Google started it, but other sites are running with the idea of creating a search engine built around reading levels. Twurdy (a mash-up of “too wordy”) is one of the easiest and most user-friendly sites that I have come across for searching and finding information on the web based on the concept of “readiblity.” The site, which is built on the back of Google Search, conveniently color-codes the various reading levels, and a quick click of a button allows you to match up approximate age levels with reading levels.
There are three settings that you can choose: Just Twurdy, which searches using Twurdy’s basic algorithm with medium speed and medium results; Simple Twurdy, which searches using Twurdy’s simple algorithm for fast speed but less accurate results; and Twurdy with Pop, which searches using Twurdy’s most complex algorithm which includes looking up the popularity of words within the text. It has a slower speed, but a higher level of accuracy.
For students, this means that a quick search on a topic yields web resources that are at their reading levels — I did one on the Galapagos Islands and the site was very useful. For teachers, it means that gathering resources appropriate to students’ reading levels might get a bit easier. An interesting experiment, too, is to put in the URL of a website and see what reading level is assigned to it. I did this with my own blog and it was fascinating to see the blog posts broken down by reading levels.
One drawback is that I wanted to be able to better narrow my original search field to just specific age levels (such as, all of the websites about the Galapagos Islands for a 10-year-old reading level). But overall, Twurdy was a satisfying experience and one worth considering for the classroom.