Sunday, July 7, 2013

Accelerated Reader

Has anyone ever read "The Read Aloud Handbook" by Jim Trelease? If not, I highly recommend this for all educators and parents. If you have, you know that Trelease covers the rewards and perils of using the Accelerated Reader system in schools. Basically, he feels that if used in the right way, AR can help students reach reading goals. Some schools still use AR as a grade, which Trelease discourages. I'm with him on that one. The purpose of AR should be to encourage kids to read, plain and simple.

It's hard to get kids to pick up a book these days, especially since personal gaming systems and television are so handy. Our school rewards students for reaching a certain number of points per nine weeks. There is no penalty for not reaching the goal. For example, the first goal was for students grades 2-8 to earn 10 Accelerated Reader points. Easy peasy, right? WRONG! The students had NO idea how to finish a book. On top of that, books for 2nd and 3rd graders are rarely more than .5 or 1.0 AR points, so they were reading double the amount that the older kids were. If the students at my school had come from homes where reading was valued, the whole school would have gotten extra PE, but only about 20 kids (out of 250) met their goal. Therefore, in order to get my kids reading, I decided to create some classroom incentives.

The first thing I did was make some leader boards (see below) for each month. After my leader boards were up, I went through as many of my own books as I could to find the reading level and AR point totals. Each book was color-coded according to a certain point level and placed in my classroom library. Next, I read picture books once a week to my students. Some were a little childish, but some were though provoking. (You're never too old for picture books!!!) Students were given the opportunity to take a test on these books, and as .5 point increments were met, a sticker was placed on a large chart in the back of my room, for all the world to see. (I used my mom's Cricut to make it extra cute and eye-catching.) As students increased their scores each day, I wrote names on the AR Leader board at the front of the room. The winner for each month could choose a treasure box item, homework pass, or raise-a-grade certificate. (PSSST...NO kid is too old for the treasure box. You've got to put in items that will make them WANT to dig around it it. I had mechanical pencils, candy, stamps, journals, etc. Make it appropriate for your age group!)

Within a week, I had over half of my students reading during free time each day, and at least 8 to 9 of my students met the school goals because they were working to get the rewards I offered in the classroom. Did my little plan make everyone read? Nope, and I was okay with that. I am a born reader, a lover of the written word, but not everyone is. More than likely, they just haven't found the right book to get them hooked, and you, the teacher, can remedy that. Visit my blog again this week for more on great read-alouds for students.

I hope everyone is having a fabulous summer!


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