Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

OFSTED applaud motivated readers at Whitehill Primary

Whitehill Primary School, Gravesend, Kent

Before Accelerated Reader

Before Accelerated Reader, we were seeing some low reading outcomes in our assessments at the end of KS1 and KS2.  Teaching of reading was unstructured; staff didn’t have a strong understanding of the reading picture in school and our summative assessment of reading in all year groups was limited.  Children generally held quite negative attitudes towards reading.  They often didn’t have access to books at their reading age, and our resources weren’t up-to-date enough to fully support them.  Our library space contained books, but they were dull and uninteresting to the children.

Today, that same space is the heart of the school.  There has been a marked improvement in children’s comprehension and literacy skills, and a newfound enthusiasm for reading can be found across the school.  In every Pupil Progress Meeting we’ve held, staff and senior leaders have agreed that Accelerated Reader is the main reason for the incredible progress we have seen.

Books on display in Whitehill's library

Using Accelerated Reader

We don’t have dedicated Accelerated Reader lessons – children are given time throughout the day to read, quiz and change books.  The library is open all day, and always has a member of staff to advise and help with book changes.  Children can quiz in class, in the library or in the ICT suite.

Whole class quizzing
Children reading as a group

“I like doing the quizzes, you have to read them really carefully to get good results, but it shows me how well I read the book” – Year 6 boy

At the end of each term we quiz as a whole class on a certain book.  We find this enhances children’s enjoyment while still assessing their understanding.  The questions facilitate discussion, which allows them to deepen their understanding of the text.  Following this quiz, we ask children to quiz again individually to consolidate their learning.  Whole class reading is one area which has been improved now we can access children’s Zones of Proximal Development (ZPD).  Teachers have told me that they feel more able to select a text the majority of children will be able to access and understand, and for those students who aren’t at that level support can be put in place from the outset.  One of our Year 4 classes was studying Treasure Island in preparation for their school production.  After looking at the ZPDs for the class the teacher noticed that many children would have struggled to access the text, and was able to replace the book with a rewritten version.

Getting up to speed with reading competitions
Wall display for Whitehill's daily engaged time competition

A wall display for the Grand Prix-themed daily engaged time competition.

We use Accelerated Reader data to inform a range of competitions, incentivising reading further.  We look at Consolidated Reports to determine areas of weakness.  For example, I found at one point that, while our average percent correct was high, our daily engaged reading time was dropping.  To combat this, we devised a Grand

Wall display: snowman created from 100% quiz scores

Build the snowman – A snowman made entirely from the names of 100% quiz result scorers!

Prix-themed competition, using daily engaged reading time as ‘speed’.  Each class had a race car that they raced around a track for 8 weeks; the higher the engaged time, the more points were received.  Staff and students enjoyed the incentive and we saw our engaged reading time significantly improve.

That’s one of many incentives we have put in place.  We also implemented a Premier League-themed competition, based around the average percentage of correct quiz responses.  The 100% board is always popular, as is ‘Build the Snowman’. For every quiz passed at 100% the child receives a ‘snowball’ to write their name on, and the snowball is then added to a huge cut out of a snowman. We continued until the entire snowman was full. It was so successful last time that we had to add a snow dog too!

Informing teaching with a range of reports

Children at Whitehill quizzing with Accelerated Reader

“I like the progress I am making, I like trying to achieve my targets for points and ZPD, it helps me improve” – Year 5 girl

Alongside Accelerated Reader, we administer the Renaissance Star Reading™ test four times per year.  We schedule these to coincide with our Pupil Progress Meetings, so Star data can be used inform discussions and plans for the next term.  Our final Star test takes place at the end of the academic year – teachers then use this data to organise literacy and guided reading groups for the next academic year in advance.

Every class has its own hard copy file, comprised of printed Accelerated Reader and Star reports.  This file includes weekly and term-to-date diagnostic reports, which I annotate and colour code before sending to teachers to highlight any specific concerns.  These files are used constantly by teachers to inform planning and monitor progress.  The Star Screening Report is also used frequently by teachers.  It’s very visually accessible, and is used to guide intervention and guided reading groupings within each class.

The Reading Dashboard is a great resource.  We make particular use of the Growth and Achievement section to identify areas in which a child needs more support, and then compare with the Suggested Skills report to ensure that support is ability-appropriate.  There are many children who, in the past, would have appeared to be making appropriate progress.  With Star and Accelerated Reader, some of those children have been classed as ‘on watch’, and with additional support from us we’ve seen their progress improve.  Our literacy specialist has been able to use the programmes to identify children who may have underlying problems limiting their reading.  She then tests to identify the problem, puts in necessary interventions and tracks their progress with Star.

Monitoring key groups

When we first implemented Accelerated Reader, one of our key goals was to improve the progress being made by Pupil Premium and EAL students, which we have a high proportion of.  We have put Pupil Premium funding towards Accelerated Reader, as the programme enables us to mark characteristics for each child.  We can then generate reports for these groups only, which makes monitoring, organisation and meeting preparation very efficient.  This data is shared with all class teachers, our SENCO and our Pupil Premium Specialist, who can then tailor her small group teaching to individual children’s needs.

Demonstrating progress to OFSTED

Our most recent OFSTED inspection was in January 2017.  We were able to immediately share our diagnostic, screening and student growth reports, evidencing the progress children were making.  The inspectors spoke with children about reading, and their enjoyment of reading, and made the following comments in their report:

You quickly identified reading as an area to improve across the school. It is now clearly evident that pupils of all ages and in all groups, including disadvantaged pupils, are motivated and enjoy reading.

The approaches to reading that you have introduced inspire pupils. Pupils spoke with great enthusiasm about the books and authors that their teachers have introduced to them.

Children sat reading

“There are lots of books in the library, I love reading now” – Year 2 girl

Pupils’ rich reading diet is having a positive impact on the quality of their writing and their vocabulary.

Creating a reading culture

I asked two teachers what significant changes they had seen since implementing Accelerated Reader and they answered almost simultaneously: ‘children are reading!’ The whole school has a culture of reading now.  Children want to share the books they are reading with others. Because they have a free choice of what they read within their ZPD, they enjoy the books they are reading. We’ve also seen more children taking their books home to read in their own spare time. Children are taking ownership of their reading and enjoying the experience.

Children reading in the library

“The books in the library make me want to read more! I like suspense books the best” – Year 6 girl

The Accelerated Reader Administrator from a local secondary school and I have been ‘bouncing ideas off each other’ and sharing good practice between us for many years now. Together, we decided to put together a local user group in our area, which has continued to grow following our first meeting. Staff from other schools often visit us here at Whitehill.  We’re always happy to share advice and ideas with other schools, and even magpie a few for ourselves!

It is clear to see that Accelerated Reader has had a huge impact on progress, and on children’s attitudes towards reading. Reading has returned to all aspects of the school curriculum; non-fiction research books are now being borrowed from the library on a regular basis. These books had previously sat on shelves collecting dust for years. Where it had been a chore to read and the books were seen as being uninteresting and dull, now we have Accelerated Reader Club every Tuesday, when the library becomes full of children sharing, discussing and reading books.  The huge improvement in children’s reading ages and ZPDs is amazing to see. Parents, teachers and children are all so enthusiastic about the improvements and progress we are making through Accelerated Reader.  Reading is now at the heart of our learning here at Whitehill Primary.


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