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Monday, June 8, 2015

Reciprocal Teaching at Work: Reinforcing the Strategies

This week I've been reading chapter two from Lori Oczkus' book Reciprocal Teaching at Work K-12. I know I've said this before but with moving from a lot of years at first grade up to fifth grade this year, I'm actually glad to be reading about something that works across the grades. I am very comfortable with teaching comprehension strategies to first graders, but figuring out how it looks in fifth grade is a different beast in many ways. I like to look at things in a very research oriented way and that's what really caught my attention in chapter one - research overwhelmingly shows that teaching comprehension strategies boosts your student's reading abilities. Many of our low readers struggle with comprehension and explicit instruction is desperately needed. You can read my post about chapter one here. So let's dive into chapter two.

Click on the cover to go to Amazon.

Reciprocal teaching focuses on four strategies: predicting, questioning, clarifying and summarizing. To get started you will want to teach or review these strategies with your students regardless of your grade level. Chapter two gives us some practical ways to introduce the strategies:

  • Read-Aloud's - You will want to model, model, model. Alternate between teacher modeling and student pair shares throughout each lesson. Use fiction and nonfiction - newspaper articles, picture books, comics, recipes, maps, a novel - any material will work.
  • Shared Reading of Poetry - I love using poetry. It's so versatile and I think the flow helps with fluency, so I already use a lot of poetry. When using it to introduce the strategies, start with predictions based on the illustrations and title, then read the poem. Model clarification of tricky words or parts, ask questions and summarize. Short, but powerful, lessons are possible.
  • Four Door Chart - Alternate between teacher modeling and student sketches or written responses for each strategy. This can be more time consuming and it can take away from the discussions however, the author suggests it as a technique to help students become familiar with the strategies and then wean students from the use of it as reciprocal teaching is meant to be a discussion technique.
  • Fab Four Characters and Props - I tend to be a little more serious and I can't really see me acting out the strategies with puppets or props. But I'm sure many of you could make this a lot of fun. The props could be glasses for clarifying, a microphone for questioning, a camera for summarizing and a snow globe for prediction.
Use of Mentor Texts - I love using mentor texts for writing, so why not for comprehension strategies? Here are some of the books recommended by the author:

One of the things I love most about this book so far is that it's not a huge new thing. I have enough great things in my repertoire. It's really about taking what we already do and making it more precise and more student-centered. Here are my goals for reciprocal teaching this next year:
  1. Use a great read-aloud to model the strategies, not just once, but all year long. 
  2. Be consistent in using reciprocal teaching - twice a week to see the benefits. 
  3. Make sure all students are participating in the discussions.
Coming Soon: Reciprocal Teaching in Whole-Class Sessons, in Guided Reading and in Literature Circles.  Come back next week for some more thoughts on this book. Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Brandi, great summary. I like the goals you have created for yourself next year. I need to also make it a point to incorporate more mentor texts into my teaching for next year. As you move up the grades, I think these types of tools begin to get lost...but in my experience, even my 6th and 7th graders really enjoy being read to and skimming through the mentor text picture books. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I think moving from 1st to 5th will make it easier for me not to forget to use picture books. But you are totally right, they begin to get lost even though they are great teaching tools.