R.I.P. Round Robin: 19 Reasons Why It Is Not a Best Practice


First of all, welcome back to another brand new school year! You are feeling rejuvenated and refreshed and ready to make a difference in the lives of the 24 or so young people in your classroom? Summer was great. You read some books and blog posts or maybe even attended a conference.  Hopefully by today, everyone is back in school starting a brand new...


... school year, so I hope you make it your greatest year yet with high levels of thinking and speaking and that your students exceed maximum growth in all areas.  With that said, let me go back to summer, and something that happened on my summer journeys that inspired this post.



 I had the wonderful opportunity to present at the national iTeach1st Conference in Las Vegas this summer (and the TpT Conference), and after my I Heart Guided Reading workshop, several teachers came up to me and said, "So we're not supposed to be doing Round Robin Reading anymore?" N.O. No more Round Robin Reading.  I feel like the word is out on this (and has been for quite some time) but not every teacher has received the memo....OR...they received the memo and are still doing it anyway.  There is no research to support that students become better readers by Round Robin Reading...not to mention the No.1 reason that Round Robin Reading is NOT a Best Practice...it doesn't help in the "getting kids to love reading" department of teaching!  So, without further delay...my top 19 Reasons Why Round Robin Reading (and other turn-taking Reading) is NOT a Best Practice in reading instruction. As if the first 5 reasons aren't enough...there's a full 19 reasons just for good explicit measure!

Download it free HERE.

There are several bottom lines on why Round Robin Reading does not help readers become better readers. The number one reason seems so obvious. Children hold onto meaning when they read the WHOLE story themselves. If children do not read the whole story themselves, and read it only in a Round Robin format, and let's say they have three turns and the story is 16 pages long, then that means they are only reading page 1, 8 and 16 (hypothetically). That's like the first 16th of a movie, the 8/16th of the movie and the last 16th of a movie...are you really going to comprehend the movie by only watching a fraction of it at the beginning, middle and end of the movie?  

The next bottom line and second main reason to NOT do Round Robin Reading is the emotional agitation, aggravation, and anxiety it causes both high readers and low readers. Low readers are self-conscious enough as it is that their reading is labored and slow, so the last thing they want is a public performance spotlighting their reading challenges and imperfections.  On the same but different note, it is painful for high readers to listen to low readers struggle through text and have to listen to the labored, incorrect, slow oral reading.  This is why peer Round Robin readers just TELL struggling readers the words at tricky spots, because THEY CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE.  So listen, let's not put high or low readers through this emotional turmoil for no reason or research base behind doing so.

And here's the third most important bottom line...Round Robin Reading (and other turn-taking reading) does NOT help kids LOVE reading!

Reading Engagement Photo Credit: Hope King at Elementary Shenanigans

In a survey, teachers said they used Round Robin for a few different reasons:

1. " because kids said they liked it..."
My response: Kids may know what they like but they don't always know what's best for them or other students. Reading less is less work, kids are experts and figuring out ways to do less work. Let's not give in to this.
Non Round Robin Reading Solution:
 Partner Reading. 
When kids do Partner Reading, they get to read out loud, listen to each other read, and read the whole text. Each partner is responsible for the comprehension of the whole text.

2: "to help my students' reading stamina..."
My response: Kids do not improve their reading stamina by reading only parts of a text, and by doing start/stop reading.
Non Round Robin Reading Solution:
Reading Stamina Graph. 
Kids will only increase their stamina if they A)know what reading stamina is; B)have strategies and a plan (goals) to increase it; and C)have a way to progress monitor themselves to see if they are improving at what they said they wanted to improve. Have students keep a Reading Stamina Graph and record their daily stamina minutes by shading up to the number of minutes read without interruptions or leaving their just right spot.

