A topic of discussion at a recent meeting I attended was how to use Accelerated Reader and how to NOT use it.
This topic meant a lot to me because I have recently implemented an AR program as part of my school's Reading Initiative.
Much like literacy stations, AR is often pigeon-holed as an elementary topic. This does not have to be the case if it is properly used. The middle school in which I work currently has over 155,000 titles in our AR data base. These range from books on a PP level to YA and adult titles. This is what makes AR great: it can be adapted to any reader's interests.
How is AR misused?
Well, one way is that AR points are assigned as grades. This can be modified to work, however, if students are given choices as to which books they want to read, they have multiple opportunities to take multiple AR quizzes, and have options to show they read a book if an AR quiz isn't conducive as an assessment for an individual.
Another way AR is misused is if students are given goals for points based on their age or grade level. If your school has access to the AR program, they will likely have access to STAR, which determines student's IRL (instructional reading level). Students should be given individual goals based on their IRL. This levels the playing field for everyone to have a fair chance at being rewarded.
I use AR as an incentive program, completely independent of how it is used in the classrooms. Students are given their IRL and their own point goal. They have nine weeks to achieve their point goal, and are rewarded for meeting and exceeding that goal. I like the idea of resetting points each quarter instead of having one end-of-the-year incentive. When rewards are given earlier in the year, it really makes students see what they could get from participating and serves as great motivation.
Although it may take more work to individualize AR, it definitely makes for a student-centered program - which is how literacy instruction should be.
Here are the handouts I created if anyone would like to reproduce them:
As always, adapt as needed!
AR Student Handout
AR Point Chart