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Reciprocal Teaching

Reciprocal teaching refers to an instructional activity in which students become the teacher in small group reading sessions. Teachers model, then help students learn to guide group discussions using four strategies: summarizing, question generating, clarifying, and predicting. Once students have learned the strategies, they take turns assuming the role of teacher in leading a dialogue about what has been read.

Why use reciprocal teaching?

  • It encourages students to think about their own thought process during reading.
  • It helps students learn to be actively involved and monitor their comprehension as they read.
  • It teaches students to ask questions during reading and helps make the text more comprehensible.

How to use reciprocal teaching

Before Reciprocal Teaching can be used successfully by your students, they need to have been taught and had time to practice the four strategies that are used in reciprocal teaching (summarizing, questioning, predicting, clarifying).

One way to get students prepared to use reciprocal teaching: (from Donna Dyer of the North West Regional Education Service Agency in North Carolina)

  1. Put students in groups of four.
  2. Distribute one note card to each member of the group identifying each person's unique role:
    • Summarizer
    • Questioner
    • Clarifier
    • Predictor
  3. Have students read a few paragraphs of the assigned text selection. Encourage them to use note-taking strategies such as selective underlining or sticky-notes to help them better prepare for their role in the discussion.
  4. At the given stopping point, the Summarizer will highlight the key ideas up to this point in the reading.
  5. The Questioner will then pose questions about the selection:
    • Unclear parts
    • Puzzling information
    • Connections to other concepts already learned
  6. The Clarifier will address confusing parts and attempt to answer the questions that were just posed.
  7. The Predictor can offer predictions about what the author will tell the group next or, if it's a literary selection, the predictor might suggest what the next events in the story will be.
  8. The roles in the group then switch one person to the right, and the next selection is read. Students repeat the process using their new roles. This continues until the entire selection is read. (Source: ReadingQuest)
  9. Throughout the process, the teacher's role is to guide and nurture the students' ability to use the four strategies successfully within the small group. The teacher's role is lessened as students develop skill.

For more information, see the article Reciprocal Teaching for the Primary Grades: "We Can Do It, Too!".

Download blank templates

  • Here's a bookmark (38K PDF)* for students to use that prompts them about each of the four strategies used in reciprocal teaching.
  • This worksheet (164K PDF)* incorporates all four strategies into one page that students can fill out.
  • Similar to the bookmark above, this four-column handout (36K PDF)* prompts students with questions and statements related to the four strategies.
When to use: Before reading During reading After reading
How to use: Individually With small groups Whole class setting

Watch reciprocal teaching in action

At Frank Love Elementary School, reading expert Shira Lubliner uses reciprocal teaching to guide students in learning to lead a classroom discussion. But first, Ms. Lubliner shows them how to guide a conversation about a book.

Examples:

Language Arts

The following website shows an example of the Reciprocal Teaching strategy for the book The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.

See example > (172K PDF)*

Differentiated instruction

for second language learners, students of varying reading skill, and for younger learners

  • Pair a student with lower reading skills with one who is more advanced to work together.
  • Ask student to write out questions about parts of the story that doesn't make sense to them.

See the research that supports this strategy

Oczuks, L. (2003). Reciprocal teaching at work: Strategies for improving reading comprehension. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Palincsar, A. S. & Brown, A. (1984). Reciprocal Teaching of Comprehension-Fostering and Comprehension Monitoring Activities. Cognition and Instruction, 1(2), pp. 117-175.

Comments

I used Reciprocal Teaching for years to help my students understand content better. It earns for the teacher great success.

We are using this method in a college class. The goal is to understand how to use reciprocal reading, and then practice it within our class to see that it really does work. Reciprocal reading really works well, even at the college level. Actually, we find it to be quite fun and we have been able to get to know each other a little better.

I will absolutely try reciprocal teaching. This strategy reminds me of Reader's Theatre

I want to try reciprocal teaching because I think it will help my reading comprehension scores on the standardized test.

I use meta-cognition with representative drawing for the summary part of reciprocal teaching (work with young students)

Reciprocal teaching is a wonderful way for students to take ownership over their learning.

I've applied this RT strategy and it brought about wonderful change among learners.it's the main study of my Experimental research

I can't wait to try it as it creates a very supportive learning environment for struggling readers and extends confident readers

I like this way of teaching because it gives words and senteences a higer meaning. There is an object to want to participate and contribute ideas

I want to try this teaching activity to help students improve their comprehension abilities

Pairing an advanced student with a student with lower skills is not a form of differentiated instruction, although it may be a useful teaching method at times.

Reciprocal teaching would be an excellent skill to use in the classroom because it would hep the students understand the material better and it would let the students take charge of their learning.

I used this strategy when I taught 4th grade and when students are taught each of the steps first, they are always successful! Great strategy!

I would like to try this teaching activity to assist my students in their reading abilities and comprehension.

I plan to use reciprocal teaching with my literacy classes. It will fit in nicely with a Book Club setting where the students may follow up with their thoughts and how the book is relevant to them.

I have been using Reciprocal Teaching in my university ESL classes in Japan for nearly 20 years now, with everything from basic first year classes to "returnees" classes who are near-native speakers, as well as with fourth-year English majors. It works beautifully as the format and methodology for teaching content-based (CLIL) English classes with ESL students of many ages and levels of proficiency.

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"The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can't." — Mark Twain