Reciprocal reading

Reciprocal reading

Reciprocal reading covers a range of strategies that help develop reader comprehension.

It involves four ‘thinking skills’: clarifying, questioning, summarising and predicting. Each type of skill has a set of prompts. Starting with one skill at a time, students need to be taught to use the prompts and have lots of time to practice. Students can take the lead in these discussions.

Who is it?

All learners.

How can it help?

Understanding what is being read can be a challenge for students of any age especially if the complexity of content is higher than everyday reading. Reciprocal teaching:

  • improves students’ skills in reading comprehension, metacognition, social participation and self-management
  • develops students’ leadership skills.

Reciprocal teaching strategies

Develop readers’ strategies for comprehension

Students need to develop a repertoire of strategies that they can select from purposefully and independently to build and enhance their understanding of text and to extend their critical awareness.

To develop comprehension strategies, teachers need to:

  • explicitly teach individual comprehension strategies within the context of purposeful reading
  • develop students’ awareness of how these strategies are used in increasingly complex combinations as they read more complex texts.

Important comprehension strategies to develop include:

  • making connections
  • forming and testing hypotheses about texts
  • asking questions about texts
  • creating mental images or visualising
  • inferring meanings from texts
  • identifying the author’s purpose and point of view
  • identifying and summarising main ideas
  • analysing and synthesising ideas
  • evaluating ideas and information.

Scaffolding student engagement in reciprocal teaching

The teacher introduces reciprocal teaching procedures separately and gives explicit suggestions to scaffold students’ participation:

  • Prompting: “What question did you think a teacher might ask?”
  • Instruction: “Remember, a summary is a shortened version; it doesn’t include all the detail.”
  • Modifying activity: “If you are having a hard time thinking of a question, why don’t you summarise first?”
  • Praise and feedback: “You asked that question well; it was very clear what information you wanted.”
  • Modelling activity that needs improvement: “A question I would have asked would be ….”
  • Explicitly telling students that the strategies are ways people help themselves understand what they are reading.
  • Explaining to students why they should practise the strategies when they are reading books of all kinds.

These approaches also support the learning relationship between students and teachers.