You want to read a text with your students and don’t know how to level it? Don’t know whether it is too difficult or easy enough? Check out this leveler from Oxford University Press. Just mouse over your text and click submit.

Choose from one of three options: Top 3000 most useful words in daily life, top 2000 chosen out of the 3000 or, if you are interested in academic life, then choose the third.
I want to take Jane Austen’s Chapter One of Pride and Prejudice.
It gives me a 91% on Top 2000 keywords along with a list of the non-typical words, which would then make up my vocab list to study, such as

  • abuse

Of course, you would run it twice. Now that you have all the capitalized names at the start of the list of words that are not in the 2000 keyword list, you mouse these, then put them in the box of words you don’t care about. The reason you do that is so that you can use the text with the new words to study highlighted in red – MINUS the names of people. And so here is your famous first line from Pride and Prejudice, highlighted with the difficult words that you have carefully covered before reading the text with your class. The fastest way I know of for preparing a text electronically.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters

This is nice for the advanced learners. There are however some problems when it comes to analyzing texts for the lower levels. For example, taking a text from Level M (Fountas & Pinnell), it becomes much harder to figure out the level, because even the 2000 are too high and imprecise to measure at this low level. So really, what we need are more gradings in the levels. (For example A1, … ) Also, words like: Don’t, Here’s, He’s, It’s, I’ll, I’m, … really shouldn’t come up on the list of unknown words since a simple lexical analysis would show that they are just small changes of forms that are in fact in the top 2000 word list – I also found Ms. Bennet still hunting around in my list after having put in the new text – is that a bug? – so some improvements might be had here. Still – very good tool for the advanced texts! A++ for the idea!

See also my blog entry on Visual Thesaurus where I used the Vocabgrabber from Visual Thesaurus to do something very similar.