Reciprocal teaching is a strategy in which the teacher models and the students use summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting to better understand content text (Palincsar & Brown, 1984). Because the emphasis is on understanding these four processes, students will need many exposures and much practice with each. The benefits of reciprocal teaching are well-documented. The approach has been shown to increase comprehension, overall achievement, and standardized test scores (Alfassi, 1998; Rosenshine & Meister, 1994).
1. Begin by introducing summarizing. Share several short sections at the beginning of a text taken from the textbook, website, or other source and write a summary statement with the class. Talk out loud about your summary thinking as you work with students. Put the statements on the board for analysis and revision. Next, have students work in groups of four to read a following short section of text and generate a summary statement. Write the various statements on the board and work with the class to select the best one.
2. Follow this approach for each of the remaining comprehension processes that comprise reciprocal thinking: questioning, clarifying, and predicting. For example, state a prediction about the section of text about to be read and write it on the board. After reading the section, direct students’ attention to the prediction and discuss how accurate it was and how it helped guide thinking while reading. Then, for the next short section, have students make predictions. Ask questions aloud while reading to focus attention on important information and ideas in the text, then have students ask questions. Finally, demonstrate how you use the text to clarify confusing points or ideas, and then ask students to do the same thing with a new section of text.
3. After modeling the comprehension processes of reciprocal teaching, have students work in groups of four with each one taking responsibility for one of the comprehension processes as either a summarizer, questioner, clarifier, or predictor. Assign the next section of text and tell students to interact while reading, with each student taking the lead to model and guide the others in the comprehension process over which s/he is responsible. A Discussion Guide for Reciprocal Teaching can be used to help students fulfill their roles.
4. Monitor student groups by moving throughout the room. Provide extra support and modeling for groups having difficulty with the reciprocal processes.
5. It takes time to take ownership of the reciprocal teaching process, so it needs to be modeled and supported frequently.
CONTENT LITERACY STRATEGY DESCRIPTIONS for the 2008 LOUISIANA COMPREHENSIVE CURRICULUM, Dr. William G. Brozo, May 2008
Alfassi, M. (1998). Reading for meaning: The efficacy of reciprocal teaching in fostering
Reading comprehension in high school students in remedial reading classes.
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Palincsar, A.S., & Brown, A. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension-fostering
and comprehension-monitoring activities. Cognition and Instruction, 1, 117-
Rosenshine, B., & Meister, C. (1994). Reciprocal teaching: A review of the research.
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