Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Popcorn Reading

I like having students read out loud sometimes. It doesn't need to be a whole story. It just can be the questions and sentences in a grammar assignment, or the directions to an assignment.

I really focus on pronunciation errors since I already know what they are trying to say, and I don’t need to focus on the content as much as when they are speaking.
This is also how I have discovered some of my students were dyslexic. Not when they make small mistakes, but when I notice they commonly are mixing up bigger words like, “coffee” instead of “office.” These bigger mistakes are often corrected when typing, so reading a set text is the only time I hear them.
There are also many students who show respect when the teacher is talking, but they don’t show respect when other students are talking. By having other students read out loud this gives students a chance to practice respect for one another, not just an authority figure.

One way that I read is called, “Popcorn reading.” The first time I use popcorn reading in class I make to to explain it carefully. The explanation usually goes like this:
“Does anyone know what popcorn is?”
“How do you make it?”
“When you make popcorn do the kernels pop randomly or in order?”
“That’s right it’s random. So, when you start reading you read until I say popcorn. Some people will read a little longer than others. After I’ve said popcorn someone else will read until I say popcorn again. Does everyone understand?”
To make sure they understand, you can ask: “When do you stop reading?” “What word will make you stop?” “Does everyone read the same amount?” ”Are people called in a specific order?”
To start, “Great, are there any volunteers, or shall I pick the first reader?”

Why do I like it?

  1. It keeps things random. When students don’t know when they will be called they have to read along with everyone, instead of counting how many people will read until it is there turn and ignoring everything else.
  2. It also makes it easy to differentiate. Yes, I claim that it is random, but I can tell a student I know struggles with reading, “On Wednesday I am going to call on you to read the second paragraph on page 22. Why don’t you practice it at home a few times, so you can be sure you are ready.” This way they are still participating, but they will have the time to practice and not worry so much about making a fool out of themselves.
  3. Students think it is fun! I don’t know if it is because the word popcorn is silly or because they feel like it is a game(you win by paying attention), but they seem to enjoy it.

  • After you say popcorn, you call out a student’s name. This is helpful because you can select harder passages for students who are best capable of reading them, or you can call on students who are visibly not paying attention.
  • After you say popcorn, ask a question about what was just read. The student who answers the question gets to read next.
  • After you say popcorn, use a random number generator (or class cards, or Popsicle sticks) to really show you are “making popcorn” and choosing randomly.
  • After you say popcorn the student who was reading gets to call the next name. They like this because they get to pick their friends or crushes. I admit I use this the first weeks when I am trying to get used to the new names.
  • You may want to make the rule that people CAN be picked more than once in a reading. This doesn’t really fit with the popcorn theme, but it keeps them on their toes. If it is a class that does NOT exhibit bullying and they are picking the next reader, I often let them pick the same student over and over again, but ONLY when I know the class (and student) well enough. With the right student the class laughs and the person feels like the center of attention. GREAT for students who love the limelight.
That’s it. A super easy way to have your students read in class. How do you like to have your students read aloud?


  1. Sounds like a fun idea. In one of my adult classes, we are reading through a book together this year as part of our lessons. I'll use this popcorn method next time!

    1. Let me know how it works! I haven't taught adults in a while, but when I did, they enjoyed it.

  2. Replies
    1. Awesome! If in your inspiration you end up adapting it, let me know what you come up with :)

  3. I do the same for my sts.they love it when they got to call their friends to read

    1. Today I didn't do popcorn reading and some of the students were visibly disappointed.

  4. this sounds good!! I will try this activity


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