- It slows down reading rates.
- It lowers the quantity of reading students do. (Research estimates that students actually read between two to six minutes in a typical round robin reading session. Any way you slice it, it’s not much.)
- It is ineffectual at improving reading comprehension. When reading aloud, pronunciation is emphasized over meaning. In turn, text is often read slowly and disfluently which interferes with meaning making.
- It is detrimental to fluency because children are often asked to read texts that are too difficult which leads to choppy models of what reading sounds like.
- It highlights the displeasures of reading leaving children feeling disinclined to pick up books and read on their own.
Yet, in spite of the strong case against round robin reading, over 59% of kindergarten through eighth grade teachers admit to using popcorn reading as a teaching tool in their classrooms. And I suspect that if we had a way of being omnipresent in all classrooms, we’d discover that that there might be a percentage more teachers secretly holding on to this teaching practice. The question we need to ask now is: why?
- It models what expert reading sounds like.
- It helps kids know and love many different authors.
- It exposes children to many genres.
- It actively engages children in thinking and meaning making while enjoying the piece being shared.
- It conditions the brain to associate reading with pleasure.
- It creates background knowledge.
- It builds vocabulary.
Some might argue that reading the text aloud does nothing to build reading volume but when you weigh the amount of time children actually read during round robin (>5 minutes) against the benefits of a read aloud, it seems like a no brainer.
If the issue remains that we want our students to do the reading, then why not have them read it silently? Teachers often worry that student won’t actually read or might not understand what they read. If that’s the case, we’ve got to consider the underlying issues. Are they not reading because they don’t have the stamina they need to get through the text? Are they not reading because the text is too hard? It is only through honest reflection that we are able to answer these questions and in answering them, we inevitably find our way to better alternatives to round robin reading.
When your students need to come together around a shared text, how do you make sure they all get what they need? What alternatives do you propose?