Friday, June 5, 2015

How I Use AR in the Classroom

I love Accelerated Reader as an incentive program for rewarding reading in the classroom.  It’s so nice to have a program that keeps up with book levels and rewarding students with points for UNDERSTANDING the story well enough to answer comprehension questions.  Our school offers a “Point Store” to students where they can “buy” little toys with their points, but this only happens about once a quarter.  I noticed that the Point Store rewards were not immediate enough to be an incentive to my resistant readers, so I looked and looked for a classroom reward system that would be hands-off for me and short-term enough to motivate my kids.

In order for the students to take ownership, I knew it would have to be on a bulletin board.  My only concern was posting and rewarding a “number of points.”  You and I both know as teachers that one student reading 10 points takes just as much, or more, effort than another student reading 30 points.  I really wanted to reward effort and progress, not point totals.  I always allow Renaissance Learning to generate the points goals for my kids, since their company bases the goals on years of compiled research (a little more scientific than my method... ahem...), which means they have goals based on their STAR score.  So, I came up with the idea to reward progress toward their goal in the form of PERCENTAGES.  I made a bulletin board with pockets and incentives for each 10 percentage point jump toward their goals.  A student who is half way to his goal of 30 points and a student who is half way to his goal of 15 points are both in the same pocket getting the same reward.  Yay!
Our AR Rewards Bulletin Board
Students are required to check their progress, move their sticks, and put the reward cards in a bucket on my desk – no card, no reward.  On Fridays, I print off the Goal Report from Renaissance Learning and compare it to the week before.  I record a check on this week's Goal Report for the goal card(s) they turned in.  Looking at last week's report keeps my "clever kids" from trying to get a reward twice. You know the ones.  ;)  Any cards they COULD have gotten (if it were in the bucket) I record with a star and remind them to move their stick so they don't miss out.  When I announce and distribute the rewards, the kids are so excited and proud!  It only takes about 5 minutes and is a great weekly reminder of the importance of reading on a regular basis.

Incentive Ideas
So, the big question... what do I use as incentives and not go broke?  There are an abundance of great ideas on the web.  We teachers are all in the same boat when it comes to bribing (excuse me...) rewarding our kids with little to no funds.  I’ll give you the list I use, but there are tons of ideas out there.  Just mix and match what works best for you.

10% Reading Club – book mark (Oriental Trading)

20% Reading Club – bubble gum

30% Reading Club – pencil (Oriental Trading)

40% Reading Club – piece of candy (from my kids’ last holiday stash usually  J)

50% Reading Club – choice of Book Nook (We have certain places to read around my room during Read to Self or Independent Reading time.  Some places are more comfortable/desirable than others.  This card allows a student to have first pick.)

60% Reading Club – sit in a rolly chair for the day (I have two rolly chairs for the two computers in my room.  Students get to replace their chairs with one of these.  It’s just plain fun!)

70% Reading Club – popsicles  (Because I don’t have access to a freezer in my room and don’t want to hand out popsicles every Friday, I usually give this one away the day before the AR party to allow everyone a chance to reach this goal.  Then we have one day that all of the popsicles are handed out to the students who have made it to this level.)

80% Reading Club – FREE Pizza – Through Pizza Hut’s Book It program, a student who makes it to 80% gets a free personal pan pizza coupon.  It’s a free program.  Sign up today! 

90% Reading Club – Brag Tag – It’s pretty amazing how cheaply you can purchase personalized brag tags.  I bought mine from School Life, but there are several companies out there.  A picture of mine is on the reward card if you want an example.

100% Reading Club – AR Party – We reserve one day at the end of each grading period to throw a party for students who reached their goal.  We try to make the day special with ice cream sundaes or popcorn and a movie... something the students would really enjoy.  Students who don’t reach their goal are NOT PUNISHED.  They have a regular school day, with extra time for reading and taking tests so they can get a jump on their goal for the next grading period.

This reward program has been a real game-changer in my classroom.  My two lowest readers BOTH made their AR goal for the FIRST time this last grading period.  After tons of encouragement, they took ownership of their goal!  I can’t explain the look on their faces when they came forward to classroom applause to accept their 100% Reading Club card a few Fridays ago.  They were so proud of themselves, because they knew they had accomplished this goal on their own.
My reward cards are on TPT if you’re interested.  They are formatted for Avery business cards, but at this point in the year, I print them off on card stock and cut them on the paper cutter.  (I’m telling you, times are tough...  J)  I’ve kept them editable so you can change the incentive if you find one that works better for your classroom. I hope this gives you some ideas on how to use AR to reward reading in your classroom!  Let me know how you use AR in your classroom by posting a comment below.

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