The Reader Quiz Module for Extensive Reading
Kyoto Sangyo University
Many practitioners of Extensive Reading (herein referred to as “ER”) are convinced to
the effectiveness of the ER approach, yet despite these accolades,
1) physical obstacles, such as the need to establish and maintain a library of readers,
2) student management issues, such as the need of an efficient mechanism for
holding students responsible for actually doing the reading,
have hampered the widespread adoption of ER in the world of EFL. In fact, both of
these problems can only be effectively addressed at a curriculum-wide or school-wide
level. Yet it is often the individual teacher, who practices ER with his/her students
while other classes at the same level in the same school do not. The administrative
overhead, mentioned above, discourages all but the hardiest enthusiasts from
implementing ER with their classes. (The educational system in Hong Kong has been
one “success story” where the approach has been implemented on a curriculum-wide
The objective of the Moodle Reader Quiz module is to remove obstacle #2, by offering
teachers or entire school systems a practical way to test whether students have actually
done the reading that they claim to have done. This is achieved by serving each
student with a freshly generated quiz with questions drawn from a question bank for
each book, questions which should be easy for the students to answer if they have
understood the basic plot of their book. In fact, at Kyoto Sangyo University, where the
system as already been implemented, students take the quizzes with books open. A time
limit of 15 minutes is too short to allow students to simply scan to find answers if they
haven’t read the book beforehand.
Inspiration for the Reader Module
The English Department, Faculty of Foreign Languages at Kyoto Sangyo University
(“KSU”) has had an ER program since the mid-1980s, not centered around “graded
readers” but rather “American Youth Literature” such as the works of Judy Blume,
Beverley Cleary, the American Library Associations Newbury Award books, etc. A
product of a U.S. based company, Renaissance Learning, (http://www.renlearn.com)
offers a product called the “Accelerated Reader Program” (henceforth, “AR”) which has
been widely adopted in elementary and middle schools in the U.S. and Canada. Schools
may purchase 10-item multiple choice quizzes to complement their library holdings,
with quizzes for over 30,000 titles currently available.
The AR system is based on points that the students receive for each book read. Each
book has an assigned point value based on the number of running words and the
calculated “readability level” of the book. Students, however, do not receive the full
complement of points unless they score 100% on the quiz. Otherwise, assuming that
they receive a score of 60% or above, their points are calculated by multiplying their
percent correct by the total point value of the book. Thus a student who scored 80%
on a 3-point book would receive 2.4 points towards his/her target score.
Figure 1 – An Accelerated Reader Quiz Item
Figure 2 - An Accelerated Reader Quiz Report
The Accelerated Reader program served us well in the beginning, but the more we used
it, the more we realized its defects when used in an ELT setting.
Since graded readers are not included in the quizzes available from the
publisher, they had to be created locally. The AR program, however, only
permits 100 "teacher-made quizzes" and we had reached this limit at Kyoto
The quizzes assume native language proficiency and often include words in the
question items that the students do not know, even though they might know the
answer to the question from their reading of the book.
There are a fixed number of questions for each book that do not vary from
student to student when taking the test. It is therefore possible for students to
cheat and tell the answers to other students.
Due to the strong potential for cheating, we decided that the quizzes had to be
taken under controlled conditions, (in our case, in the latter half of the lunch
break Monday through Friday). This placed an additional burden on the
The report program is cumbersome to use and we had to rely on the university
Computer Center staff for back-up and support.
There was no efficient mechanism for teachers to share "teacher-made quizzes"
With the advent of Moodle on campus, another possibility presented itself – the use of
the Moodle quiz module. Direct use of the quiz module, however, would have meant
placing all quizzes in a single course, or perhaps in multiple courses depending on the
level of the student. Such an approach, however, would not permit the fine level of
control that we deemed necessary to make and effective system. Problems, such as
managing the promotion of students from one level to the next, made it infeasible to use
the quiz module “out of the box.” Thus the advent of the “Reader Module.”
The Reader Module
The Reader Module provides an interface to the students that permits them to take only
quizzes at whatever their current level has been determined to be. Rather than being
confronted with a long display of quizes, it allows them to select the quiz that they wish
to take from a pulldown menu bu publisher, series and level. The essential differences
between the AR system, as implemented at KSU and the Reader Module is summarized
in Figure 3.
Moodle Reader Module Accelerated Reader
1) Students can only select from books at their 1) Students can select any book that has
current Reading Level, or one below it. an AR quiz.
