Disciplinary Text Set



The group of students I am gearing my text set towards is a middle-school science class starting a unit on microbiology. My students will not have been exposed to this topic in the past, and so my texts will be used to provide some general background info before delving into more detail. Throughout the unit, students would learn information about microbiology which would help them understand material in subsequent texts. Microbes are an integral part of our ecosystem, in terms of both benefits and dangers to humans and our environment. These texts will convey the importance of the study of microbiology as well as instill interest and engagement in the students. A video “What are Microbes”, would be used as a hook to focus the students attention on the subject, and lead into an introductory print text, “The Littlest Organisms”. Following this would be two culturally relevant texts on plastic-eating bacteria and the 5-second rule (for eating food off the floor). Lastly, a print text would introduce the subject of antibiotics, before a video entitled “What Causes Antibiotic Resistance”. Another culturally relevant-text that could engage students in our area would be on the Cryptosporidium outbreak in Milwaukee in the 1990’s.


Print Text 1 –  “The Littlest Organisms.” (n.d.). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://www.biology4kids.com/files/micro_main.html


The text is an introduction to the field and study of microbiology, and of microbes in particular. It begins with a description of what microbes are and how they were discovered, before moving on to describe several of their characteristics. I have also selected another part of this reading to include with this text, the basics on bacteria. This section describes the basic structure of bacteria, as well as what they look like and what they do. Both sections are introductory in nature and are filled with vocab terms necessary for the study of microbes.

Text Complexity Analysis:

Reading Levels
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Grade 4.7
Automated Readability Index Grade 4.8
Coleman-Liau Grade 7.6
Flesch Reading Ease 80.0/100
Gunning fog index Grade 8.1
Laesbarhedsindex (LIX) Formula 29.5 = below school year 5
SMOG Index Grade 8.5
Average grade level Grade 6.7 (mean of above)

Storytoolz gave this reading an average grade level of 6.7, which I feel is just about right as I would place it at a 6-7th grade level. This reading has a clear purpose stated at the beginning and at the top of each section. Additionally, there are several headings directing student thinking. There are a number of vocabulary terms listed in this reading, and while some may be unfamiliar to students, most are defined in the reading, while others offer sufficient context clues. The knowledge demands of this reading are not too significant, the most difficult being the knowledge of some cell structures, which would be learned prior to this unit. Vocabulary terms that may need instructional support include:

  • Microbe
  • Microbiologist
  • Heterotrophic
  • Autotrophic
  • Protozoan
  • Amoeba
  • Nucleoid
  • Ribosomess
  • Cellulose

The purpose of selecting this text it to give students background information on microbes, and on bacteria in particular. This is a rather complex field of study in science, and the lower level of text complexity is a good starting point for the students. This would pair well with a more complex task, such as a lab where students must find the “patient zero” of a spreadable disease. Students would “spread” the disease by pouring water into each others’ cups, some contaminated with a chemical to be tested for. Working backwards from who shared with who, they could determine the originator. This reading will serve two purposes. One is to introduce them to new terms and concepts. The other would be to activate prior knowledge on the study of cell structures, energy consumption and reproduction.


Print text 2 – “Issue Overview: Antibiotic Resistance.” (2016, Oct 6). Retrieved 7/24/17 from https://newsela-media.s3.amazonaws.com/pdfs/overview-antibiotic-resistance-21205-article_only.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIOXSRXVQ3RGAX2FA&Expires=1501089699&Signature=EusOUnZjSIqKg5%2FgKKuPTtUtwYY%3D


Multimedia text 1 – Wu, Kevin. “What Causes Antibiotic Resistance?” YouTube, script editor: Alex Gendler, animation by Brett Underhill, 7 Aug, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znnp-Ivj2ek&feature=youtu.be

This video lecture starts with a short introduction to bacteria. Following is a description of how they can cause death and disease. This leads into a discussion of the use of antibiotics and how they are becoming less effective. The text then goes on to tell how bacteria have evolved and mutated to become resistant to antibiotics, and how some strains of bacteria are forming “superbugs”. Finally, the article ends with some ways that scientists are trying to fight these bacteria, and ways that people can help slow the development of antibiotic-resistant bugs.

Text Complexity Analysis:

Reading Levels
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Grade 11.2
Automated Readability Index Grade 12.6
Coleman-Liau Grade 13.4
Flesch Reading Ease 47.9/100
Gunning fog index Grade 14.7
Laesbarhedsindex (LIX) Formula 48.9 = school year 9
SMOG Index Grade 13.1
Average grade level Grade 13 (mean of above)

Storytoolz scored this reading at a grade level of 13.1, which I find to be too high. There are several characteristics of this text which would cause me to place it at a 6-8th grade level. The purpose of this video is clearly stated in the title, and references to it are made throughout. Additionally, the knowledge demands of the text are not too difficult for the lower age group. Some topics in the text which could cause trouble, such as the form and function of antibiotics, would have previously been covered in class. Lastly, while there are several vocab terms which would be unfamiliar to students, they are all accompanied by direct context clues and video animations describing the processes and structures named. Some of these vocab terms include:

