Zone of Proximal Development

The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is a term borrowed from psychologist Lev Vygotsky. In Accelerated Reader, the ZPD is a range of book levels that are not too challenging and not too easy--depending upon a student's reading level. Although ZPD itself is not entered or calculated in Accelerated Reader, it is a key component of successful reading practice and goal setting. For more about why ZPD is important, see our Literacy Minutes video about ZPD.

If your students have taken Star Reading tests, you can see a ZPD for each student on the Star Reading Range Report and when you select a student's name in the Accelerated Reader Record Book. Determining a student's reading level (or a Grade Equivalent (GE) score from a standardized test such as Star Reading) and the student's ZPD will help you set an average book level goal and point goal with the student in Accelerated Reader. The ZPD, however, is approximate. Success at any reading level also depends on the student's interest and prior knowledge of a book's content. Teachers should use their professional judgment to adjust the level of books read to match an individual student's needs and interests.

The Star Reading Range report may show Lexile®* Ranges instead of ZPDs if the Lexile® Range preference is set to use Lexile® Ranges for the school. Accelerated Reader may also show Lexile® Ranges if the Lexile® Goals preference for a class is set to use Lexile® measures.

The Lexile® Range for each student is 100L below to 50L above the student's actual Lexile® measure; it represents the boundaries between the easiest kind of reading material for the student and the level at which the student will be more challenged yet can still read successfully.

The table below shows how ZPDs are selected based on some Grade Equivalent (GE) levels. In the table, you'll see a distinctive pattern. Above 2.0, the ZPD begins at a level that is lower than the GE - considerably lower as the GE goes up. This is because the GE from a test represents the highest level at which a student can read short passages, not the level at which the student can read comfortably for hours. Besides that, most noninstructional materials, even for adults, are written at a level below 6.0. (John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, for example, has a book level of 4.9.) If students were asked to only read books that matched their GE, once they tested higher than about 6.0, they would be faced with very difficult, and probably not very enjoyable, material.

Grade-Equivalent Reading Score Suggested ZPD
1.0 1.0-2.0
1.5 1.5-2.5
2.0 2.0-3.0
2.5 2.3-3.3
3.0 2.6-3.6
3.5 2.8-4.0
4.0 3.0-4.5
4.5 3.2-5.0
5.0 3.4-5.4
5.5 3.7-5.7
6.0 4.0-6.1
6.5 4.2-6.5
7.0 4.3-7.0
7.5 4.4-7.5
8.0 4.5-8.0
9.0 4.6-9.0
10.0 4.7-10.0
11.0 4.8-11.0
12.0 4.9-12.0

Accelerated Reader provides recommendations for goals based on a student's GE score and ZPD. You can also find goal-setting guidance based on these scores in the Goal-Settings charts in the Accelerated Reader resources. When you choose a goal model for your class, you can choose to use reading range goals instead of average percent correct goals. You can then set reading range goals for your students based on their Star test scores or grade equivalent levels; goals may be for the full ZPD or just the lower or upper portion. Reading ranges can be set for both English and Spanish. Students can then see their reading ranges on their progress page along with a message about how well they are selecting books within their range.

setting English and Spanish reading ranges

an example of English and Spanish reading ranges on the student progress page

Finding Spanish ZPDs:

To find a ZPD for a student reading in Spanish, the best strategy is for teachers to start students out at what the teacher estimates to be a comfortable independent reading level for the student. The teacher can make that estimate based on the student's performance with any reading material in Spanish that the teacher is already using and/or by having the student read a short passage aloud and gauging the student's fluency. Then, as the student reads books independently in Spanish, the teacher must watch the Accelerated Reader Reading Practice Quiz results closely. If the student averages between 85% and 95% on quizzes, the teacher knows the student is reading within the ZPD. If the student's average is below that, the teacher should lower the range.

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