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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Lexile.com suggests these grade levels . . .
AMAZING LEARNING continues at TCRWP!
Liz Dunford Franco – State of the Art Curriculum to Support First Grade Readers
We began with a study of mini-lessons in the first grade Book 1 of the new Reading Units of Study. With a partner, we read a sample, role played it and then debriefed with table groups with these questions in mind:
- How are students engaged across these lessons?
- What does the teacher do?
- What does the student do?
Liz shared some tips for reading the lessons with our group. They included:
- Use a highlighter to mark the language so you are clear and consistent.
- Teaching Point – echo the language in the plan
- Connection- This is where you can add your own personal touch and make it relevant but keep it short and sweet.
- Make notes to yourself – ( My thinking – Consider a different color of post it for what you as teacher need to do or say in advance so everyone has “materials” needed.)
What does kid watching look like at the beginning of the year in first grade?
The teacher might be looking for evidence that a student is able to
Self – start
Refocus with a teacher gesture
Work with table group
Work with partner
We talked about keeping the mini-lesson short and staying under the 10 minute guideline length for a true “mini-lesson”. Liz pushed us to think beyond just the “10 minute time limit” in order to determine where the lessons broke down. By studying “where the trouble was” in the lessons, we could see where we were losing time and avoid those behaviors.
What patterns did we see?
In active engagement, was too much time spent going back over the strategy for an extra mini-mini-lesson?
Did the Link involve reteaching instead of just a nod to the chart?
Were students being kept in the group and not sent off for additional work?
How could the teacher check in with students later (without losing time)?
Hand student a post it and then after all students are off reading,, say, “1, 2, 3 eyes on me! If I gave you a post-it, come back to the table!”
“Taking a sneak peek could be taught as an Inquiry Lesson.”
We jigsawed sections from the 2nd book – Unit 3 Learning about World – Reading Nonfiction with the following bends:
Bend 1: Getting Smart on Nonfiction Topics
Bend 2: Tackling Super Hard Words in Order to Keep Learning
Bend 3: Reading Aloud Like Experts
A feature that I loved and tweeted out was that in grade 1, Book 2 Nonfiction, students are put in the role of teacher to do their own read alouds! (This was always the goal with Every Child Reads in Iowa: students would be able to do their own Read Alouds, Talk Alouds, Think Alouds, and Composing Think Alouds.) I also loved to hear that kids need 10-12 informational books in personal baskets or common group baskets. At this stage I am waiting to hear more about both the Read Aloud 5 day plan nd Shared Reading Plan .
Possible assessments for Grade 1 students include:
Letter sound ID
Comprehension to be assessed through Read Alouds, talk, conference and the use of a pre-assessment to determine whether students need another bend to build up habits or a unit from If/Then before beginning the nonfiction unit.
What are you thinking right now?
What “AHAs” did you have?
Any specific connections/questions that came to mind for the non-first grade teachers?
Katie Clements – Embracing Complexity: Teaching Kids to Tackle and Love More Complex Nonfiction (Grades 3-6)
How can we support students in tackling and loving more complex texts?
We began with four minutes to teach about our non-fiction book with a partner (after a few tips about how to do this well). This was a great energizer for the group, as well as validating our homework assignment.
- DRAFTING main idea
We began with nontraditional texts: Main idea from text and pictures combined that Katie modeled and then main idea from a video that we practiced with a partner.
- Don’t just name a topic.
- As you read on, hold the main idea loosely to see if it STILL fits.
- Revise main idea as more information is added.
We watched a very short PSA video clip. First viewing: “As you are listening and watching – watch for the chunks, we will see how the chunks fit together!” We discussed. Katie posted the three big ideas she heard and then put bullets under them. Before we watched the video again we were told to sort and rank details for a mini-debate.
As we worked on this, I tweeted out:
“Use of non-traditional texts. . . do our students know how to process/understand text that they will live with all their lives?”
1. Revision will be necessary in complex text.
2. I believe we have a moral obligation to teach students how to do this complex work with the texts that they are using in their lives. This means students will need to learn how to do this work independently!
Katie shared some ways that this tool was used in a fifth grade classroom and we brainstormed some additional ways that it can be used. As I read my homework assignment, I watched to see if these areas were also “complexity issues” in my book. Much potential here!
How do you teach main idea in nonfiction text?
What makes it complex for kids?
Does it get “messy”?
Kathleen Tolan – Closing Workshop
Groups and Maximizing Student Growth
Key Takeaway: Small groups for all – not just struggling readers!
How can we get a routine for ourselves so we “know how it is going to go?
