Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Help Students Reach Their Reading Goals

I don't know about at your school, but at my school Accelerated Reader is a BIG deal.  Kids are very eager to earn their AR points, but that doesn't always equate to reading success.  AR is an expensive program; we spend close to $3,000/year on the online program so it's important that we get our money's worth. There are so many aspects of the program that are very underutilized.  One of the little-used tools that comes with the online program is Home Connect which allows students and parents to monitor their progress at home or at school at any time.  When I turned on the AR Home Connect option last year, it also allowed teachers to set three different reading goals to help optimize a student's reading ability.

The three reading goals include

Book Level Goal
This is based on the ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) on the student's STAR test and, hopefully, increases each quarter or nine weeks.  The ZPD gives a high reading level and a low reading level and the student should read within that level to have the most chance to effectively increase, or accelerate, their reading ability.  The goal is usually the average of this high number and low number.

Example    ZPD = 2.3-3.3   Book Level Goal =  2.8

Points Goal
This is the standard goal that most teachers have used in the past. Students have a certain number of points they should earn by taking quizzes on books that they've read within their ZPD.  I suggest that students read at or above their Book Level Goal, but not above their ZPD.  Renaissance Learning has created a PDF that helps you determine what point goal to set based on how many minutes you want your student to read each day.  It's very helpful when determining what point goal to set.

Quiz Average Goal
This goal is just what it sounds like.  It is the average of all the quizzes a student takes in a set grading period.  It is automatically set at 85% by the Reniassance Learning Company, the company that runs Accelerated Reader. I contacted them about how to lower it, but was told that I could only increase it, not lower it because their studies show that 85% is the lowest average a student can earn and still increase their reading level.

*AR and Accelerated Reader are registered trademarks of Renaissance Learning, Inc.

Using Home Connect, students can monitor their progress every day on their goals each quarter, six weeks, or however your school year is divided.  Home Connect gives a visual so students can see how close they are to reaching their goals. When they reach their goal, a star appears next to that goal.  You can see in the screen shot above that the student has reached 2 out of the 3 goals.

I encourage teachers to talk with their students and set their goals with their students' input.  I gave teachers a copy of this goal sheet to keep a record of their progress each quarter.  I did not make up the contract.  It was made several years ago by someone in my county, but I still use it because it's good documentation and a good goal planning page.  You can get a free copy by clicking here or on the picture above.

*AR and Accelerated Reader are registered trademarks of Renaissance Learning, Inc.

For students, I teach a lesson, and a review lesson half way through the year, about how they can meet their AR goals.  If you'd like to see the lesson for free, you can click here or on the picture above. Some of the information included in the PowerPoint are specific for my school, but you can get the general idea of what everything looks like and how it runs by looking at this PowerPoint.

In addition, I also give students this AR Goals bookmark.  I have added a place for them to mark their goals on the back which is also a good way for them to see their reading progress through the year.  You can get a free copy by clicking here or on the picture above.

I have contacted Renaissance Learning and they will send a rep to do an hour long overview of the program for free.  They also offer a day long Professional Development, but the cost is $3,000.  That's not quite in the budget, so we are going to make due with the hour long overview and hope that it helps us learn to use more of the tools offered through the program to help our students truly accelerate their reading.

So how about your school?  Are you using AR or another reading incentive program to encourage students to read?

*AR and Accelerated Reader are registered trademarks of Renaissance Learning, Inc.

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