Saturday, January 10, 2015

Building a Snowman With AR

I have to admit that I have always been on the fence about using AR with my first graders. I know that research from years ago suggests it is better used with older students, but there are many "tests" that go along with reading on our level. In the past I have made it a competition to see who could get the most points during the course of the school year. I've also done prizes for reaching goals each six weeks. Inevitably many of my students got tired and bored after a short amount of time and I just don't feel like I saw much growth in comprehension. This year I feel like my students are really struggling in reading comprehension and I am trying anything and everything to help them, including introducing AR. I must pause here and tell you that most of the following was actually my assistant's idea, she has been using AR in other classes she's been in for years. We wanted the students to own the whole thing, from beginning to end. We wanted to get them excited about reading and taking the tests. First, we built a snowman. We didn't tell the kids why we were building him or what we would be doing.
After we hung him on the wall the kids were given construction paper and each group made a scarf, hat, and boots, or the nose, eyes, and mouth. One group made buttons. Some of the kids decided he needed a broom. We let them have creative freedom. We explained what AR is, what they will be doing, and how we will track their progress, both individually and as a class.
As a class we are marking each test taken and passed with an 80% or higher on a ten frame chart.
Students also add a snowflake to the snowman for each test taken and passed, again at 80% or higher, so we can see our work in progress. We keep track of each child's progress in their fluency folders (I'll post about this later, it goes with our Team Time.) We are using leveled readers from a previous reading series and divided them up into levels. Students can't go on to the next level until they have taken and passed all tests in the one before. Students also take AR tests on our weekly reading story from the series we use now. They have done so great that I take a grade on the test.
They even came up with the title themselves.
That is not the greatest of pics, but we hung the sign high, and I am short!!! To add in a little more math, we had students estimate how many books they thought we would have to read to fill the snowman and wrote their predictions.
And this is how far we've come so far!
When we filled the first snowball we added the buttons the students had made. We didn't tell them we would have a party or anything when we filled the snowman. We wanted the excitement for reading to be the true reward. And they are excited. We only have Ms. Debbie in our class two days a week, and the kids get so excited when she comes in because they know that we will be able to do AR. We try on the other days, but there's just not always enough time to get everyone through in one day with one working computer. When she is with us she can take a group to the computer lab. The kids have become very capable of logging in on their own. I really think that between AR and our daily Team Time I am seeing some great results this year. The kids are so excited and they have already come up with a title for our next reading adventure!


  1. Hi Rebecca, sorry to sound like a goof but being from Australia I'm not sure what AR stands for! Thanks

    1. I'm so sorry it took me so long to respond to you, I never got a notification of a comment! AR is short for Accelerated Reader. It's now a web based program where students read books on their reading level and then can take a 3-10 question test over their comprehension of the book. As I said above, I've not always been a big proponent of using the program, however anything that gets the kids reading more is great! Thanks for stopping by.