You will need to determine the approximate reading level of each of your
excerpts. There are three ways I know of doing this:
rule of thumb: Many have used this in
informal situations. For this rule, you take an
excerpt (some teachers simply take a page),
and ask the student to place one finger on the page
every time they come to a word that they do not
know. If by the end of the excerpt they have covered
the page with all five fingers, than the piece likely
is too hard. If you pick an "average" student from
a particular grade level, you may get an
approximate idea of the level of the piece.
Obviously, this method has its limitations.
Publisher's Work: Some publishers list
reading level and/or the interest level of some
of their books. For example, "Bantam Books"
places and "RL" and "IL" sign near the copyright
of some of their books. ("RL" = "Reading Level",
and "IL" = "Interest Level"). Thus, a book may have
an "RL" of four (meaning fourth grade) and an
"IL" of nine. Note: books like this are helpful when
you are looking for books with a relatively easy
reading level, at a higher interest level, for older
students who struggle.
Method: Edward Fry invented a "Graph
for Estimating Readability". The graph is simple
to use, and is based on the length of words and
sentences in a particular piece. Note: Excerpts
with large amounts of dialogue tend to test
abnormally low on Fry's graph. So, you may
want to choose pieces with moderate dialogue.
At present, there is a site that contains both Fry's
graph, and directions for its use: