Week 3: 9/25-10/1 - DISCUSSION 4

Week 3: 9/25-10/1 -DISCUSSION 4

As we continue to post and discuss your developing Unit Overview drafts, we will start to add “flesh” to your unit planning. Our goals this week are to drill down into the texts and the task difficulty, as ways of getting on more firm grounding in identifying the skills we want to target.


By the end of the week, we hope you’ll have identified at least a few actual texts you want to use for your unit. As you look for these, see if the resources in APPENDIX F: Finding (Free) Texts for Adult Learners are helpful. Remember, too, that using authentic texts from the community is a plus! Check to ensure the texts you are selecting are appropriate for the level you teach. The College and Career Standards for Adult Education (CCRS) discuss analyzing text quantitatively (using readability formulas), qualitatively, and with consideration of reader and task (Pimentel, 2013, pp. 117-118). In our discussions so far, Christine shared a way of analyzing non-continuous texts. If we need to discuss these more, let’s do. Getting in the ballpark with our text is important!


We also want to talk about the factors affecting task difficulty this week.  These are discussed in our Guide (Trawick, 2017) on pp. 16-20, with an example provided for an intermediate-level class, and again on pp. 24-25, with an example for a beginning-level class.

These examples should help explain the expected benefits for thinking about how instruction may need to be differentiated for individuals in your classroom, especially if your class has students at different levels. But even if your class has students at the same level, you may have noticed that students don’t come in neat levels J. So what are some aspects of the task that you need to keep in mind and either intentionally make adaptations for in your planned instruction, or be ready to adjust for “on the fly”?  To identify these, we invite you to work through the questions in EXHIBIT 10, engaging with 2-3 texts you plan to use in the unit. As you do, attend to additional skills/strategies that may come into play for instruction, just like Marco and Sonia do in the examples. Start prioritizing.

As you work, consider the overarching question: How is an analysis based on the factors affecting task difficulty different to and similar to analyzing text complexity according to the CCRS? What is the value-added?

Additional Discussion Questions:

 When you have finished with your work, please post your responses to any/all of the following questions.

  1. How is an analysis based on the factors affecting task difficulty different to and similar to analyzing text complexity according to the CCRS? What is the value-added, if any?
  2. What new insights did you have about your texts or Unit Task as you worked through the Guiding Questions in EXHIBIT 10?? 
  3. What questions arose for you about the process of using the factors affecting task difficulty?

Your PIAAC Circle Team


Hello all - I truly apologize, especially to the facilitators, for not being active in this course.  I was trying to figure out how I could catch up, but it isn't going to happen.  My original purpose in participating was to see how professional development around PIAAC Literacy had evolved since I first heard the concept in 2015.  It has come a  long way, and I am very excited about this model for helping instructors to deliver more effective and targeted reading instruction under WIOA.  I really enjoy reading the conversation and look forward to seeing the projects.  I hope this is ok with everyone.  I do not have a class at this time, but want to bring this training to Virginia instructors.  Thank you for the work you are doing to move this important professional development forward.

Good afternoon all, sorry so late to this, but Irma closed our schools for 7 days and we are just starting to get back to normal and caught up! No power or internet for 8 days- ugh. I am reading all the other comments and will start to participate from here on. I love the comments and strategies so far.

Hi Anne, Wow! We hope all is getting back to some semblance of normal for you, your family and colleagues, and all those affected by the hurricane. I understand since --although I live in PA-- all my family lives in Florida.

We welcome you! Feel free to engage in whatever ways make sense for you at this point.

Cheers, Susan

Thank you for understanding, Kathy.  Application opportunities abound in adult education classrooms across Virginia.  I immediately shared the PIAAC Literacy Framework with the Resource Center's literacy and workforce specialist and talked out it with our standards specialist.  Our literacy specialist has developed 2 out of 4 planned low literacy workplace programs that really bring this model to life.  She piloted them with instructors and tutors.  She was very interested to see how she might apply parts of the framework in revising some components of the programs.  Our workforce specialist is working with a team to create a 3-tiered IET Blueprint for our state that includes competencies and  standards at low, intermediate, and high literacy levels - this is a comprehensive framework, and the PIAAC model made us think carefully about the importance of "literacy" instruction in each and every component.  So - we are using the tool to help us think more deeply about ramping up our resources - love it!

As we work through the element of task difficulty relating to beginning readers, I wonder if you might consider restating more difficult text into lower reading levels for. For example, in Jamie's outline, the final task of filling out a regular enrollment form might be daunting for pre-beginning students. What if instructions were created to fill out a much more simple form with only the basics to get students started?

There are many formulas and tools online to help writers create level-specific content. One tool that I have used extensively in past years is the Flesch Kincaid formula. In fact, you can simply paste a passage into an online calculator that will give you the readability level for the passage. Pretty nifty.

So what happens if a passage is too difficult for students? Why not simply rewrite it? I know, it is more demanding for teachers, but think of the benefit for students and the fact that teachers can collaborate to develop a fantastic library of real-life and very engaging reworded content to fit a very needed niche in our field. There are many ways to simplify text. Following are rules of thumb that I have always used in that process:

  1. Keep everything short: short sentences, short common words, short passages. 
  2. If a new word is introduced, repeat it at least three times in the passage. 
  3. Use active voice.

No time? How about https://rewordify.com/. Paste your text in there and let the site do the work. 

