Thursday, February 12, 2015

Now You Can Find Reading Worksheets By Grade Level has been online since 2010. I originally developed this site with a focus on reading skills. This made it easy for people to find things like "figurative language worksheets." Then my site started growing. I began reaching more people than I ever imagined. Suddenly, people began asking me things like, "What grade level are these worksheets for?" While that seems like a fair question, I was not equipped to answer it. I generally responded by telling people that I used them with my 7th and 8th grade students, but they could edit the files and use them with any grade level. That's not a very good solution for time-strapped teachers teetering on the edge.
So I started working on the grade level thing. The first thing that came to my mind was the Lexile measurement or score. Perhaps it was because people were asking me, "What Lexile level is this text?" Or maybe because we used these Lexile measurements in CPS. As a teacher, you can find the Lexile levels of your texts using their site. But I want to use these measurements as an internet publisher. And to publish these scores legally, I need to an agreement with the Lexile people. I contacted them to see how I could get these measurements on my texts. They requested a fee of $18 per worksheet. I think that price is fair. If I were running a company with venture capital, I would have taken them up on it. I am not, however. So, being cash strapped, I started looking for an open-source alternative. Low and behold: This awesome guy Dave Child put together a free program using public readability algorithms, like the Flesch-Kincaid readability test.
Using Dave's program, I was able to get pretty reliable readability scores for my texts for free. In all honesty, Dave's program is better than a Lexile score, because anyone can understand it. If I say a text is written at a 7th grade reading level, teachers and parents can make sense of this. If I say that this text has a Lexile score of 2,236 or whatever, who could make sense of that? Only an experienced teacher, or someone who is good with charts and graphs and happens to have the Lexile score matrix with them, but I digress.
After learning the readability scores of my own texts, I had some hilarious reflections. "Oh, that's why my 7th grade students hated this activity. It was written at an 11th grade reading level. My bad." Clearly, it is essential to know the readability levels of the texts that you are giving to students. Now that I knew the readability scores of my texts, it was a natural step to organize them by this score. So, I spent the first four months of this year, scanning all of the texts that I could and putting the results into a database. Using the power of relational databases, I can now display my worksheets by grade level. As I create new worksheets and activities, I can just drop them in the database and BOOM! The pages get better.
So here they are:

In the near future, I will create pages where you can browse worksheets by Common Core State Standards. In the more distant future, I would like to add my language arts and writing resources into similar databases. Please let me know if this is a good use of my time or if I should be developing some other aspect of the site. I appreciate your comments and insights.