Awesome Free Ed Tech Resources eBook!

  • Nearly 200 Free Applications and hundreds of resources to help you get the most out of them!
  • Tools for interactive collaboration, gamification, OER, mobile learning, & so much more!
  • YOURS FREE just for signing up for blog posts!

Sign Up Now


Technology for the Core – Apps and Tools for the Literacy Curriculum’s Reading Strand, Part 2

by Kelly Walsh on August 19, 2014


The Second Post in this Week’s 3 Part Series Focuses on Apps for Teaching Text Complexity

Dr. Leslie Suters and Dr. Melissa Comer are faculty members in the College of Education’s Curriculum & Instruction Department at Tennessee Tech University. They will be co-presenting the session “Common Core Literacy Integration with App Flows” at the 2014 Teaching and Learning with the iPad Conference this November in Raleigh, NC.

In Sunday’s post we looked at apps and tools for Academic Vocabulary, here we examine resources focused on Text Complexity.

What is “Text Complexity”?

Often thought of as text difficulty, text complexity goes beyond the ease, or lack thereof, of reading a text. It includes quantitative and qualitative measures as well as the connection between the reader, the text, and the task associated with reading. Quantitative factors, according to Fisher, Frey, and Lapp (2012), include word length or frequency, sentence length, and text cohesion that are difficult, if not impossible, for a human reader to evaluate accurately. These factors are normally scored by a computer. The opposite is true for qualitative measures.

Qualitative dimensions address issues the human reader brings to the text, rather than the text itself. These measures look at the levels of meaning or purpose the reader has for reading; the impact the text structure has on the reader’s understanding; the degree to which language conventionality and clarity, that of both the text’s and reader’s language registers, affects comprehension; and, the knowledge demands of the human reader.

Moving into the reader, text, and task component, consideration is given to the reader’s motivation, knowledge, and experiences as well as their purpose for reading and the complexity of the task associated with the reading (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, NGA & CCSSO, 2010b).


Digital Tools that Address Text Complexity

Newsela ( is a website that allows you to search for nonfiction current event articles aligned with CCSS and then select between five different Lexile levels that you desire, typically from 4th-12th grade. When you select different levels the word length, sentence length, article length, and title, among other factors change to match the desired complexity. Articles are typically of high-interest to students and are arranged in the following categories: War & Peace, Science, Kids, Money, Law, Health, and Arts.

The free version of the website allows you to save articles as PDFs and download. You can print them or allow students to read them on a computer or iPad depending upon what you have accessible in your classroom. Additionally, you can set up a classroom in Newsela and assign leveled articles for students to read followed by a quiz. The Pro version, which requires a paid subscription, provides additional features including the ability to annotate the text (a close-reading strategy) and answer constructed response questions.

Lexile Analyzer ( is a website that allows you to take up to 1000 words of text from newspaper articles, magazines, web pages, or other reading selections and calculate the Lexile level. In order to prepare the text to be analyzed you need to copy and paste the text into a word processing document, removing pictures, tables, and page headers and footers (for a complete list please refer to “Prepare your text for measurement” at Save the file as plain text and upload to the website and … Voila, you are provided with the Lexile level! Lexile Analyzer works for English and Spanish texts. You can also search for the Lexile level of fiction books at this website.

Please be sure to come back Thursday for part 3 of this article series, which will examine apps and tools for close reading skills and pairing literary and informational texts.

Come and learn more from Leslie and Melissa and dozens of other practitioners at the original iPad focused education conference – Teaching and Learning with the iPad, November 20 – 22, in Raliegh, NC. Hope to see you there!

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Book Review – Teaching and Learning With The iPad by David Mahaley
July APP ED REVIEW Roundup – Social Studies Apps
Newsela – Daily News Articles Customized at 5 Different Reading Levels


Common Core State Standards Toolbox: English Language Arts & Literacy. (2014). McGraw Hill Education: Authors. Retrieved August 5, 2014, from

Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Lapp, D. (2012). Text complexity is the new black. In Text Complexity (pp. 1-19). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010a). Common Core State Standards for English language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Washington, DC: Authors. Retrieved August 5, 2014, from  


Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded He frequently delivers presentations and training on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Walsh became the Community Administrator for the Flipped Learning Network in June of 2016. In his "spare time" he also writes, records, and performs original music ... stop by and have a listen!

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, or those of other writers, and not those of my employer. - K. Walsh]

Print This Post Print This Post

Previous post:

Next post: