Discussions about whole-class reading can be muddied by terminology. Names for whole-class reading include ‘Round Robin Reading’, ‘Popcorn Reading’ and ‘Control the Game’. The latter is advocated in Doug Lemov’s popular 'Teach Like a Champion' series and, most recently, his book 'Reading Reconsidered'.
'Control the Game' is an approach that involves the teacher asking students to read aloud in turn in an unpredictable order, while the rest of the class follows the text. It is deliberately designed to enable the teacher to adjust difficulty and reading duration, which may be a weakness of ‘popcorn reading’, which lets students select who will read next. In addition, by making it clear that any student could be asked to read at any time, Lemov argues that engagement will be higher compared with approaches where students read in register order or similar.
While the differences between these variations of one-at-a-time reading should be acknowledged, they all have an underlying turn-by-turn nature. Keeping sight of this constant is useful, and it is where Shanahan focuses his critique. For him, the problem with all forms of one-at-a-time reading is not predictability or pace, but intensity. This means that any adjustments to help with the former miss the mark.
Shanahan’s point is that reading aloud is valuable insofar as it improves students’ reading fluency, which is strongly associated with comprehension. But, Shanahan argues, students need large volumes of practice to improve reading fluency – taking turns one-at-a-time is a highly inefficient way of providing this.
For Shanahan, preferable alternatives include reading in pairs, where students alternate after each paragraph, choral reading, where students and teachers read the same section of the text simultaneously, and repeated reading, where students read the same passage multiple times. In all cases, Shanahan argues that students read more and have greater opportunities to improve fluency, citing studies reviewed by the US National Reading Panel (NIHCD, 2000^).
Why not give paired reading try during one of your classes in Harris this week. Split off into twos and ask pupils to read alternate paragraphs or sections to each other. It will allow students to read more and hopefully increase reading fluency.
As the class will be sharing the text why not use a jotter or show me board for the pair to write down any words or vocab that they don't understand. That way when they have finished the text, you can ask them to raise the boards and you can pick out some of the difficult text/vocab and check for understanding across the class. This is giving the pupils another opportunity for learning and consolidation.
Have a think about what has worked well. Why not allow pupils to choose partners or you try matching them up and evaluate what is more successful. Does timing the activity work? How long should you give for a certain text and how do you figure that out? What about pace, what happens if some pairs finish quicker than others?
If you want to dig a bit deeper Edutopia have a great article on 11 alternatives to 'Round Robin' and 'Popcorn' reading, you can access the article here.
Hope this is of help and a big thanks to Robbie Coleman and the EEF.
Tim Beattie - PT Learning and Teaching - Harris Academy.