ELA: Why Lexile Scores Don’t Tell the Whole Story

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Last week I provided teachers with updated Lexile Ranges from Appdenix A of the Common Core State Standards. Read on to see how teachers must also take in consideration more qualitative measures when determining which books to use in the classroom.

manpotteralexanderCan you identify the words in this word cloud taken from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea? What about those from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling? Or even from Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?

On first glance, either can I! The reason? All three books scored between 940L-980L using the online Lexile Text Analyzer  tool. This would place all three books firmly in the 4th-5th grade reading range.  Even more surprising? The simple board book The Wee Little Woman  by Byron Barton  scores a 1300L using the same set of metrics due to the repeated use of the slightly archaic word “wee.”

In a nutshell, these examples remind us that other, more qualitative, measures must be taken into consideration when selecting high-quality literature for students. While Lexile scores are a quick and dirty measure of readability, teachers still need to carefully consider the text structure and language features of each text as well as visual supports such as illustrations, the levels of meaning and purpose of the selected text, and the prior knowledge students need to have to understand the text.

The non-profit Aspen Institute has created a user-friendly Text Complexity Analysis Worksheet for classroom teachers to use when evaluating the reading level of student materials. This is an excellent collaboration tool for both elementary and secondary teachers. Please feel free to contact me if you’d like me to show your grade level team or department how to use this worksheet.

Thanks to Lakeland School District teacher Katie Graupman for sharing this resource at a recent Region 1 CORE workshop! jennifer-signature


ELA: Updated Text Complexity Bands

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Determining text complexity just got a little bit easier. Scroll to the bottom to download an updated readability chart!
text complexity

During many of our informational text sessions, Post Falls teachers have focused on the three components of Text Complexity as they relate to the Idaho Core Standards. Text complexity is not determined by a one simple measure, but is determined by quantitative evaluations, qualitative evaluations, and by matching the reader and the task.

While qualitative measures look at things such as the meaning, structure, and language of the text, quantitative measures analyze text readability based on vocabulary as well as word and sentence length. A text may have a quantitative score of 620L, but may be too complex in terms of meaning and purpose to use in a second grade classroom.

Many Post Falls teachers have been using AIMSweb or Accelerated Reader correlation guides to convert student reading levels to Lexile scores. However, Appendix A of the Common Core State Standards has been updated with new quantitative text readability ranges for the most commonly used text-analyzer tools. This is an easy way to continue using student ATOS scores from AR or with Flesch-Kincaid scores from your word processing program.

I suggest printing the chart below and using as a reference when lesson planning or helping students select books.

Would you like guidance in leveling your current classroom library? I’m here to help!jennifer-signature

ELA: High-Interest Informational Text for Differentiated Instruction

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Love Scholastic’s StoryWorks or Scope magazine? Have you discovered Action yet?

actionScholastic’s Action was designed as a high-interest magazine intended to boost the reading and writing skills of at-risk middle and high school readers. Like StoryWorks and Scope, each issue is directly aligned to the Idaho Core ELA Standards and includes informational text, reader’s theater for building fluency, paired texts, and argumentative writing prompts. Many English Language Arts teachers at both River City and Post Falls Middle School currently use StoryWorks and Scope magazine. Scope magazine is an integral part of the Middle School Summer School program as well.

Teachers who subscribe to Action magazine receive additional lesson planning materials and online resources. However, many of the informational text passages are currently available online free of charge.

Like Newsela, each Action article is written at a low, a middle, and  a high reading level which allows teachers to easily differentiate instruction for all types of readers. Multiple levels of texts allows all students to be included in the instructional process and contribute to the in-class learning environment.  Currently, passages can be found anywhere from 420L to 1060L allowing teachers to meet the needs of all learners. Scholastic Action has made the lower and higher Lexile passages available for teachers to print. The middle Lexile passages are available for digital download and also include an audio option for those students needing additional support. Digital companion videos and links are also available.

Know another great source for secondary level text? Let me know!

ELA: Spring into Reading

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Spring is finally here! Check out these three resources  for a little something extra to celebrate this week . All resources are aligned to the Idaho Core Standards.

springTry this March Madness Vocabulary Bracket from Vocab Girl at Sadlier Publishing. Students can use the brackets to set up matches between vocabulary words. Winners can be determined by the strongest definitions and corresponding sentences until each student determines their own “Ultimate Vocabulary Word.” This is perfect for reinforcing Tier 2 vocabulary in the intermediate and secondary classroom.  The download is free after registering on the site.

One of my favorite sites for informational text, Readworks, released 12 new K-1 reading passages for the first day of spring. These are perfect short texts for introducing close reading at the primary level. Lexile ranges on these passages range from 110L to 520L. By registering your email address you will  be given free access to all of Readworks passages, lessons, and question sets. 

It’s also the 45th anniversary of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar today! Check out the videos below of a kindergarten teacher closely reading the book with a group of students for some springtime inspiration.

Ed Tech: Literacy Leveler App – Free Today on iTunes

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Literacy Leveler, an app for iPad and iPhone, allows users to quickly scan books to easily determine Lexile and DRA reading levels. It is currently free in the iTunes Store. Be sure to download now before the price jumps back to $4.99!

The app is also available for Android devices on Google Play for $.99. jennifer-signature

ELA: Idaho Core Workshop Resources

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Missed our first three ELA Workshop sessions? Grab the take-aways here!

icsLogoMore than twenty-five Post Falls teachers have been meeting on Thursday afternoons to tackle the ELA Idaho Core Standards.  The sessions will continue at Seltice Elementary until Spring Break. If you’d like to join us it isn’t too late. Just head on over!


Idaho Core Basics

Digging into Informational Text

Scaffolding Complex Text


Using Academic Vocabulary — February 20 & 27

Text-Dependent Questioning — March 6 & 13

Writing in the Idaho Core — March 20

Want more information about the ELA Workshop Series? Looking for something specific? Email me at jolsen@sd273.com.jennifer-signature

ELA: AIMSweb MAZE & Lexile Correlations

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AIMSweb MAZE? Lexile Range? Huh? They work together? No way!

Many Post Falls schools use the AIMSweb MAZE probe as both a universal screener and progress monitoring tool. This is a three-minute nationally-normed measure that can be used by RtI teams, grade level teams, and classroom teachers to quickly assess students’ reading comprehension.

In 2011, links between AIMSweb MAZE scores and Lexile ranges were made by MetaMetrics. Please keep in mind these are simply correlations between the AIMSweb MAZE and Lexile. They don’t give us a complete picture of a student’s reading ability, but can be used as a quick reference to help students select reading materials. Students and teachers can use Lexile’s Find a Book tool to find high-interest non-fiction and fiction texts.

Elementary AIMSweb MAZE correlations begin on page 80. The middle level AIMSweb MAZE correlations start on pg 85. There are currently no correlations available for High School students.