Using Listening Triads

Listening triads are an easy strategy for structuring small group reading and discussion. They give students practice in active listening and monitoring their own comprehension as they read.

Divide students into groups of three and give them a text to read. During or after reading the text, the members of each group discuss and build understanding of the meaning of the text by acting out three roles: those of questioner, explainer, and recorder.

The questioner asks questions about the text. For example:

  • What does that mean?
  • Why do you think that is?
  • Can you explain what's similar/different about _____?

The explainer uses the text to attempt to answer the questions. For example:

  • I think it means that...
  • I think what the text says is true/false because...
  • This is similar to/different from _____ because...

The recorder keeps the group on-task and records notes on the questions and their answers.

The students can rotate between roles periodically (for example, every three minutes during discussion), so that everyone gets a chance to take on the different cognitive tasks.


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Development of Reading to Learn in Science was led by Jonathan Osborne (Stanford University) through a SERP collaboration. Support for Reading to Learn in Science was provided by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education through grant number R305F100026. The information provided does not represent views of the funders.

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Reading to Learn in Science