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
Overall, though, I recommend this product for K-8 reading
classrooms, it has been very helpful.