Reciprocal teaching is a guided reading comprehension technique that enhances core reading instruction. This technique involves teaching strategies that have strong effects on student achievement and reveal growth in K-12 instruction. There is a multitude of research supporting remarkable results by implementing reciprocal teaching methods. Reciprocal teaching increases student comprehension, engagement, and retention with the power to yield results in student achievement.

What is Reciprocal Teaching?

Palincsar and Brown (2018), two higher education educators, developed Reciprocal Teaching in the 1980s. This technique is a systematic discussion method that incorporates four main strategies, often known as the Fab Four. The strategies are: summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting.

Teaching reading is multi-faceted and complex. There is a growing need for students to learn enhanced reading skills. Students need these skills for the workforce and the world. They also need a wide variety of literacy experiences including rich strategies and texts. Reciprocal teaching techniques complement core reading instruction. It empowers students and increases their exposure to a wide variety of complicated texts, from print to electronic. Information is increasing, and reciprocal teaching can be structured so readers at all levels have access to more difficult texts.

In reciprocal teaching, the teacher models four comprehension strategies (summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting) through guided group instruction. When students are confident with the process and strategies, they take turns leading discussions in small groups.

In the summarizing component, students lead the group in questions such as, “What happened first, next, and at the end of the passage or story?” They develop concise statements and identify the main idea, key points, and supporting details. They create a summary of what they read.

The clarifying strategy is where the readers assess their own understanding and may have to conduct outside research on unfamiliar words. Students ask and answer questions to clarify or monitor comprehension while reading the text. This helps them to maintain meaning while reading and identify potential difficulties within the text. Students may have trouble understanding unclear sentences or passages, and this strategy is effective in allowing students to analyze these in the group.

Questioning teaches readers to develop critical thinking skills and ask questions throughout the reading process. They question what they are reading and make connections. They answer questions such as, “What do you think?” and “Why did the author say that?” They identify supporting details, and this serves as an integral part of the reciprocal teaching process. Younger students typically ask questions in conversation, and this strategy allows their comprehension to deepen.

Predicting is when students determine what they think they will learn. They activate their prior knowledge and utilize headings, titles, pictures, tables, and diagrams. They make educated guesses and search for clues in the text to predict what may happen. They make inferences on what they think they read.

How Does Reciprocal Teaching Lead to Increased Student Engagement?

Students get to share the role of the teacher and serve in active tasks in the learning process. The teacher incorporates high-impact reading strategies, and students fulfill responsibilities in small groups. For example, there will be four students in a group, and each one serves as a representative for one of the four strategies. They are engaged because they fulfill a specific role as a summarizer, questioner, clarifier, or predictor. Good readers use these four strategies together to comprehend text.

Students monitor and analyze their own comprehension. They are accountable and running their own groups. This empowers students, and they are all actively involved, which leads to increased reading comprehension and retention.

Research supports that reciprocal teaching improves students’ comprehension skills and maintains their improved skills due to the organization and implementation of the effective strategies. Reciprocal teaching is also successful and proven effective with English language learners and at-risk students.

Reciprocal Teaching Techniques to Use in the Classroom

Reciprocal teaching can be completed in large- and small-group instruction. There are many variations, and teachers implement what is best for their students. The reciprocal lessons need to be implemented two or more times a week. Teachers model and teach students how to perform the roles in the small groups. They also facilitate small-group discussions and ask students to critically think. Teacher- and student-led discussions are a part of the reciprocal teaching method. The techniques correspond to any grade level with fiction or informational text.

Discussion circles are an example of a technique that is utilized in the classroom. Students are in a small group and serve in a specific role during the group discussion. These can be utilized in elementary and secondary classrooms with different expectations. In an elementary classroom, acting out gestures is an effective way to involve and empower students with reciprocal teaching strategies. In high school classrooms, students discuss their opinions and may engage in debates or deliberations of the text.

Another example of an idea in the classroom is allowing students to share thoughts with partners. The Learning Pyramid reveals students remember 90% of what we do, and reciprocal teaching is a perfect example of this. Students share with partners, and their comprehension increases and improves.

Reciprocal teaching increases student comprehension, engagement, and retention with the power to yield results in student achievement. Teachers use this technique in their repertoire of effective ways to reach learners. This successful technique has been around for many years and is still very effective in today’s classrooms.



Oczkus, Lori (2018) Reciprocal Teaching at Work: Powerful Strategies and Lessons for Improving Reading Comprehension, 3rd Edition