Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Reading Race to the Finish

This winter, two of our teachers asked if we would ever be able to do something so the teachers could do Accelerated Reader (reading books, taking quizzes, earning points) like the kids do and see which teacher could earn the most points. I loved the idea and talked to the principal and we were able to make it happen.

Thus, the Reading Race to the Finish was born. Teachers and staff members opted in or out of the program, based on what time they had available. They have six weeks to read books and take quizzes and the top three point-earners will receive a prize.

We are only two weeks in and everyone seems to be having a great time. Classes are setting reading goals for their teachers, kids are recommending books, and those of us taking quizzes get to see the program from the other side.

Yes, I am taking quizzes, too, although I am not competing with the teachers. I read too much for my work for that to be fair. [Instead, students will be guessing how many points I earn this quarter and the winner will get a prize and his/her class will get an ice cream party.]

Here are some of my observations so far:
* All of our cautions to kids about not skimming through books before taking quizzes and about not waiting for months after reading something and then trying to take a quiz on it are completely on target. I tried to do both and lost points in the process.

* Something powerful happens when students and teachers are reading the same things. I have really enjoyed hearing teachers talk about some of the more popular books the kids are reading. I'm curious to see if the reverse happens, too, as I have teachers reading adult books and some Christian fiction books that happen to have AR quizzes. If nothing else, at least the students are seeing their teachers as readers.

* I am working toward a significant goal for my part of this "race," so I'm not reading books that don't have quizzes.  As an adult, I know this is temporary. Once this program is over, I can read what I want. But my students don't always have this luxury. Sure, they can read what they want this summer, but once school starts again in August, most of them will eschew books without quizzes, even if they want very much to read them. This makes me sad.

* There are days when I can't read as much as I want to. Sometimes I go three or four days without reading any significant amount. This has been true all year - seasons of a book every day or two and others when a week goes by without any reading. Sometimes it's because I just finished something amazing and I can't bring myself to start something new. Sometimes it's because I'm busy with other things. But now, the reading dry spells matter! If I'm not reading, I'm not earning points! Then I think about my students. They have busy seasons too - seasons when they have baseball every night or three tests in one week or nights where their families have made plans and they are required to tag along, or times when they just need a break from intense reading. I wonder if we, the teachers, remember this when we set goals for our students. Do we give space to our students for those days where they either don't want to read or just don't have the time? Do we label the strong readers as such early on and maintain high expectations for them that don't allow for a natural ebb and flow?

I imagine observations and insights - as well as fun - will continue over the next few weeks of this contest. It's   become a fun way to wrap up our school year!

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