Coldwood School is a small rural school, with 90 pupils, just outside Galway city. The school have been using Accelerated Reader (AR) and Star Reading for nearly two years to promote reading across the school and to encourage literacy progress amongst their students. They initially introduced AR to support classes 3 – 6 and, following its positive impact, the school extended this to their first and second years in September 2023.

We spoke to 5th and 6th class teacher, David Wallace, to hear how the integration of AR and Star Reading has impacted the school’s approach to literacy and how it has supported teaching staff.

“AR provides a more structured approach to reading. It gives the children control over what books they’re reading, what level they’re reading, and gives them the ability to improve at their level. I had used AR in a previous school, and we had seen a lot of progress with it”.

Impact of AR on teaching and learning outcomes

“AR has given the children great independence in their own reading, in their own learning and this has transferred into their writing.”

“We’ve seen a huge uptake in children reading for fun, just simply to read. We set them targets each term and they strive towards these, hitting them and even exceeding them by huge percentages, so much so, that we’ve had to make the targets more difficult! Some children have made over 100 points of progress. This has given them great confidence in their ability, in their own learning and has transferred into their writing.

When children previously visited our library they weren’t necessarily choosing books at their correct level. Now, they understand the books, and can answer comprehension questions at the end of them. So, as well as improving their reading, they are picking up those key skills.

Now, the children are also writing better narrative stories independently, across different genres. We have a child in first and second who has read 150 books since September. If we didn’t have the Accelerated Reader programme, I can’t believe that they would have read that many books since the start of the school year!”

Shift in attitude towards reading and supporting staff workload

“In terms of workload, having AR has meant that the teaching staff feel less pressured to make children read. They have their books and we have now established a routine that when they finish their work, they take out their book and read it. Recently, they’ve discovered the articles on the new website, and they love testing on those too. It’s been great to see the children progressing their independent reading.

The data from Accelerated Reader is really useful, it allows you to see what the children are reading, how they have improved and in which areas they still need improvement. It has taken away a lot of work from all of us in terms of understanding a child’s reading level and what they understand in terms of their comprehension.

Integration of Star Reading and its impact on attainment

“We do Star Reading three times a year – in September, just after we come back from Christmas and then in June before we finish up in a small class to see the progression towards the end of the year.

We have seen so much improvement in reading attainment. Following the summer, we know that students usually drop in their test results in September but this year seven students had gone up, four had stayed the same and only eight went down in their results, in a sample taken from one classroom.

When it came to retesting in January, we had 14 go up and only 5 go down. So, you can really see how far some children have advanced between September and January. Some children even jumped a year and three months or a zone, in addition to their reading ages increasing.”

Using Star data for intervention and to inform next steps

“Using Star Reading has helped us guide students in reading at the correct level. If you know a child’s ZPD it gives us an idea of where they should be reading within that zone. Some children might jump to the top of their zone, and then realise that they’re getting five out of ten in a quiz, so they need to take a step back. In that sense, Star Reading is very good at allowing children to see for themselves, what actions need to be taken. It also helps us to flag which children might need that little bit of extra attention in class and at home.

Training and support from Renaissance

“I’ve had a lot of contact with the training department at Renaissance both here and in my previous school and the training has been very good. It’s very flexible to a school’s individual needs. We were able to say exactly what we needed help with from the team at Renaissance and they showed us.

They answered any questions that we had, and they were able to show us on the whiteboard what we needed to do. I’ve also emailed the team once or twice and the response time is very good.”

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