Reciprocal Teaching as a Technique to Improve Student Reading Comprehension

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Reciprocal Teaching

Teaching reading comprehension can be very difficult. It is hard to train students to monitor what they are doing while reading. With the NCLB Act and many states and districts struggling to make AYP (annual yearly progress), it becomes vital for schools to teach reading comprehension skills. Reciprocal teaching is one highly successful technique.

Reciprocal teaching encompasses four skills: clarifying, summarizing, questioning, and predicting.

Clarification is a skill that addresses confusing parts of a text and attempts to answer questions.

Summarizing requires students to highlight key ideas or concepts in a section of reading.

Questioning requires students to ask his/her peers questions about unclear parts, puzzling information, connections to other concepts already learned, character motivation, etc.

Predicting requires guesses about what the author will teach the group next or what the next events in a story will be.


  • Start simple: while reading as a class, introduce only one concept at a time. Non-fiction often works better than fiction.
  • Spend two to three days on each concept. You may need a longer or shorter amount of time depending on your class' needs.
  • After all the concepts have been taught, break the class into small groups (4-8 students). If you need to do reciprocate as a whole class, that’s fine. I recommend, however, that you use groups whenever possible.
  • In each group assign the four jobs. These jobs will rotate as they continue. If there are students in the group without jobs then they play the role of just being a student.
  • Students should read aloud in a group for two-three paragraphs. You may choose more or less depending on paragraph length.

Implementation Part 2

After each section is read, students do their assigned role. Typically this is how the order goes:

  1. The summarizer gives a summary of key information, concepts, and ideas of the reading.
  2. The clarifier brings up any words that he/she found difficult or thinks needs to be discussed. Other students in the group can contribute words. If the group can not derive the meaning themselves, they should seek out a dictionary or the teacher.
  3. The questioner becomes teacher and generates group discussion by asking thoughtful questions about the section.
  4. The predictor predicts what he/she thinks the next section will be about. This can be tricky with non-fiction texts, but it can be done.
  5. Read a new section and repeat!