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Saying Good-Bye to AR



Have you ever heard a similar conversation (only with your name inserted instead of mine):  "Mrs. Vines, Mrs. Vines!  I made my AR goal!!!"  This being said from an excited student and I follow up with "Great, I'm so happy for you!!"  Then says excited student, "NOW I DON'T HAVE TO READ ANYMORE!!!"

This comment has been said to me so many times.  I cringe.  I feel sad.  I feel angry (not at the student).  I tell whichever teacher is unlucky enough to be near me when this happens, "This is why I do not like AR!"

I value reading and I try to teach a love of reading to my students.  Hopefully in a way that carries over into their lives outside of school.  But there are some things that I don't feel teach a love of real life reading,  Accelerated Reader  being one of those things.  And finally after a long period of nudging people along and sometimes just outright speaking my mind about it, I am thankful to say that my school is saying good-bye to AR!!!  If your school uses AR and you like it, I hope you will stick with me through this post to see why I think we can do better by our students.  :)


Besides the conversation at the top of this post, I have also had these concerns:
*  students find a wonderful book they are interested in until they find out it's not AR, then back on the shelf it goes
*  student wants to read a particular book, which happens to be AR, but it is not deemed to be on their level so they are not allowed to read it
*  AR tests ask literal comprehension questions
*  how many of us as adults say "Oh, I can't wait to go take my test on this great book I just read"?
*  parties and rewards end up being for only part of our school population, instead of celebrating the enjoyment of reading by everyone

I have so many thoughts on AR, I think I could fill up  several posts on it!  I am sure that you do not want to sit through that.  But I am very passionate about this subject and truly believe that AR does not instill within our students a love of reading.  I feel it turns reading into an extrinsic driven chore.  I have even seen students race through book after book for the sole purpose of earning those points to make their goal.  What about reading to enjoy the story and savoring every bit of it?  I know when I read a wonderful book, I don't want to rush through it.  And what about those students who love reading magazines and comics?  There are always boys in our school that haven't found the right book yet, but LOVE to read hunting magazines.  

I am proud of my school and my teachers for reaching the point that they are ready to say good-bye to AR and teach the love of reading with an intrinsic value.   We have lots of ideas for next year and I can't wait!

Next on my radar:  Getting rid of that creativity killer called the 5 paragraph essay.  :)

Did you notice the super cute frame that I used for my quote?  Tessa, at Tales From Outside the Classroom, created that!  So to her blog and see all her cute stuff.  You will definitely love it!

48 comments:

  1. I am so glad to hear that your school is doing away with AR!!!! I look forward to seeing what is in store :)!

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  2. You state my feelings exactly. I want to teach the love of reading!

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  3. Lori, well said. You hit the nail right on the head. I'm thrilled that your school is willing to give AR up in search of better methods. It's a big leap for some people, but once they get to the other side, they'll see what they've been missing this whole time. Of course, we'll want to hear all about it next fall!
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

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  4. Keep us posted on what your school does instead! I have third graders who love to read the lowest level books they can just so they can speed read through 1/2 point at a time! They don't even like the books they are reading! I know your frustration and I am excited to hear the updates about how it goes! :)
    Julie
    Light A Fire in Third

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  5. I never thought about it this way before. My school uses AR but I use it as a tool and not for rewards. At the 2nd grade level it is used mainly for comprehension practice. I have some kids who love to take the tests and others who never touch it. I really leave it up to them. It is too bad that it is being used in ways that make kids not love reading:( Now if you want to talk about Kid Biz, that opens up a whole other can of worms for me!!

    Aloha,
    Corinna
    Surfin' Through Second

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  6. I never thought of it in the same light either. I used AR years ago and then the district didn't want to (or couldn't afford to) pay for it any longer. I found a free program that was based the same but converted the points to AR since that is what I was used to. I used this for years with my 8th grade students. They did try to rush through to get their points. I am now teaching 1st grade and I am in the process of leveling all different books and was thinking of bringing back this incentive. Now I have to rethink it. Thank you for this wonderful post ;-)

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  7. Our school uses A/R and has a school goal every year. We have seen a lot of what everyone has mentioned so far and I agree with all of you. I have had to find creative ways to get kids to read and enjoy what they are reading. I taught 5th grade for 10 years and now teach 2nd grade, which I always wanted to teach. One thing I do is find out what my students interests are. I then guide them to books that meet that interest. My students in 2nd grade need to read so they can build their vocabulary and fluency, so I reward them when they meet their goals. Students have a range of color dots they can read from, so that they don't miss out on great books just because it wasn't on their color dot. I don't let my kids take tests on books that are above their reading level unless it was a read-a-loud that we have discussed, because 9 times out of 10, they will fail it and that just lowers their self-esteem. If I am reading a read-a-loud, it is almost always above most of my students reading level because I teach 2nd grade and many of my students come to me still reading on a first grade reading level. So my purpose is not for them to take a test, it is for pleasure, modeling fluency, or for pleasure with a skill focus, NOT TO GET POINTS. We have decided for next year at our school, not to focus on such a high point total for the school, but to just try to beat last years points, while maintaining an 87% correct average for all students. Another way we keep student interest in books is by letting our media specialist know what types of books our kids like to read so he can get more. He ordered a lot of graphic novels this past year at all levels and our students LOVED them (comic books, basically). I make it my goal every year to introduce my students to books that have series, so if they like it, they will continue to want to read, such as Henry & Mudge, Mr. Putter & Tabby, Junie B., Magic Tree House, Clifford, Baby Mouse (new graphic novel this year), Postcards from...., Math books (they love, but I am a Math person, lol), and lots of science fiction. Most of my students do not see AR as a chore because it's all they know, and they are proud of themselves when they are able to progress forward. With that said, do I have those that hate to read and see it as a chore? Absolutely and those are usually the ones who come to me as non-readers, the ones who still do not know their sight words, the ones who struggle in phonics and can not write a complete sentence. I teach students from very high economically disadvantaged homes. Most of them do not even have books at home, so there is no emphasis on reading outside of school. The rewards they get at school for reading mean a lot to them. One other thing to consider is that AR is no longer going to make tests for new books for schools to purchase. If you don't go with the new internet-based AR that is costly, then you are limited to what you have in your school. On a positive note, if you have that version, your students have access to any AR tests that are out there from AR, so that opens the door a little wider. For us, we don't know if our county will go with the new version or not yet for next year because of budget.

    Keep us posted on how you motivate kids to read without AR and the progress they make. With my population, I would be very nervous, because there is not much support at home to make sure they practice reading. I have even had them lie on AR logs just to get a Six Flags ticket. Such is life as a teacher......

    MillersFlipFlops

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  8. I totally agree with you about AR!! I teach 2nd grade and this past year we did not push AR because we just moved to the building as 2nd grade was in the K-2 building across the road until they decided to consolidate both buildings. We also did not have a full time librarian, so it was not pushed as much at this building as it had been in the past. We have just found out that the librarian that was at this building before is going to be back and she REALLY pushes AR! My second grade team is not happy at all. We feel that AR diminishes a student's desire to read. Reading is supposed to be enjoyable! My grandson is an excellent reader, however after going through elementary school and all the AR tests that he had to complete, I can't get him to pick up a book, much less read it. I do not feel that AR points makes the student a better reader!! It is just points and sometimes a prize!! Would love to do away with it all together. Thanks for your post, I was hoping that my team of 2nd grade teachers weren't the only ones that feel this way.

    Teresa

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  9. I completely agree with you. I've been fortunate in that I taught kindergarten when I was at a school with A.R., but I dealt with the aftermath of A.R. on a personal basis with my daughter. IT KILLS THE LOVE OF READING! It was heartbreaking for me as a mom and as a teacher to see what was happening with my daughter. She was at a school that used it for 25% of the students' grade beginning in 1st grade. Students had weekly points they had to earn. She was so busy reading only A.R. books so she could keep her reading grades up, she never had time to read for pleasure. She was at that school k-2nd. It took another 3 years to undo all the A.R. damage. Thankfully she had an amazing 5th grade teacher who was able to spark a love of reading.

