Round Robin reading is the practice of asking one student (even those that volunteer) to read text that they have never read before out-loud in front of their peers -- and it has ZERO benefit. Round robin reading is so ineffective that reading researcher Dr. Tim Raskinski wrote an entire book on the topic appropriately titled Good-bye Round Robin, Updated Edition: 25 Effective Oral Reading Strategies. Rasinksi dishes up serving after serving of research against round robin reading and then offers 25 evidenced based fluency strategies that are actually beneficial to students.
There are also plenty of online resources that provide alternatives to Round Robin including a chapter from Rasinski's (2006) Breaking the Addiction to Round Robin Reading and Variations on Round Robin Reading by Harmon and Wood (2010). Another great resource is Edutopia's recent posting by Todd Finley, 11 Alternatives to "Round Robin" (and "Popcorn") Reading. And if you still aren't ready to kill round robin, just read Killing Off 'Zombie' Interventions: The Need to Root Out Ineffective Instructional Strategies. It will surely put a nail in the round robin reading coffin!
2. Practicing Nonsense Words Can Be Harmful - Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF) assessments, such as the the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) NWF, are a valuable tool in identifying students who are at-risk for reading difficulties. Unfortunately, misunderstandings of these assessments often result in harmful teaching practices. One such harmful yet common misuse is having students practice reading nonsense words. While the intention may be good, following the old adage of 'practice makes perfect' in regards to NWF is actually quite harmful to students' reading development.
The authors of the DIBELS NWF assessment, Dr. Ruth Kaminski and Dr. Roland Good address the misuse of nonsense words in DIBELS: Myths and Facts. This document is a must read for all educators who use the DIBELS assessments (or similar literacy indicators). Practicing the reading of nonsense words is identified as Misuse #2: Teaching the test and/or artificially raising DIBELS scores without teaching the critical skills (Pg. 13) and states:
- "Appropriate Use: DIBELS are designed as indicators of an underlying basic early literacy skill. The DIBELS materials should never be used for practice or instructional purposes. The focus of instruction should be on the basic early literacy skill, not the test."
- "Because DIBELS subtests are indicators of important skills, it is important to teach the skills not the test."
- "Teaching or practicing the test may raise DIBELS scores, but to do so artificially without changing the underlying skills may be harmful to children by preventing them from getting the support they need to be successful readers."
3. Published Reading Programs Are Not Enough - Published reading programs are resources, not teachers - let's stop confusing the two. This doesn't mean that commercial reading programs should be avoided; it just means that we must be wise consumers.
A first step in becoming a wise consumer is to check out the US Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). The WWC provides an unbiased review of the research on different programs, products, practices, and policies in education. Click on the "Find What Works!" tab to search or browse the reviews. You can narrow your search by subject area and grade level. Just a warning - many of the reviewed programs are determined to have "No Discernable Effect" while very few are rated as "Potential Evidence" or "Strong Evidence."
Wise consumers also recognize that there is not one program that will meet the needs of all learners. Most notably, published core reading programs typically miss the mark in meeting the needs of struggling readers. Independent studies have shown that a core reading program does not affect the reading achievement of at-risk students (McGill-Franzen, Zmach, Solic, & Zeig, 2006). Even when teachers implement reading programs with strict fidelity, it has failed to raise student achievement in reading (Ryder, Sekulski, & Silberg, 2003).
For a more in-depth look at why using published reading programs alone fail to meet the needs of struggling readers, check out What At-Risk Readers Need by Dr. Richard Allington. In this article, Dr. Allington asserts that one reason commercial programs fail is because they require little actual reading. In a study of six popular core reading programs, students spent on average 15 minutes of a daily 90 minute reading block actually reading (Brenner and Hiebert, 2010). So what are they doing for the other 75 minutes? Workbook pages, skills, and activities. That would be like having a 90 minute swim lesson with only 15 minutes devoted to actually practicing in the pool.
Knowing Better = Doing Better
Despite the research on round robin reading, practicing nonsense words, and an over reliance on commercial reading programs, these three practices continue to thrive in many elementary schools. In the field of education, there is huge chasm between research and practice. The good news is that once we know better, we can do better. How do you help build the bridge between research and practice?