3. "to help my students' increase their fluency & comprehension..."
My response: In order to increase your fluency and comprehension, you have to read the whole anything of anything to comprehend it, and you have read the whole enchilada more than once or twice.  Ever listen to the tail end of a conversation? See the middle part only of a movie? Or, listen to half of a voice message?  Comprehension does not occur without ALL the information, and sometimes we have to listen or watch it twice...that's what good listeners do!
Non Round Robin Reading Solution:
Close Reading
All students read the text, on their own, at their own pace, individually. If the text is hard or intellectually challenging, but short, they should do it at your guided reading table. Each student has their own copy of the text. Each student annotates on their own paper.  The teacher asks questions of the students and a discussion about the text ensues. Repeat: A collaborative discussion ensues. The discussion covers the three main strands of the reading standards over a three day period, at least, where the first day discussion is about Standards 1-3 - Key Ideas and Details, translation, WHAT THE TEXT SAYS.
 Day 2 discussion is about Standards 4-6 - Author's Craft and Structure - translation - HOW THE AUTHOR IS SAYING IT.
And the Day 3 discussion is about Standards 7-9 - translation -
WHAT THE TEXT MEANS.
  This technique is known as Close Reading.
Non Round Robin Reading Solution:
Guided Reading
 If the text is not hard, or at the group's instructional level, but students read the text, on their own, individually at their own pace and you listen in to one reader at a time, while you listen to the rest of the students out of the corner of your ear, this technique is called Guided Reading.
Non Round Robin Reading Solution:
Independent Reading
If the student can read the text at a better accuracy rate than 95%, like 96-100%, then this would be considered an independent level for that student.  For example, students in a guided reading level F, would have at least 8-10 books in their independent reading basket at level E, or D and E.  With this, the student is doing several repeated readings of the same books, increasing their fluency and making very few errors on the text. The student can find a just-right spot and sit in a just-right position and read and reread the books in their independent book baskets to themselves, out loud, silently or into a whisper phone. Many students can co-read all around the room in this structure, while you read with students at guided reading.  This structure is otherwise known as Independent Reading, and there is very little chance for disruption and non-comprehension because students are feeling like successful readers in their independent reading level zone. See pictures below of students reading books at their independent reading level, in just-right spots, in just-right positions. Research also shows that students are motivated to read books higher than their independent reading level because it's a book they are interested in, motivated to read, and have self-selected, then they are most apt to actually read it despite it being "above" their reading level.





Reading Rockets also shares 11 alternatives to Round Robin Reading.

And, a great article by to pretty much sums up why we need to put Round Robin Reading to rest, once and for all. 

Click here to download it. 
(The co-author of this article is a different Jennifer Jones, not me)
I wish everyone the best teaching year yet! 


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24 comments

Melissa Reed said...

I love the alternatives you give to help teachers replace that round robin habit. Thanks for this post!

Melissa
Mrs. Reed’s Resource Room

Heather Ayers said...

I loved this post! I was a pretty fluent reader as a kid, but I still remember the boredom of waiting my turn and the anxiety/horror of having to read in front of my class without making mistakes :) I'm curious.....is there a similar body of research that addresses rote spelling activities such as "rainbow words", or writing words three times each? I see these tasks assigned frequently in various classrooms in my schools and now in my son's weekly homework folder, and can't help but think these activities are counter-productive since they don't really reinforce decoding/encoding strategies such as chunking, finding words within words, etc. What's your opinion?

Jessica said...

Jen, this post is amazing. I'm surprised by how many classrooms I walk by and hear teachers still using this practice. I'll be printing your list of reasons!

Jessica Pelka said...

Amen. Thank you for putting this into writing!

Genia Farinha said...

I teach k online. How would you do guided reading in that setting?

The Trapped Librarian said...

Great article! Terrific reasoning and great alternatives that will help our students read more and love reading! Thanks!

Mychal said...

Great post. What do you do about reading sections in textbooks? We have reading, science, and social studies textbooks that we read out of. I want to make sure the kids are reading the text, but some kids are below the reading level of the textbooks and can't read it independently. Should the teacher read it aloud to the class? Should they read it in partners? Doing small groups for all of the textbook selections isn't exactly feasible.

Abby Batlle said...

amen.

Alison LearningAtThePrimaryPond said...

Amen! I love that you found 19 reasons why it's not a good practice!!!

Alison

Amanda said...

I agree; some of received "the memo" but have chosen to ignore it. It makes me sad because last year I had a class who LOVED to read; that was their favorite free time activity. I think every child should have the opportunity to love reading by having someone show them how fun reading can be. Thanks for getting the word out!

Amanda
A Very Curious Class

Ashley said...

Love this!! I only wish more teachers would stop doing Round Robin reading........

Lauren said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I have been a huge fan of Hello Literacy for awhile! You are my "go to" for top notch literacy resources and have recently inspired me to start my own blog to help support teachers in my school! I hope you'll check it out!
http://fortheloveofliteracy1.blogspot.com/?m=1

Ashley said...

Hello,
I was just wondering if you have any articles or research on this topic for high school readers/teachers? I will have to admit that I use Round Robin/popcorn reading in class with certain texts, but I just don't know a better way. For example, right now we are reading The Crucible and each student has a part. I can tell it's not going well for most students (they read ahead to find their parts, zone out when they don't have a part that day, get embarrassed etc.), but I've tried a couple of other stratigies that don't seem to work any better honestly (listening to a recording, small group reading). Secondary teachers are taught very little about how to get students to read and comprehend independently while in a whole class setting. I can find stratigies to work will smaller texts, but it's the novels and plays that I struggle with finding ways to read in class with using round robin. Any advice?

Jessica R said...