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  10. We have AR. We didn't for a long time. But now New PAL likes it so we got it back.
    We do Home Runs. Each time you make your goal, it's a run.
    First base is 25%, Second is 50%...and then home plate is a run.
    It is kind of like the karate belts. They get the colored bracelet READERS ARE LEADERS that matches each run.
    This way it never ends. And your prize is at 25 % of YOUR goa. so if you aren't reading as well or as fast as others, you still have an attainable goal.
    And then those readers who take off- are the ones who help the class goal.
    It has been a very positive thing for us.
    Oh, and PAL won't let the library go through and mark AR books- just for that reason. Read it because you are interested- find out when you are done if it is an AR book.

    I think my school got burned out in the past- but she is very creative and motivating- so much so, I had students with 4 and 5 runs! They just kept reading.

    Staci

    Go NUTTY with Me!

    misssquirrels@yahoo.com

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  11. Lori,

    Amen to this post!! There is so much research that points out the flaws of extrinsic reward systems. I never worked personally with AR, but I witnessed the burn-outs in the older grade students. The business of points and competition (and AR IS a business, you know!)is what made me stop doing Pizza Huts Book-It program years ago.

    Let our students read for the pure joy of it... and if they aren't enjoying it, let's work harder at finding ways to ignite that joy!

    Linda
    Primary Inspiration

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  12. I used to be a BIG supporter of AR...it was a great way to motivate students to read! I'd do a "top 5" each week, etc. Then, I moved to second grade. AR does not work so well there. I was sooo happy when my school switch K-2 to "Raz Kids," which motivates students to read both fiction and nonfiction on their site....it can be read to them, they can record themselves reading, or they can read the story silently. I love how it has various topics and goes along with their reading level! As the teacher, you can also manipulate it as well.

    The best feature from the kids' point of view is that you earn points any time you read a book and you can use those points to decorate your rocket ship!

    Our 3-5 still does AR, but we base our reading celebration on SMART goals for reading...so each student is individualized and everyone gets to participate!

    Raz Kids is through Reading A-Z if you're interested. They go all the way through fifth, I believe, in levels. Anyway, congrats! I think there can be a happy medium with AR, but if everyone is not on board, then it just doesn't work :(

    Chrissy
    Adventures in Second Grade

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  13. I agree with you 100%! I absolutely cannot stand the AR program. The school I student taught in used it, and I cannot tell you how upset it made me when I had that EXACT same conversation with students that you had above... "I don't have to read anymore!" *tear* I want to teach students to love reading like *I* love reading, and AR is definitely not the way to do it.

    I will say, though, that I've had a hard time figuring out how to assess reading without AR. Last year I taught English I at a high school in Oklahoma. Obviously, they did not have AR. I thought it was great because my kids could choose whatever books they wanted to read during our DEAR time. However, one of my state's objectives for that subject and level is for students to read for long periods of time independently, and I had no idea how to keep kids accountable for that. Obviously, I could see that students were goofing off during DEAR time, no matter HOW hard I pushed the idea of "diving into a good book" during that period. And for freshmen students (and some even younger than that!), it's almost like you HAVE to have a consequence for NOT doing it, or else the work won't get done! (Is that sad or what?) I thought reading logs were too babyish for high school kids, so I just did what MY high school English teacher did: asked us to give verbal book reports to the teacher (privately), and try to reach a certain number of pages per semester. In hindsight, this method was the same as AR: it did not foster the love of reading I wanted it to; it only served to make sure kids chose books with the highest amount of pages possible so they could reach their goal pages with one book. It also made them do some crazy-good Internet research about the plot of the book so that they could accurately tell me about it later...while still being able to goof off during DEAR time in class. I was so frustrated!

