Home Books Are Read Alongs (Round Robin, Popcorn) a good idea?

Are Read Alongs (Round Robin, Popcorn) a good idea?


A blast from the past: This blog was published on November 19, 2017 and republished on May 21, 2022. I would like to say that its original publication put an end to the practice of circular reading. Unfortunately, too many teachers continue to cling to practice – I suspect mainly because they don’t know what else to do. And at least some teachers who manage to get away with this practice try to rely solely on silent reading, which is simply not enough (monitoring students’ oral reading progress is informative, especially in the elementary grades). Perhaps this blog is worth another look as it goes beyond complaining about the circular system, offering a practical and powerful alternative.

Teacher’s question:

I am a UK teacher; here we often use shared reading (the teacher or students read the text to the whole class while other students follow their own text). There is growing concern that this is ineffective for several reasons. The main point at this point is that simultaneous reading and listening has a higher cognitive load than independent reading or listening separately. What do you recommend?

Shanahan’s response:

The practice of having students read together, as you describe, is often called what is now a pejorative term, “round robin.” The term originally comes from Great Britain, so perhaps its pedagogical misuse started there as well (yes, blame the British).

At the time when sailors had a grievance, they would sign a round instrument so no one could tell who signed first. Nowadays, anything that takes turns can be called a circular system, including the practice of reading aloud in turns.

When I was a boy, that meant 50 times because there were usually about 50 kids in a class. And this reading was really done in turns… so if you were the seventh child in a row, you knew you would have to read the seventh paragraph.


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