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Accelerated Reader Alternatives

On Sunday, I posted about how our school made the decision to leave Accelerated Reader and go in a different direction.  You can read about that post here.  We decided that we could do better for our students and we want to promote reading for the pure joy and entertainment that it can bring rather than promote reading with rewards.  In short, we want the students to love reading the way adults love reading by participating in real life reading activities so their reading will continue outside of the classroom.  


Reading =  fun, enjoyment, information, conversations about books

Our school came to an agreement not to set goals or rewards for number of books read or minutes reading books.  We felt that this was not indicative of real life reading.  And that (real life reading) has become our goal.


 Our plan for our student's reading instead of AR (this occurs for us during SSR time- not guided reading time) will be focused on in two parts.  


Part one:  What will happen during SSR time instead of reading AR books and taking tests?

Students will be reading as much and more "in" school as they did with AR.  The hope is by making it a real authentic activity "in" school it has a better chance of continuing "outside" the walls of the school.   

 What do you do when you are reading a great book?  You can't wait to tell a friend about the book so they can read it too!  Here are some real, authentic activities that can be a part of your plan instead of using AR.  All of it centering around reading and conversations.

*   Reading of ALL types and genres of fabulous books
*   Book Talks with Peers- could be set up like a book talk in a cafe
     with drinks and snacks
*   Book Shares- share a part of your story that has wonderous words or vivid 
     vocabulary, what a great way to find more mentor texts to tie reading into 
     writing!
*   Book Buddies pairing older students with younger students
*   Book Recommendation Walls
 *  Conferencing with students- listed last, but is the MOST important part

Part two:  How will we enhance our student's reading without having reward parties that only include part of our student population?

*   Themed Reading Afternoons- we will hold these once a quarter for
     EVERYONE to be involved, themes that have been mentioned are camping (set up tents, sleeping bags, pillows, flashlights in hall and everyone reads for a period of time, could make smores also), breakfast in bed (dress in pjs, bring stuffed animals, eat bagels while enjoying books) 
*    Guest Readers to our school- local authors, news anchors (kids think they 
     are celebrities), high school athletes, etc....

The possibilities are almost endless for how teachers could promote reading- the fun and enjoyment of it- within their classrooms!  This is a work in progress for us, but we are so excited about it!  If your school does anything like this, we would love to hear about it.  :)

29 comments:

  1. Love these ideas!!!!
    www.123teachwithme.com

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  2. This sounds great!! Next summer you'll have to compare and contrast this option with AR and them post about it. I like your new option better!!
    Connie:)
    www.welcometofirstgraderoom5.blogspot.com

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  3. Thank you so, so, so much for this post!! I have been begging my school to stop AR this year, but my pleas are falling on deaf ears. Not only should reading be the reward itself, AR does nothing to foster the type of comprehension common core looks for. The questions are basic, low level knowledge questions and do not require any higher order thinking at all. I can't wait to share this!
    Vickie
    Mrs. Plant's Press

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  4. I love the idea of real life reading. If it's just a school thing and not a real life thing, maybe it's something that's not worth our time. (ie. book reports?) Your school is doing great things!
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

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  5. I just found your blog through Mrs. Stanford's Class. I, too, work with struggling readers at our school, and I agree so much with your school's views on AR. The kids I work with NEVER make the "goals" because they can't read. These ideas would truly motivate them because it makes reading so much fun. I can't wait to hear how all of this works!

    Stop by and visit me at Reading Toward the Stars
    Andrea

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  6. These ideas all sound like so much fun! When I was student teaching I did a book recommendation wall. The students loved it. Even when I was done with my student teaching I had students finding me on campus while I was subbing to tell me about a book I just "had" to read!

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  7. Glad to hear you're losing AR.
    We sometimes have a Pajama Reading Party with the whole school (like your Breakfast in Bed). Kids wear pjs to school, everyone reads while drinking/eating milk and cookies. And parents come in to read to classes also. Lots of fun!

    ❀Barbara❀
    Grade ONEderful
    Ruby Slippers Blog Designs

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  8. Thank you TammySF! We are excited about this. :)

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  9. Thank you Connie! I think it has to be better. Definitely need to post about how this goes. :)

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  10. Vickie, it took me several years to get this accomplished so hang in there! It's a process to change the thinking to another direction. Thank you for coming by and commenting!

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  11. Thank you so much Tammy! You and I both believe in real life reading and writing activities!

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  12. Andrea, my students weren't good at reaching their AR goals either. :( This didn't help their perspective on reading at all. I will definitely come by and see your blog! Thanks for coming by mine.

