The Independent Schools Foundation Academy is a non-profit bilingual (Mandarin and English) private independent school in Hong Kong. It is also an IBO World School and offers the IB Middle Years Programme and Diploma Programme. The campus is in Cyberport, Pokfulam, Hong Kong. We had a conversation with Annie Tam – Head Librarian and discussed the way they use Accelerated Reader in the reading programme.

The core focus for encouraging English Language learners

I think for English teachers, the main concern, and for our library as well is we like to nurture into our students a love of reading. That's why the library in our school is the centre for learning. 

A lot of our students come to the library to check out books, we have a range of students who enjoy reading lots of fiction and nonfiction books.

Establishing a structured Reading programme across the school

Every student in our secondary school division has one English library lesson and one Chinese library lesson in a ten-day cycle.

For example, English library lessons are for grade six to grade nine and grade 10 students. So, the English teachers will bring their students to the library to check out books to read and then after reading, they will do Accelerated Reader, seeing as we have implemented both Star Reading and Accelerated Reader since 2009. We also try to label all our books with AR tags. Of course, we do have non-AR books - it's a free choice!

Whenever students have finished reading an AR book, they can take the AR reading quiz, but with the English library lessons, the students have regular time and place to read throughout the school year. Of course, before long holidays begin whenever it's Christmas or Chinese New Year or Easter holiday the library allows students to check out more books to read.

Plus, we have a lot of different new additions such as book displays (some award winning) so all our kids love to read, especially the MYP (Middle Years programme students) students.

Creating a reading culture 

Before the pandemic, we only allowed students to do the AR quizzes at school. For the Language and Literature students, they will read one book within two weeks and for language acquisition, students, they will finish reading one book in a month. That is the minimum expectation, but, of course, some are over the minimum expectation.

Students will come back and then do the AR reading quiz but because of the pandemic students are doing online learning, so we asked Renaissance to let the students be assessed or do the AR reading quizzes at home.

Challenges of hybrid teaching and online learning over the last two years

Because of online learning, sometimes students don’t come back to the library to check out the books they have to read. So, I have started to purchase more online eBooks for them so that they can.

Of course, is not great for their eyesight so that's why we now try to minimize the screen time. During the pandemic, especially, we arranged for students and parents to come back to the school library to check out books.

Screening and Monitoring student progression at home using Star Assessments

I asked Renaissance Place to let students access Star and Accelerated Reader at home. Since we have the online library lesson time, we would do the Star test during that online library lesson, like a normal lesson, but online. The students would do it together during that time. Star Reading tests only take around 20-25 mins and in another 20 minutes, I could let them know their results.

Distributing results

For us, in the secondary division, with the star test we would just share their ZPD score, we are not sharing the report, but for our primary students, they are only doing the star test they're not doing the AR reading quiz. For them, they have a different practice, they would share the report with parents but for us, we just tell students their ZPD so that they can choose the more appropriate and suitable range of books.

How Renaissance solutions have helped overcome general challenges

Renaissance solutions have been beneficial in checking the students' understanding, because sometimes after students have read a book you cannot identify whether they just flipped through very quickly, so for teachers and myself as a teacher/librarian it's better for us to know that the students really understand the story. With the reports there, I can help the teacher to generate the skill building reports that show very clearly what skills students are not very good at, and what their strengths are, especially in their English skills, so that teachers can help them.

Using the tailored skills reports assessing how students are progressing

After every Star Reading test, I'm the one to generate all the reports for English teachers, so we will generate the Star report and then there is a skill building report as well.

Every year, we will do three-star tests in each trimester so we can see how students grow in their language ability.

How Star Assessments supports the MY programme

it's helping us. We do Star Assessments three times a year, especially after the long summer it's a very good way to see how our students' language has developed after say two months' time - that's a very good indicator for the English teacher to start the school year with. Especially to see which aspects of Language and Literature skills they can build on.

Not just does our secondary school use Star tests, but our admission teams also use the Star test as one of the indicators for those applicants who would like to join ISF

We have been using star tests for the admission purposes for nearly maybe 10 years

So, at the moment admission teams and primary students are using star tests before secondary where we are using the whole package of Star and AR.

Then, on top of the AR quizzes our English department also designed booklets for students to have some extended writing activities based on the ar book, they have read to do some extended activities, so I think that also helps to enhance and deepen the students' interests in reading.

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