Selecting Grade-Appropriate Texts

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  • 0:03 Grade-Appropriate Text
  • 0:30 Text Complexity
  • 3:05 Content
  • 3:50 Interest Level
  • 4:38 Flexible Grouping
  • 5:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

This lesson identifies three key aspects of a text to look at when choosing grade-appropriate readings for students. It also you gives tools and suggestions to use to find readings that will meet the needs of the variety of readers in a classroom setting.

Grade-Appropriate Text

As a teacher, choosing fictional and informational texts that are appropriate for your students can be a difficult task. If you've spent any amount of time at all in a classroom, you know that the students are unique and that a text meant for that grade level may not be one-size-fits-all. There are three aspects of a text that you should consider when picking things for your students to read: complexity, content, and the interest level your students are likely to have.

Text Complexity

Text complexity refers to the difficulty level of the text, which is judged based on vocabulary and sentence structure. Reading levels are often assigned to texts based on grade level, but it's fairly common to have students in one classroom that are capable of reading on a vast range of levels. If you teach seventh grade, for example, it might not necessarily be appropriate to give your whole class one text that has a seventh grade reading level, because some may be reading at what is considered a fifth grade reading level while others might be as high as ninth grade and beyond. This might sound daunting, but there are plenty of ways to select appropriately challenging texts for all of your students.

One thing you might want to do is give a pre-test at the beginning of a school year to see where each of your students are reading. Many schools use computer programs to give benchmark tests throughout the year to measure a student's lexile, or level of text complexity, that he or she is comfortable reading. Having this information at the beginning of the year can help as you select texts, group students, and measure progress throughout the year. Talk to your librarian or reading specialist about what kinds of computer programs are available at your school.

If you don't have access to resources such as computer programs that measure lexile, use the internet or classroom resources such as reading passages in your textbook to design your own. You can begin the school year by giving your students a reading passage that is considered on grade level along with some comprehension, vocabulary, and short answer questions where students would have to write responses about the reading. Based on the results, you would have an idea of which of your students are reading on, above, or below grade level, and you can differentiate accordingly without the need for exact lexile numbers.

Once you know the range of levels on which your students are reading, you can begin to select books that will challenge but not overwhelm them. Many books are labeled with their lexile (a number that ranges from the 300s to 1700s), or you can search the internet for books based on lexile ranges. Some websites can even adapt articles to different lexiles. For example, if you want your whole class to read an article about a given topic, but their lexile ranges are extremely disparate, you could find the article in three different versions with low, medium, and high lexiles.

Remember that lexile levels do not have to match exactly, but you want to be in a range that makes sense for your students. A student with a lexile of 800 will not feel confident, successful, or interested when reading a text at 1700, but a lexile of 1000 that has high interest will challenge and engage that student.

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