THE WORST READING STRATEGY IN THE WORLD—and one of the most common—is round robin reading. For decades, literacy experts have warned against this method; yet teachers continue to practice it. Sadly, building leaders fail to challenge them when they do. What is round robin reading? You probably remember it from your own school days. The class will open a book and Miss Chilblain will ask a student to read aloud. Johnny will read a page, stumbling over many words as Miss Chilblain supplies the correct pronunciation of each. Meanwhile, the other students are doing one of the following:
• Reading ahead to examine the page they’ll read when it’s their turn
• Complaining that they can’t hear or can’t understand Johnny
• Causing trouble (anything from spitballs to fistfights)
As a staff developer, one of my lifelong goals has been to put an end to the use of this most useless of pedagogical strategies. I have failed. Round robin reading is alive and well—and it’s hurting our kids.
When teachers use this method, they labor under the illusion that something productive is happening, but students are not gaining comprehension strategies, decoding strategies or content knowledge. They’re tuning out.
If round robin reading is being used in your school, I recommend that you gather other PTA members, visit the principal and throw a fit. Round robin reading is a waste of instructional time and a waste of taxpayers’ money. There are alternatives.
Teachers (or parents) model comprehension strategies by giving a child a book to read and then assessing how well he/she is using the strategy. Predicting is one such strategy. Adults can use a model reading passage to demonstrate how they use characters’ words and actions to predict what will happen later in the story.
The teacher reads aloud as students follow in their own texts. Periodically, the teacher “thinks aloud” how he/she interprets the text. For example, the teacher can demonstrate how to interpret a characters’ feelings by saying, “The hero said (fill in the blank) or did the following (fill in the blank) so know I know he must be feeling (fill in the blank).” Later, young readers can try the same type of comprehension strategy in texts of their own.
The teacher reads a short passage, demonstrating how he/she uses punctuation marks as cues to modulating his/her voice. Students then build their fluency skills by reading aloud the same passage.