smoothly.  Well almost smoothly (internet went down once).

As you can see at the left you can add an event, then a when (date), where (location), link (with more information).  You can also add a photo, youtube video, and even narration.  The narration online is limited to 30 secs.  However, you can upload unlimited audio.  I used audacity (remember you need the LAME encoder to save as MP3) and had the students record and publish as a MP3.

A note on location:  You must use the current name of the city or town.  Therefore if you are talking about Ancient Persia you need to find the modern country.

Cross-Post:  tech4schoollibrarians.com

Your Catalog and the Common Core

The automation team at the Onondaga Cortland Madison BOCES School Library System is working to refine how we access our collections when we search by subject. Could a search screen be improved by adding icons (or search buttons) that collected materials by subject (we use the 690 local subject field for this)?

Think about teachers and students as they search for materials. You want them to start at your OPAC because you’ve probably got great print materials that they need, but you don’t want to limit them. What if you put links to online digital resources here that linked directly to subject areas within the database? And, what if you put icons there that also linked to materials’ subject areas in your catalog?

1 FullCatalogShot

Laurie Egan, our “Automation Queen”, has created (and it’s taken quite a bit of thought and time) a graphical interface to both print and digital resources in the school’s library and put it all on one page – the OPAC search page. She’s working with Mandarin, but the idea should be transferable between platforms. This is not a federated search. This is about librarians improving access through good use of the local subject field (690). Users can still do their own search, but these buttons help refine the search by local subject.

2 CenterScreenVS

If you look closely, you’ll be able to see icons (buttons, really) for print materials i.e. by subject and icons that go directly out to your online resources like Grolier, or World Book, GALE, etc. and by subject, if possible.

3 Closeup

And, you can refine it further. See?

4 Breakout
That’s the key. In doing that the OPAC search screen gives your users multiple access points to different material forms in your library – IN ONE PLACE – and it takes them there through the OPAC, your window on your collection.

This isn’t rocket science, but it is an organizational template for the kinds of searches the Common Core requires. And, it increases use because it’s easier to use. And, it allows searchers to be more independent which creates a whole new level of conversations in the library.

Share with us what you’re doing in your libraries.

Join us!

This is issue NUMBER 1 of the new SLS blog. I hope it’s a place where we can start to share best practices and resources with each other.  I know I’m really interested in the “automation issue” and becoming an “enbedded librarian” (and I think the two are very closely linked, especially in light of the Common Core), but this blog isn’t about me, it’s about us.  And sharing.  So, please consider us – the SLS community of school librarians –  and share.


Marcie Mann

photo: littlelibrary.net littlelibrary