Content Literacy

Measure a Text's Complexity

Posted on May 05, 2015

Measure a Text's Complexity

Assessing a text's complexity sometimes seems like guesswork. Besides the reading level of the passage, what else should we consider? To make the task more concrete and tangible, Kristina Smekens has created a rubric that helps teachers more accurately gauge the complexity of a text.

Informational Text Complexity

Download rubrics to evaluate both Informational Text and Literature.

After reading a text multiple times, mark an X in each row to show how the text ranks for that criterion. For example, within the qualitative section, if the layout is traditional or typical, then you would mark the complexity low. But, if the language demands are difficult and unusual for your readers, then you might mark it as high or moderately high.

The second page of the rubric includes the quantitative measurement. To determine whether a text is high-level reading or low-level reading, consult its Lexile score, AR level, guided reading level, or some other leveling system.

For the Reader and Task Considerations, the five components center around how much support you are going to give the reader and how challenging the after-reading task will be.

When you've filled in each relevant row of the rubric, determine where the majority of the Xs have fallen. Is the text mostly low level, mostly high level, or moderately complex?

Plan to keep a copy of the rubric, labeled with the text's name and the date--or make note of the text-complexity level within the text itself. However, keep in mind that for different classes, this same text could score differently. You'll need to reassess texts periodically, making sure you consider the different readers and how they will experience the same text.