Finding Grade Appropriate Informational Texts
Common Core Anchor Standard
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
The month of January is a time to celebrate heros, cultural diversity and awareness. To this end, my students will be embarking on a project that asks them to work as a group to identify what makes a hero. They will generate a rubric of qualification for heros. Individually, they will identify someone they believe fits the criteria of hero. Students will then conduct research on their individual, and present a persuasive speech to convince their peers of the qualifications of their hero. Students will use the Showing Evidence Tool to help organize and support their choice. They will also be required to use sources of information that are written at an appropriate reading level for their grade. Adding this qualification not only helps to ensure that they are using better quality resources, it also helps to meet the Common Core Standards for Reading Informational Text, among many others.
The Common Core Standards indicate appropriate reading levels for students by grade. Common Core asks us to use three factors when determining readability of a text: Qualitative, Quantitative and Reader and Task. Qualitative and Reader and Task are determined by a human reader. Qualitative measurement takes into consideration things like language conventions, structure and purpose, while Reader and Task take into account how the text will be used, and by whom. Both of these readability measures are easily performed by a veteran teacher, but how does one measure word length, frequency, sentence length and cohesion? Common Core gives us the following bands of lexile levels as targets for our students:
(taken from http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_A.pdf)
Many teachers disagree with the exemplar texts provided by the common core, and wish to substitute their own, but don’t know how to determine the lexile levels. Experts have turned to computers to help them determine lexile levels based solely on quantitative measures, and now we can too!
Determining Reading Levels
Internet Searches: When you searching on the internet for a relevant reading, you can limit your search by using the advanced search features in Google. This help article explains this feature. These reading levels are not perfect, and do not use Lexile level, but they can serve as a way to find approximations of difficulty. As of this writing, neither Bing nor Yahoo offer this feature.
Library Databases: If you are using databases that your Library subscribes to, many of the databases also have a Lexile feature. The Lexile Framework for Reading identifies 4 of the main school related databases, as well as others, as partners. Each database is slightly different in how you find the levels, so check the databases your school subscribes to.
Things you found on your own: There are several web based tools that will help you determine reading level as well. The Lexile Framework for Reading offers an analysis tool, but you must register to use it. Read-ability allows you to test text from an article, or even a webpage, simply by putting in the URL. Read-abillity offered 6 different scores!
When all else fails, Microsoft Word offers a readability level tool, for information on how to use this tool, please visit the Microsoft Help Page.
Library Catalogs: If you are looking for longer pieces, check if your school or local library has one of these Automation Systems (catalogs), which also report Lexile levels on books.
Book Vendors: Book Vendors, where you can purchase books for your classroom, are also jumping onboard with lexile levels. Even Amazon and Barnes and Noble are now providing Lexile levels for the books they sell. For a complete list of Vendors, check the Lexile Framework for Reading Website.
What ideas do you have that combine the themes of heros, multicultural diversity and awareness and readability in your classroom?
(For more information about determining readability by qualitative and Reader and Task, please visit http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_A.pdf)