This is the first blog post I've read on your site and have to say that I really enjoyed reading it! I am currently a substitute teacher and work in K-6 schools. I have to follow teacher’s lesson plans and they sometimes leave me with a whole class "Round Robin Reading" or "Popcorn Reading" assignment. I took the time, one day, to look at the student's facial expressions and reactions when I announced we would be doing a whole class “Round Robin”. Everything you listed is absolutely true! I looked around and saw students who were bored, frustrated, reading ahead, not reading at all, lost, confused, doodling. Even the high readers weren’t grasping the concepts presented in the text because they were too busy trying to catch pronunciation errors or find students who were not following along. I didn't really consider the detrimental effects that "Round Robin" reading can have on our students. I absolutely love the alternate solutions you offer. Literacy is such an important part of not only our curriculum, but also of our society and it shouldn’t gain a bad rep or become a chore. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

Jessica R.

Jessica R said...

This is the first blog post I've read on your site and have to say that I really enjoyed reading it! I am currently a substitute teacher and work in K-6 schools. I have to follow teacher’s lesson plans and they sometimes leave me with a whole class "Round Robin Reading" or "Popcorn Reading" assignment. I took the time, one day, to look at the student's facial expressions and reactions when I announced we would be doing a whole class “Round Robin”. Everything you listed is absolutely true! I looked around and saw students who were bored, frustrated, reading ahead, not reading at all, lost, confused, doodling. Even the high readers weren’t grasping the concepts presented in the text because they were too busy trying to catch pronunciation errors or find students who were not following along. I didn't really consider the detrimental effects that "Round Robin" reading can have on our students. I absolutely love the alternate solutions you offer. Literacy is such an important part of not only our curriculum, but also of our society and it shouldn’t gain a bad rep or become a chore. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

Jessica R.

Stacey Krosschell said...

What a great post! I remember hating round robin reading as a child and I have experienced the pain of the children in my own classroom. The love of reading is definitely not found in this type of reading. I enjoyed reading the 19 reasons and the alternatives you listed. With the new common core reading standards and the use of close reads, dumping the round robin reading is a must. I find that pairing my students up according to similar reading ability and giving them a passage to read together is more beneficial, more fun, and more effective. It is important to teach our students that reading is fun!

Laura Kirschner said...

Thank you- I am sending your 19 Reasons to our teachers!

Cheryl said...

I have not done round robin reading for quite a few years other than as a rare screening method for a quick evaluation of student skills,. These last couple of years, I became aware of a side effect of this. Many students are no longer able to fluently read aloud. Even my highly competent Honors students who can write a twelve page novella instead of a simple narrative can't read it aloud to other students. They stumble, they pause for long periods while they think over a pronunciation, they do not use inflection or put emotion into their reading. I began to investigate this by occasionally asking a student to read a preface or introduction to a piece of work. Almost universally, I am seeing the same things. Those who do read aloud fluently reveal they read to their parents a lot when younger or have younger siblings they constantly read to. When presenting projects or reading their own work, (I have ELA classes) my students often stumble or their presentation falls flat. How can we include oral reading practice for all students in a manageable, time-efficient way? I do have students try out for parts and read orally for several plays we read during the year, and I often model oral reading myself, but when I have high level 7th graders who do not read out loud well when they are capable of reading and comprehending college level work, I have a problem I need to address. Has anyone noticed this and used any remedial methods successfuly? They also read and share materials in literature circles, but that is not enough practice to overcome the larger problem. I feel all students need to be able to read aloud effectively. It is a skill needed in many professions.

June Valle said...

Amazing post.

Ashley said...

Yes! Thank you so much! I am so glad I came across this. I see it all the time- the boredom, the anxiety, the pressure. I am going to spread the word. Thanks again!

buzzer said...

Thank you! Since we get no PD in our district and I have limited funds, your site helps me learn and affirms so much of what I do. AMEN!

Arache Wilson said...

This post is wonderful!!! As a pre-service teacher, this post really opened my eyes to why this practice needs to be non-existent in my classroom. Many of my professors have also voiced their opinions on this matter, but it is so hard to understand what right and wrong when I see teacher in my placement implementing this practice daily. I am going to share this post with my professors and other students, because I think we all need to hear this.

Julie Rehmer said...

Thank you Jennifer. This is a topic we discussed at school recently during lunch. Here's my question...what are your thoughts for instruction while reading a novel with a group of students? For example, I have a group of 20 students who are reading one year or more above grade level. I read with them for 30 minutes a day. We read novels and take turns reading orally. I read a page or two aloud and they volunteer to read aloud or I select students. They love our reading and discussion is great. Students are comprehending based in assessments. Would you still consider this technique to be wrong? In the other hand, I'm responsible for reading novels with smaller groups of students who are reading below grade level. How would you go about reading a novel such as "Because of Winn Dixie" with a group of 10 5th graders for 30 minutes a day? I appreciate your expertise and any insights you may have.

Jennifer Napoleon said...

I remember my 8th grade year. We were reading a textbook round robin. My anxiety was high and I stuttered through my section. To this day, I remember my teacher making fun of my slow, laborious reading. It was tramatizing. Thanks for posting.

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