Guest Blog #1: Georgina Sheridan, KS2 Teacher, Brooklands Farm Primary School

By Chris Jarosh

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since we began to look at the research piece; it feels like we’re already light years ahead of where we were when we started – and have so many more ideas on how much further we can go with our findings next year!

It all started when we wanted to engage children in real books, at the right developmental level. This was not only a catalyst for our action research, which had a specific focus on feedback in reading with real books; it also led the school to fully embed our Vygotskian approach to learning.

As part of the research, we looked for ways in which we could standardise the feedback being given to the children and at the same time, give them greater ownership of their development and progress. Accelerated Reader with STAR Assessments seemed a natural fit for this, so we put a plan in place to have the system up and running in KS2, ready for the new school term.

Now, I think it’s important to emphasise that Accelerated Reader was only one part of the story – as a school we injected fresh impetus into our reading culture with the launch of ‘5 for Reading’; a programme which I’ll let my colleague, Nicky, share in more detail with you in Part #2 of our Guest Blog Series. However, as our findings over the past academic year have shown; Accelerated Reader has proven to be an excellent infrastructure for supporting children’s reading development and importantly, consistent feedback. And here’s how:

  • STAR Assessments – every 6 weeks the children take an assessment which helps us to monitor the progress they are making, but equally importantly; motivates the children. The STAR Assessments have also helped to validate progress and bring consistency throughout the school, as they are independently verified.
  • Reporting progress – we use the growth reports within STAR to talk to the children about their progress. As the reports are very visual, they allow a dialogue to be created with very young children, leading to accelerated progress.
  • Comprehension – by taking a quiz after every book they read, the children have learned the importance of comprehension. They have learned (sometimes the hard way) that they have to read the book properly and not just rush through a quiz! A key outcome for us as a school is that the children no longer see reading as phonics and words – they fully appreciate that reading is to also understand meaning and context.
  • And while Accelerated Reader and STAR have given us some really excellent insights and clearly support our objective of achieving consistency of feedback; as a by-product the programmes have actually helped to reshape the school’s entire reading culture. For example, the children are no longer nervous about taking ‘comprehension tests’ as the regular quizzing and STAR have ‘normalised’ the process for them, ultimately making them more confident in their abilities.

    What’s also really lovely to see, is the reluctant readers truly engaging with real books for the first time. They actually want to read because they can’t wait to take a quiz and see how well they have done! This approach is highly personalised and has supported us to develop growth mindsets across the school, with children reading for enjoyment, identifying their gaps through comprehension quizzes and creating a dialogue with their visual reports.

    For us, Accelerated Reader has enabled us to make some major leaps forward with reading development. Using the insights from the system, we can now turn feedback into something much more meaningful to the children and in doing so, we’ve been able to achieve some really positive action… in just one year!

    Look out for Nicky’s blog in September, where she will be lifting the lid on ‘5 for Reading’ and how it has enabled a more ‘joined-up’ school approach using some tried and tested methods.

    Monthly newsletter