Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hey AR,(Accelerated Reader):I Have A Bone to Pick With You!

Dear Accelerated Reader,

Can I call you AR?


I have a bone to pick with you!
I don't know about other schools, or classrooms, but you are sucking the joy out of reading in my classroom.
Ok, well, it's not really you, but it's what you stand for. It's also what others have made of you. So, I guess it's not all your fault.

I get it. You want our students to read, and you want them to read on their level. You want them to read so much that they become better readers. You do this by making them take a test, which then decides what books they are able to read. And once they read the book, they take a quiz.

In our school, they read to get points. They get points to get in a Club. When they get in the Club, they get recognized, and they get the chance to attend ice cream socials, parties, etc.... The class with the most points or the highest average wins a pizza party. Hey if it gets them to read, right?

Not really. You know what I have noticed year after year?  The same kids attend ice cream socials, parties, etc...  The same kids end up in the Platinum Club, or they get to be the ones to smash the pie in a teachers' face. Last year, my students said, "What's the use Mrs.M? We know K is going to win." Of course, I tried to change their minds, but you know who won last year.

And the worst part?
Student: Mrs. M, I need you to have a lady to lady talk with Ms.L.
Me: Why?
Student: She is not letting me go out to Recess until I am in an AR Club.
Come on! I know we all like to win, but making kids miss Recess so they can get in the club, and your class can win the pizza party? See what you've driven our teachers to?

Trust me, AR, my goal and yours are the same. We both want our children to read. We want our children to enjoy reading, we just have different methods. I prefer events like The Global Read Aloud, which embraces the joy of reading, but also connects students all over the world, who share that joy.

I also send home a notebook and ask my students to read at least 15 minutes a day, and respond in writing 3 days out of the week. Listening to some of them share their responses, I have seen how much they have grown, how they are relating to the books they are reading. How much they enjoy reading them.

Of course, if there is an AR quiz, they are allowed to take it. Win-win, right? :)

I'm sorry AR, I am not a big fan. One of my students has read three chapter books and somehow feels it was a waste of time. You know why? There wasn't a matching AR quiz for any of them. So, I ask you, is this any way to get kids to love  reading?

14 comments:

  1. Preach it sister!

    Once I read research that stated when you start rewarding a child for a behavior that he is already doing, when you stop rewarding the behavior it decreases. So if you have children who are already reading lots of books and then you start rewarding them for reading via AR, then you give them a summer break, they read less then they were before you started rewarding them. Wordy, but hope that makes sense.

    I love your letter to AR and agree completely! Thank you for sharing!

    Camille
    An Open Door

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  2. Thank you Camille! And your comments are right on!:)

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  3. 100% agree. I think it's a tool to use in the classroom, but not a strict program. Some kids like the points, some don't. It's an option in my room, not a requirement. By the way, I feel this exact same way about home book logs. I ask that my students read 15-20 minutes a night, but filling out a log doesn't make most of them do it!
    Good blog! ;)

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  4. I couldn't agree more on all accounts. The books some of my kids want to read aren't on the AR list and books I can't get them to read to save my life are; I am talking about my personal children here. I see the same pattern in the classroom. It is hard to say we want you to read, we don't care what you read as long as you read, and then turn around and say but make sure you can get AR points for it. The other part that bothers me is that within the district my kids go to school if they don't take a certain amount of AR tests per quarter, and do well, it then affects their reading grade. . .

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  5. Totally agree with both of you! I, too agree that we want students to become more efficient readers, but this AR isn't the way to do it. I would love for the assessment to become more creative. For instance, why not an online blog? (redundant, where else is a blog going to be but online??) But, using any of the number of platforms available, why not make a digital book report for the class website, have the kids 'entice' other kids to read by sharing juicy parts of the book... and yes, if they'd like to take an AR test, then so be it. AR is required for a grade in our school, (thankfully I teach math ;) ) Cereal box book reports... etc.

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  6. Very interesting. I found Camille's comments useful too. Thanks for the blog.

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  7. ugh, I hear you. One day I was in the library with another teacher and overheard her tell her students they could only check out AR books on their level. Here were kids who were excited about a book, wanted to read it, and they could not check it out because it wasn't AR! It seems counterproductive to me. I don't have (much of) a problem with AR if it is simply used as a reward program for students who choose to participate, but when it becomes the be all and end all of reading programs, that makes me crazy.

