#SOL18: March 25

My most popular blog post is “Lexile Level is NOT Text Complexity CCSS.R.10” and it looks like this.  It’s almost five years old so it’s time to revisit and reflect on what we now know about “Text Complexity”.

Screenshot 2018-03-24 at 4.01.14 PM

It’s not surprising that these three very different texts could have similar lexile levels.   Lexiles are all about the quantitative features of text complexity.

Here’s what a google search for “lexiles” turns up.

Screenshot 2018-03-24 at 4.07.48 PM.png

Retrieved from google.com 3.24.18

1.7 million results

And the first one says ” matching readers with texts” . . .

Is that really the goal?

This ASCD publication, excerpted from A Close Look at Close Reading, asks you to rank these six elementary texts to determine their order.  What do you think? How would that ranking look?

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Volcanoes: Nature’s Incredible Fireworks
  • Because of Winn-Dixie
  • Martin’s Big Words
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

What are you thinking? 

How would you rank these?

Which is #1? Which is #6?

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Volcanoes: Nature’s Incredible Fireworks
  • Because of Winn-Dixie
  • Martin’s Big Words
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

A favorite source that I like to use to evaluate text complexity is TeachingBooks.net   Do you know it?  Have you used it?  There is no cost.  Not all titles are always found but they also accept teacher ratings in order to complete their data sets.

According to TeachingBooks.net, Diary of a Wimpy Kid has the highest lexile level. (Volanoes:  Nature’s Incredible Fireworks does not have a lexile level available.)  The actual rating from the site looks like this and places it between third and fifth grade.

Screenshot 2018-03-24 at 4.52.44 PM.png

Would you say that Diary of a Wimpy Kid was the most complex text of the six listed?

Lexiles are only the quantitative measure – one of three measures of text complexity.  The other two are Qualitative Measures and the Reader and Task and all three are EQUAL by the definition.

Screenshot 2018-03-24 at 5.09.24 PM.png

What resources are you using for text complexity? 

How are all three parts included? 

When does text complexity REALLY matter?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this daily forum each March. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                                                                      slice of life 2016

It’s really not about always working with HARD texts.  When we want to plan a series for instruction, we want a range of texts that students can work with that increases in complexity so that we know they can do that work.  We need to have our “best guesses” confirmed. And sometimes, we need to know that the emotional and content load of the passage is appropriate for the age/grade.  There’s no one single factor that makes text selection easy.  It’s a combination of many factors, including student choice, that needs to be part of the consideration when applying “text complexity” tools!

The results according to TeachingBooks.net

Screenshot 2018-03-25 at 1.38.38 AM

Lexile.com suggests these grade levels . . .

Screenshot 2018-03-25 at 1.44.07 AM

It’s complicated!


14 responses

  1. It IS complicated. I’ve always thought about sentence length being such a large part of how lexile levels are figured. MAP testing generally resurfaces the lexile conversation. What a rich set of resources you have compiled in this post. I shall be using it for future PD. Motivation and background knowledge play into the puzzle of how a reader enters a text.

    1. Kristi,
      If I use TeachingBooks.net as a “guide” and think of a “ladder” of text complexity, I can “rethink” my approach to setting students up to tackle more complex text and / or instruction that I “may” need to provide to fill in gaps. It is so darned complicated! 🙂

  2. A good review for me and a reminder that a Lexile Level cannot be the only factor to match a reader with a text. There are sound reasons to level texts, but students should not be confined to a certain level of text. For example, think about the kindergartner who is the dinosaur expert and can use pictures and other features of nonfiction text to look at books about dinosaurs at varying Lexile Levels. Interest, what a child is going to be expected to do, and possibilities for partners and book clubs can help students read at more complex levels. I tried to read David Copperfield when I was in sixth grade. I was “showing off.” I could read the words, but I hated the text. I wasn’t ready for it. I think that is why I have learned that many college grads are just now reading the classics. Now, they are ready to appreciate them. And what is wrong with a book that is easy for you to read?! I often tuck in a Mary Higgins mystery or several picture books between harder reads. Your post made me think this Sunday morning! I was off to a slow start.Now I am charged up and ready to go!

    1. Lynne,
      Short version: No ONE factor should ever determine whether a student can / should read a book except for a student’s DESIRE or “want to” read the book. That trumps all other factors!

      Long version: I remember reading “The Sun Also Rises” as a 7th grader – in a challenge by a teacher. I learned there was more than just the plot. Did I want a steady diet of Hemingway? No, but did I like a challenge sometimes, yes! Reading up and down the ranges should be encouraged under reading volume. Two or three easy, one hard, two or three familiar, one unfamiliar genre . . . so many ways to vary reading and encourage a lifetime of reading without spending 10 or 12 weeks killing a classic! I love David Copperfield – the magician – but have also liked Dickens as well. Choice reading (Reader and Task) is so often under-emphasized and underutilized!

      Fired up! YES! ❤

  3. Text complexity is so complicated, but putting the right text in students’ hands is critical to their reading development. We could write multiple post about the Diary of a Wimpy Kid phenomena. I believed it was a complex text which is often in the hands of first and second grade readers. I don’t want to keep texts from students but am actively trying to replace it with equally enticing, more appropriate books.

    1. I think of Diary of a Wimpy Kid similarly to Harry Potter. If parent and child read it together, they can gain so much. If a second grader reads either alone, there is a lot that can be missed. IT ALL DEPENDS! If they believe in the “one and done reading”, there is much missed in the experience! Some kids are of course ready. Are all second graders in the same classroom? Probably not! Forcing HARD down student throats is not helpful and that’s happening so many places that it just makes me ill! 😦

  4. This is complicated and gives one pause for thought. As Lynne said, a student has to be ready for a particular book. Reading the words and grasping the meaning are two different things. Reading maturity plays an important part. We need to have challenging reading materials for our students, but it can’t so difficult that students lose interest in the material, or worse yet, are completely turned off to reading.

    1. Amen! Amen! Amen!
      Challenge when appropriate.
      Support when appropriate.
      Every student gets what the need!
      Without turning anyone away from membership in the reading club!!! 🙂

  5. As a high school teacher, I am just jumping into the world of text levels. There is a major shift happening in our district where we are acknowledging that our students come to Grade 9 reading below grade level. For years we worked around rather than addressing the reading need. I have found conflicting information and levels so these sources of information are quite helpful to start to sort it out. Thanks!

    1. Level are so complicated. Knowledge is power. Considering all 3 features of text complexity is critical in closing the gap for students. But so also is CHOICE. Good luck!

  6. Would like to reblog this. Won’t without your ok. Let me know. Email directly to sam.bommarito.2@gmail.com. Thanks!

    1. Absolutely! Sent you an email!

  7. […] 4. #SOL18: March 25 – Updated Reprise of #3 above “Lexile Level is NOT Text     Complexity (2013) […]

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