Accelerated Readers – or “active” reading

I walked into a class of 11/12 year olds this week and saw something quite special.

It was during my visit to Sanderson’s Wynd Primary School in Tranent where I saw a whole class actively engaged in personal reading.  I know it sounds a bit oxymoronic – but they were definitely actively engaged in reading! – boys as well as girls.

They were all reading different books which they had choosen for themselves and which were obviously pitched at their own level.

So what was the secret? The teacher Lynne Welsh explained that they were using the Accelerated Reader scheme.

Now in my career I’ve come across lots of schemes and software driven systems which make great claims for improving learning – but rarely have I ever seen kids so motivated to read.  The idea is remarkably simple – but that’s probably the secret.  It wroks as follows:

1. Student Reads a Book. Students choose books at their appropriate reading levels and read them at their own pace.
2. Student Takes a Quiz. Accelerated Reader Enterprise offers more than 100,000 quizzes to help you motivate and monitor increased reading practice.
3. You Get Information. You get immediate information feedback on the reading and vocabulary progress of each student.

The system provides a level for every book and by working out the reading level for each child recommends the most appropriate level for each child.  The child then selects a book from that level – reads the book, then takes a quiz to test their comprehension. The teacher can then work out the next level – tying the whole process to the zone of proximal development i.e. stretching the child by an appropriate amount.

Apparently the system is being used in all Tranent Primary schools and the early years of secondary school.  I’m looking forward to finding out more but from what I saw yesterday it certainly seems to work.

Now I suppose the question is why didn’t Im know about this as Head of Education? – well that’s my fault but at least my classroom visits are helping me to learn about such schemes and possibly share that practice across the authority.

15 thoughts on “Accelerated Readers – or “active” reading

  1. Pingback: milner » Accelerated Readers - or “active” reading

  2. After your visit and then reading your blog comment I asked my class this morning to say what they thought was so good about accelerated reading. Here are a few pointers I jotted down from both them and P7 teachers who have used the scheme.
    – the children enjoy it!
    – the children see the links between reading and writing.
    -each child has their own level they work towards
    -there is a large choice of fiction and non fiction books
    -the children can choose their own book and read at their own pace
    – the children record their levels and books and can discuss these and recommend books to others
    – the pupil is involved in understanding and discussing their own progression and next steps
    – the quizzes test all types of reading skills and give instant feedback
    – it is all computer based- no writing for anyone
    – there are all sorts of diagnostic tests, results and information you can use from the computer program
    -the information can be saved and passed onto another school very easily
    – some parents reported that their child who had not chosen to read at home for a long time was actively looking for books and material to read (these were often the same author or series from books they had chosen in school)

    Anyway, some of the children would like to have their personal say as well.

  3. As a primary 7 pupil at Sanderson’s Wynd Primary School who uses the accelerated reader.
    I think that it encourages people to read more because you get to choose the book that you want to read, a teacher doesn’t tell you what book to read then you get to see how well you’ve done on it.
    If you get 10/10 you know that you need to pick a book that is a higher level, if you don’t do so well then you know that you need to pick a lower level book.

    I enjoy having the accelerated reading
    thanks for the fab comment and I hope you enjoy my and the rest of P7w’s comment on how we think the acclerated reader is.

    We all enjoyed you coming to our class and seeing how we use the accelerated reader I hope you can make it some other time to see how we use A Curriculum for Excellence or other stuff you can choose what you find out about what we do in the class with Miss Welsh Thanks again for coming to our school and we fully hope you come back to our school.

  4. Stephen

    It’s great to get comments like this. It helps me to understand how people feel. Your comment is one of the first I’ve received from a pupil – and is even more important for that fact..

    I look forward to coming out to the school in the New Year. Please pass on my best wishes to your class.

  5. Having just read your blog I, as the Librarian at Ross High, am delighted that you found AR to be such a success in Sanderson’s Wynd! It is a fantastic system and used properly has brilliant results, particularly with lower ability pupils.

