Pauls Valley Democrat
In an environment constantly competing for a child’s attention, it is to an educator’s advantage when they can find a tool that more easily engages them in the learning process.
Following this logic, it didn’t take Elmore City-Pernell High School English teacher Shellie Wallace long to get excited about using technology to get her students more engaged in reading.
After applying for a grant over the summer, she was awarded funding with the start of the school year back in August for the district’s first Accelerated reading program at the upper grade levels.
Since starting the new program she has already seen positive impacts.
“This will be the first year we’ve used this program... I can already see a benefit for it,” said Wallace, who said it didn’t actually start being used until the second 6-week period due to how long it took to set up the program and see which books in library were a part of it.
“We told the kids we are learning along with them.”
It’s seen as a necessary change of a trend in a lot of classrooms where many kids lose any personal motivation to keep reading once they leave elementary school, said Wallace.
Through this program offered by Renaissance Learning that will be required for everyone enrolled 7th-12th grade, kids are required to read at least a few books in order to gain enough points throughout the year for a passing grade.
While it has not changed the situation for those who were avid readers to begin with, Wallace has seen the number of checkouts and interest from students increase from around 20 books overall a day to about 50.
The program lasts about nine weeks and some of the students have actually already met the point total with weeks left to go.
“It’s sad that we have to force them to read, but it will help them with their vocabulary and writing,” said Wallace. “Our students, once they leave grade school they stop reading.”
What really impressed Wallace was when she recently dedicated a day to just reading, all the students spent the day participating.
It’s easy to get her students involved because they can use any computer that has Internet access instead of installing software and all the kids have to do is type in the book number in the online program for a test based on the material and they are good to go.
In the end, Wallace believes it will help improve test scores in all areas of study and is proud to be a part of it.
The grant, which was about $6,183, helped establish the program permanently through the Southern Oklahoma Memorial Foundation and the only continued cost will be a yearly maintenance fee.
“It’s nice to see kids carrying library books with them,” said Wallace. “Our main goal in getting it going was encouraging reading for pleasure and to improve test scores and other areas.”