Technology Review - Accelerated Reader At the school where I teach, the computer labs are in great demand. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of specialized software that is used on these computers. However, there is one program that is used daily, and that is the Accelerated Reader program. In the following paragraphs, I will describe how that program works, how it is used in my classes, and how it ties into the Michigan Educational Technology Standards for grades 6-8. I will also discuss strengths and weaknesses of the software. HOW IT WORKS The Accelerated Reader program is designed to be a tool that students and teachers can use to track reading progress not only throughout the current school year, but throughout the entire K-8 education. The program is used in conjunction with a program called STAR reading, which evaluates the reading level of each student. To do this, students take a test on the computer which is comprised of several paragraphs of reading, then comprehension or vocabulary questions to answer after each passage. There are separate tests for elementary and middle school levels. This test determines their reading level and reading range. At this point, students are given a reading point goal that is based on their reading level and amount of minutes per day we expect them to read. Each book in our library has a reading test that goes with it, and these books are worth a certain number of points, based on their length and difficulty. These tests are taken on the computers in teacher’s classrooms. They are usually 10 comprehension questions long, but can be up to 20 questions. Students are awarded points based on how they do on the tests. Students are able to monitor their progress toward their reading goal by printing reports through the AR (Accelerated Reader) program. Teachers are also able to monitor and pull class reports, print lists of books read by each student, and assign or change the goal points. HOW I USE IT I use the Accelerated Reader program as a tool in evaluating the reading comprehension of my students. I do not make the students stick to their exact reading range, (which could be something like 3.4- 6.8) but I encourage them to read books that are near it. I am more interested in them reading books they like, vs. not being able to read a book because it’s slightly above or below their range. Also, each Friday I do an “AR Update” where I ask students for the book they are reading and the page number they are on. That way I can monitor their progress for the specific books they are reading as well. I also update them on their AR points goal and remind them of the Technology Review - Accelerated Reader timeframe left to reach that goal. At the end of the term, the percent of their Accelerated Reader goal that they have earned is entered into the grade book as 10% of their grade, which is the average our middle school decided on for Accelerated Reader. TIE-IN WITH MICHIGAN TECHNOLOGY STANDARDS Since many of the technology standards involve students creating things, there are not many standards that specifically fit this software. However, a few that I have found are: 1) Technology Operations and Concepts – know how to create and use various functions available in a database. Students do this with the Accelerated Reader program because there are different reports that can pull to track their progress. They can filter these reports by date, book level, test date, list report, etc. 2) Discuss security issues – each year we have to stress that it is considered academic dishonesty to share their password with someone else, which would allow others to take tests for them. 3) Use digital resources – students are able to check the Accelerated Reader website to see how many points a book is worth. If the school does not own the test for their book, they at least can check the book level and amount of points. STRENTHS & WEAKNESSES Overall, I think the Accelerated Reader program is a useful tool. I think it’s strengths include students being able to monitor their own progress, helping students select books within or close to their reading ranges, and holding kids accountable by testing their comprehension at the end of the book. As with many types of software, there are also some weaknesses. The main weakness I see is the availability of the tests. Our school needs to buy the test for each book we have in our library, and we need to continue to buy new tests for newly released books. It is difficult to keep up with the newest books that are released, which results in students reading a book, but not having an AR test to take to go along with it. To help with this, we direct students to the AR website to see how many points the book is worth, then we have them fill out an “AR book report”, which asks several questions about the book. This is not foolproof, and makes for some confusion about point values. Also, teachers need to manually enter those “AR book report” points into the student AR account, which can sometimes cause errors as well. Overall, though, I recommend this product for K-8 reading classrooms, it has been very helpful.
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