In September 2017 the girls in third and fourth class began the Accelerated Reader(AR) Programme in St. Louise de Marillac. They were pioneers of this course in the school and very excited about what lay ahead of them.
Accelerated Reader is a software programme used for monitoring the practice of reading. It helps pupils to manage their reading and provides teachers with another tool for assessing reading ability in the class.
The previous May the pupils had undertaken STAR (Standardised Test for the Assessment of Reading) tests. They answered 34 questions and the answers given determined what book level/options they would be reading.
AR uses a system of grading books (ATOS reading formula) based on average sentence length, average word length, vocabulary and the number of words in the book. Room 23 was converted into our “AR library”. This was a big job as it required checking every book in our school to see firstly if it was an ‘AR book’ and then labelling and colour coding it, so the children could quickly find a book at their level. We are really thankful to Maria Stone for all her hard work in this endeavour.
We quickly got into a routine whereby AR became a permanent part of our timetable. The children are given twenty minutes of AR reading time every day. During this time they can read their AR book, take a quiz on an iPad if they have completed their book, and can go to the AR library to choose a new book.
The children earn certificates by reading with accuracy and they gain points by completing quizzes. Our principal Ms Quinn is always happy to sign the certificates every Friday.
Pupils also earn a certificate for reaching their termly targets. To reach their termly target they must have an average accuracy in quizzes of 85%, read at a level set by their teacher (guided by the STAR tests) and gain a pre-determined number of points.
Here are some testimonies from children using the AR Programme in our school:
- “I think AR really improves your reading. You have to be very careful in your reading as will take a quiz on that book when you are finished. I like the way we get to pick our own books to read.” – Ava 4th class
- “The AR reading is one of my favourite parts of school. It is so fulfilling to finish a book, or go up a reading level. I love picking new books and exploring new worlds.” – Callie 5th class
- “I like AR because there are lots of good books. You also read books that are suited to you (that are on your level). You get put on a level that has books that you’ll be able to read and enjoy.” Ella-Rose 5th class
- “I enjoy doing Accelerated Reader because it is interesting to try new books and go onto new levels to try harder books. I like doing the quizzes on the iPad and you can see the progress you are making too.” Alex 5th class
When using the AR programme one very quickly realises that there is a wealth of information available to you as a teacher. Data is gleaned from reports that analyse test records, reading range, annual progress, and from screening. We teachers found it a bit overwhelming to begin with and we took a while to decide on which reports suited our needs and our pupils’ needs best.
We found the diagnostic reports particularly useful. They give us valuable information such as Percentile Rank, Reading Age and importantly, each child’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) score.
The ZPD score dictates what range of books the pupil will read from. Every term the children undertake a new STAR test and the children look forward to seeing if they are moving up to a new reading level and can explore new books. Although AR is only in its infancy in our school, we are all excited about the interest in reading it has sparked in a great many of the pupils. As AR becomes more established in our school the indications are that the progress in reading ability already evident will continue to accelerate, the love of reading independently will continue to flourish and our pupils will be further encouraged by the success of their investment in their own learning.