What’s the Deal with Round-Robin
Uh-oh. Am I totally opening a can of worms right now?
Round-robin is a practice that is probably as American as apple pie. In case you haven’t heard the term, round-robin means everyone has a copy of the text. You choose students to take turns reading aloud. When one student finished reading aloud, maybe you stop him or her and have a teaching point or a conversation. Then you move to the next student. Sometimes this happens during guided reading. Sometimes teachers use this as a whole-class reading strategy. They may call on students randomly, move in a predictable pattern, or ask students to “popcorn read”, where a student reads a piece, stops wherever they want, and then calls on the next student to read.
Here’s the thing: research shows that round robin is not the most effective way to grow readers.
1. Only one student is doing the reading at any time, rather than all of your students.
2. Round-robin means that students are reading aloud, which some people like because they feel like it’s good for fluency. The issue is that your students aren’t the best model of fluency in the classroom. You are.
3. When one student is reading, the others might be “following along”, but are they thinking, comprehending and reacting, or are they just desperately trying to keep track in case they’re next? Or, if you move in a predictable pattern, they are probably counting out the paragraphs until they figure out which part is going to be theirs. Then they’re practicing it in their heads, over and over. How do I know this? Because I used to do that.
4. Studies show that, when kids read in round-robin fashion, they are actually doing far less reading than by using other methods.
5. Studies also show that round-robin encourages a few bad habits: teachers interrupting to tell students what the word is when they’re struggling, which results in students interrupting other students to tell them words they are having trouble with.
6. Round-robin puts teachers and students in a tough spot. Do you call on the struggling reader to read aloud? If you do, you’re asking them to struggle in front of everyone, which is very hard on self-esteem. If you don’t, the other kids notice that you don’t, and decide that student is a “bad reader”. That student does, too. (They probably already feel that way, but this confirms it.)
Am I telling you you’re doing it all wrong? No! But when we learn something new, we should apply that to our teaching, right? So then what do we do instead of round-robin?
Tomorrow, I’m going to share an alternative to round-robin reading that you can use during guided reading to make sure that each child is reading and thinking.
It’s a great method. The other day I modeled it with a third grade teacher and she said, “Oh my gosh. My kids got so much more out of this lesson than they do when I use round-robin!” So I promise you it works.