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Your Career• 3 Min read

18th March 2021

How Reciprocal Teaching Can Make You A Better Teacher

Becoming a great teacher is a career-length journey. The best teachers continue to develop their knowledge, find new ways of engaging students and build their own arsenal of techniques and shortcuts to deal with every issue that teaching can throw at them. Learning about teaching strategies is an important part of your professional development, Research and studies into teaching and learning are happening all the time, and advancements in knowledge on how the human brain develops and retains information means teaching methods can develop quickly.

What Is Reciprocal Teaching?

Reciprocal teaching is teaching technique that helps pupils bridge the gap between their ability to read and their comprehension of pieces of text as a whole. Being able to read isn’t the same as understanding what you have read. The principles of reciprocal teaching are ones that are essential for all pupils to master in order to maximise their reading potential. Reciprocal teaching is a scaffolding technique, offering structure to learning that enables pupils of all abilities to take part and benefit.

What Are The Different Elements Of Reciprocal Teaching?

Predicting

Making predictions about what a text might be, from an overview, by skim reading, or by using your own experience and inherent knowledge to make assumptions about the contents or direction of a piece of text.

Questioning

The learning mind will always ask questions- questioning the who, why, what, where and how of every aspect of works presented to us is one of the ways to build true comprehension

Clarifying

In reciprocal teaching, clearing up confusion over new ideas or vocabulary is an important part of the process. Allowing pupils to signal immediately, or in designated paragraph breaks for longer texts, means you can clarify points quickly and within the context of the moment.

Summarizing

What happened, what were the ideas presented, how did the text or author come across? Summarising the reading helped to establish and retain new information and is a useful skill for pupils to transfer across subjects.

These elements are vital for full comprehension of a piece of text. As adults, we will skim-read and summarise a newspaper article or blog, form questions in our heads, clarify by re-reading or looking up unknown points and create our own summary of what we have read. Guiding pupils to use these elements when working with a piece of text is the key to reciprocal teaching.

What Are The Goals?

The main goal of this teaching method is to bring meaning to words in a text. Whether you are studying poetry, articles or a longer piece of text, your pupils will benefit from gaining a full understanding of the subject matter. Teaching in this way encourages communication within the class, turning reading into a more student-led activity. This can have an added benefit – building the confidence of your quieter pupils who would be less likely to read aloud or ask a question in front of the whole class but have an opportunity to shine in a smaller group and with structured teaching.

Reciprocal teaching has shown in several studies to be beneficial in both reading and comprehension as well as overall literacy. Creating engaging lessons that get pupils relating to text in a deeper way means learning can happen more naturally and information is more like to be retained.

Putting Reciprocal Teaching Into Practise

Elements of reciprocal teaching can fit into most lessons. Here are some of the ways to incorporate it into your every day teaching:

  • Encourage discussion before reading a new article or text. What do pupils think it’s going to be about? Share relevant images, the cover, title or blurb and ask pupils to discuss and share what they think might happen, or what the text might convey.
  • Encourage questioning before, during and after reading. As adults, our minds naturally form questions whilst we read, so tap into your pupils inquisitive minds by asking them to question the text. Is it based on truth or fiction? Who has produced it and why? Encourage discussion in pairs or small groups when interesting questions come up.
  • Help your pupils to clarify anything unclear. Are there new vocabulary words that need a definition for full understanding? What about the language? Archaic language can make text more difficult to comprehend as less confident readers take in new words or sentence forms.
  • Mixed ability groups work best with reciprocal teaching, allowing stronger pupils to lead ones who need a little more help.
  • Summarising what you have read and understood is essential to promote deeper learning and it’s a great skill to develop early that will continue to be useful through education and in many job roles – ask pupils to write a short summary, create a poster, name one thing they have learn or quiz each other on the content of the text – reinforcing learnt knowledge and improving the chances of retention.
  • It isn’t just English that reciprocal teaching can benefit. Predicting, questioning, clarifying and summarising are essential in Maths and Science too. 

Reciprocal teaching can be a valuable tool in the classroom, it works to bring readers up to a similar level of comprehension, creates engaging lessons for pupils and reinforced the important of literacy as a whole. Once isn’t enough – to really reinforce these essential comprehension skills and become strong readers, reciprocal teaching needs to be a regular occurrence.

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