Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2016

Accelerated Reader 360

Boundless, flexible tools promote instructional, independent reading

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • English Language Learning
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
3-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (5 Reviews)

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Pros: Great teacher tools track progress with great visuals in real time; built-in texts make for especially easy use.

Cons: Quizzes may take the joy out of independent reading, especially for struggling readers.

Bottom Line: A stellar literacy platform for assessing student reading levels and promoting further reading.

Use Accelerated Reader 360 as your main tool for tracking your students' independent reading. Have students regularly track the books they're reading for fun with the app. Be sure to help your students set reasonable reading goals (like advancing their reading level or reading a certain number of books in a month) and show them how the app can help them track their progress.

You can also use this tool as your go-to tool for assigning nonfiction texts to your students. Require them to complete the activities and quizzes, either as graded practice or for participation credit in your class.

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Accelerated Reader 360 is an e-reader platform (with an iOS app version) that helps students develop their independent reading and instructional reading skills. This product now features tools that were previously part of other tools created and acquired by developer Renaissance Learning, including AR 360, Accelerated Reader, and Subtext. Those products' features are now part of a single streamlined Accelerated Reader 360 experience. This tool can help teachers understand their students' reading levels and recommend appropriate texts for each user's always-updating "Discovery Bookshelf." Students can browse texts and gauge their own reading progress through their dashboard. Meanwhile, teachers get detailed reports about students' progress, and they can use this data to assign different texts to their students, or to strategically target instruction or assignments in the classroom.

Accelerated Reader doesn't always include the texts themselves; instead, it's designed to be a tracking system for students' reading and a way to offer quizzes on comprehension. Students can set their own reading goals, input a fiction or nonfiction book they've just completed, then take a built-in quiz, and their resulting score helps determine their current reading score (using Lexile measures and the developer's proprietary ATOS measurement system). Meanwhile, the AR 360 app focuses on "instructional reading" skills using informational texts. There are also full-text versions of tons of instructional and informational texts available, including a variety of nonfiction texts and news topics. Each of these texts includes instructional skills practice (like writing prompts) and a built-in quiz.

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If you're a fan of Subtext, you'll recognize a lot of its best features in Accelerated Reader 360. Renaissance Learning acquired Subtext and thoughtfully integrated the best features from its many products into a single, powerful literacy platform. There's an embarrassment of riches here: There are comprehension assessments for more than 170,000 titles and counting, a spectacular amount of data available for every student's performance, and a ton of info about how to get started with the tools and make them work in the classroom. Compared with other literacy platforms (like Lightsail or StudySync, for example), Accelerated Reader stands out for not including all of its referenced and covered texts as part of an e-reading experience. It's refreshing for a digital tool to expect many students to still be reading non-digital books. That's not to say there's not a good digital reading experience; that's here too, and there are some some spectacular features included, many of which are a great fit for the Common Core-aligned classroom. 

The one real limitation for Accelerated Reader 360 may be its potential to promote individual reading practice. Fluent, enthusiastic readers will be thrilled, since it's fun to take a quiz on a book you loved, especially when you know you'll ace it. Less confident readers, however, may resist the quiz requirement. If students are already reluctant to take quizzes at school, then bringing quizzes to independent reading may not always foster positive feelings of achievement or accomplishment. If students know a comprehension quiz awaits, it's possible that they might not completely buy into the pleasure of independent reading in this scenario. Adding some more in the way of social features -- like the ability to interact with classmates via social annotation or reflection, or the ability to share recent reads -- might be helpful ways to further engage and encourage skeptical readers. Nevertheless, this is a spectacular system for determining students' reading levels and helping them grow.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Some kids might balk at taking quizzes on books they've read for fun, but the great design and instant feedback are compelling reasons to keep reading and searching for the next book.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Well-designed quizzes and activities demand meaningful reflection and challenge kids to develop their reading skills. Terrific reports and interface help teachers tailor instruction especially for each student's needs.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Great built-in tours, online instructional videos, and a lively user community make for a supportive, intuitive experience.


Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Kelli G. , Media specialist/librarian
Media specialist/librarian
Motivates students to read and includes useful, polished teaching tools.

For most of my students, Accelerated Reader was a useful program that helped shape reading instruction in my classroom. However, the quizzes and point goals that are central to the program do not motivate and engage all students; the program would benefit from more variation in quiz format and child-friendly gamification.

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