I do not respect the basic premise of AR. Children read a book on their tested level and choose a book based on that level. They then test on the computer. The whole idea of AR, to me, is robotic. Plus, they do not take notes, and write a report. ONCE AGAIN, they are in front of a computer who directs their thoughts. There is no encouragement of reading between the lines and analyzing the connections between time, place, event and the comparison contrast to today. Neither do they look at the antagonist and protagonist and analyze their behavior and take into account their behavior and compare/contrast it to today. They read the book and quickly take the test to add up as many AR tests as possible so they can run the race and read the most books. Many students in the 7/8 grade test on the 3/4 grade level. Thus, over and over they will read on that level all year. The books are fairly easy and they often can coast through. I see a band-aid put on a sore the size of a football field. I believe this is a horrible message we are giving our students. Are they really learning to read? Are they learning to love literature? Are they pushing a button and forgetting the question and the answer? When they are done with the test do they even remember the book? Do they remember the author and the style and go look for another of his/her books? Do they have a connection?Are they looking for a prize at the end of the year? There are exceptions. Gifted students who read on or above level and if they are my students I ask them to write a book report. I know that is the real world and I know they need to learn that skill. Reading for reading sake is the real winner. Their reports are awesome. They are filled with a profound understanding of the author's intent and the character's motivation. This does not always come quickly. Learning takes time. But, it is always worth it. Computers in and of themselves send an instant action message. But, anything that takes time to think through and do well always builds self esteem. It creates moments in time which help us remember how well we can do a project with good planning and organization. There is nothing like a well written book report. People who disagree with me say this is for casual reading. Except that in the 7/8 grade students are not sophisticated enough to be "casual readers" and take a test to process all that you need to to be a successful reader. It is obvious with our national reading standards by how much illiteracy there is in our country, and the low HS graduation rate. Also, it is in the 7/8 grade when students are just beginning to learn HOW TO READ A BOOK and their brains are beginning to change, and their hormones are beginning to go into high speed in the fast lane. With all these changes there are a lot of adaptations in their lives. Encouraging speed reading, AND running to a computer to hurry up and test is not very wise in a world which already has too much computer problems where we want children off the computer as much as possible. Let us get children sitting in a chair reading and taking notes on the book. The basic questions students can always ask themselves are WHO,WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, WHAT LESSON CAN WE LEARN. And, most importantly, writing a mini-bio on the author. Children truly do appreciate the joy of learning more about stories and what they mean. And, the more they learn, the better readers they become.
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