We need to take interventions to mastery instead of introduction so students get reading practice and their work can be lifted. Because growth takes time, we need realistic strategies. Anything that is hard takes practice. Name it for yourself. Put the work into your daily schedule so the students can do it again and again and grow.
Kathleen share some of the frustrations of planning for small groups.
- Sometimes it takes 45 minutes to plan for one session.
- And then the lesson doesn’t go the way we want it to.
- The students aren’t doing well.
- There is no magic fairy dust to sprinkle on the students!
What would it be like to plan for the increments along the way?
Small Group Session 1: Small groups should NOT be using new material. You will need to go back to the exact space in lesson plans. RETEACH! Don’t do a big demo or Think Aloud! Instead invite the small group to “co-create the original lesson!” This allows you to turn the work over to the students quickly and also see which parts of the original lesson stuck with the kids! This way withi minute two of a small group, students are at the. “Open your book and now you do it!” stage.
Coach! Coach! Coach! Coach!
All of us do it together quick and then to transference.
Link – add in when we will meet them again! Put on schedule to make sure it is included. Check in is short – 10 sec.
Small Group Session 2: Reread from Read Aloud
Redo what you did last time or shared writing from last work. Take this into your own book. Read – your 5-7 min. are up. But they are still there “DOING” the work!
Students don’t need us there for repeated practice. Leaning happens when you are not there! Set them up and give them tools!
Small Group Session 3: We are working on envisionment. Go, work.
Our goal is not to talk all the time. Use progression on envisionment and write around the post it, naming the work. When we use the progression, make sure you teach down all the way through that level and then teach one thing that leans into the next level. Be realistic. If a student is at level 2, don’t expect them to immediately jump to level 4.
Give one tip.
Students doing the work!!!
Repeat coaching one more time!
- Small Groups – set 2 groups up. Move faster! Don’t get too comfortable. Don’t sit as Teacher! You will move faster! After 5 min. move on!
- Need internal sense – Need to reset our clock!
- Tangible tools. What can you leave behind? What’s important?
- If we introduce tools that go across content areas, look at the amount of practice students will have!
What is your routine for small group work?
Who do you work with in your small groups?
Mary Ehrenworth – Keynote
Remembering Grant Wiggins: Innovating “Teaching for Transference”
Mary shared that this session was the result of collaborative work from the TCRWP staff. Students in school need less drill and more scrimmage because feedback varies. Feedback in skills and strategies are “can you do them?” In scrimmage feedback is likely to be, “How are you doing with them on your own?”
- book to book – Piggy book – Work you can do in any book
(characters in books are more than one way (strengths and flaws) Your opinion is more valuable when allow for nuance and acknowledge there are some troublesome parts!
- Book to book – (Characters with strengths and flaws) Maddie and Tae – “Girl in a Country Son”
“What’s the most important thing?” Sorting and ranking made discussions stronger.
“What’s the next important thing?”
“What makes you say that?” Don’t just nod your head. Ask “Why is that important?”
3. Transference to another text – history text – Schoolhouse Rock – Elbow Room
(Strengths and flaws, Power and disempowerment) Stems you might use are
“While it’s true…” “Nevertheless…”
4. Inside / outside school Transfer
Mary shared that she and Cornelius Minor will have a JAL article next week that included close reading of sports event that allowed students to “read their lives”. Our goal should be to nurture transference form one book to another, from one reading experience to another, and from one reader to another. How often do we feel like we are around the campfire having fun? Don’t want to leave the story?
How do you teach for transference?
Last week was a big week for writing assessments as well as professional development planning. I was also working on some planning for future demonstrations. . . typical multi-tasking for a fairly typical week! I actually kept a post-it open on my desktop to keep track of my writing process for this blog because it was the purest “creation” that I was developing. Most of the other pieces were revisions or combinations of other past work.
The picture below from Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris fascinated me last week! Stop and read that blog about the writing process if you haven’t yet, because there is so much wisdom about what each of these “steps” really looks like! Not every single second of writing is visible so take a deep breath and consider your own writing process as you develop a piece of writing from planning to publication.
My mini-research: Does my writing parallel this?
What was my topic for this next slice?
I had spent some time in December looking at my blog data and wondering what my top blog posts were for 2014 when I wrote an average of two posts per week or at least one “slice” each week as well as a daily “slice” during March.
