Happy Saturday everyone! I am linking up with my beautiful friend, Joanne, at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her Spark Student Motivation Saturdays linky!
My post today is about a strategy I just learned about when using the Accelerated Reader program. I read this post by the fabulous Jennifer at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings where she blogged about how she uses AR and the STAR assessment (my school also uses both of these) to give each student a point goal for each quarter based on their ability (determined by the STAR reading test). She has a super cute race car chart where they move their car up as they earn more of a percentage of their goal. This idea really started me thinking about my reading goals for next year.
For the past two years, our 4th grade team had switched groups for ELA and we grouped them by ability. There were three groups (high/average, average/below average, and well below average). We really liked how this worked for the lowest and highest groups especially. We kept the low group numbers as small as possible (10-13 in a class) with a reading specialist who pushed in for additional support and the top group was really challenged to move at a faster pace. We never had a reading specialist push in during the 4th grade ELA block when we didn't switch groups and the admin told us that we could have support if the struggling students were in one class. So, we changed that (I don't know if they thought we would do it!). When you have a class of 20 and there are at least four students reading at a 1st grade level with no extra reading specialist support (or teacher assistant...anything!), those students suffer, or on the flip side, you focus much of your energies on the low and the top don't get the attention they deserve. You know the story...all teachers can relate to that cycle!
So, I taught the top group for two years and my reading requirement for these students was to read four books a month. I had 23 students in my class last year (some were truly "high" but most were closer to "average") and in September about half the class is always really overwhelmed by this FOUR book requirement! You want us to do what?? After reading the Book Whisperer last summer, it verified that this was not too lofty of a goal, especially for the top readers.
I always start the year letting them choose just about any chapter books they want to read even though they are all technically reading at the 4th grade level. If they WANT to read Junie B. Jones, Magic Tree House, Nate the Great, etc., I don't care! As long as they are reading, it can be a chapter book of their choice. Once December rolls around (we start school in September), the students have to read AT LEAST 3.5 AR level books for their 4 books a month and in March it is bumped up to at least a 4.0 level to count. I conference throughout the year with students and encourage some to challenge themselves if they are "stuck" on a certain level and are more capable. They get a printed AR report each month with their top four scores circled for the month. It is important to provide some type of tracking system to keep students motivated. Most of them love getting these reports to take home and show their parents! Within a few months, the students are always amazed that most of them are reading MORE than four books a month! Also, for those students who read larger chapter books, I always counted books that were more than about 250 pages as "TWO" books for the month but they never counted for more than two, no matter how long they were.
With that being said, now we are changing our 4th grade schedule and moving to departmentalization. I will be teaching ALL the ELA and keep wondering if the four book a month goal is too much to ask for all my struggling readers? Then, I saw how Jennifer uses AR to customize their goal by points and thought, "Bingo!". She sent me a link to this 148 page document with a TON of useful information about using AR in the classroom. Um, why haven't I ever seen this before? We have used AR at my school as long as I have been teaching there (14 years this fall!). Even if you don't use AR, you should check out this document because it has many useful tips for any classroom!
Since I had never used AR to set a "goal" for points for the year, I was curious if my top readers met what would have been their goal last year. Indulge me for a minute while I brag about my wonderful class last year! :) Here are two screenshots (they wouldn't all fit on one screen) of their points and percentage of goal reached for the year:
As you can see, everyone except one student (94.3%) surpassed the goal AR set for them based on the STAR test. The one student who didn't meet their goal also didn't pass the state exam. It just goes to show you how important independent reading is! I think it is the most important part of my program.
I also didn't know that students can check their progress toward their goal at anytime when they login. It helps them take responsibility for their progress and is a great reinforcer of accomplishments!
Since I am seriously thinking about switching my student goal of four books a month to an AR points goal based on their STAR assessment, I would like to create an owl themed display to show their progress by percentage of the goal reached. Jennifer used a race car theme and this is the picture of one that is suggested in the AR manual:
Do you have any thoughts on using a number of books per month goal (at student's reading level) versus an AR points goal per quarter (also based on student's level). Also, I would like to use these cute owl mini cutouts (3" x 3") that I found on Amazon for $2.99 on a tracking display in the classroom for student motivation.
I will write their names on the books.
Also, do you have any suggestions for a cute "owl" themed title for the AR points display?
Be sure to check out the other link ups at Head Over Heels for Teaching today!
Joanne has some super cute Welcome Back to School Coupons that she posted about!
Also, don't forget about the Back to School Sale at TPT starting tomorrow! Yay!!
You can check out ideas for wish listed items at this link up here or link up if you are a blogger!!