Category Archives: Accessible text

The Feng Shui of Reading

After an assistant principal observed one of my first social studies classes, he commented that the bare walls were not very stimulating and maybe I could brighten up the place. At first I didn’t really understand but after decorating with student work and posters of the cultures we were studying, the students were more engaged and the room was energized.

Feng Shui
The idea that environment influences mood and learning is hardly a new one.  Feng Shui, the popular approach to arranging physical space in harmony with the five elements of ancient Chinese physics—Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, Earth—to influence mood and energy dates back thousands of years. More recently, studies have shown that improving the classroom environment definitely improves learning outcomes.

Similarly, research shows that readers have strong preferences for how words, space, and pictures are arranged on a page and meeting those preferences improves mood and enhances performance.

LessonWriter lessons balance the three elements of modern page layout—Typography, Images, and Layout—to improve students’ experience and understanding.

Our Feng Shui of Reading uses more white space, clearer delineations between tasks, and hundreds of new thematic images to brighten your pages. Click here to to try now.

All of LessonWriter’s design features are simple, fast, and free.

Check these resources for more information on how mood influences learning and how page design affects mood.

  1. The Aesthetics of Reading , Kevin Larson (Microsoft) & Rosalind Picard (MIT)
  2. Depending on My Mood: Mood-Driven Influences on Text Comprehension, Catherine M. Bohn-Gettler and David N. Rapp
  3. Better Mood and Better Performance:Learning Rule-Described Categories Is Enhanced by Positive Mood, e Ruby T. Nadler, Rahel R. Rabi, and John Paul Minda The University of Western Ontario

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

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 Image 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:

  • Google has an Advanced Search Filter by Grade Level.  The filter breaks up search results into basic, intermediate and advanced, and the best thing is that categorizations are not simply the result of automated grade level analysis, but have been vetted by actual educators. Click here to read more.
  • LessonWriter.com just added a new premium feature that allows users to get  an estimated grade-level based on the Flesch Kinkaid Grade Level Formula  If you are not already a LessonWriter user click here to register now for free.
  • Also, http://readability-score.com offers several grade-level estimation calculators.

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.

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Filed under Accessible text, Literacy