Using Reciprocal Teaching

Reciprocal teaching is a small-group activity in which students rotate through four different roles to support each other in reading and understanding a text. Enacting the four roles and focusing on evidence from the text (instead of just shooting from the hip with their own opinions) enables students to learn a great deal through this activity.

Reciprocal teaching takes place in groups of four students, each of whom has one role at a time. The activity is most effective if students periodically switch roles, either during a single reading or for each new reading session. Here are the four roles:

  • Predictor: This person speaks first. Before reading the text, the predictor looks at the heading and makes predictions as to what the text will be about.
  • Summarizer: After reading the text, this person begins by saying what he or she thinks the text is about, paragraph by paragraph. The goal is for the summarizer to say the main points and connect them to other ideas or explain what they mean.
  • Questioner: The questioner asks questions about parts that are unclear or confusing. The questioner can also ask questions to direct the conversation to what the text explains or how it connects to other information, such as asking for more information, agreeing or disagreeing, or asking for evidence.
  • Clarifier: The clarifier is responsible for responding to the questioner and helping to explain what the text is about.



Student handout: the four reciprocal teaching roles, with sentence stems to help get the ball rolling.

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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