Sts. Simon & Jude School utilizes a computerized reading management program called the Accelerated Reader from Renaissance Learning, Inc.( http://www.renlearn.com ) This is an individualized reading program that allows each student to move at his or her own pace and level of reading ability. In conjunction with Accelerated Reader, we utilize a reading assessment tool several times during the school year to determine the book level range or ZPD (zone of proximal development) for optimum student reading practice. We encourage students to practice reading within their ZPD.
Book levels are used to guide students to books they can read. As students advance to higher reading zones (ZPD's) they should be allowed to read from a wide range of book levels. Many adult books are between 4.5 and 6.5 book level. For example, The Color Purple is BL 4.5; Grapes of Wrath is BL 4.9; Angela's Ashes is BL 5.4, Catcher in the Rye is BL 4.7. These ratings further illustrate the importance of letting students select books they want to read regardless of the book level. The book level does not reflect content. It merely measures words per sentence, characters per word, and average grade level of words. It does not take into account the interest level of the book. This is critical when students select books. Regardless of book level, they should select books that interest them. For students already reading at grade level or above, it is important to broaden their reading experience and keep them motivated. Challenge must be stimulating, not frustrating. Student choice is important.
The book level is merely a guide to help teachers/parents direct students to books that will not be too difficult for them to read and understand. Junior high students will often find books at a 4th or 5th grade book level that tell stories about kids their own age or older and how they cope with growing up in today's world. They impart wonderful values and help students work through issues they are facing. They should be encouraged to read any and all books of their choosing, regardless of reading level. We adult readers never think twice about the reading level of the books we enjoy. If college graduates were told they could only read college level books they would stop reading all together. It should not be any different for students once they have mastered reading. The important thing is that we encourage them to read every day. They gain something from everything they read. The goal for comprehension should be between 85%-92%, not perfection.
Our goal is to have every student succeed at reading. They do this best
when they are allowed to read at a comfortable level. Good literature
is exciting and interesting, but it is also challenging. Most students
need motivation to select and read good books that stretch their minds.
The program provides this motivation in a variety of ways. The test itself
is one motivator, and the computer is a second one because students are
drawn to computers. Students become motivated because their individual
progress is tracked so precisely, with their efforts clearly recognized
and recorded. This reading program provides accountability and positive
Reading involves imagination. All students should be reading at least half an hour in school and another half hour at home every day: read to, read with someone, or read by themselves. Adults are the best role models. Have a family reading half hour every night of the week. Our ultimate goal is to create life long readers. The value of this program is that it ensures reading practice and motivates students if they have set realistic goals for themselves. Praise and encouragement is what they need from adults.
Students select any book from the **STAR** reading list. The school library has a large selection of STAR books for the children to choose from. They are all marked as to book level and point value. They read the book carefully and then take a comprehensive multiple-choice test on the computer. They have ample opportunity to do this testing during their school day in the classroom or the library. Students should have no trouble passing the test if they have read the book and understand what the book is about. They earn points for passing the test based on the number right. Most beginning (first grade level) STAR books are valued at 1/2 point. There are either 5 or 10 multiple-choice questions. If they miss 1 out of 5 they receive .4 point; 2 out of 5 equals .3 pt.; if they miss more than 2 out of 5, they do not pass the test. If the test has 10 questions and is worth 1/2pt then they can miss 1 and still get the full 1/2 pt. They must get at least 6 out of ten right to pass (60%). There will always be an adult close by to supervise the test taking. We encourage students to ask for clarification if they do not understand the question, or need a word defined for them. The computer will keep an on-going reading record for each student including point accumulation. They are encouraged to earn as many points as they can. Each grade level, 2 through 8 have a minimum point total the students are encouraged to achieve.
STAR Reading CertificateProgram
In an effort to encourage students to advance their reading skills, we award certificates for various levels of reading achievement. The levels reflect stages of reading development. We will be encouraging them to move "up the ladder" over the years. They are always encouraged to read the wonderful picture books we have which encompass a wide range of book levels up to 7th grade. In addition, we want to encourage them to read chapter books. We start them with the easy chapter books we have in a special section of the library. They range from second to fourth grade book level and are short enough that they should not intimidate the picture book reader. They are worth a point or two. As the children become more accomplished readers they move over to our regular fiction section and longer chapter books. Non-fiction books are also available. It is important to understand since the quizzes on factual books are more difficult we encourage the children to drop down one book level when selecting a non-fiction book to earn points. (So if the student's ZPD is 3.3-4.7 and they want to read a non-fiction STAR book to quiz on, we encourage them to get one with a book level between 2.3-3.7.) Of course they can read any book they choose for fun and interest. They do not have to quiz on every book they take from the library. Below is a list of the certificate levels we are using. The computer automatically sets a new certification goal each time one is achieved. Certificates will be awarded in class. These certification levels are cumulative. They are not tied into a specific school year.
Star Reading Certificates
As many of you already know Sts. Simon & Jude School has a computerized reading management program called Star Reading. This is an individualized program that allows each student to move at his or her own pace and level of reading practice. We like to think of first grade as the "learning" year for students participating in our Star Reading Program. We want to create a learning environment in the classroom. Our goal is to create life long readers. We do not want this program to be a competition among students to earn the most number of points. Reading readiness is not a fixed point in time. Some children are ready to read when they start first grade, others don't "get it all together" until well into the year. We need to encourage those who have developed early without putting pressure on them. Some students are hesitant to take tests on the computer. Just managing the computer skills necessary or the "test taking" anxiety can hamper their success.
We have a special Star reading program for our first graders. As the classroom teacher determines student readiness, students will take a diagnostic test on the computer to determine the book level range (ZPD) where they should be doing most of their reading practice. Parents will be notified of the results. We have installed two computers in each first grade classroom. There is a library of Star reading books in each classroom as well as many in the school library for the students to read. Each book has a designated book level on it and students are encouraged to select books within their ZPD for optimum reading practice. They will be bringing these books home to read with an adult. The adult will be asked to sign a slip of paper indicating the student has read this book with an adult. The child brings this paper back to school and then he or she may take a reading test on the computer in the classroom with teacher supervision. Students will take all of their reading tests in the classroom with supervision. This way we are assured the student is getting the necessary help to make this a positive learning experience.
We do not want point accumulation to be an issue among students since
they will all be starting the program at different times throughout the
school year. Instead of including the first grade in the STAR Assembly
at the end of the year, we have a very special readers celebration for
all first graders the last week of school. Everyone will be recognized
for his or her reading accomplishments.
The full list of Star reading books we have tests on is available online
at our website http://www.ssj.org. There
are some excellent resources online (Reading
Aloud to your Child) for parents who want to learn more about children
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