Sunday, August 18, 2013

Reving Up Reading with Accelerated Reader

Many schools use Accelerated Reader (AR) by Renaissance Learning to monitor and encourage independent reading.  If you are lucky, you have a close partnership with an AR specialist at your school who trains the staff on how to use AR and helps monitor student progress.  However, many teachers who use the program do not have this support and go it alone. 

I am one of the lucky ones!  We have a wonderful librarian at our school who makes sure our staff is trained in AR and helps provide that consistency with students in regards to AR expectations.
I'd like to share some of the tools I use and my school uses to help get the most out of our AR experience.

Goal Setting:

* Based on a student's STAR Reader test (associated with AR), students are given a "points goal" each quarter.  You can visit this link to learn more about setting point goals.
Almost every book printed is assigned a ZPD text complexity level and a points value.  You can visit AR Bookfinder to find out the ZPD level and point value for any book that is in the AR system.

* Develop a fun system for tracking students' progress toward their goals.  I use an AR Racetrack in my room, with the pace flags representing the percent students are at in terms of their points goal.

 On the first day of school, I take everyone's picture for their AR Racecar.  Their face is put in the drivers seat of these fun racecars.
After students take a quiz and their TOPS report prints, they move their car up the track until they meet their goal.
* You can also use these fun AR Goal Tracker Bookmarks

* Instead of an AR Point Goal or in addition to one, consider having students set themselves a Word Count Goal.  (I feel it is important for students to set this goal for themselves so there is buy-in.)   I usually begin this in second quarter, because I want to see what is realistic for all of my students.  The average chapter book is about 25,000 words.  Some of my higher readers challenge themselves by setting a Word Count Goal that is 500,000 words and they reach it!  (One year, I had one student who read over a million words in a quarter!  WOW!!!)
Make it Fun:
* Form a "100 Point Club" for students who earn 100 AR Points in a year.  Take their picture and put it on a poster in the hallway.  Underneath their picture, put a banner that says "100 Point Club."  As students earn more points, you can add more banners (200 Point Club, 300 Point Club, etc.)
* Challenge another class or grade to an AR Reading Contest.  See which class can earn the most points averaged per student and then celebrate everyone's efforts with a joint party.  (Bragging rights go to the class with the highest point average, but every student who participates and contributes to the class goal should be acknowledged.)  Last year, my 4th grade class challenged a 5th grade class to this contest.  While we didn't win (last year!), my students were incredibly motivated to read and wanted to read ALL DAY LONG to try to beat the 5th graders!
* Set a classroom Word Count Goal.  Update your progress weekly.  Our goal was never less than to read a million words in a quarter.  One quarter, we read almost 3,000,000 words!  (This was probably because my husband said he would bake chocolate chip cookies if we did it!)
* Set a school goal of reading over a MILLION WORDS in one day.  Plan a fun celebration (popsicles, extra recess, etc.) for when the goal is met.
Don't Forget:
* Keep in mind that AR recommends that students score 85% or higher on their quizzes.  This helps assure that students understand what they read, not just speed read to earn points.  If students are scoring below 85%, it is very important to meet with them and monitor their reading to develop strategies to improve comprehension.  For higher students, set their goal to 90% correct for an extra challenge.
* Make sure students are reading in their ZPD range.  Reading books below their ZPD level will not challenge students and reading books too high may frustrate them.  Students typically have a range of 1.5 points (3.5 - 5.0) based on their STAR Reader test.
With all of this talk about points and goal setting, it is important to not lose sight of the fact that the real purpose of AR is to get kids reading more so they become better readers, not just to earn points

There is a great resource on the Renaissance Learning website that is full of information about AR.  You can read it (all 150+ pages!) here.

I hope I have given you some things to think about in terms of increasing student reading using AR.  If you use AR in your class, I'd love to hear some of your thoughts.  Why not leave a comment below to share with everyone?


  1. All fabulous ideas! I love to use AR for motivational purposes. I was just commenting yesterday on Holly @ Fourth Grade Flipper's post about AR.
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'


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