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Reading education goes digital at SJA; Accelerated 360 open to K-7th students

LAPLACE — Beverly Gossett notices her students’ excitement and anticipation.

The third grade teacher said her students can hardly wait to take tests these days.

“They feel such a sense of accomplishment when they do well,” she said. “If they miss a question, they are eager to go back in the story to find their errors. For those who struggle with reading, (the accelerated reader) program is an incentive to move up to the next reading level. They can watch themselves get better.”

Colleague and fourth grade teacher Lori White said earning points through the school’s newly instituted accelerated reader program provides the incentive some students may need in her class to motivate themselves to read.

The St. Joan of Arc Catholic School teachers are two of the school’s many classroom leaders who have been guiding more than 300 students through Accelerated Reader 360, a youth literacy program in use since September that allows students to earn points toward prizes and reach their goals as they are tested on books they read.

Principal Jeffrey Montz said the $4,000 upgrade — funded through the Dollar General Literacy Foundation — allows teachers to incorporate non-fiction selections into their lessons, pairing activities and questions that encourage students to use critical thinking.

“If our students develop a love of reading in the process, that would be an added bonus,” he said.

Students in kindergarten through seventh grade participate in Accelerated 360. In all other content areas, students are encouraged to read books for pleasure and take online tests, bringing them closer to their reading goals and earning them points to spend on prizes in the Accelerated Reader store.

Non-fiction reading selections include an array of topics to incorporate into learning activities throughout the curriculum and may be assigned to students for independent, group or class work.

School leaders said Accelerated Reader 360 makes tracking student progress and assessing growth easy, providing meaningful information about individual student learning.

St. Joan of Arc administrators received word they were receiving the grant Sept. 8.

The school’s previous accelerated reader program allowed students to take online tests on books they read, while the new version provides the non-fiction texts teachers can integrate into all lessons.

Development Director Mona Roussel said activities based on those selections involve reading comprehension and writing skills.

“Students are required to read, cite, write and take a quiz on each selection,” she said.

“The variety of reading passages available allows students to choose what they like to read while also giving teachers a wide range of selections to assign, which insures they will be able to find an applicable selection for their current subject matter or skill. The updated reporting features of and new activities in the program provide valuable information to the teachers about individual student performance as it relates to specific skills.”