Strategies for Assessing Reading Materials

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  • 0:01 Readability with Texts
  • 1:23 Formulas
  • 3:15 CLOZE Tests
  • 4:47 Text Evaluation Scales
  • 6:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

One of the most important aspects of being an English language arts teacher is choosing suitable reading materials for your students. Watch this video lesson to learn strategies for choosing the most appropriate materials.

Readability with Texts

As an English language arts teacher, you need to be constantly evaluating your students' reading abilities. However, you cannot accurately do so unless the reading material is appropriate for the level of your students. Thus, you need to also evaluate that reading material. If the text is too difficult, your students will struggle, which leads to frustration and could even put them off reading altogether. On the other hand, if the material is too easy, you will not get an accurate account of their ability, and you won't help them move forward and learn.

The teacher needs to find literature that will not only be at the right level of difficulty, but also cover the standards and interest your students. Think back to your own days in grade school. Did you ever feel forced to read a boring novel that you couldn't relate to? We all have had those experiences. The truth of the matter is there will always be students who don't enjoy reading simply because they are being forced to read. But if you choose something that is at their level with content that is interesting, you might be able to grab the interest of most of your students. This goes a long way to getting students to take an active role in their own learning. Now, let's go over some of the ways to choose the reading materials that best fit your students.


The first strategy is to use readability formulas to evaluate reading materials. There are several of these formulas, which consist of a kind of mathematical equation, which results in the grade level of the text. For example, after using the formula for the novel A Separate Peace by John Knowles, you get a ten. That means average tenth graders will be able to read this novel without much difficulty.

It's important to note there needs to be some flexibility with results of these readability formulas. In this example, getting a ten does not mean all tenth graders will be able to read that novel easily. Also, some tenth graders will think it is way too easy. This is where you must analyze your own students and see if it's a good fit for their abilities. Ideally, you want reading material to be just a step above their level. This way, they do not get overly frustrated, but the material is difficult enough to push them a little out of their comfort zone.

One of the most popular formulas is Fry's formula, which measures readability level from grade one through college. This method includes reading extracts of around 100 words from whatever novel or reading material you want to evaluate. Then, you count the number of sentences and syllables in the extract. Then, you find the average length of the sentences and average number of syllables. Graph these numbers on a Fry's Readability Graph, which will tell you the grade level of the text.

As you can see from Fry's formula, readability formulas depend on sentence length and word difficulty to evaluate text. However, something to consider is that length might not correspond to difficulty. Some longer words are simple ideas, like gymnasium and Mississippi. Bear that in mind when using any readability formula.

Cloze Tests

A second method to determining the reading level of a piece of writing is a CLOZE test. A CLOZE test is a reading passage with blank spaces replacing some of the words. This kind of activity actually has many purposes, like evaluating a student's ability, but it can also evaluate a reading passage. To do so, choose a passage from the text that is about 300 words. Delete about 50 words and replace them with blank spaces. Then, ask your students to fill in the blanks with the words they think should be there.

After the test is completed, divide the number each student got right by 50, which gives you a percentage. If the students are mostly scoring above 44%, then the text will be within their capabilities; some with instructional support depending on the student. If most of your students are scoring below 44%, then the text will be too difficult for them.

Although a CLOZE test is not a perfect science, it can be useful because it gives you a result particular to your exact students. You can even choose a number of passages from the same text to get a more stable result. Remember, CLOZE tests do not really tell anything about higher-level thinking or analysis. Also, these tests can cause some frustration, since the students will feel it unfair to be expected to know the right answer when they've never seen the passage before. However, if the teacher explains all this beforehand, usually the frustration is much less.

Text Evaluation Scales

Besides formulas and a CLOZE test, there are actually other text evaluations scales out there to measure the friendliness of any reading material. In this context, friendly refers to how accessible it is to students based on organization, conciseness and clarity.

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