2) Students are promoted to the next level after 2) No promotion system.
gaining 6 points at their current level.
3) Books are basically all worth 1 point, but some are 3) Books have a point value that is based
worth more or less purely based on their relative on both length and difficulty.
length compared to graded readers at that level.
4) Students may take the tests anywhere, even at 4) Student can take the quizzes only under
home. supervised conditions.
5) Quizzes are randomly generated from a large 5) AR quizzes consist of 10 unvarying
question bank. There are several question types. multiple-choice questions.
6) Quizzes are timed – Maximum 15 minutes. 6) Students can take up to 30 minutes to
complete a quiz.
7) In order prevent a last-minute rush, students may 7) Students can take multiple quizzes on
take a quiz only every third the same day.
Figure 3 – Comparison of the Reader Module and Accelerated Reader
Appearance of the Reader Module
The reader module appears to the student as shown in Figure 4. It consists of the
1. A "stamp collection" of book covers for which the quiz was successfully
2. A listing of all books for which quizzes have been taken, which shows
which were passed or failed, how many points were awarded (usually 1.0
per book), and the cumulative point total.
3. A report of the student's current level
4. A message indicating how many more books at this level need to be
passed before promotion to the next level and how many quizzes one level
down that the student can still take. Finally, there is a highlighted sentence
that says one of three things:
(A) You can take a quiz now.
(B) You can take a quiz tomorrow.
(C) You must wait x days before you can take another quiz.
5. A message area. Messages can be sent to all students or to any specific
group as defined by the Moodle "group" feature. There is no provision for
individual messages because Moodle's built-in function is more efficient
for contacting individual students since they will see the message when
they log in and/or it will be sent to them as e-mail.
6. Quiz book selection pulldown menus with buttons to either take the quiz
or return to the main page.
Figure 4 – The student screen in the Reader Module
Determination of reading levels
There is no agreement among the various publishers on how to name (or number) book
levels, so a book that is at "Level 1" for one publisher can be considerably easier or
more difficult than a book labeled at the same level by another publisher. For this reason,
all books in the Reader program need to be assigned to a separate reading level
designation ("RL") so that students can be assigned to read books that are at a suitable
level of difficulty for them. This is required because more able students would tend to
read books which are far to easy for them if that would satisfy the reading requirement.
In the previous Accelerated Reader system, we had the opposite problem, since the
more difficult books had a higher point value, students would attempt to read books
which were actually too difficult for them. This meant that they had to spend much
more time using their dictionaries and that they often could not comprehend the book
well enough to pass the comprehension quizzes. Figure 5 shows how we equated the
series based on our own experience, the publishers claims on how the texts correspond
to various proficiency tests such as the TOEFL and IELTS, as well as the levels in the
Common European Framework. The "Other" category is for books that are not "graded
readers" but rather standard "youth literature" available for native speaker children.
Figure 5 – Reading Level Correspondences (May 2008)
The questions themselves, with one exception in the standard out-of-the box Moodle
format. Any given book will normally consist of 10 items distributed among at least
2. Multiple Choice
3. Matching questions
4. Who said this? and/or Who was this said to?
The “ordering” question type is new. Questions of this type are created by listing the
major events in the book in chronological order. Each quiz then displays a randomized
selelection of 50-60% of the total number of events, which the student has to drag into
the correct order with the mouse.
Figure 6 – The Ordering Question Type
For graded readers that are collections of short stories, these two additional types are
1. In which story does someone say this?
2. In which story does this occur?
The administrative area
Teachers see a set of tabs at the top of the main reader screen which affords them access
to the administrative area which includes the items shown in Figure 7. These are
self-explanatory, so I will merely mention that each selection, where appropriate allows
the teacher to view any group, to resort by clicking on column headers and to download
the data in as an Excel .xls file.
Figure 7 – Administrative Menu
Results from the first two months
There are two reading deadlines in the Spring term at KSU, one at the end of May, and
the other at the end of the term, in mid-July. The graphs below record the number of
quizzes taken in 2007, with the Accelerated Reader software, and in 2008 with the
Moodle Reader Module. Since we had a considerably larger intake of students in 2008
due to the establishment of an International Relations major within the Faculty of
Foreign Languages, the numbers have been adjusted so that the figures are comparable.
