Reciprocal teaching may be used as one of several teaching techniques within a balanced reading programme. It provides the opportunity for "reading by" the students.
- The whole class is introduced to the four strategies.
- A selected group or groups are instructed about the strategies and given practice with them until they are well established.
Reciprocal teaching may be used as a means of accessing a piece of challenging text to a group. Various pieces of text could be used in the following ways (depending on the level of challenges in the text):
- Reciprocal teaching for able readers, shared reading for the rest of the class
- Reciprocal teaching for average readers, independent reading for able readers, and shared reading for the rest of the class (less able readers)
- Reciprocal teaching for less able readers, independent reading for the rest of the class.
Reciprocal teaching may be used as an intensive comprehension teaching programme. This approach is useful for middle school students who are able to read the text accurately but have limited understanding of what they read.
- Introduce the group to the approach (this may take up to five sessions).
- Follow with reciprocal teaching practice for at least twelve consecutive sessions. (The research study done by Palincsar and Brown in 1986 indicates this many sessions are needed.)
- Gradually transfer the role of the teacher to the learners.
Benefits of Reciprocal Teaching
Learners can gain an improved understanding of complex text in content areas. This leads them on to greater knowledge of the topic, improved skills, and more positive attitudes when extracting, organising, and recording information.
Other benefits learners can gain include more self confidence and motivation to read, improved leadership skills, increased co-operation and greater initiative.
Research studies have shown that when reciprocal teaching is implemented, learners will make substantial gains in their comprehension skills.
How to Implement Reciprocal Teaching
It is recommended that the teacher introduce small groups of students to reciprocal teaching, one group at a time. However the strategies could be introduced to the whole class. It is important to select texts that are at an appropriate level (instructional level).
- Be familiar with the text
- Provide a brief, focussed introduction
- Where appropriate, link the text being read to current content areas (this will give added purpose to the learner's reading)
- Model the strategies and support learners in using them
- Regularly monitor learners' use of strategies
- Use the information gained through monitoring as a guide to the further support and practice needed by the learners
During the group session, learners discuss the text only in small chunks. When the reciprocal reading session is over, it is advantageous for the learners to read the whole text to themselves.
The learner is anticipating what will come next in the text, based on appropriate prior knowledge and on the structure and content of the text.
Predicting is purpose setting (learners read to confirm or reject their hypotheses).
Predicting encourages learners to actively think ahead.
When clarifying, learners are dealing with difficulties in the text by being alert to:
- Unfamiliar vocabulary
- Text which is structured or set out in an unfamiliar way
- New or difficult concepts
- When they lose track of the meaning.
After recognising the problem, learners can employ a "fix up strategy" to restore meaning, for example:
- Using the context of the passage
- Using their knowledge of written language, for example, vocabulary, structure, grammar
- Using a dictionary or thesaurus to check meaning. Using other reference materials such as an atlas, road map.
It may be necessary for the learners to read the whole passage again, to understand the meaning.
When questioning, the learner is exploring the meaning of the text in depth. Questioning gives the learner an opportunity to:
- Identify the kind of information that provides the substance for an appropriate question
- Frame questions - before, during and after the reading.
When suitable questions have been asked, the learner can then:
- Offer possible solutions
- Find relevant information to answer questions
- Monitor their own comprehension
- Help other learners answer questions they have.
Learners become much more involved in the reading activity when they are posing and answering questions themselves, rather than merely responding to the teacher's questions or to pre-set questions. Questioning is a means of self-checking.
When summarising the learner is identifying and integrating important information presented in the text.
In summarising the learner needs to:
- Initially identify the most important content of the reading section
- Integrate and own the information which indicates understanding