“Back in the day” we used the Round Robin technique for reading. It seemed to be a way to make everyone participate in reading. Everyone took a turn, either in a specific order or in a random “popcorn” order. I was never sure about this process. I had a few questions:
- Am I trying to “catch” someone not paying attention? That seemed so mean. “I want to catch you off guard and punish you by reading.” Hmmm? That’s not a message I want.
- Did I want to showcase or protect my struggling readers? Do I strategically pick a short paragraph or an easy passage for those struggling readers.
I have a family member who distinctly remembers “round robin” reading and the pain of it. She was an insecure reader and she knew she would always have to read paragraph 5 based on her last name. It was anxiety before, during, and after the reading. She would practice, practice, practice rereading paragraph 5 while the other students were reading paragraphs 1-4, then she would feel panicked when she was reading the paragraph, and finally it would take her the next few paragraphs to settle herself and listen again. SOOOO…for her, she knew the information in the 5th paragraph and in last third of the text. This method did nothing to enhance her learning. In a blog post from Jen Jones at HelloLiteracy, R.I.P. Round Robin: 19 Reasons Why it is Not Best Practice, Jen gives reasons why round robin isn’t a preferred method for reading. And my colleagues, Jennifer Jones (yes, there are 2 Jen Jones talking about round robin) and Katie Hilden stated in a April 2012 Reading Today article, “Sweeping Round Robin Reading Out of the Classroom,” We know of no research evidence that supports the claim that RRR actually contributes to students becoming better readers, whether in terms of their fluency or comprehension.”
In fact, there is more research to support STOPPING this method than there is to support this method. The overwhelming fact is Round Robin can actually disrupt learning. Let’s look at a few of the “Disrupting Effects of Round Robin.”
Ironically, one of the most vocal reasons teachers think “round robin” or “popcorn” reading is good is because “it keeps everyone on their toes, ready to read” when, in fact, their attention is disrupted from the text and content every time the teacher calls on a new student. The moments between one student finishing, the teacher calling on another student, and that student starting to read are precious and their attention is disrupted. Students are asked to attend to text when it is read by a variety of readers with different levels of pitch, intonation, decoding skills, and fluency, all while maintaining their attention to the content of the passage. Like the person in the above example from a family friend, the reader’s attention was focused on the fear of reading, not what was being read.
Speaking of fluency, many articles discuss the actual disfluency presented with round robin reading. Students are asked to listen to reading from all their peers. Unfortunately, all their peers aren’t at the same fluency level. Some readers are lacking speed. Some lack the appropriate pitch levels for correct emphasis. Some are poor decoders who will struggle with reading aloud. In the article, “Analyzing “Inconsistencies” in Practice: Teachers’ Continued Use of Round Robin Reading” by Ash, Kuhn, & Walpole (2009), the authors refer to Allington’s research in 1980 that found students were mostly presented with disfluent reading examples that can actually interrupt “development of accurate and automatic word recognition, preventing students from developing proficiency in their decoding.” Ash and Kuhn also stated in the article, What’s Wrong with Round Robin, “it is also the case that breaking up a text into smaller passages actually works against developing fluency; instead of building up students’ reading stamina, it actually limits it.” One of the greatest benefits of listening to good reading is learning how various fluency principals can enhance reading, likewise, listening to struggled or interrupted reading can only hurt examples of fluency and, ultimately, comprehension.
Using the two previous examples, disrupting attention and fluency can only lead to problems with comprehension. Let’s look at a round robin scenario: we were reading a story about two friends. I don’t really remember the introductions of the friends because I was so nervous about reading my paragraph. My paragraph tells me about these friends at the park. I know what they did and what they ate at the park. When I’m done reading, I take a few moments to settle my nerves and I hear all about the ride home from the park on their bikes. If I’m asked about the park visit or the bike ride, I’m good. However, there are plenty of holes in the story. Comprehension can be further disrupted by mispronunciations, decoding hesitations or struggles.
When students are truly engaged in reading, they are paying attention to details, using fluent features to make connections and comprehending the concepts and plots of a story. When round robin reading is employed as a reading technique the engagement in the text is decreased. The culmination of all of the disruptions mentioned above can be directly correlated to the reader’s engagement in the text. Several interruptions in reading can lead to frustration for the reader. The first way students make headway with comprehension is engagement. Students actually have less time reading when round robin reading is the structure of the lesson. Student investment in a story can equal student engagement. Reading one paragraph in a story or article cannot produce the same results of reading the entire article.
So now what?
If we are determining that round robin isn’t the best choice for reading what are good choices for reading. There are many articles, chapters in books, and entire books dedicated to better choices for round robin reading.
11 Alternatives to “Round Robin” and “Popcorn” Reading is an article through edutopia. This includes Peer-Assisted Learning Strategy, Timed Repeated Readings, and Fluency-Oriented Reading Instruction (FORI). There are examples and links included in this article.
Alternatives to Round Robin Reading by Mrs. Judy Auarjo is a blog post about the same. Some similar ideas are available, but she also discusses Partner Reading, Choral Reading, and Echo Reading.
There is no research that shows the benefits of round robin reading. NONE. Actually, there is plenty of research that shows the disrupting effect of this practice. We need to take this procedure out of our classrooms…for good.