What Level is the Right Level? Finding the Instructional Sweet Spot

differentiated instruction, accessible texts

The right level text can be the difference between engaged students increasing their skills and comprehension, and alienated students unable to make meaning or progress. This is why skilled teachers are careful to choose texts that are the appropriate level for their students,; but finding the instructional sweet spot is by no means an easy task.

Lev Vygotsky coined the term Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)  to describe “the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers.”

ZPD has often been an elusive pedagogical ideal, but the push from the Common Core to include texts with a greater degree of complexity at earlier grade levels has exacerbated the need to find the right fit.  Fortunately, there are some great tools that not only help educators identify texts of appropriate levels, but also provide instructional strategies to make difficult texts more accessible to students:

These are terrific resource for learning more about instructional techniques related to accessible texts:

How do you select text of the appropriate level for your students? We’d love to hear your suggestions.

One comment

  1. […] My first year of teaching middle school math and science was filled with one realization after another. Early ones included: don’t ever turn your back on the students; never let more than two students get up at once; smile when you feel like crying. Once the task of classroom management was less of an issue, my awareness that Jeremiah does great with computation but never gets word problems correct and that Maria can explain the process of photosynthesis but never seems to do well on written assessments, grew. And after listening to students read aloud from our course textbook, it was apparent that most of the reading was far too difficult.   […]

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