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:
- 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:
- The State of Georgia has a great video series on Making Challenging Texts Accessible
- The National Council of Teachers of English published an extremely informative article, Making the Common Core Text Exemplars Accessible to Middle Graders
- In addition to estimated grade-levels, LessonWriter provides automation tools for literacy support and guidance on graphic organizers and constructing higher order questions
How do you select text of the appropriate level for your students? We’d love to hear your suggestions.