Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

A noticeable new reading culture

Dunstone Primary School, Plymouth

We spoke to Teaching Assistant (TA), Sally Geary, who has been with the school for twelve years. Sally was appointed the primary administrator for Accelerated Reader in January 2019. With the help of a team of dedicated TAs, Sally oversees the daily maintenance and administration of the Accelerated Reader and Star Reading programmes. The team have one goal, to help nurture a love of reading for all pupils. 

Sally writes:

Having a tangible range to identify reading ability quickly

In 2016 our new Headteacher identified that we needed a reading system which would provide teachers with continuous assessment of reading. Tee school required something that would give significant judgements and assist in the identification of those children who needed intervention and support. AR has since brought a coherent approach of reading to our school – we now have consistency across each classroom and each year group. With AR and Star, the ability to track each pupils’ individual reading progress is now much more useful because it’s more consistent. It has enhanced the way we talk about reading for the better. For example, when we talk about a child in year 2 and a teacher mentions that pupil’s unique ZPD score, we all know precisely what that means. It gives us a clear picture of how proficient they are as a reader and how they’re progressing.

The ZPD range is something measurable that allows us to monitor reading growth. Each child ZPD range is illustrated within the various reports that can be extracted from AR data. For example, I run off the Diagnostic Report for every pupil every two weeks. This report shows us which pupils require our focus. We look at “engaged time per day”, and we look at the column “% correct”. This information gives us a good idea of who needs support. I’d say the Diagnostic Report is probably the most useful report that AR provides for a quick progress overview. Each TA each will run-off a Diagnostic Report for their respective classroom every two weeks and follow up on any areas for intervention identified within the report. This intervention can be as simple as the TA checking what the pupil is currently reading. Then the TA will ask follow up questions. For example, is it appropriate for the pupil, have they checked the AR label within the book to see if it’s within their ZPD range? Identifying pupils who need intervention might lead us to talk to the parent. If a pupil is having real problems, we do try and involve everybody, including the pupil, teacher and parent.

We also encourage parents to use at home and tell pupils that they can bring books in from home as long as they’re on the book finder website and therefore have a correspond AR quiz. We also encourage parents to use Home Connect to check in on their own child’s reading progress. These initiatives are all regularly sent home to parents via the school learning information. There are also AR Book Finder posters up around the school which we regularly remind children to use at home.

Since introducing Accelerated Reader to our school we’ve been able to get the library really well organised, and we now take good care of it. Our librarian keeps it well stocked and organised. Having an accessible and inviting library makes it easier for children to come in and choose the books that they want to read and that are appropriate for their interest level. It took a week for our TA team to reorganise the library. They had to ensure that every book had its respective AR label on both the spine and inside with its correspond quiz number and ZPD level. Now the books in the library are clearly set out, labelled and pupils know where the books are and know which books are right for them because they know their own unique ZPD. Getting the library right was well worth the effort.

Star Reading data is an essential contribution to trust-wide data analysis.

We carry out our Star Assessments six times in an academic year. Teachers will refer to the Star Growth Analysis Report, which identifies the progress each pupil is making, throughout the year, in much more detail. Data provided by Star Reading feeds into the overall data collection for school and the trust as a whole. Every time a Star Test is completed, I send a Screening Report to the Headteacher so they can see a clear illustration of each pupils’ reading progress. We use two types of reports from Star Reading. The first is the School Benchmark Report, which outlines each pupils reading level compared to the school’s average and the specific benchmarks that we set throughout the year. We also use the Key Stage 2 SATs Performance Report from Star Reading. This report provides a clear picture of how many pupils are currently on the pathway to passing their SATs reading test. In 2018 we achieved 69% across KS2 for reading – in 2019 we achieved 71% – so we saw a significant increase in reading progress. After administering Star Reading assessments, we try and make time to sit with each child individually and talk about their development. It makes them feel valued, and equally, they know they can’t hide.

Informative reports help plan independent support. 

We’re very rigorous in ensuring the Star Assessments are undertaken at the correct time. We set up screening slots which includes an additional week for those who have not appropriately assessed or have seen a massively unexpected score. From these results, the TA team, in conjunction with the teachers, use the data acquired to support pupils. Being able to identify struggling pupils early on is crucial for their ongoing support. The extra week allows us time to take the lower ability children to read the Star Reading text aloud in privacy. Providing private reading time for lower ability children ensures they are always doing their very best. One child in year 6 got a lower than expected score on the Star Reading assessment. The following week a different TA sat with him, encouraged him to read the questions out loud and carefully, the improvement was measurable, and his confidence soared. The ability to read out loud and the availability of having a location that provides the privacy and quiet to concentrate is so essential. Alongside AR, each class has a 30-minute reading lesson every day where we look at reading skills, such as inference and retrieval. These are skills that make up a keen reader. Reading has become necessary in school. To this day, we’re still learning new features of AR and Star Reading and fine-tuning it. The most significant improvement has been the consistency across the school and children enjoying their reading.

Pupils now see their own progress, and they’re all very involved in it. As soon as they have quizzed or taken a Star Test, they really want to know how they’ve done, and they want to improve.

During the academic year 2020/2021, we are moving locations and changing our name. There is no firm date for this to happen; the new building is not yet complete. But the staff and children will stay the same, we will just change the structure, and the school will become known as Morley Meadow Primary School.

For more information on how Renaissance can support your school’s reading culture, click here.

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