Thursday, March 13, 2014

Popcorn Is for Movies Not Reading Instruction

Several months ago I wrote a piece entitled, Round Robin Reading Must Die, calling on all teachers and teacher leaders to work to wipe out this ineffective and yet widespread instructional practice. I listed ten well-researched reasons why round robin was bad practice. Clearly, it is going to take more than one lonely blog screed to kill round robin. Recently, I visited a school where virtually every teacher was using round robin reading's evil step-sister, Popcorn Reading. Indeed, Popcorn Reading is popping up all over.

Google "Popcorn Reading" and you get a roughly 50/50 mix of sites recommending the practice and sites ridiculing the practice. There is no serious research in the literacy field that supports Popcorn Reading. The definitive book on the topic was written more than 15 years ago, Good-bye Round Robin, by Michael Opitz and Tim Rasinski, and yet the practice persists. How can we keep Popcorn Reading from popping up all over the place? Maybe by focusing our message. Rather than my wordy, research citing approach from the previous post, perhaps what we need is a Popcorn Reading warning label.


I encourage my allies to print off as many copies of the warning label as you need and distribute them where ever you see Popcorn Reading popping up. If they ask you why the practice should be halted here are three things you can say:

  • Popcorn Reading has a negative impact on fluency development.
  • Popcorn Reading has a negative impact on decoding.
  • Popcorn Reading has a negative impact on reading comprehension.
I could go on, but then we would lose our short pithy message. Join my struggle. Restrict popcorn to the movies.