What Does it Mean to be at a ‘7th-Grade Lexile Level?’
One of the most common ways school districts monitor and report students’ reading progress is through the Lexile® measure, also known as a Lexile level or Lexile score. Not only are Lexile measures intended to score students, but they also score different texts to determine what books are a good fit for someone at a certain reading level.
Lexile scores do so much more than simply monitor a student’s progress. Educators and parents can use Lexile scores to individuate instruction, challenge students, and help students cultivate a love for reading.
What is a Lexile Number?
The Lexile® Framework for Reading was created by MetaMetrics® to measure the reader’s abilities as well as a text's level of difficulty. In contrast to a district's age-based guidelines for what students should read, a Lexile measure is quantitative. Measures range from below 200L for beginning readers and texts to above 1600L for advanced readers and texts.
While sentence length and word frequency inform text difficulty, factors such as theme and content do not play a role in the score, which can be problematic for teachers. Because the measure is objective, some intellectually rich and complex books have lower Lexile measures than might seem appropriate.
For example, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is typically studied somewhere around grades 9 or 10 and still presents challenges for adults, but it has a Lexile measure of just 680L. The word use and sentence length are simply not considered very challenging—a hallmark of Steinbeck's work that he was actually quite proud of.
What is the Lexile Scale?
According to the Lexile Framework for Reading, "There is no direct correspondence between a specific Lexile measure and a specific grade level. Within any classroom or grade, there will be a range of readers and a range of reading materials." For example, in a fifth-grade classroom, some students will be ahead of the typical reader (about 250L above) and others will be behind (about 250L below). To say some books are "just right" for fifth-graders assumes all students in fifth grade are reading at the same level.
While there is no direct correspondence between a specific Lexile measure and a specific grade level, MetaMetrics has studied the ranges of Lexile reader measures and Lexile text measures at specific grades to pinpoint the typical measures of a given grade level. According to its website, "This information is for descriptive purposes only and should not be interpreted as a prescribed guide about what an appropriate reader measure or text measure should be for a given grade." So, when someone refers to a student being at a seventh-grade Lexile level, that student doesn’t have to actually be in seventh grade to qualify.
In the seventh grade, students typically score at a Lexile level between 735L and 1065L. Here are a few examples of books that fit within the seventh-grade Lexile level:
The Giver by Louis Lowry—760L
Charles by Shirley Jackson—760L
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech—770L
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain—930L
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling—980L
The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien—1000L
The Lexile framework is not a scoreboard or a contest, but simply a guideline aimed at taking some of the mystery out of selecting the appropriate book for a reader.
Rules of Thumb for Teachers Using Lexile Measures
The important thing for any student is they are reading, period. Lexile measures are not intended to be used to guide students away from something they want to read, even if the Lexile measure is lower or higher than their own Lexile reader measure. When the goal is to match students to texts at their reading level, aim for books that have a Lexile of 100L below to 50L above their Lexile score.
The Lexile framework doesn’t only apply to the traditional book format or strictly “classics”—graphic novels also appear on the Lexile rating search engine, while periodicals and newspapers can be analyzed using this tool. You may want to run some of the nonfiction texts you use in class through the analyzer to make sure they are at an appropriate level for your students. In light of this format flexibility, if a student likes to read one form of text over others, let them.
Another tip for teachers wanting to use Lexile levels to inform their instruction: Focus on differentiation, not homogenization. Previous generations typically used class sets of a single book, which every student would read together (often aloud). That book was most likely too difficult for certain students, too easy for others, and “just right” for about 30-50% of the class—but the teachers didn’t know that.
Today, teachers have the opportunity to make reading exciting and enjoyable for their students by bringing in a variety of texts. They can do this in lots of different ways, depending on the grade level. Here are some examples:
- Teachers can bring a variety of texts from different Lexile levels to ensure all students get what they need in terms of a challenge.
- Another option is separating students into their own “book clubs” based on their Lexile levels. Students can work together by reading these texts aloud to each other, reading silently together, and discussing themes and plot points from the book.
- There are many online and software learning sources that can use Lexile measures to personalize learning for each student, matching them with books that will challenge and excite them.
When implemented correctly, Lexile measures can be a great tool for teachers, students, and parents to help foster a lifelong love of reading. Lexile levels are just one example of how technology and ingenuity are changing the face of the classroom—to learn more about the emerging trends in educational technology, take a look at our overview of all the different resources you can bring to the classroom to increase student engagement.
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