    Have you read The Book Whisperer? It's a great book and gave me a lot to think about, but I still have a hard time picturing what that approach would be like in my classroom. I guess my biggest question is: how will we assess students' reading on objectives like my state has ("Reads independently to self for extended periods of time.") without killing a love of reading?

    ~Mrs. K.

    P.S. Readicide was a great book, too! :)

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  14. Mandy- Cooperative Learning 365- I agree with you. I am very excited about this next step and can't wait to see what all we do. :)

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  15. Thank you for your comment, Booky4First! I love to read and want to try to pass that love on to my students.

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  16. Tammy, I am excited too! It is hard for some to give it up, maybe because of being unsure what to do instead. I hope we can give them some ideas. :)

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  17. Julie, we have had the same thing happen with students running through the books as fast as they can just to get the points. I will be posting on Wednesday some of our ideas that we hope to use instead of using AR. Thanks for your comment!

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  18. Corrina, thank you for your comments! I don't guess I have heard about Kid Biz. Is this like AR?

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  19. Mrs. Meyer, thank you for your comments on AR! I would love to hear what you end up doing with your students. I do truly believe we can do so much more without the AR. :)

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  20. I'm so glad I'm not alone on my thoughts about AR. This put my ideas into words perfectly.

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  21. Miller's Flip Flops, I so appreciate your thoughtful comments about AR. Your students are lucky to have a teacher who works so hard to meet them where they are at in reading and try to move them forward! I love the fact that you and your librarian are introducing the students to new genres and series of books. I teach in a low income area also and most of the students I teach do not get the reading support at home that they need either. Doesn't that just break your heart for those kids? I will be posting on Wednesday about some of the ideas that our school is going to implement to spark the love of reading instead of using AR if you are willing to come back. I hope you do! :)

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  22. Teresa, I hope you and your team sees by the comments here that you are not the only ones that feel that way about AR! :) What I found in trying to get my school to move away from AR was that they needed ideas for things to replace it. I will be posting on Wednesday on some of the ideas we are going to try to implement next year if you want to come back to read about them. I encourage you and your team to talk to others in your school about this. There may be more out there who think like you than you realize. :)

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  23. Michelle, I am so sorry about your daughter's experience with AR. I do know that AR is not intended to be used as a grade (our middle school does this too, unfortunately). I am thankful that your daughter got a teacher that was able to spark her love of reading. After all, that's what it's all about! :) Thank you for commenting!

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  24. Laura, I appreciate your comment! Thank you for coming by. :)

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  25. Staci, I have never heard of doing AR this way. :) I appreciate that fact that your PAL is looking for ways to keep the students reading and motivated! Thank you so much for coming to comment!

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  26. Thanks for coming by, Amy! I appreciate you taking time to comment. :)

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  27. Linda, my thoughts exactly! I am thinking we are on the same page! :) Thanks for coming by!

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  28. Chrissy, we have Raz Kids also at my school too. :) I like the fact that your school bases the reading celebration on SMART goals. I appreciate your comments and that you took the time to come by!

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  29. Great self-reflective writing, Mrs. K.! I love that you are trying to find a way to reach those students that are difficult to spark interest in no matter what we do. :) We will always have some of those students no matter what we try, but we do keep trying to reach them. I do own and have read The Book Whisperer. Good book with some interesting ideas! I will be posting on Wednesday what our school plans on implementing instead of using AR if you would like to come back to read it. :) Thank you for your thoughtful comments!

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  30. Karen, you are not alone!! :) Thank you so much for your comment and for taking the time to come by my blog. I really do appreciate it!

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  31. Oh how I loathe AR! Thank you for so articulately explaining why it is such an awful program. I'm definitely saving the link to this post to refer people to who think otherwise.

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  32. Thank you for coming by to read and comment, theykeepmethinking! I do agree we can do more for our students to cultivate their love of reading. :)

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  33. I know this was not your focus at all BUT....

