— Zac Chase (@MrChase) February 17, 2016
Accelerated Reader is/was a reading program that allows students to take multiple choice quizzes on books that they have read. If a student does well on such a quiz, they are given a point total to be applied for a grade or a reward system. At my former middle school, we were required to use this reading program for consistency across the school. Even though the program promoted only plot-level knowledge of books, we used it to show just how many books were being read. Even though AR, as it was affectionately abbreviated, required teachers to police tests rather than discuss books.
I was not a fan.
I hated typing in the teacher password each and every time it was asked of me. I hated watching kids set their numerical goal for reading for the quarter based upon their tested reading level. Most of all, I hated the way in which kids would read books just for the points and not for the joy or value that the book could bring.
So, I would actively encourage many of my students to propose alternatives. I helped them to find books that didn’t have AR tests (yet), so that we could do book talks. I showed kids non-fiction books and magazines that would never easily fit into a 10 question quiz. These led to written reactions that students were proud of, or at least put more thought into than a few fleeting key presses needed to take an AR quiz.
All of these alternatives got to the point that I could no longer claim to be doing the Accelerated Reader program to the rest of the language arts teachers in the school. Instead, I shared that the students had helped to create AR+. It was my not so secret urging them to break the rules and test out alternatives wherever they could that made this happen. It was their interest in moving beyond point totals and compliance to start enjoying what they were reading again.
Some rules I just cannot abide, and when your students are interested in helping you to break them, learning is the direct result.