One of the most effective known techniques for acquiring a second or foreign language is to engage in extensive reading. Extensive reading involves reading a lot of books at a level slightly below the learner’s current level.
Graded readers are ideal for extensive reading, and are written with language learners in mind. The lexical range of a graded reader is limited by the number of headwords, i.e. the number of words at a certain level a learner needs to know in order to understand a text with relative ease.
Language acquisition experts recommend that learners should understand 98% of the words in a graded reader in order to be able to understand the content without checking a dictionary. But how do you determine whether a learner actually knows enough words to read a graded text written with a certain number of headwords?
This is where VocabLevelTest.Org can help. VocabLevelTest.Org is an online vocabulary level testing platform that allows teachers to easily create and administer vocabulary level tests that can be submitted by students using their desktop or mobile devices. For more information about how to create a test, and the difference between receptive and productive testing modes, please see our other post.
Once a receptive test has been submitted by a language learner using VocabLevelTest.Org, they (and their teacher) can easily see the extent to which they have mastered the vocabulary appearing in a given band of a wordlist such as the NGSL.
If the student responds correctly to 98% of the words in the first 500-word band of the NGSL, for example, they should be able to read most texts at the Alphabet to Early Elementary levels on the Extensive Reading Foundation Graded Reader Level Scale.
It is worth bearing in mind that some texts will contain words that are out of the band for a specified level. For example, a graded reader about a basketball tournament might contain the phrase ‘slam dunk’. Usually, however, where graded readers use such “offlist” vocabulary items, they are defined in a glossary at the start of the text, and therefore are exempt from the number of words needing to be understood for comprehension of the text.
If you are considering implementing an Extensive Reading program at your institution, or already have one in place, why not check out VocabLevelTest.Org and see how it can help your students find their graded reader level.