Are children listening?

Daily story time is embedded in my school, nothing is out on the tables, the children intently listen to the adult read from the class reader. But are they really listening or simply dreaming about the contents of their lunch boxes?

This year we introduced Accelerated Reader (AR), a system to motivate children to read. Each time they finish a book, they complete a quiz on it to check their understanding of it (comprehension). Previously, we used ReadTheory, which is a free online service comprising of short texts followed by multiple choice questions. The benefit of the move to AR is that it ties into our computer based assessment system by Renaissance (yes, our SLT are amazing – no more paper marking).

Looking on Twitter, you will see mixed reviews about AR, I guess it depends on how you use it in your school. For us, yes you can get a reading level for children and guide them to a book more suited to their level, after all we want them to grow as readers but we don’t subscribe to the model of these are the ONLY books you can read, you are a red level reader.

MyON is a tool that comes with AR – children each get their own log in, it recommends a library of books tailored to the child’s previous STAR reading assessment with Renaissance. Meaning that children can independently access, read and understand the books recommended. Another fantastic tool that we have been utilising with MyON is that children can opt to have a page or book read aloud to them as they follow it on the screen. Our struggling readers LOVE this and ask to use it daily.

Our reading intervention comprises of the child selecting a book on MyON from their account, having the page read to them, followed by them reading the same page to the adult. This support their reading fluency – they have heard how the words are pronounced, where they should pause and expression needed. This echoes our classroom based my turn, your turn, which the children are very familiar with.

On completion of a book, children can then take an AR quiz to check their understanding. They receive their score immediately – their faces light up when they see how well they have done and they ask to read another book – success really does breed motivation.

Children can access their accounts from home as well as in school. In Year 6, we assign reading homework on Seesaw using MyON – they select a book to read, record themselves reading at least one paragraph (this allows us to listen to every pupil in our class and check their reading with prosody progress), they then reflect on how well they read (expression, pace, volume, eye contact – based on the physical strand of the Voice 21 Oracy Framework). Children then complete the book and the associated AR quiz.

Another aspect to AR, that is useful, is the ability to maintain an online reading journal for the children. At anytime, we can log in and view a pupils progress and the books they are reading – be it from taking AR quizzes on their reading book or from MyON.

As I mentioned, daily reading from a class reader is embedded across our school. Upon completing a class reader, the children are directed to complete an AR quiz on it. This will show who has followed and understood the story. Here is a snapshot from my Year 6 class, after we completed our Aut 2 book: Moonlocket. I was amazed at the results because although we read it daily, we only look at the book closely once or twice a week, the other days, we have explore a variety of texts related to the wider curriculum. I would expect them to tune out, as they hear my voice constantly.

The results speak for themselves:

A snapshot from Year 3:

A snapshot from Year 5:

It is clear to see that children are actively listening and gain insight and meaning from adults reading to them – even from books they may not be able to access themselves. I have a boy, who suffers with epilepsy in my class, unfortunately, most of his seizures happen at night time so he comes to school very tired and is quite behind his peers. Often he will have a sleep at some point during the day. He scored 80% in the quiz on Moonlocket.

Is story time embedded in your school?

Do you use AR? I would love to hear your experience with it.

If you would like to discuss or visit a school in Berkshire, that puts reading at the heart of the curriculum, please get in touch.

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