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I am always amazed that the Round Robin reading still exists. The empirical evidence has shown that it is an ineffective teaching method. Just being an observant teacher would make you realize the kids are bored and off task. Worst of all, it brings humiliation to students who struggle with reading or English.

So how do we engage children in material that is new? How can we share text with a group? How do we build structures that encourage participation in the reading process?

There are two areas that seem to fall into the Round Robin trap. This is not just a primary reading instruction problem. Any other subject which is text driven suffers from the Round Robin disease.

All of the techniques here will work in Grades 2 through 12. Each of these methods requires practice with your class. Take the time to teach the strategy you want to tackle slowly and methodically. It pays off in a class that can jump in and do what needs to be done the next time you use the technique. I can’t stress this enough. It will save you tons of frustration. Even better, when an administrator shows up on a surprise visit, you can whip out the technique, and the class won’t bat an eye.

Choral reading: Choral reading is when a group reads together. They start together and end together like a song. Mix it up. Don’t have Row One read, and then Row Two. Instead, have Row One read, then people wearing black shoes, and then those who have birthdays in the summer. Know your class; if the only two kids in black shoes have reading difficulties, don’t call that group. Most children will understand this technique, although there is sometimes a smarty pant who wants to show how he can read faster than everyone. Remind everyone that it is like singing, then discuss it quietly with your speed reader later.

You can enhance choral reading by focusing on a select idea for the whole class to respond to while reading or listening. You can have them create a hand motion for vocabulary words the whole class uses when reading aloud. For example, if you are focusing on plant life, the class can all buzz like bees when the word “pollinator” is said or use their hands to imitate falling leaves for the word “deciduous.”

Theatrical volunteers: Let students volunteer to read in a theatrical voice. You can even assign a voice, such as greedy or sneaky. At first, there will only be a few volunteers, but the class will like the challenge. This works best if the class has a chance to scan the material at least first. Again, allowing hand movement during the reading helps hold interest. For kinesthetic learners, the motion reinforces the material and helps with retention.

Readers Theater: Divide the class into small groups with a portion of the material you want to cover. Allow each group to develop a “script” from the material. Each group then reads their script to the class. This will take some practice and modeling. Give them options as to the way to present their material. They might choose to do it as news broadcasters or scientists having a discussion. You may discover they have chosen to be the founding fathers while reading a passage about the American Revolution.

Crazy Professor: Follow this link to see how this activity is done. (It is the last video on the page.) It is engaging, and the entire class is involved in learning. My only caveat is to ensure you support your struggling readers and your ELL kids. You can do this by pairing them with someone who can help them with words they don’t know. If they have an IEP, be sure to discuss this activity with their SPED teacher.

Quotes of interest: Ask your students to select their favorite quote from the text. It can be something that piques their interest, a new way to look at something or even something that makes them chuckle. Let them read it to a partner or small group. You can then call on volunteers to read their quotes. You can question them as to why they chose that line. This technique provides ownership of the material and allows for practice before reading to the whole class.

Graffiti Carousel: This activity puts groups to create quick answers to questions about reading. There is a group for each question. After a brief time, the questions move to a different group. After each group answers all the questions, the class discusses the results. Here is a link with more information.

Interactive Reading: As students read or listen to others’ reading, encourage them to use sticky notes to keep track of questions, interesting ideas, quotes they like, and words they don’t know. They can use the following symbols, or you can select your own that relate to what you are teaching. After reading, allow the students to share their “notes” in either small groups or with the whole class. It helps the child connect with the text.

?    Question
“    Favorite Quote
!     Interesting
V     An unknown or unrecognized word

Are any of these methods as simple as Round Robin? Of course not! With practice, however, they can become routine but with actual learning taking place.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Lao Tzu Lee-Ann Meredith is a second...

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