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.

When to use: Before reading During reading After reading
How to use: Individually With small groups Whole class setting

More comprehension strategies

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 for students to use that prompts them about each of the four strategies used in reciprocal teaching.
  • This worksheet incorporates all four strategies into one page that students can fill out.
  • Similar to the bookmark above, this four-column handout prompts students with questions and statements related to the four strategies.

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.

Collect resources

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 >

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.


Great strategy, i'll be training my teachers to practice in their class rooms, also I'll be training my students too.

When they read in a small they read aloud or silently? 6th grade

Reciprocal Reading is an excellent methodology in teaching as it helps the students to be more involved in their own learning. They are also able to comprehend different aspects of the texts, develop their reading and oral skills and to assist their fellow students to do so too.

Great strategies for teaching comprehension skills at all grade levels.

These strategies are excellent for teaching comprehension. I really love them!

Has any one used RT in writing classes? If so can I have access to the methods used?

This is a powerful tool for what good readers often instinctively do, and what developing readers need to strengthen. See John Hattie's research on effect sizes. RT has a large effect size of .74. Pretty amazing, when RT is applied correctly and students buy in.

Doing reciprocal teaching helps students to understand and comprehend what they are reading.

I am curious as to the results for MS teachers in Title I with the demographic being largely students whose L1 is Spanish .... and the motivational level is not strong for learning.

I understand that reciprocated learning is extremely beneficial to the learner because it allows the learner to take the role of the teacher and allows them to create, think at a high level, and use time well to analyze the information, well enough to teach it to others.

I love this method and my kindergarten students have just completed story maps. We are moving into writing small paragraphs so this will help a lot.

I have used his type of teaching for many years. Working in small groups is so beneficial to all students and give me the chance to assess. Fantastic for comprehension.

I absolutely love this idea. I have seen it implemented in a honor class in 8h grade, but never in a lower level classroom setting. I am going to try it in my classroom soon.

I want to try this teaching activity to help students improve their comprehension abilities, however I wonder how it will work with 1st graders.

I would like to use this comprehension strategy in reading groups. I anticipate having to guide the lesson several times before gradually releasing responsibility to the scholars.

I have been teaching for 27 years and have a Master's in Reading and I am Reading Recovery Trained and I have never heard of this strategy. It amazes me how we as educators are always learning and changing, I am excited to try this out with my RtI and ESL Groups this year. We have our kids prove their answers when answering question and I think this will be an excellent way to get them to start noticing where they can prove their answers. I LOVE this!!!!!

This technique is common in our school. I work with pre-k to kinder. You can not have enough talking and companionship reading. This also works for all students.

Although I had not known the correct term for this type of teaching, I have been using this in my small group guided reading times. The students will begin with an open ended question as they answer the question and peers are allowed to answer, as well.

A couple of questions about the teacher in the video. Why did she read the selection, rather than let the students read it aloud together to her? Isn't it better for the students for them to talk and read more and the teacher to talk and read less? Also, why raised hands? Doesn't that let certain students dominate conversation? What about the teacher calling on different students, so nobody dominates and nobody hides?

This reminds me of guided reading. Reciprocal teaching is a great idea on helping children develop critical thinking, as well as, building confidence.

When I was a student, my learning process had included the four skills but not explicitly pointed out. I do ask kids to do part of these four in classroom, but have never tried all four in one process. I can't wait to try it. I think it will help kids' skill in reflection when in the process of thinking along with reading.

Just wondering -I have a child who struggles with comprehension issues and decoding strategies but has fluency. The school is doing a RTI for the next 12 weeks to document If he has a reading disability using this program . He has been in reading recovery for the last 2.5 years and did not have great progress but per LD director at school they can't test for LD because they were not doing interventions specifically for comprehension ??!?!???!? I'm sort of livid! But don't know if I have the right to be! Ahhhhkkk! Some input would be great - an upset parent oh and there doing this program one on one not in a group setting wich it seems like it's supposed to be in a group! -upset Mom

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.

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

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!

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." — May Ellen Chase