Thursday, January 7, 2010

BEST Practices: NOT Round-Robin Reading

Happy Friday Friends and Colleagues,

While reading the True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle years ago, I learned of a custom that sailors practiced when they had a grievance or when they were planning nefarious mischief such a staging a mutiny. The seamen signed their names on a "round robin" which looked like a wheel with spokes attached to a hub. Each signature was written on a spoke, and so the leader or the instigator was not exposed as his name was not at the top of a list.

With such an ignoble beginning, I wonder how any positive derivative of the term has survived. While a round-robin tournament is an effective way to organize a sporting event, round-robin reading is the LEAST effective strategy to organize oral reading in a classroom.

Round-robin reading is defined in The Literacy Dictionary as “the outmoded practice of calling on students to read orally one after the other” (Harris & Hodges 1995, p.222). And yet, it still occurs in far too many schools throughout our district, and from what I've read, throughout our nation.

I was talking to my elementary counter parts, and they were very surprised that round-robin reading is practiced in a secondary setting at all. They thought it was only an elementary problem. Now, please know that I have been guilty of resorting to that routine as well, and I knew better, too. But it's really time we put that pathetic practice to bed for good.

Research stresses that round-robin reading is not only ineffective, it is detrimental! And you can understand why just from your own observations because students are ...
  • NOT following along
  • texting
  • working on something else
  • bored
  • sleeping
  • drooling
  • embarrassed to read aloud or ...
  • overeager to read aloud, as in their hand is waving for yet another turn
I used to justify the practice by telling myself that I could assess their fluency when they read aloud during round-robin sessions, but there are better and more effective ways to do that - ways that don't bore the dozens of other students in the classroom.

One way is to conduct those individual reading conferences during silent reading as Dr. Reutzel suggests. This is how such a tete a tete might play out:

Teacher (in a soft voice): Hi, what are you reading today?
Student (in a too loud voice): I'M READING -
Teacher: Shhhhh. Quieter, please. I'm right here and can hear you if you speak softly in my good ear.
Student (in a softer voice): I'm reading The Road.
Teacher: Show me a paragraph you just finished reading. (Student points to 3rd paragraph on page 29.) Okay. Could you softly read that paragraph to me?

Student reads aloud.

Teacher: What's happening at this point?
Student: You know a nuclear bomb has gone off, right? Well, the father is trying to find food for his son, and he's left him and the shopping cart for a few minutes to follow some tracks he thinks might lead him to something.

Depending upon the students' responses, the teacher can decide whether or not to ask the student to read a few more lines, predict what he thinks is going to happen next, make some connections, etc.
An 8th grade teacher recently told me she conducted a similar activity with her students and was able to get around to almost all of them. "I really liked it," she said. "And I'll do it again."

Tomorrow I'll share some other ideas to use instead of dredging up the wretched stand-by round-robin reading. Boo. Hiss.

Take care, okay.


sobeit said...

This is my 13th year to teach, and I am absolutely against round-robin reading. Besides the reasons that you gave, my main reason is personal. IT'S BORING! (LOL) There are so many other effective ways to assess the fluency and comprehension of students!

Great site...will bookmark!

Cat said...

Nice one!

link2literacy said...

Cat, if you aren't a teacher, you might not find this blog all that entertaining, but thanks so much for dropping by. You might like reading my other blog

Susannw said...

Nice post. I like the alternative strategy you gave. Sobeit is so right!

Wendy Peale said...

Interesting post. What are some suggestions to having the material read aloud that does not call for the teacher reading or using a tape (usually not available)? Students get bored if the teacher always reads. I, too, don't like round-robin reading especially when the eager student waving their hand in the air is not fluent in reading!
Students can read silently or can read to each other: With these methods, however, it is more difficult to work through difficult passages, words, or ideas as they are encountered.