  • Synthesize
  • Mutation
  • Resistance
  • Staphylococcus
  • MRSA
  • Beta-lactams
  • Quinolones

There are several reasons that I would select this text for my students. Students would have been exposed to antibiotics and bacteria, so this article would be activating that prior knowledge. This text would then help in the introduction of antibiotic-resistance. Students can relate to this as they know about the use of antibiotics and products such as hand-sanitizers, and would begin to understand how in using them they are helping to create even more dangerous superbugs. Finally, this video is engaging and fun for middle-school students, keeping a high interest level in the content. I feel that this text is a good match for task complexity, as not only have they been previously introduced to bacteria and antibiotics, but antibiotic resistance is not a difficult concept to grasp as a result. Therefore, while this text is slightly more complex in terms of vocabulary, the task is easier. Such a task could be a short lab where we compare two slices of bread for bacterial growth. One piece would be touched by everyone in the class, the other by no one. 

Multimedia text 2: Perkins, Susan. “What Are Microbes?” American Museum of Natural History (website), commentary by Susan Perkins, no date, http://www.amnh.org/explore/ology/microbiology/ask-a-scientist-about-microbes


Culturally Relevant text 1: Akron Beacon Journal Staff. (2014, April 4). “Study’s 5-second rule results disputed” (Newsela Staff, Ed.). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://newsela.com/articles/fivesecond-rule/id/3257/


This text is in regards to an idea very familiar to middle school students, the five-second rule for eating food off the floor. It begins with a study which tested food dropped on the floor for two different bacteria. It goes on to describe investigative processes different researchers have done to test that theory. Several “experts” are identified and quoted with regards to their interpretation of the results of those studies.

Text Complexity Analysis:

Reading Levels
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Grade 8.0
Automated Readability Index Grade 9.7
Coleman-Liau Grade 10.8
Flesch Reading Ease 67.2/100 (plain English)
Gunning fog index Grade 10.5
Laesbarhedsindex (LIX) Formula 42.5 = school year 7
SMOG Index Grade 9.9
Average grade level Grade 9.8 (mean of above)


Storytoolz has scored this text with a grade level of 9.8, which again I find to be too high for this selection. There are several vocabulary terms in the paper which may have caused the quantitative score to increase. However, these include the names of bacteria and viruses, which would not be difficult for the students to understand. The rest of the terminology used in the article is actually rather simple. The text itself is broken down into shorter sections with clear headings, denoting its purpose. The  knowledge demands do include a little bit of introduction to microbiology, for example the beginning of the unit for this text set. For these reasons I would place this text at a 7th grade reading level. Some more complicated vocabulary terms include:

  • Contamination
  • Replicate
  • Escherichia coli
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Salmonella typhimurium
  • Norovirus

There are several reasons which I would select this text for my students, and also why it would be culturally relevant. Number one would be the fact that bacteria exist all around us and within each of us, relating it to the students. I would also select this text for the ease with which my students could read and understand the information. Another reason to select this text is that students at the middle school age tend to be more interested in things that “gross them out”, such as bacteria on food. Another good reason to use this text is that it walks students through several research studies on the topic, giving them an understanding of how they are conducted. A final reason to select this text is that which would make it most culturally relevant – the incorporation of the five-second rule. All students would have heard of this, and many would have put it into practice themselves. Here they would be given the opportunity to see the science behind it and decide for themselves if they want to eat the food. I feel that the ease of this text would flow well with a more difficult task, such as a laboratory activity where students test food for bacteria.


Culturally Relevant text 2:  Mathiesen, Karl. “New Plastic-Eating Bacteria has Potential to Ease World’s Trash Glut.” The Guardian (2016, March 18). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from: https://newsela.com/articles/plasticeating-bacteria/id/15687/

Culturally Relevant text 3: Behm, Don. “Milwaukee Marks 20 Years Since Cryptosporidium Outbreak.” Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (2013, April 6). Retrieved July 26th, 2017, from: http://archive.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/milwaukee-marks-20-years-since-cryptosporidium-outbreak-099dio5-201783191.html/



6 thoughts on “Disciplinary Text Set

    1. The students learn about microbes and then relate this information to bacterial resistance to antibiotics. In the first video, I thought that it was very clever that the questions were “kid’s questions.” Everyone loves to listen to their peers, right? Very informative set, and packed with lots of great content information.


  1. I think this is a great way to introduce a complex topic to a young audience. The videos are very interesting, and I love the 5-second rule article. I sure most students would have heard about the rule, but now they will know what it means, building on their prior knowledge. And the intro comic is great too.


  2. I agree that showing a video to students is a great way to get them hooked, and I plan on using this strategy myself. The visual of your video caught my attention with what I thought was a green long-toothed monster and the super hero. I like how you decided to break up your print text into two sections, this is something we have discussed in class and it is nice to see it being used! This post has great organization and I liked how you included bullets of vocabulary and a visual of the text complexity analysis.


Comments are closed.