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Determine and Adjust the Readability Level of Testing Materials

In this scenario, a teacher measures a test with the Lexile Analyzer® and finds that its reading demand is well above the reading ability of some of his struggling students. He rewrites some of his test and develops test-taking strategy instructions for his lowest-ability students.

Mr. Atkins teaches seventh grade language arts. For each section of an assigned novel, Mr. Atkins prepares a multiple-choice comprehension quiz. Some of the questions are a straight reading audit, checking factual knowledge about setting, character and plot. Other questions deal with the social and historical issues addressed by the author in the book.

Over the first two months of the school year, Mr. Atkins has noticed that his students are performing poorly on his quizzes despite their fruitful and lively discussions of the literature in his classroom reading groups. Recently, his class has been reading and discussing The Cay by Theodore Taylor, which measures 860L. Although a few of his students struggled to read the novel at the class’ pace, everyone did read it, and has enthusiastically participated in both a mock debate on racism and a discussion of disabilities issues.

Students, however, have been missing the quiz questions about social and historical issues. Mr. Atkins wonders if his quiz is too difficult. So he saves his quiz as a text file, cuts out the reading audit questions, and logs in to the Lexile Analyzer. He submits the file and finds its Lexile measure to be 1100L. Most of his students’ reading abilities are between 700L and 1100L. He realizes that it’s likely that the reading demand of the quiz itself is interfering with his students’ ability to show their knowledge of and thoughts about The Cay.

Mr. Atkins rewrites his conceptual quiz questions, using less complex sentences and easier synonyms for some of the keywords. The questions measure 980L after his changes, which aligns better with the Lexile distribution of his students. Mr. Atkins pastes the revised questions back into his quiz and makes copies for the next day’s class.

Pre-Teach Vocabulary

In this scenario, a teacher finds a relevant text that’s too advanced for her students. Using the Lexile Analyzer, she develops a key vocabulary list to pre-teach.

Ms. Ward reads an article in the morning newspaper about a fascinating scientific project. The woolly mammoth genome is being mapped from DNA taken from a mummified carcass. Among other things, the article discusses how the genome project may shed light on why and how animals become extinct.

For her fourth grade biology unit this week, Ms. Ward has been teaching concepts about habitat change, survival and adaptation. Extinction was discussed just yesterday. She would like to use this article in her class to make the abstract concepts more concrete. Also, all the students in her class are wild about mammoths and mummies.

But the article seems hard, so she wants to know its Lexile measure. Ms. Ward visits the newspaper’s website, finds the article, and copies and pastes its text into a document file on her computer. She then removes the headline, subheadings and photo captions, logs in, and submits the file to the Lexile Analyzer. It measures 1290L — a text difficulty more appropriate for high school students than her nine-year-olds. Most of her students’ reading abilities are between 600L and 850L. So Ms. Ward knows there will be a wide enough comprehension gap that even her best readers won’t be able to get the conceptual content from the article.

Much of the highly technical language in the article is from genetics. Her students probably have never even heard the word “genome” before, so Ms. Ward is tempted to remove those sections of the article. But there might be an opportunity to teach something about genetics through the word “sequencing” that appears in the article. Her students know the word “sequence” from recent mathematics instruction on patterns. And genetic sequencing connects with the imminent lesson on adaptation because it lends context to the concept of genetic mutation.

Ms. Ward compiles a vocabulary list of high-level words in the article that she plans to pre-teach:

  • genetics
  • genome
  • sequencing
  • evolution
  • Siberia
  • permafrost
  • decipher
  • isolate
  • blueprint
  • bacterial