    Ross High, having had the desktop version of AR for 5 years has just purchased the web-based version of AR – Renaissance Place, which Windygoul are in the process of having installed at present I believe. All 6 secondary schools in East Lothian now have AR and the other Ross cluster primaries are using the desktop version also.
    I have been involved with some training for some of the Ross cluster primaries recently and this has been really good for me as well as staff as we share ideas and the teachers are brimming with enthusiasm and ideas on how they can use AR in their school and with particular classes and groups of pupils. This is transition at its best!
    I attended the recent Renaissance conference at Stansted recently I have come back bursting with ideas…..

    Gordon Brown and I who submitted a successful bid to the Scottish Executive Home Reading Initiative to have AR and STAR installed in all the Ross cluster primaries to the tune of £17000. Mary Howie and I have liaised closley about AR since Gordon left.

    I would love to have a meeting with you to discuss the usage of AR and how it could be taken forward. Any chance????

    Thanks a lot and I am glad you are another convert to the cause!!! Look forward to hearing from you.

  6. Don has kindly suggested a meeting with Mary Howie and myself soon to discuss how we can take this forward. Watch this space!Thanks Don.

  7. Hilery

    Please contact Mary Horsburgh to find out the meeting date and time. We would be glad to have join us.

  8. Moyra,

    Do you think the people involved with AR in the Ross cluster primaries – including the children, of course – would be interested in sharing the story of this development (via yet another edubuzz blog 😉 )?


  9. I know here in the US that AR is often tied to prizes and rewards. That is, after a certain number of books you get X. Are you doing that as well? It’s always been the part that makes me a little queasy, the thought of kids rushing through books to win a gift card, or the like. Your description sounds much more lovely.

  10. Preston Lodge started to use Accelerated & STAR Reader with S1 pupils last year to help struggling readers.
    We noticed some interesting correlations between MidYIS scores and results from the STAR Reader. We are now bidding to extend provision in the school.
    (It would be great to have the funding to extend it into our feeder primaries as Ross has done).

    Library PLHS

  11. I will certainly ask the primaries if they can give us some insight into their usage of AR and how they find it. I will get back to you David.

    Jen, yes at Ross we use prizes in a very low key way. At the end of term, and if I remember, there are prizes for the boy and girl who has passed the most quizzes in a class, the boy and girl who has the highest number of points and sometimes the boy and girl who have the highest average % correct. This depends on the class as our classes are set. Prizes work really well for some classes and are a great incentive and not so well in others as they are self-motivated. The prizes are something like AR pencils, pens, bookmarks, & c. I tend to use a ‘carrot and stick’ approach with High school pupils. Some pupils need to be encouraged/persuaded, others need to be ‘made’to read (in a nice way) and we have a good success rate in engaging pupils in reading and getting them to discuss books once we get them interested and find their correct level of book.
    A spin-off is that AR is also good for finding pupils who have undiagnosed reading difficulties e.g. needing colour overlays etc. We do not give out colour overlays. Briefly, the pupils are sent to a recommended, reputable optician who tests and dispenses. Then arrangements can be put in place for work and exams etc to be produced in the appropriate colour for them. Can give you more details by e-mail on how exactly if you wish.

  12. Here at Musselburgh Grammar we are promoting AR very strongly with our S1 English classes. All S1 pupils are encouraged to participate, with wall charts being used to track progress. As a dept we have been discussing ways to engage all pupils as fully as possible; a lot of pupils love the way it works and are really rising to the challenge of self-motivated reading and monitoring their progress while others are still very reluctant to read. We were trying to avoid making it competitive as the main aim of the programme is for pupils to see their own individual progress and not to compare themsleves with others.

    Judging by Don’s experience, and Lynn’s comments from her pupils, those in primary schools are really enjoying the opportunities which AR brings. Also, reading the enthusiasm of other teachers and schools for this programme also highlights the possibilities of working with our colleagues across primaries/secondaries in order to maximise the potential this provides. I would be very intereseted in getting involved in some kind of working group or meeting to discuss moving this forward.


  13. All

    It’s great to hear about so much happening in our schools. There is obviously a need to try to pull some of this together.

    It was interesting to find out from the recent PIRLS research -see one of my latest posts – that the use of quizzes was a factor in many countries having high reading scores.

    I can’t see us having any additional funding to support this but perhaps it’s about reviewing what we currently purchase with existing funds and modifying our priorities.

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