Achieve 3000 is a great program I came across last year. It’s a computer program for reading non-fiction articles. The amazing part of the program is that it sends the articles to students at their own reading levels, based on an assessment they take when beginning the program each year. Students at lower reading levels will read a shorter article with simpler vocabulary, while more advanced students will read more complex versions of the same article. For severely struggling readers, there are extra interventions the teacher can select, such as having certain parts appear in the student’s native language, or having the passage read aloud.
Getting the Students Started
In order to be used most effectively, the teacher must use the program correctly. The lesson should begin with the students logging onto the system and responding to a question sent by the teacher. The question should assess prior knowledge, or do something to get the students thinking about the topic about which they are to read. The students can reply to the question via their Achieve email, which will be sent directly to the teacher. New this year is an opening poll question which students can vote “yes” or “no” on. After clicking to submit their answer, they are brought to their email, and asked to write about why they voted the way they did. Teachers can choose to use the poll question as their opener. This hits right on the common core initiative of presenting and backing up an argument.
Students will then read the article at their own level, summarizing various paragraphs and making reading connections by clicking tabs within the article, as directed by the teacher. The article always has a map the students can click on to aid their understanding, a picture, and highlighted vocabulary words that will have the definitions pop up when clicked.
The next step is a multiple choice activity, which, again, is sent to students at their level. The same questions are asked of all students, but with different wording. Students will then be directed to the same poll question they saw earlier, but now that they have read the article and possibly learned something new, they will be asked if their opinion has changed. This is also new this year, and a tie in to the common core. The final step is a thought question, which can vary in length, dependent on the parameters set by the teacher. The teacher can award points based on the quality of each response, and respond to the students directly through the system.
Going a Step Further
Last year when using this program, I would do one more step. After the students had finished all the steps for one article, I would show the correct grade level on my computer, using an LCD projector. So, while a class of 11th graders may be reading at 4th, 8th, or 9th grade levels on their own computers, they would now get a glimpse of the same article at an 11th grade level. I would pull out some vocabulary, and using context clues, the class would try to figure out what the words meant. Achieve 3000 has made this job easier for me this year. Now, the students can click a tab above the article to see the article on their screens at their grade level. It gives them a reality check, and a goal. After all, it is at this level that they will be tested on come the state exams.
Will Students Take This Seriously?
I have seen teachers use this program incorrectly, and it becomes more of a baby sitter. Students log on, and pick the first article they see. They then breeze through the multiple choice and poll, and move on to another article without ever having really read the first. The program is best used with guided instruction. I choose an article for my students based on what we are doing in class, and I guide them through each step. I encourage the students to take their time on the multiple choice by telling them to shout it out if they reach the goal of getting 75% on their first try. If they achieve this goal, the score gets recorded on a classroom chart.
The program, itself, has incentives for the students, but this is one area I feel still needs work. The program gives points to students for the amount of time spent on the program, and for the amount of activities completed. This results in students rushing through activities, just to get to the next one. If the teacher sees this happening (and we can, based on reports of how much time each student spends in each area), we can sit down with the student and go over their goals. My students will get the biggest rewards when they have done enough for the program to move them to a higher reading level. This is something that many students dread, having to read more difficult work, but with encouragement, I think this program can get them there.
Believe it or not, I’ve seen the most reluctant readers take to this program. They enjoy the rewards the program gives them, and they like competing with their classmates for points. And anything is more fun with technology. I even enjoy replying to my students’ work via email instead of with paper and pen. It may also help us get back to using academic language in email, rather than “texting” language.
I am not sure how much this program costs, but for schools with technology, see if your principal is willing to give it a try.