I pasted the following passage on that site and checked the rewording. Cleary, the rewording would take some redoing, but it's a start:

Original: The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) is designed to assess the state of the skills of individuals and nations in this new information world. Clearly, one of those skills is literacy. The results of the literacy portion of the Survey of Adult Skills, the latest assessment, points to the need to develop strategies to address the troubling news regarding the state of adult literacy in the U.S.  

Reworded: The Programme for the International Test/evaluation of Adult Abilities (PIAAC) is designed to test/evaluate the state of the skills of people and nations in this new information world. Clearly, one of those skills is reading and writing ability. The results of the reading and writing ability part of/amount of the Survey of Adult Skills, the latest test/evaluation, points to the need to develop (success plans/ways of reaching goals) to deal with the/to speak to the troubling news (related to/looking at/thinking about) the state of adult reading and writing ability in the U.S.

Go from there.

The Gunning Fog Index can also be helpful, but I'm talking from experience way back. Maybe you have better tools to assess and modify readability levels.

The formula for Gunning Fog is 0.4 [(words/sentences) + 100 (complex words/words)], where complex words are defined as those containing three or more syllables.

I pasted the passage above into the site's calculator with the following results:

The number of major punctuation marks, eg. [.], was 4
The number of words was 71
The number of 3+ syllable words, highlighted in blue, was 11

How to share the reworded content? I have just come across a great free site for creating books: Book Creator: https://app.bookcreator.com/. Yes, you could modify content and paste it into a digital book. Very easy. However, could your students create content for other students in this process? Hmmmm...

What do you think? Are any of the tools listed helpful to you in this process? Please comment. Leecy

Leecy - these are some great tools. Our literacy specialist actually created readability ratings and included them in the instructor's manual of the curriculum she developed.  This is very helpful to teachers of low literacy learners - to actually spell out the index scale.  Many were concerned it wasn't low enough, but when they used it in context and pulled appropriate vocabulary they discovered their readers were up to the challenge.  A comment was made earlier about transferability of skills and contextualization really helps with that.

How do you see using or how do you use the various tools for rewording content?  What impact does this have on the learners?  Do they find simplified text challenging or helpful?


I'm glad that you found the tools helpful, Joanne! You asked a few excellent questions that I hope others will drop in to address!

  • How do you see using or how do you use the various tools for rewording content? Everyone will use those differently. Since I have been in this business for most of my long adult life, I can predict the level of difficulty on most text. I can also simplify text pretty readily, using some of the rules of thumb that say "short everything" and then add to that. Following is an example:

--To begin blood pressure measurement, use a properly sized blood pressure cuff. The length of the cuff's bladder should be at least equal to 80% of the circumference of the upper arm. Wrap the cuff around the upper arm with the cuff's lower edge one inch above the antecubital fossa. Press lightly the stethoscope's bell over the brachial artery just below the cuff's edge. 

The Gunning Fog Index labels the instructions above at 11.40! So I start shortening. I also add images when needed. Remember that a pic is worth a lot of words!

--You are ready to measure someone's blood pressure. First, use a pressure cuff (image) of the right size. The part of the cuff that goes around the arm should be about 80% of the arm itself. Next, wrap the cuff around the top of the arm.  Place the cuff's lower edge one inch above the middle part of the elbow. (image) Press lightly on  the stethoscope's bell over the artery, just below the cuff's edge. (image) 

Now, the Gunning Index goes down to 6.5! However, by using images, the readability goes much further down so that someone reading at the 5th-grade level could understand the instructions.

  •  What impact does this have on the learners?  The impact is fantastic! Students can now learn to follow instructions on their own to complete complicated processes. Talk about confidence builders!
  • Do they find simplified text challenging or helpful? In my experience, they breathe a long sigh of relief as they gain confidence in approaching contexts that had been too challenging before. I try to always rewrite at levels that go just slightly beyond the students reading level and find that they can meet the challenge.

What other suggestions or comments are out there? 

I know that the Newsela site has been mentioned in other posts but the news articles it offers can be printed out or displayed at 4 or 5 different reading levels. I think this is really helpful for our multilevel classes to get the same information no matter what their reading ability.

Great point, Di. Newsela can help teachers differentiate without taking too much time, which is always hard to come by in adult ed settings. But whether a teacher/team is compiling existing texts or rewriting them (as Joanne and Leecy discuss in a separate thread), we need to think systemically. This work is still too time-consuming, I maintain, to be done once. Programs need to build this work into their program's curriculum design and have systemic ways for teachers to share their units with each other. Are there ways that programs already do something like this?


Just one more comment  for today - In Virginia we've spent the better part of 3 years making sure the field was implementing CCRS through standards-based instruction, and we continue our journey.  We just finalized a blueprint for full implementation of standards-based instruction which included a definition of full implementation - this was no small task, but we see the shift in instructional practice as key to educational gains and credential attainment.  Knowing this, you can imagine that we are very happy to see that the literacy framework INTEGRATES CCRS.  We find this a critical element - if CCRS stand alone they are just a checklist, but if they are integrated into instructional behaviors (think about the previous discussion on text complexity) we are helping students to take their new skills and knowledge beyond the classroom and into their lives and workplace.  

Perfect. The CCRS give us an elaborated way to think about which reading (and ELA) skills need to be taught. PIAAC gives us a way to think about how these skills are put to use in adult settings.

So glad you joined the conversation!