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  13. Karen, that is what it's all about! I LOVE that your former students are finding you and wanting to tell you about a new book that they think you have to read! Love it! :)

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  14. That is a great idea, Barbara! That sounds like fun and I will have to remember that one! Thanks for sharing it. :)

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  15. Have you read the books, "The Book Whisperer" or "Readicide". Both of these authors highly encourage S.S.R. The sad things is so many schools are moving away from this instead of running towards it. If you haven't read them, I would recommend putting them on your summer reading list. They have great tips.

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  16. Michelle, I do have the book, The Book Whisperer, and have read it. Lots of ideas! I have read parts of Readicide, but not all of it. I got my quote from my other AR post from Readicide. :) I do need to finish reading that book. Thanks for the book recommendations!

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  17. These are wonderful ideas to take the place of AR, Lori!

    Here's a suggestion I thought of while I was reading your list (it's a spin off your book rec walls idea): Set up a "Twitter wall" (laminated rectangles that kids could write on) and let kids "tweet" a short blurb about their book. I saw this on Pinterest and have been itching to implement it in my own classroom! Sounds like it might work for yours, too. :)

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  18. Mrs. K, that is a great idea!! I have seen that Twitter wall on Pinterest and even had pinned it. But never thought of it with my AR alternative activities. This would be lots of fun!! Thanks so much!

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  19. I would love for our school to leave AR, but with our current administration it won't happen. The most frustrating part is at our school all kids in the grade level have the same goal. Really? Not at all how it supposed to be set up... and if I hear one more time from a teacher that a student should be reading level 2.3 because they're in second grade I might have a nervous breakdown... *done venting now, sorry!*
    I want to get The Book Whisperer. I haven't read it yet, but it was recommended to me by a coworker. From what I have heard about it, it sounds like it would fit nicely into your plan.

    Erin
    First with Franklin

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  20. Erin, vent away! I understand. :) I have The Book Whisperer and it is a very good book! It fits very well with not going the AR route. Thank you for coming by to leave a comment. I am off to see your blog!

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  21. Our school stopped AR last year. We have a group of teachers who are determined to bring it back claiming that they now have no way to assess what their students are reading. Best responses please.

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    1. Jack, thank you for dropping by to read about our journey of not using AR. There are many reasons not to use programs like, AR, but I will address the issue of comprehension since that is what your teachers are concerned about. First of all, AR tests are literal, fact-based, recall type questions. So students are not thinking or being assessed at a deeper level, which is not what we want anyway. Second of all, in my experience, struggling readers often fail these tests, so they are not comprehending the books at even a surface level many times. Teachers should be conferencing with students weekly. If they are conferencing with each one weekly, they should be asking those deeper level and surface level questions. They will be right there in the trenches, so to speak, with their students and learning those books, even the ones they (the teachers) haven't read yet. Are computer tests, book reports, and dioramas authentic, real life ways to discuss books and comprehension? Instead, students can be having book talks with each other weekly (in small groups), conferencing with the teacher, participating in book recommendation boards, debates over books, discussions with teachers and other students, etc...What do adults do when they find a great book? They tell someone! They describe the characters and setting and what happens to the characters, why they loved it, etc... All of these ways will show comprehension or no comprehension of the books. It really is up to the teacher to promote an atmosphere of excitement and love of reading, provide lots of different genres, and try and keep trying to get the right books into each student's hands! I hope these ideas help you and help your fellow teachers. Thank you for asking it!

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  22. This post was written almost three years ago, but it is incredibly helpful to me! The lead teachers from our school are actually meeting tomorrow to decide if we will eliminate AR or not. This post contained LOTS of helpful information for me to "bring to the table" tomorrow. Now that it's been a few years since your school has done away with AR do you have any other advice for me? I greatly appreciate any suggestions you have. Thank you so much!

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    1. I am glad that you found this post about AR helpful to you! My main advice would be to decide what kind of reading culture you want to have in your school. You need buy in from your administrators and fellow teachers to build life long readers who are intrinsically motivated. Make a list of how you would like to do this and how you can incorporate those activities into your classrooms and school. Think about what adults do when they read a great book- they have lots of great conversations! Build activities around that! Good luck to you and your school!!

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  24. So now--five years later---what is going on in the school with reading?

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    1. Great question! We had lots of fun with celebrating reading without AR! Then we had administration changes and staff changes...AR was sadly brought back for little bit, but no one really got into it. It is gone now again and probably for good this time! We are back to challenging students to read books that interest them and challenge them. We do book talks, book recommendations and so on. It is wonderful to be encouraging students to love to read and talk about books!

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