Write it. Level it. Teach it – Assessing pupils reading levels with Matt Beighton

By Denisha Polin

After nearly a decade long juggling a career as both a teacher and writer, children’s author, Matt Beighton decided to pursue his writing career full-time. One thing he did take away from his time spent in the classroom is the value and importance of teacher time. In his latest book Write it. Level It. Teach it, he breaks down how and why teachers should create content for their class while maximising its effectiveness through clear focus and by pitching it at the correct reading level.

Being a firm believer and supporter in the Renaissance® ATOS analyser for determining what reading level is, Matt explains exactly why this research-proven tool is ideal for teachers who fear the time-consuming aspects of creating your own amazing content for your class.


Determining reading level

When it comes to assessing the content educators create for their pupils, in an ideal world, they would want a system to consider the many factors that contribute towards reading level:

  • Sentence length
  • Sentence structure
  • Word choice
  • Content appropriateness
  • Interest level

Whilst there isn’t a system that quite masters all these factors, and it can be difficult when trying to quantify the many components that form a sentence, it is not entirely impossible to measure.

ATOS considers the structure of a sentence to some degree. Although there’s a greater focus on sentence length and word complexity, sentence complexity plays a part and should be factored in, Matt further explains in chapter 10 of his book.

Decoding ATOS

“As a teacher it’s easy to get carried away, especially when you’re writing with so much vocabulary and so much grammar that before you know it, you’re putting a Year 7 text in front of a Year 3 child and wondering why they’re struggling to access it”Matt Beighton, The Renaissance Space Podcast

There are three different ways to check your text. Each one has a specific use case in mind, so it’s important to understand the differences and to choose the correct one.

 ATOS for text

ATOS for text is used to calculate the readability level for shorter text passages such as magazine and newspaper articles, test items, and other classroom materials. Assuming that a text is part of a larger work, it doesn’t take into account the overall length of a text.

 ATOS for Books

“I write a lot of comprehension texts for The Literacy Shed website and this is the system I always use.”Matt Beighton, Write it. Level it. Teach it.

Whilst this system also exists for short text, “the primary difference is that this one does take into account the overall text length and treats it as one complete text”. In his book, Matt champions ATOS for books and highly recommends that teachers use this system when creating content for higher accuracy.

Estimated Word Count

Estimated word count uses the same formula as ATOS for Text with an added adjustment for book length (word count).


Finally, Matt adds that the results taken from ATOS are invaluable, “It’s also a very useful metric to consider if you are creating content for intervention groups or if your class as a whole has a lower or higher than average reading ability.”


Write it. Level it. Teach it is now available for pre-order and is due to be released on the 9th July in all book stores.

Find out more about how the ATOS analyser supports students reading levels here.


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