To begin my planning for this post, I went to my data to double check the top five blog posts and then created this table in Word. After previewing it, I decided that I didn’t like the “picture of the table” so I went with a word version so the links would be clickable. This caused a major discussion with myself about how I would classify adding links to the table. Was that Revision or Editing? (I went with editing due to “surface changes”!)
|5||#TCRWP Day One: Reading Institute|
|4||#TCRWP: Informational Writing Goals|
|3||#TCRWP and a Teacher’s Toolkit for Teaching Writing|
|2||Lexile Level is NOT Text Complexity CCSS.R.10|
|1||Close Reading in Kindergarten? Is it Possible?|
My top topics for 2014 were: Close Reading, Text Complexity, and #TCRWP Writing (2) and Reading (1). . . a mixed list. Looking back at blog data for previous years revealed that “Close Reading in Kindergarten? Is it Possible?” was also my top blog post for 2013. (As a side note “Close Reading and the Little Ones” was also a great presentation at #NCTE14 by Chris Lehman, Kate Roberts, and Kristi Mraz. Check out Catherine Flynn’s post here about the presentation and how she used it.)
I learned two things about my process for writing blog posts.
1) I keep a list of possible blog topics. By the time a topic is put on this list, I have already begun the pre-writing process. I’m not sure that I can accurately record how often I work on “prewriting” because the list often includes two or three specific ideas about the topic.
2) I needed to add another step to the writing process. Sometimes I do collect some information/evidence collaboratively with others. However, that is NOT the step that I added as I developed this post. This post included both a picture and a table import with multiple opportunities to “check” or “preview” my work. I included that as another step in the writing process. Typically, I try to check to see what my post looks like on both a PC and a Mac because it is never the same. Maybe the “preview” is important because I worry about the “publish” button. It is still scary to push that button and then see that my post does not match my “vision” for writing.
So here’s my best representation of my process for writing this blog post.
Does everyone use the same exact process?
What does your writing process look like?
What are the implications for your students?
Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to share our work.
This Tweet from #tcrwp (Teachers College Reading and Writing Project) on August 15th caught my eye. A quick glance at the twitter stream confirmed that it came from Stephanie Harvey’s keynote (sigh of envy across the miles).
Hmmm. . . Harry Potter, Old Man and the Sea, and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day are three distinctly different texts that have similar lexile levels!
Was I interested? Yes!
Did I independently check? Yes!
Those three books are typically read by readers at these levels:
- Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, Very Bad, No Good Day – primary grades
- Harry Potter – upper elementary grades
- Old Man and the Sea – high school
But yet they all three have similar lexile levels! Would that still be where those texts would be read? Or has that expectation changed with the adoption of the Common Core?
The initial connection to Stephanie Harvey was further confirmed in Twitterverse later:
So what is a lexile? And just how is a lexile determined?
The Lexile Framework® for Reading claims to measure a student’s reading ability based on actual assessment, rather than a generalized age or grade level. It uses a common, developmental scale to match a reader with books, articles and other resources at the right level of difficulty. The Lexile Framework was developed by MetaMetrics®, an educational measurement and research organization that purports to use scientific measures of student achievement to link assessment with targeted instruction to improve learning. To date, more than 115,000 books and 80 million articles have Lexile measures, and the number of resources with Lexile measures continues to grow.
HOWEVER, CCSS.R.10 does not use Lexiles alone as a single measure of Text Complexity. ALL CCSS documents include a three-pronged approach to complexity as evidenced by this graphic and explanation:
The Common Core specifically says that there are “three equally important parts.” A lexile measure does not equal text complexity. There are many ways to determine which texts are appropriate for specific grade levels or bands. Quantitative factors (#2 above) seem to be the easiest to measure. An addendum to Appendix A suggests that two quantitative measures be used for comparison. That would mean that Lexiles AND a grade level equivalent could both be considered for a more general “quantitative measure.” Then qualitative facets would be explored like theme, structure and knowledge demands. Finally the Reader and Task considerations would be reviewed.
Additional information about text complexity is easily located. Sarah Brown Wessling’s, “Teacher of the Year,” viewpoint of text complexity is available at Teaching Channel.
Which elements of text complexity are you considering when selecting text?
What examples of “Out of Whack Lexiles” have you found?
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Addition/ Update = 08.17.13:
- Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway 610L.
- Twilight garners a Lexile score of 720.
- A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway 730L.
- Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby, Age 8, has a Lexile score of 860.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid has 1000L.
- Moby Dick by Herman Melville has a Lexile of 1200.
- The Wee Little Woman is a board book by Byron Barton and has a Lexile of 1300.
**According to Titlewave:
The Diary of a Wimpy Kid 950
Fahrenheit 451 890
Gossip Girl 820
The Great Gilly Hopkins 800
From @AliBuzzell new resource on 08.21.13 tweentribune.com/readrank Thanks, Ali!
@doctordea Brief white paper: The Lexile Framework: https://connect.ebsco.com/s/article/The-Lexile-Framework-A-MetaMetrics-White-Paper?language=en_US
Donalyn Miller, the Book Whisperer http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/book_whisperer/2012/07/guess_my_lexile.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-TW