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  8. This happens in the adult world, too! Several forums I enjoy use a plug-in called 'CubePoints'. It's supposed to encourage interaction. The 'point-collectors' learn the game quickly. They're the ones who comment on everyone else's comment, "GREAT COMMENT!" Score: 10 points!

    What's the point? (best comment on the pun = 0) LOL

    All the best from Toronto,
    Russ

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  9. I found myself nodding my head the whole time I was reading this post. I, too have found that the same children are privilidged from using this program and those that work so hard but can't seem to "make the grade" feel left behind, no matter how much we praise them for their own personal progress. It is unfortunate that we feel as though we need a program with a reward system to get students to motivated to read. I feel if we, as teachers, do a good job of exposing our students to a variety of texts and genres, they will be motivated to read books that interest them. Giving them choice in texts will also help with motivation. Hopefully we can someday move beyond the tangible rewards and help students find their own love of reading.

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  10. I agree with Anonymous - "giving them choice in texts will also help with motivation". I'll add this; back in the day when I was going to school (think WAY BACK), book reports consisted mostly of, "Did you LIKE the book and WHY?"

    Today, there is character and plot psychoanalysis not to mention tearing apart the structure and mechanics of the writing. And almost nowhere in my 9-year-old daughter's assignments can I find the question, "Did you LIKE the book and WHY?"

    And we wonder where the JOY and MOTIVATION for reading has gone?

    All the best from Toronto,
    Russ

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  11. I am delighted (and shocked) to see so many of you share my disenchantment with AR. I have the privilege of speaking to teachers throughout the country (normally at IRA conferences), and I repeatedly urge them to use AR sensibly, if at all. In other words, don't MAKE kids take the tests, don't give points, and don't restrict them from reading non-AR books. My message isn't always popular, but I always feel better for "speaking my piece."

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  12. Just one more example if I may; I taught private music lessons for 40+ years. Oversimplified, you could break down my lessons into two main parts - the necessary, standardized 'TRAINING' material that everyone must go through in order to gain the basic tools and skills; then APPLYING those very skills ASAP to the students' preferred music styles and tastes.

    Why force everyone to 'love' Mozart or understand the complexities of a Bach fugue when all they really need to make their hearts sing is a simple tune?

    Teach the basic skills of reading, writing or 'rithmatic - YES (music, too of course)! Then show your students how they can apply those skills to the things THEY love. Do that and you won't be able to offer enough points for them NOT to read!

    All the best from Toronto,
    Russ

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  13. This is so true. My daughter is in fifth grade and one of their test grade is reading and taking the test on two AR books. The problem: She reads slowly and it takes her awhile. She's into the Harry Potter series and the third book (around 330 pages) has taken her forever. She wants to continue, but the next book has almost 800 pages! She'll never fit two books into a grading period at this point.
    Our solution: She reads shorter AR books for a "grade" and the Harry Potter books for pleasure.

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  14. My son is in the 5th grade. He has dyslexia, but because his public school will not even acknowledge this learning disability, I have spent tons of time and money on getting him the help he needs OUTSIDE of school -- using the Orton Gillingham Method, so that he can become a proficient reader. (When he entered the 2nd grade, he was at the beginning K level in reading. Now, he is at his grade level ... but with NO thanks to his school!) Enter the AR Program -- UGH! My son is a slow reader and an anxious test taker. His teacher bases part of the grade on attaining a certain number of AR Points PLUS getting at least 85% on the tests. If they do not do both of those, then they get their Reading grade docked by a WHOLE letter grade! First of all, we started out on the wrong foot this semester. He made the disastrous mistake of choosing books that he actually LIKED rather than books that were on the prescribed AR list. When he went to take a test, guess what? They were not on the list, so there was no test to take ... so he did not get credit for reading 2 books that first semester. So we finally got wise to the system and now we cannot read a book unless it is on the prescribed AR list. (It also must be within his AR reading level. If it is outside of his reading level, either below or above, he will get zero points.) So the first semester, he was finally getting an "A" in reading -- after this long struggle with overcoming dyslexia. But because he was short one (1) AR point, his grade was dropped to a "B" in reading. This 2nd semester, he read like crazy and got MORE than enough AR points, but because he was in a hurry to take a test, he did not test well on one test, which brought his score below 85% ... so his grade was again dropped to a "B". I find this system to be so incredibly insane. It is totally sucking the joy out of reading for my son ... and it is making for a very angry Mom! I want my child to learn to read ... and to learn to ENJOY reading! In order to get there, I am now trying to teach my son to not be too concerned about the school system and the grades. He can learn, in spite of them.

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