Creating Readers: A Case Against Extrinsic Rewards

By Angela Bunyi on March 11, 2010
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

 

 
During an interesting conversation with some teachers that were visiting our room yesterday, we discussed the topic of basals, book selections, and reading incentives.  With this topic fresh on my mind, I would like to share some of my views on how I believe we can create lifelong readers, writers, and learners.

 

Mixed Messages: Do Extrinsic Rewards Get in the Way?

As a parent, I understand how important it is that my child loves reading with every fiber of his being. Maybe we "got lucky," but my son devours books like they are going out of style. His saved up funds go towards purchases of books before toys (and he loves filling out the Scholastic book order form), and announcing a trip to Barnes and Noble is like saying we are going to get ice cream. What's the magic element? I suspect it is that my husband and I are both readers. That's probably the biggest key to his success, in my opinion. However, I understand that not every student comes to us with a home environment like this. So, the question becomes, what to do? I urge you to heavily consider against utilizing extrinsic rewards.

First, even if a student hasn't had the exposure to understand how wonderful and powerful reading can be, does it really help to use trinkets, food, or recognition certificates? To me it's like taking the concept of bribing my son with dessert so he'll eat his broccoli; except with reading, it is like saying, "If you eat your ice cream, I'll give you some candy." I think this is a confusing message for many students, especially those who already understand and enjoy reading.

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"What matters most for struggling readers is access to good literature and reading volume." —Richard Allington (2006)

 

The number one indicator of reading success is time spent reading along with access to quality literature. Allington's work supports this through state test scores as well. Students who read the most score the best on state and national tests. So, one benefit of an extrinsic reward program is that it requires designated time slots for reading. When time for reading is paired with authentic talk, quality books, and an environment that truly values reading (and not only with the competitive component), you are supporting struggling readers and readers without a supportive environment in ways that are more powerful than any pizza party.

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"Readers aren't motivated to read by a computerized bookkeeping system." —Pavonetti (2003)

I am sadly one of those ABD students who almost finished their doctorate degree. My favorite class was an elective course on educational research. My semester long topic was on reading incentives and their effectiveness in helping children read long-term. I quickly found a slew of research to look at, even from a Scholastic writer, Elaine Garan. She writes in her book Smart Answers to Tough Questions, "There is no scientific, much less federally approved, research to support the use of the Accelerated Reader program (AR)" (p. 61).

Stephen Krashen (2005) has written the most influential, in-depth studies on Accelerated Reader, an extrinsic reading reward program. He writes, "Despite the popularity of AR, we must conclude that there is no real evidence supporting it, no evidence that the additional tests and rewards add anything to the power of simply supplying access to high-quality and interesting reading material and providing time for children to read them" (p. 24). The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2000) writes, "The studies that do exist [in support] are of questionable quality and they do not show that AR is more effective than other methods. The NRP (National Reading Panel) does not recommend the use of AR" (p. 3–26).

Perhaps what I found most telling were qualitative studies that involved large-scale interviews of students and parents. Students reported knowing who were the "good" readers and the "poor" readers in the room. They also reported skimming books, just to get the 70% needed to pass, exchanging questions on certain books, and reading many short, easy books just to accumulate points. I only found one AR study (that was not funded by AR) that showed some reading gains, but that was even with the disclaimer that the gains were short-term (the study showed a loss when the program was removed). Again, I want lifelong learners, not a short-term fix or crutch.

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Some Findings on AR/Extrinsic-Based Reading Programs

Variety of Books and Types of Questions: It is well documented that the questions on AR tests are of the lowest level of comprehension (literal and recall). In fact, 92% of AR questions come from the bottom two levels of Bloom's Taxonomy, leaving out the critical aspect of listening to a child read and having them respond in writing.

Types of Books Under the AR Collection: There are not many nonfiction or informational texts under the AR system. This worries me, as all the research shows that we should be creating classroom libraries in which 66% of our collection is nonfiction (and 33% of that informational).

Yes, AR Does Have Research Showing Increases in Standardized Test Scores. . . But most of it is company sponsored research (hmm, wonder what the findings will be?) and includes the highest indicator of reading success — time allocated to reading. Is it the program or is it the time spent reading? More importantly, research does not support that AR increases reading attitudes or creates students who read more after AR is not in place. In fact, prior to 2003, Renaissance Learning, the company that sells AR, claimed on their Web site that Accelerated Reader built lifelong readers and learners. After studies by Mallette and others refuted this claim with research, the statement was removed (Pavonetti, 2002).

But Why Can't We Just Reward the Kids for a Job Well Done? First, giving rewards for activities that are already pleasurable can send the message that they are not pleasurable (Kohn, 1999). Also, if we feel the need to reward our readers for reading, why not make the reward reading related? Instead of points, stickers, and pizza, why not a trip to the library, a new book, or a book on CD? Or you might want to think about letting time spent reading earn money towards the Heifer International Organization (Read to Feed).

AR vs. No AR Findings: Pavonetti's work, which is often referred to, consisted of a large study of middle school students with and without AR. Of the feeder elementary schools, some had AR experience and some did not. This study was able to research those with no AR in elementary but AR in middle school; AR in elementary, but no AR in middle school; no AR in elementary or middle school; and AR in elementary and middle school. The results are complicated to present here, but provide a comprehensive picture of the effects of AR exposure. Those that had exposure to AR in both elementary and middle school were found to have a positive difference in the amount of reading done. However, students that had no exposure to AR in both elementary and middle school had a similarly positive difference. The strongest negative difference was found with students who had exposure to AR in elementary, but not in middle school. In addition, those students who did not have AR in elementary, but did so in middle school, also had a negative difference in the amount of reading done. Pavonetti suggested that AR may negatively impact students' attitudes and recreational reading in the long term. In summary, reading incentives are a short-term fix . . . a crutch.

Students', Parents', and Teachers' Perceptions of AR: In a five year mixed methodology study, both quantitative and qualitative research painted a clear picture of the perceptions of 170 parents and teachers and 1,500 students in Phoenix.

When students, parents, and teachers were asked about any negative forces related to AR in the school, 29.4% of parents stated accountability. Students and teachers had a similar response, with 33.2% and 25.7% respectively. When asked what was AR's one most positive aspect, both parents and teachers rated "time spent reading and performance" the highest, with 27 and 32 percent of the votes. On the other hand, students gave the highest rating to the "act of reading," with 22 percent of the votes. When asked how helpful AR was in developing reading skills, 62% of parents rated it very helpful; 30% of teachers and 35% of students rated it the same. Students, however, gave the highest rating of "not helpful" as compared to parents and teachers, with students reporting 13.6%, and only 2.1% from parents and 3.3% from teachers. Yet, 65% of parents stated that issues relating to competition were doing more harm than good. Fifty-two percent of teachers and students responded the same.

These findings must be considered when utilizing this program. The qualitative portion of this research included interviews with students. I was blown away with the negative impressions held by most students. What do the very kids going through the program think of what we are asking them to do in regards to reading? If we are taking the "it's for their own good" route, I am a little worried! I worry because I know many of us live a literate, rich life and understand the value of a reading life. No one has to force me to pick up a Richard Allington book, a People magazine, or a brochure for my next vacation destination. We learn to love reading by having access to rich, beautiful literature, time to talk about what we are reading, and time to read books of our choice.

Uh-Oh . . . A Problem With Leveling: Twenty-four percent of teachers report that they never let their students read outside their reading zone (Groce, 2005). This presents an odd contrast to real-life reading in which adults are free to choose books, not based on levels, but through myriad possibilities (interest, genre, series, TV, suggestion, etc.). Worse yet, there are many different leveling systems out there with varying formulas for calculating text difficulty. AR uses the most rudimentary, basic formula next to Microsoft Word. Richard Allington reports on this in detail in his book What Really Matters for Struggling Readers. There are also sites available that will level a book under several methods (Lexile, Fountas and Pinnell, Kincaid, Hersch, AR, etc.). Personal experience shows AR to be the most skewed and unreliable. I've also noted that outside of the school setting, books are not coded by level. Lamme recommends we aid readers in developing a method for selecting books independently (2005). I have personally seen teachers do this successfully as early as first grade. In addition, Lamme stated, "If leveling a book was an exact science, or if children really could not read a book at a higher or lower level, then leveling might make sense. But children can sometimes read beyond if the content is highly interesting to them, if they've had previous exposure to the topic, or if they've read other works by the author" (p 38).

This summary BARELY touches the surface of all the information I have gathered and analyzed. There is much more now in comparison to what I found when I researched this in 2006 and 2007. I cannot tell you how many parents have told me that AR did not motivate their child to read. I haven't yet had one tell me it helps in my 10 years of teaching.

 

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The Real Way AND School Way

 

And in that ten years of teaching, I can't remember a single student who didn't seem to love and embrace reading. Honestly. Here are some of my suggestions, all of which are free of extrinsic rewards.

~ Quality literature matters — It's better to have fewer quality books than many low quality books. I recommend 1,500–2,500 books in your room.

~ Talk matters — As in real life, think about what you want to do when you are reading and enjoying a book. Do you want to take a test? Do you want to get a trinket? Probably not, but you DO want to talk about it, right? Now, turn the tables. Imagine you are reading a book and struggling with one part of the story. You are unsure of a character's motives. What do you want to do? Take a test? Write a book report? Your best bet is to find someone else who has read it before you to get a clue. Talk is critical, and talk matters.

~ Find books that you love and use those for reading lessons — Students can sense your authentic love for the books you share, modeling the process of becoming a lifelong reader. Reading and sharing a basal story (which is often abridged or an excerpt) doesn't allow this to happen. For instance, I had one student say to me (in a school that required me to use the basal), "If it doesn't smell like a book, look like a book, or sound like a book, it's not a book."

~ Build one-on-one reading conferences into your schedule — If you meet with your students on a weekly basis, you can prevent a student from reading an entire book before failing an AR test. What a horrible feeling! As a teacher, you can have a direct and powerful impact on your student's growth by providing book suggestions, vocabulary strategies, comprehension strategies, and decoding strategies on a frequent basis.

~ Reward reading with more books — I am right across from the library, so when I find a book that I think fits a child, I say something like this, "Landon, you have been reading this series, and I notice you are about to finish it up this week. I found this book in the library, and it made me think of you. Check it out and let me know if you might be interested in reading it." What you will have done is what some call "blessing the book." It now has special powers that a pizza or bookmark can't touch.

~ Utilize the Reader's Bill of Rights — I formally had this displayed on my front page of our class site. I need to repost this again. If you haven't read it before, I am sure you would agree to this as a reader yourself. Yet, sometimes we forget to afford our students the same rights (exceptions apply in certain situations!). It is listed below.

~ Don't focus on the level — Although many of my books have the level printed on the book (in size 4 font), I want my students to learn how to self-select an appropriate book on their own. None of my books are sorted by level in our room or the school library. Having a first grader who can read on a fifth grade level doesn't mean he should be limited to fifth grade books, right? My son has a huge variety of books ranging from the Magic Tree House Series (almost all of which have been read) to informational books on machines. Limiting him to a level doesn't help him, and it doesn't help many of our readers. I suggest working with students individually with book suggestions. I also suggest you organize your library by genre and themes because that's how we find books in the real world.

~ Create a book club — My class meets together on Wednesdays during lunch. Two students came up with the idea and organized the requirements. The class agreed that at least three students should be reading a book before it becomes a book club. Series within a book count. Talk about a nice, engaging, and natural way to bring reading to life.

~ Find a school that fits you! — I have often received emails that ask how to deal with using AR (or the basal) in a school that requires it. I say that once you know better, you can't turn back. My former school required it schoolwide.  Teaching in an environment that doesn't match your style can be miserable. I am now in a new school and so much happier (and at home). I knew I was in the right place when I saw the art teacher's art wall at the beginning of the year (below). There are no basals; we have a librarian who is a loving former third-grade teacher (who actually teaches reading standards-based lessons during library time); and students are not restricted to a one-size-fits-all approach. It makes all the difference in the world! Find a place where you can thrive and help your students thrive in the process.

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Photo: How many of us hear "Don't touch the wall, stay in a straight line"? I love my school.

 

Daniel Pennac's

The Reader's Bill of Rights

1. The right not to read.

2. The right to skip pages.

3. The right to not finish.

4. The right to reread.

5. The right to read anything.

6. The right to escapism.

7. The right to read anywhere.

8. The right to browse.

9. The right to read out loud.

10. The right to not defend your tastes.

 

If you would like to learn more, here are some of the resources I have collected (research conducted in 2006 and 2007):

Allington, R. and Cunningham, P. (2006). Schools That Work: Where all children can read and write. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Atwell, N. (1998). In the Middle: New understanding about writing, reading, and learning. Boynton/Cook Publishers.

Baker, L. (2003). "The role of parents in motivating struggling readers." Reading and Writing Quarterly. http://www.routledge-ny.com

Groce, R. (2005). "Deconstructing the accelerated reader program." Reading Horizon 46 (1).

Haycock, K. (2005). "Collaborative literature-based reading programs with motivation components." Teacher Librarian 33 (2).

Ishizuka, K. (2002). "Not so fast, accelerated reader." School Library Journal 48 (2).

Kohn, A. (1999). Punished by Rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A's, praise, and other bribes. New York: mariner Books.

Krashen, S. (2005). "Accelerated reader: Evidence still lacking." Knowledge Quest 33 (3).

Lamme, L. (2003). "A literature perspective on accelerated reader." Journal of Children's Literature 29 (2).

Leung, C.B. (2001). "A cognitive anthropological perspective on first-graders' classifications of picture storybooks." Reading Psychology, 22 (1).

Mallette, M. (2004). "The influence of 'accelerated reader' on the affective literacy orientations of intermediate grade students." Journal of Literacy Research 36 (1).

Melton, C., Smothers, B., Anderson, E., Fulton, R., and Thomas, L. (2004). "A study of the effects of the accelerated reader program of fifth grade students' reading achievement growth." Reading Improvement 41 (1).

Pavonetti, M. (2003). "Accelerated reader: What are the lasting effects on the reading habits of middle school students exposed to accelerated reader in elementary grades?" Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 46 (4).

Renaissance Learning (2006). About us. http://www.renlearn.com/aboutus.htm

Sadusky, L, and Brem, S. (2002). "The integration of renaissance programs into an urban title I elementary school, and its effects on school-wide improvement." Dissertation at Arizona State University.

Comments

~ Find books that you love and use those for reading lessons — Students can sense your authentic love for the books you share, modeling the process of becoming a lifelong reader. Reading and sharing a basal story (which is often abridged or an excerpt) doesn't allow this to happen. For instance, I had one student say to me (in a school that required me to use the basal), "If it doesn't smell like a book, look like a book, or sound like a book, it's not a book."
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Elizabeth,

Thank you for providing your parent feedback/perception. Your story matches up with every story I heard from my prior parents that were relieved to discover we were a non-AR classroom. Luckily, I am at a new school that does not endorse AR in anyway. In my prior school I was told over and over again that their child read substantially more in our non AR room than the rooms prior that required "X" amount of points. I also heard story after story about reading easy books or cheating to "get" the points. I am just baffled at the thinking behind the role of rewards if our larger goal is to create readers who love to read. It just doesn't make sense.

I think the scary thing for some teachers is the fear of what will happen if they remove the program/treats/incentives. 1) Will the kids actually read? 2) How will teachers really understand if they comprehended what was read? I believe a workshop approach allows you to intrinsically motivate your students and provides comprehension support before, during, and after reading (rather than relying on a low-level computer test when you are finished with a book).

Anyway, good luck with keeping the right focus of reading at home. Because my prior district prohibited grades from AR, I had a few students that refused to take any tests the following years. What rebels. They just didn't care about the ice cream or social gatherings...they knew better. :)

Best,

Angela

Thank you so much for your research. I hate A/R -- I'm a parent of a first grader, and I can tell you it is having the opposite effect on her. We are HUGE readers in our family and until she stgarted school, reading was one of the most pleasurable times of our day. She has participated in A/R for three years now, two years in a private school (pre-K and K) and now in public school. For our daughter, it seems to bring out the worst in her. She is motivated not to read the books but the game the system. I might add the her teachers seem similarly motivated. We are approaching the deadline for their group reward and the teachers are frantically having kids take A/R tests on anything and everything. Our daughter took a test on a book she brought home yesterday and never even removed from her backpack. There is no easy way to engender a love of reading. There's nothing you can buy or subscribe to or "benchmark." It takes work on everyone's part and individualized attention to the needs of each kid.

Hello Karin,

Yes, you are right. There is research that supports that Accelerated Reader can provide results (which is different than creating students who love to read), however, I believe ice cream and social rewards are still considered extrinsic rewards and are short-term resolutions (also a confusing message).

According to all of the research I have looked at, if removed, that desire to read will decrease. That's not my goal for readers, and I am sure it is not yours. On the other spectrum from you, I have done without extrinsic rewards for ten years and continue to have the highest reading and LA scores around. I also continue to have students go into R/LA professions more than any other when contacted by former students, and I think it is because reading was valued intrinsically in our room....not as a chore that must be rewarded.

But if you are working in a situation that makes you feel otherwise about the program, I urge you to be informed and read the peer-reviewed accepted research on the market. This post just touches the surface on that and addresses your cases of support as well. Smart Answers for Tough Questions is a quick read through Scholastic that provides research supported by the government and NCLB standards. It supports what I posted here as well.

Best,

Angela

Accelerated Reader works wonders, assuming you use it properly. We have used it for about 10 years at our school, and the before/after difference in reading scores and number of books read was amazing. We use individual, non-material rewards, like a Wall of Fame, as well as group rewards like ice cream socials. Accelerated Reader is part of best-practice teaching, period.

Karin

Cindy,

Thanks for the post. I am at a national conference right now, and this conversation played out behind me. The teachers were debating on whether they continue to do things that they know are wrong, or quietly do what they know is right. There are many teachers in your situation. Way to go on standing up for yourself and your students!

Best to you, and good luck with your building your classroom library!

Angela

HI Angela,

I just discovered your site and I am in awe of all the wonderful resources that you so generously share. I am a second year teacher. I taught first grade last year and I am teaching fourth grade this year. AR is a big part of our school and we are not only required to participate, but it is a mandatory grade for our students. As a new teacher, I can see the negative effects it has on my kiddos, but I was at a loss as to what to do. After reading some of these posts, I think I am going to incorporate some sort of reading log where my kids can read materials of their choice and earn AR points towards their "goal". It is easier to ask for forgiveness! After looking at your amazing classroom I am planning my room for next year with a more thoughtful library, including comfortable chairs and cushions. Thank you so much for your passion and wealth of knowledge and resources. I am so thankful to have found your site!!

Appreciably yours,

Cindy C. Springs, CO

Teri,

My recommendation is to somehow share this post with your school. I have a teacher friend who did so, then presented at her school's inservice about it before the entire school did away with AR. It's possible! And the research supports what you have seen as a reader and parent already.

Best,

Angela

My daughter was an avid reader in 1st grade, but took the AR tests reluctantly. In second this year, she stopped reading because she doesn't want to take the tests. She is still a good reader and sometimes can be encouraged to read to me, but her love of reading has been sucked out by the AR tests. I am a reader and most of my kids are too.

As a teacher, I am in an AR school and not looking forward to having to deal with it in 3rd grade next year (at another school). I am in kindergarten right now. Don't know yet how I will handle it because it is a big deal in the school I will be teaching at as well.

Kathy,

Thank you for sharing this with others. I think it speaks volumes in regards to long-term goals and how rewards drops the ball in many ways.

Best,

Angela

Angela,

My oldest son used to read like crazy - I think his goal was just to have the most AR points in his class. Now that he doesn't have AR, it is like pulling teeth to get him to read. I think that AR replaced his love of reading with a love of competition, and he has forgotten that he used to read just for pleasure!

Rachel,

That's great to hear that you also conducted some extensive research with the same findings. And it sounds like you have an awesome working environment...with a principal that was willing to let you try some action research, share your findings, and make a positive impact in your school because of it- that's great. I am also convinced that reading quality and time spent reading goes UP with the removal of extrinsic rewards.

And I am happy that I have helped you in some way. Actually, I feel totally blessed to be in a position that allows me to help others on a larger scale.

Best,

Angela

I love this post. I did a huge Accelerated Reader study for one of my courses in grad school. I found all of the same information you reported in your post. I did my own study too. At the time, my school required AR, but my principal let me not use it for a semester for my research. The results were amazing! Because I taught fifth grade, kids did not usually like AR by the time they got to me. Our grade level required 4 books to be read in a 9 weeks. The result-kids choosing the smallest books possible. For my research I did not use AR, but still kept track of everything my students read (so I could figure out the number of points it would have been worth without them knowing I was keeping track of it). Within only ten weeks, my class had read 498 points (not including newspapers, magazines, and books I couldn't find AR points on the internet for) worth and the two other classes had read 233 points and 316 points. I obviously had a lot more to the study, but after I presented my results, it was no longer required at my school.

By the way, I love all of your stuff and have been reading the most of the books you have recommended on reading instruction-I love it and can't wait to get a full year of teaching reading the way I now want to. Thanks for all of your great advice!

Cathy,

And I loved you and Taylor. I am blessed to not have this experience with my own son. I know with every fiber of my heart that AR would damage him as a reader. For now, I am happy with sticking with reading for pleasure. It's working, and he is reading for all the right reasons.

And thank you Cathy for sharing your parent perspective. Even you know how many parents thanked me for not using AR in our room. Every parent said their child read more and enjoyed reading more because of it. I recently saw Ty's mother, and she said he made a complete turn-around as a reader that year because of focus on reading for pleasure not points. Feedback from parents along with happy readers in my room, speaks volumes to me.

Best to you,

Angela

I hate AR as a parent and as a teacher. It gets in the way of real reading. My kids had books they wanted to check out but couldn't because too many teachers were AR level extreme. When my 21 year old got to high school her lunch table voted that the best thing about Riverdale was no more AR. My son quit reading for fun due to AR and it took 2 ... See Moreyears of not doing it for him to return to reading. Luckily, the youngest still reads, but she reads a book for school (AR or logs) and books for her own enjoyment. The best year she had was in your room because you skipped AR and she loved reading that year. My kids have been read to since birth and we are a reading family and AR hurt them. When the oldest was little we had time to read a loud from books like Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House, but having to read AR books or get in trouble took away a lot of our free reading time. I hope they do away with it entirely. You should teach teachers how to teach reading and love books. Taylor loved your class.

Cathy

Hey Victoria!

Are you required to use Reading Counts? My guess is that you would have the same number of readers with or without the program in place because of your teaching methods. In fact, with as many books in your classroom paired with your passion to teach, I am confident you do a better job motivating your kids than those points do! And based on what you have said, it sounds like that is true and that you are doing a great job on your own. :)

Smiles to you, and I hope your FCAT testing went well!

Angela P.S. I have a house full of Filipinos due to the boxing match. Fun, fun, fun.

Hi, Angela! I understand this completely. I do have students with high Reading Counts points, yet it is not a reflection of what they read. They have been encouraged to read other books this year that are not "in the system", and I loved seeing the spark in their eyes.

Friday, for example, one of my boys got done reading The Thief, which is not "in the system". I asked him how he liked it, and he blurted out, "IT WAS AWESOME!" Then he went on talking about the novel for five minutes. He also read Dean Lorey's books earlier in the year, which were not books that were tested. I tell him, "Please, read what you want. Life is that way. I'm sure you'll read some books that are in Reading Counts, but you don't need to be tested on every book you ever read." (He had to in a past class, though, and stick to a certain Lexile.)

He, however, does have the highest points in the class, over 200, because he is an (extremely) avid reader and some of his chapter books racks up loads of points.

It is the same for the other kids... I don't like the question of, "Is this a Reading Counts book?" or "Is this on Reading Counts?" Sure, we read chapter books in class (Number the Stars, Indian in the Cupboard, The Westing Game, The Ghost's Grave, and Orphan of Ellis Island) that are on there, but it honestly does not matter to me. I have had students read other books and LOVE them. For my 1,600 books, it's going to stay that way... the books will NOT have to be on Reading Counts or AR.

Deanna,

My main worry is that 15 minutes of reading is not enough. But I believe using a balanced literacy approach gives students a balanced amount of time spent independent reading, reading with a partner, participating in a conference, and meeting for a guided reading meeting. The bulk of the time, I believe, should be spent allowing students to read books of choice.

I hope that helps!

Angela

What is your opinion and or research about kids silent reading in the classroom for a set amount of time...let's say 15 min? Kids would self select their own book. I have heard a principal tell a teacher that he doesn't mind if the kids are just reading, as long as the teacher is doing something else, like a guided reading group, etc. Is there something wrong with the teacher just letting kids have a small time to silent read without interrupting them with any conferencing or groups? Just wondering what you think.

Brittany,

Great job on balancing AR but allowing students to read a variety of books in the process as well. I really think conferences make a difference. When I was required to use it in my room (one year), I put the following requirements in place:

1. The Reader's Bill of Rights still feel in to place.

2. No one was allowed to ever utter the painful phrase, "Is this an AR book?" You picked a book because YOU WANTED to read it.

3. Since it was required, IF the book was in the collection, take the test. It's super easy and takes a second. If it wasn't, just tell me about it during our conference, and I can give you the "points".

Best of luck to you with the beginning of your teaching career!

Angela

Our school requires A.R. and over the past year and a half (that's all the longer I've been teaching) I worried that my students were not reading a big enough variety of materials. I have started a reading log for home. The students read every evening for 30 minutes. I have told them that this can be anything (ex. A.R. books, newspapers, magazines, online articles, books to a little sibling, etc.). In return, when they bring back their signed log at the end of the week they receive A.R. points just for reading. I know that this still includes the extrinsic motivation, however I'm happy to report that it looks like my students have been reading a wider variety of materials!!

I also am a huge fan of the conferences with the students. I am doing Daily 5/Cafe with my students and I'm very pleased by the results! My kids love that time to read with other students, to themselves, to do word work, and to write! With the changes I have made to my teaching and their reading habits, I'm happy to report that testing scores have begun to rise! :-)

Thanks so much for all of the information you shared. I know that A.R. will be around for a long time in our school, so I'll just have to keep adding on my little twists!

Hey Jada,

Good for you! Because I was required to utilize the basal in my last school, I found the REAL book and ordered each of the stories (if I didn't have it already). Stories such as The Raft, Snowflake Bentley, and Because of Winn-Dixie are great stories, BUT they were abridged or excerpts.

And I LOVE Book Wizard. I relied on Scholastic 100% for finding levels of books. FYI- I don't want to insult you, but several teachers were surprised to learn that you can find a tiny print of RL 5.0 (eg) posted on the back of the book or on the credits page. That works for novels and is pretty reliable as well.

Best,

Angela

I absolutely agree with you...After 11 years, I am now learning to stand up for what I believe in-what's best for my students. I look at our basal (which is literature based and has some good selections) as an opportunity to do shared reading. I punch the titles into Scholastic's Teacher Book Wizard if I need help leveling the selections or deciding which ones to use with the whole class.

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