Whole Class Reading Strategies

11 Alternatives to Round Robin (and Popcorn) Reading

Round robin reading, also known as RRR, has been a fixture in the classroom for over 200 years, and more than half of all K–8 instructors report employing one of the various variations of this practise, such as popcorn reading. Despite the evidence that RRR is useless for its stated purpose of improving fluency, word decoding, and comprehension, the practise continues to enjoy a great deal of popularity. In her article “Popcorn Reading: The Need to Encourage Reflective Practice,” Cecile Somme brings forth an excellent idea. “Popcorn reading is one of the sure-fire ways to get kids who are already hesitant about reading to truly despise reading.” “Popcorn reading is one of the sure-fire ways to get kids who are already hesitant about reading.”


Students participate in RRR by taking turns reading aloud from a shared text, going in order from one child to the next, while the remaining students follow along in their individual copies of the text. There are multiple iterations of the method, each of which provides somewhat more benefits than RRR. They only differ in the manner in which the reading transition takes place:

Reading with Popcorn entails one student reading aloud for a set period of time, at which point they shout “popcorn” and choose another student from the class to read next.
According to the explanation provided by Gwynne Ash and Melanie Kuhn in their chapter titled “Fluency Instruction: Research-Based Best Practices,” “Combat Reading” is when a child nominates a fellow student to read in an effort to distract the other student from their work.
Reading with Popsicle Sticks: The names of the students are written on popsicle sticks and then placed in a container. The next reader will be the student whose name was drawn.
Touch The instructor will signal to a student by tapping them on the shoulder when it is their turn to read, as Somme has stated.
Only one graduate research study out of the thirty or so papers and articles I’ve read on the topic indicated that RRR or any of its modifications had any positive effects. The paper stated in a tepid manner that perhaps RRR isn’t as horrible as everyone says it is. The criticism that was presented by Katherine Hilden and Jennifer Jones was unrelenting: “We are aware of no scientific data that supports the notion that RRR genuinely contributes to kids becoming better readers, either in terms of their fluency or their comprehension.” (PDF)

Why is everyone being so cruel? Because RRR:

Stigmatizes poor readers. Just try to put yourself in the shoes of a student who is learning English or who is having trouble reading when they are forced to read in front of the entire class.
Reduces one’s ability to comprehend. Learners’ comprehension suffers when they are exposed to oral reading performed at a pace that is either too slow, too rapid, or too haltingly, a problem that is made worse when turn-taking causes interruptions.
impedes both fluency and correct pronunciation. Readers who have difficulty with the material often have weak fluency abilities and pronunciation. When teachers point out and correct students’ faults, their overall fluency suffers.
To be clear, oral reading in other formats does increase students’ fluency, comprehension, and word identification. However, students in the later grades should engage in silent or independent reading a great deal more frequently. To our good fortune, in addition to RRR and its relatives, there are additional oral reading exercises that give substantial advantages. You’ll find in the following list that many of them have attributes that are comparable to one another.


1. Choral Reading: The teacher and class read a passage out loud together, which reduces the amount of exposure that students who have trouble reading have to the general audience. David Paige discovered that decoding and fluency were improved when sixth graders participated in whole-class choral reading for 16 minutes each week. The study was conducted in 2011 and involved over 100 students.

A variation of this activity requires students to collectively recite the word in its entirety if the lecturer skips a word while doing an oral reading.

2. Partner Reading: In this activity, student teams consisting of two people take turns reading aloud to one another, exchanging roles whenever there is a new paragraph. Another option is for them to read each part simultaneously.

3. PALS: Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) exercises connect strong readers with weak readers who take turns reading, re-reading, and recounting the material.

4. Quiet Reading: For further support, front-load silent individual reading with vocabulary instruction, a story synopsis, an anticipation guide, or a KWL+ activity. This will provide additional scaffolding for students.

5. Teacher Read Aloud: According to Julie Adams, who works for Adams Educational Consulting, this activity is “perhaps one of the most effective methods for improving student fluency and comprehension.” This is because the teacher is the expert in reading the text, and they model how a skilled reader reads by using the appropriate pacing and prosody (inflection). Playing an audiobook has the same effect as reading a book.

6. Echo Reading: The students repeat what the instructor has read while imitating the pace and inflections that the instructor uses.

7. Shared Reading/Modeling: The instructor models fluency for the class by reading aloud as the students follow along in their own books, pausing sometimes to explain different tactics for understanding what is being read. (PDF, 551KB)

8. Chris Biffle’s Crazy Professor Reading Game video is more amusing than home movies of Blue Ivy, and you can start viewing it at 1:49. Students, in order to bring the text to life,…

Read aloud with a ridiculous amount of excitement.
Perform again while making expressive hand motions.
Join forces with someone who is as enthusiastic about asking and answering questions.
In an amped-up summary of the text, play the roles of the “crazy professor” and the “excited pupil.”
9. Partner Reading: This activity has students practise reading aloud a passage from a book in preparation for reading to a buddy who is in an earlier grade.

10. Timed Repeat Readings: According to the research conducted by literacy professors Katherine Hilden and Jennifer Jones, this activity can help improve fluency (PDF, 271KB). Following the instructor’s reading aloud (with expression) of a brief text selection that is appropriate to the students’ reading level (90–95 percent accuracy), students read the passage silently, and then again aloud while focusing on speed, energy, and expression. Another youngster creates a graph of the children’s times and errors so that they may monitor their progress.

11. Fluency-Oriented Reading Instruction (FORI) In this type of reading instruction, primary school pupils will read the same piece of a text multiple times over the period of one week. The following are the stages:

The instructor will read out loud, and the students will follow along in their respective books.
Students are asked to read aloud.
Students read aloud in unison.
Students read aloud to one another.
If there is a need for additional practise, the text is brought home, and extension exercises may be incorporated at any point during the week.
I have high hopes that the activities that have been described here, in addition to other tried-and-true instructional methods such as reader’s theatre, radio reading, and reciprocal teaching, will be able to serve as straightforward alternatives to round robin reading in your classroom.