    Can I tell you how ridiculously excited I was to see that you used my page frame!?!?

    That totally just made my day! :)

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  34. Tessa, I hope you liked how I used your frame! I love it and it goes so well with the colors on my blog. Almost as if you made it just for me! :) Thank you for sharing it!

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  35. Our school is BIG into AR. I personally hate the program. I hate seeing my students rush through a book just to take a test just so they can earn a point. They're not actually reading the book. They're just trying to get a point. Since I teach special ed, most of my students come to me with really low averages because they've failed so many tests because they're trying to read grade level books. It's very frustrating. I wish my school would do away with AR but that's not going to happen.

    Angelia
    Extra Special Teaching

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  36. I completely understand, Angelia. Would your school be open to your department not doing AR if you came up with alternative strategies? Good luck!!

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  37. Great post--great perspective and enlightening.
    I see AR differently now.

    Kelli
    Tales From a Traveling Teacher

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  38. Thank you, Kelli, for your kind words! I appreciate the chance give you my view. My other AR post gives some alternative things to promote real life reading if you are interested in reading it. :)

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  39. I totally agree with you and the whole AR fiasco! Luckily, my district has it, but does not impose it on the teachers. It's there if we want to use it. I love free voluntary reading. Stephen Krashen and Janice Pilgreen have great research and articles about this. As a reading specialist, I appreciate that more and more teachers are seeing the light! I'm new to this blogging stuff. Howe do I subscribe to your blog?

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  40. Happy 4th to you De Vera Family! I am glad to hear that your school does not make you participate in AR if you do not wish to. I truly believe that we can do better by our students without it so that we promote lifelong reading and not just reading for a prize for the moment. If you will go up to where it says followers on the right sidebar of my blog, click on join this site with Google Friend Connect. I would love for you to follow my blog- thank you!

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  41. Lori. Your blog feels like I wrote it under an alias! Oh how I agree with you! I taught in a school that didn't push AR but used it to motivate and challenge the high kids who were bird with the basal reader. THIS is what AR was designed for...hence the name ACCELERATED reader. It was meant to check comprehension when a student read a challenging book on their own. This was helpful because kids could pick from a larger variety of books without having to select from only books that the teacher had read.
    I have there column of my own who love to read. However, AR tried to steal this from them. Honestly, we discussed how to game the system, get the points we needed so that we could move on to reading for fun. Also AR is HORRIBLE for those kids that prefer non- fiction. Tests are crazy hard trivial pursuit quests. Oh how I wish AR would go away before my youngest gets into upper elementary.
    By t he way, I completely agree with your hated of the give paragraph essay as well! Robotic writing is bring to write and boring to read!

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  42. Wow! What an amazing, loving teacher you are. I currently homeschool my children because my oldest started out with a teacher who cared only about the numbers and gave selected encouragement and rewards to top performing students. I agree that letting go of the numbers and teaching them to love reading and learning is the tried and true way to get the kids to read the books we are eager to have them read

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  43. Although, some points were made...I think it is sad that any educator would dismiss a tool that encourages students to read. By the way, you can create tests for books that are not AR. It might not be the only way you get students to read but I believe it is ridiculous to do away with it altogether.

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  44. Thank you, Anonymous, for all your thoughts on AR! I am just now seeing your comment that you wrote earlier this month. Sounds like we have a lot of the same thinking- non-fiction AR tests ARE extremely difficult. And what fun is robotic, formula driven writing, right? :)

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  45. Sarah, what wonderfully kind words! Thank you so much for them! Those are my thoughts too- teach them to love reading so they will continue to read when they aren't in school and enjoy it! Thanks for coming by!

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  46. Amanda, thank you for your thoughts on AR! I think we are just coming from 2 different perspectives on AR. We made tests for non AR books for several years before we got AR on-line. We have just come to the decision that we can encourage students to read and to continue to read when they are out of school without rewards by doing things a little differently now. Thank you for coming by!

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