Figure 8 – Student quiz accesses, April-May 2007 using the AR Program
Figure 9 – Student quiz accesses, April-May 2008 using the Reader Module
Figures 8 and 9 show the number of books for which quizzes were taken on each day in
April and May of 2007 and 2008 respectively. A quick glance reveals that students read
their books and took quizzes at a much more even pace, and that there were by far fewer
failures in 2008. Of course, the fact that students, in 2008, were permitted to take their
quizzes anywhere, including at home, helped to make the distribution more even, but
this fact does not account for the lack of the “last-minute rush” observed in 2007.
Since the quizzes themselves were different, no clear claim can be made that the system
itself has improved their comprehension, although the fact that their were few failures,
even for those who took quizzes just before the deadline would seem to indicate that the
reading was within their level or comprehension. One other logical possibility would be
that the tests in 2008 are easier, but the subjective judgement of this writer does not
think that this is the case.
Figure 10, with summary statistics clearly shows that students were more successful
with the quizzes. It also shows that the students read more books each – 3.65 vs 3.16 in
the previous year. (In addition to these, there was one initial book that all students in the
class read for homework and which was then discussed in class as a means of
familiarizing them with the extensive reading procedure. This book has been excluded
from the statistics for both years.)
Student Quizzes Quizzes Total Adjusted Pass/ Quizzes
Year Number Passed Failed Total Fail Per
2007 117 301 69 370 370 4.3 3.19
2008 204 687 58 745 427.2 11.8 3.69
Figure 10 – Summary Statistics, April-May
Procedure for Setting Up the Reader Module
1. Instructors install the "Reader Module" in their Moodle course.
2. They import, from a central repository, quizzes for the books that they have in their
own ER collection. They may also create their own quizzes for any books for
which quizzes are not available.
3. They determine which reading level the books should be set at and the point value
for each book in case they are significantly longer or shorter than the “standard”
graded reader at that level. This only need be done if the instructor wishes to depart
from recommended levels in the repository. Finally, the initial reading level for
each student needs to be determined.
4. They set parameters in the adminstrative panel such as
the target point goal
the time limit
where quizzes may be accessed (via IP address ranges)
the passing percentage,
the frequency with which quizzes can be taken
5. They determine a policy for how points gained, or how total points above and
below the set target point value are to be integrated into the students’ final class
Procedure for Students
1. Students may select any book at their current reading level ("RL") or from those at
the RL below their current level.
2. Students borrow books, read them and when they are ready to take a quiz, they log
into the Moodle course. They select the publisher, level and title and take the quiz
within the determined time limit. (15 minutes recommended). Students may refer
to the book when taking the quiz.
3. If students pass the quiz, they are awarded one point, none if they fail.
4. Books at any level that are considerably longer or shorter than the average graded
reader at that level may have a higher or lower point value.
5. When students have passed a specific number of quizzes at their current level, they
are promoted to the next level. They can still read and take quizzes on books at
their previous level up to a set number. (Three at Sandai).
Publishers and the Reader Module
1. Graded reader publishers will be offered the opportunity to password-protect the
quizzes for their publications. These passwords can then be offered to teachers
on request, through a teacher’s club web page or however desired. This will
allow the publishers to monitor usage and ascertain that quizzes for their
publications are being used only at institutions with legitimate copies of their
2. Publishers will be asked to provide the quizzes for current (or new) publications
that they wish to be included in the system, but for which quizzes are not yet
available. A template and guidelines for quiz preparation will be provided.
Publishers will also be asked to provide a graphic of the cover of each text as a
100px jpeg image (at 72 dpi).
While it is still too early to state definitively that the Reader Module encourages more
extensive reading than the past system, it does have certain advantages that make it
easier to implement, and which should encourage schools to implement ER as part of
their own curricula:
1) the module is free, as is Moodle, in which it is implemented
2) while one staff member must oversee the program, the quiz program requires little
intervention on the part of the classroom teacher, apart from periodic progress
checks and encouraging students to read more.
3) the work of creating quizzes is a cooperative enterprise among the users, in
cooperation with the graded reader publishers, which will allow all instructors a
wider range of high-quality quizzes than could possibly be created on an
While the Reader Module does not solve the problem of management of the book
graded reader library, it goes a long way towards allowing extensive reading to be
administered on a curriculum wide level.
Finally, this is an on-going project. Extensive reading enthusiasts are welcome to try out
the system and particularly, to help develop quizzes for those graded readers that are not
yet in the system. Please contact the author if you are willing to help.