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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Popcorn Reader...

I came across the term “popcorn reading” on a lesson plan not long after I started subbing four years ago. I didn’t know what: “Have the kids popcorn read the next chapter” actually meant. When asked, the kids explained it was just taking turns reading a paragraph from the text book or the current class novel.

Sometimes it’s drawing random names on popsicle sticks, or having the kid that finishes reading pick the next reader who hasn’t already read. With twenty to thirty kids in class, it never seems that anyone has to read more than once during the lesson.

This fact is not lost on some kids. Those are the kids that want their turn early so they can screw around for the rest of the time.

They decide to “do other stuff” while the rest of the class is reading the text. They know that they don’t have to read along because they already had “their turn”.

I’m there only for the day, so I usually don’t make a big deal when this happens unless the “other stuff” is distracting to others in the vicinity.

In one of the last 5th grade classes I had this year, a kid I’ll call “Josh”, was taking it to the extreme by crackling his water bottle, drum beating the desk or rummaging around in his desk for who knows what to the amusement his table group friends.

On this particular day, I couldn't seem to be able to overlook Josh’s antics. After the first couple of popsicle kids had read, I called on Josh to read next.

Josh not only didn’t know what page or paragraph we were on, he apparently didn’t know what book we were reading from.

After a long delay and a consult with the girl next to him, he got the book, page and paragraph identified and dutifully read the next paragraph.

I doubt that he understood what he was reading because it was out of context to the previous paragraphs he wasn’t reading, but he did “read the words”.

While the next popsicle kid was reading, I glanced over at Josh who was back to “doing his stuff”. When it was time to select the next reader, I abandoned the next random selection process.

Me: Josh! You’re up.
Josh: But…I already read!
Me: I know. You’re up again. Do you know where we are?
Josh: Uh…no.
Me: That’s why you’re up again. Find out and begin!

This required another hasty consult with the others around him before he could comply.

It took a third reading session before Josh finally got the idea that I might be out to get him. After each time a popsicle kid finished, I would ask without looking up: “Josh! What page and paragraph are we on?” If he got it right, I’d move on to the next popsicle kid. If he got it wrong, it was his turn to read again.

It finally got to the point that all I had to do was look over in his direction with a questioning look, and Josh would lift up his book slightly acknowledging that he knew I was watching and he knew what page and paragraph we were on.

More importantly, he was so paranoid about keeping track of where the reading point was that he didn’t have time for that “other stuff” he’d would rather have preferred to do during class.


The MAN Fan Club said...

Reading aloud in front of the whole class is pretty rare these days. For the exact reason you shared. Teachers really have to be masters at entertaining those 20-25 kids. Almost like a magic act.

I'm still singing "Substitute" thanks to you. (:

Googiebump said...

Simple but effective...I'll definitely use this when school starts back up. This situation seems to come up constantly for me. Thanks!

Super Sub said...

Here's what I do. I pick one child to start. They read for a while and then I tap the shoulder of the next child to read. I don't tell any of them what order I'll pick them. That way they all have to be reading along and ready to jump in. I wander the room while they read. They see me coming up behind them and they find their spot very quickly!

Usually I like to read to them instead. This way I can stop and throw in questions or comments along the way. It's much easier for them to hear me than quiet student readers. It's also easier to keep them engaged with me talking and asking questions.

NYC Educator said...

When I was in high school I had a teacher who had us read The Old Man and the Sea aloud, one page at a time. It took days, and no effort whatsoever on the part of the teacher, who sat there probably just as bored as we were.

I'd have liked the book much more reading it by myself. I'll read portions aloud to motivate, and accompany it with discussions intended to do the same. I plan discussions to take a lot more time than reading, and hope to keep kids hooked that way.

Mark Pennington said...

For an analysis of why round robin and popcorn reading are pedagogical flops, visit