As an English language instructor, I am always on the hunt for reading and listening material that I can use in my classroom. As simple as that sounds, it is always a tricky endeavor simply because most of the material created is meant for someone fluent in the language and makes use of a larger lexicon than language learners have.
While there are a number of tools that provide reading level scores such as Gunning-Fog and Flesch-Kincaid, these are designed for native speakers and are connected to student grade levels. They take into account sentence complexity and paragraph length along with vocabulary density, but don’t give an indication of what words, phrases, or idioms that increase the difficulty.
A few years ago, I came across a rather simplistic looking tool that has really helped me out over the years to find and edit text for my students that fits within their vocabulary level. Here is how it works:
- Go to the Frequency Level Checker main page and click on ‘Try it!’. You can also go directly to the tool by clicking here.
- Find a text you would like to check and paste it into the box at the top of the page.
- You will find five options below the text box.
- Level 1 = the main 1000 words we use in general English.
- Level 2 = the next 1000 words we use in general English.
- Level 3 = the 800 most used words in academic English.
- Outside Levels = words not in the above three levels. Proper names fall under this category since they are not in the vocabulary lists.
- Symbols = anything that is not a letter (eg. punctuation, numbers).
- There are a few options on using the colour coding system:
- Select the colour of the text for each of the levels by clicking on appropriate radio button. I tend to leave everything black that is not what I want to find and make the one or two levels in colour that I want to highlight. For example, if I am trying to find words for my intermediate level class that may be difficult for them, I select black for Level 1 and for Symbols, but make Level 2 red, Level 3 green, and Outside Levels blue.
- If you want to only see words from a specific level or levels, you can hide everything else by choosing ‘Invisible’ for those levels you want to hide. This is helpful when you are building a glossary or are looking for lower level synonyms for simplifying/altering the text.
- Once you have chosen your colour options, click on ‘Enter’ and a new window or tab opens up with three areas.
- The main area in the top-left has the text in the colours you have chosen.
- Along the bottom, you have the totals and percentages for each category, including word families. This is helpful for seeing what percentage of the text your students should know. Keep in mind you want the percentage to be pretty high (~95%) for fluency and for figuring out words from context.
I hope that helps. Let me know what you think!