In teacher terminology, readability is a system based on vocabulary and syllable counts that place readings and writings into grade levels. It is used in standardized passages and essays to determine their grade levels. It's also one criteria used in many computerized essay tests grade level scoring systems. One reason why teaching students about readability levels is that it offers an advantage when taking computerized essay tests.
Playing around with readability levels on word processing programs can be fun, as well as educational, for students. It helps students to understand and use synonyms, syllable counts, and vocabulary development. However, using readability software can hamper writing skills because it takes away from author's voice and simplicity, and can change sentence meanings. Once introduced, student authors can rely on readability functions in word programs too much!
Only you can determine whether or not you should teach readability levels to your students. After my students have mastered basic writing skills, have written a semester's worth of essays, and are ready for computerized testings, I teach readability levels on a need-to-know individual basis. Sometimes, however, I have whole classes of student authors who are ready to learn readability levels as a testing strategy.
Here's how to enable readability on MS Word:
Take time to demonstrate to students how readability levels work by typing in simple, complex, compound, and compound-complex sentences and checking each for its readability level. This activity will show students how to increase their syllable counts in sentences. The exercise is great practice for students who will soon take computer scored essays.
Get the complete interactive lesson: Understanding and Using Readability Levels!
To help students do better on standardized tests, try these Educator Helper products: