Accelerated Reader: The Kids Aren’t Fooled

Accelerated Reader (AR) seems to be all the rage in my district. All the elementary schools use it, and have for quite some time. Many teachers seem to be huge supporters of it, too. I however, have never been a big fan of AR. I will admit that my bias comes from personal experience rather than that of a pedagogical reason. I have never banned my students from using it, but never really pushed it either.

Their website states: “At its heart, AR is simple. Students read a book, take an AR Quiz, and get immediate feedback. Kids get excited and motivated when they see their progress.”

Photo Credit: ~Brenda-Starr~ via Compfight cc

This lead me to wonder why my students aren’t taking AR tests. They read 30 min each day – a book of their choice. They read an additional 20 pages each night – a book of their choice. They are reading, and talking about what they are reading! So why aren’t they taking the tests at the end? They can earn prizes once they reach certain percent of their overall goal. What was the problem?

The Discussion

I truly did want to find out why the students weren’t taking the tests. So I sat down with them and had an open discussion with them. At first they were reluctant to answer, but once they got started, their answers blew me away! 10 year olds are way smarter than we give them credit for. They were so mature about the subject, I recorded their answers. Here’s a small sampling:

“I don’t think there’s any purpose in taking an AR tests because I read books to enjoy them, not take tests on them.”

“When I finish reading a book, I just don’t do the AR quizzes because I want to get to the next one [book] really fast so I can continue reading.”

“There’s no purpose for me, because I want to get to the next book fast. And anyway, what’s the point of getting a prize? … We don’t really need a prize.”

“…They’re giving you prizes just to make you read…”

“Instead of making us read, we should read because we want to.”

“We should be reading for the joy of books, not for prizes.”

“They need a wider variety of different genres of books.”

“The books I do have, are not AR books.”

“I just like to enjoy a book.”

What Have I Learned?

1 -My students are way smarter than I ever gave them credit for.

2 -By the age of 10, kids have figured out that AR is a scam.

3 -AR has NOT instilled a love of reading.

4 -Students gained a love of reading on their own, sans prizes!

5 -AR books and genres can be too limiting for some students.

6 -My students do not see eye to eye with the AR website. Clearly they are neither motivated nor excited by the AR quizzes.

Other Thoughts

Some students live for competition. Some students love the bragging rights they get when they have read the most (percentage) in the school. Some students enjoy receiving the prizes, although I would venture to say this is a greater motivator in the younger grades than upper. The idea that we are monitoring student comprehension is a good one, I’m not sure AR is the answer.

At the beginning of the year, I was having students create ‘Book Projects‘ when they finished reading a book. I soon became overwhelmed. I’m thinking I need to revisit this idea and rework it so that it works for me too. I had some great work produced by the students. It was more meaningful, and the students really got into it.

3 thoughts on “Accelerated Reader: The Kids Aren’t Fooled

  1. YAY, the participants are refusing to take the “reading participation trophy” and reading for a real reason and a real appreciation of what they are reading. Kudos to you and your students!

  2. The children said “I read books because I like them not because I want to take tests on them”…so that applies to calculus too? I “loved” it in college but I didn’t love taking tests on it. Sorry, but you accepting that from kids doesn’t hold up to logic, or your responsibilities as an adult and educator. Everyone needs to do a little work and in school that means taking assessments to show you actually read the book and comprehended it. Tests are not scams. You are still in the mindset of a student, time to grow up.

    • I agree that everyone needs to do work, more than a little. However, I do not believe that multiple choice tests are neither the only form of assessment nor the most accurate. In fact, multiple choice tests from AR are not CCSS aligned nor do they require H.O.T.S. I would much rather have students create projects or have intelligent, guided discussions. My mindset is that of an innovative educator. It’s time to move out of the 1950’s educational system mentality. It is the 21st Century and we should be teaching students accordingly.

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