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Reciprocal Teaching an Alternative to Close Reading for Teachers

One day after school while I was sitting at a table in a classroom one of the teachers brought her test to me and asked me if her it could be done in Edusoft. I looked at the test and then we began to discuss all of the different components that were on the test.  I asked her why she had so many matching vocabulary items on her test?  Her response was, ” The students were low in vocabulary.” So, I thought about it for a second and then I said, ” We do not teach vocabulary in isolation any more because it sends the message to the students that vocabulary is separate from reading; vocabulary should be taught in context.” We talked about what vocabulary in context looked like and how she could implement it in her classroom. In the midst of the conversation she said, ” During her close reading …..” I stopped her and asked, ” Have you heard of Reciprocal Teaching?” She said no, so I explained to her that Reciprocal Teaching had 4 components: the questioning, summarizing, predicting, and clarifying. It was getting late and we had to leave so I told her to research Reciprocal Teaching on the Internet.

This conversation that I had with this teacher  always resurfaces periodically when I hear elementary teachers talk about close reading. I do not believe that close reading is appropriate for elementary students or struggling readers because it assumes that students are proficient in text connections, summarizing, analyzing and other necessary comprehension skills. In the article Why Reciprocal Teaching 4th grade students in the Highland Park, Michigan school district received intensive instruction in Reciprocal Teaching  reading comprehension strategies during the 1993-1994 school saw their reading scores for the next two year’s group of 4th graders continue to improve : for 1995 31.5 percent; 1996 39.6 percent. Not only did the elementary reading scores in improve, high school students who were seeking diplomas with endorsements in reading and math exceeded 25 percent in some test areas.

The concern that I have with the Common Core State Standards supporting Close Reading is that many teachers have do not have any idea what close reading is or how to implement it with young learners or struggling readers. Reciprocal Teaching allows young learners and struggling reading to gain the necessary reading comprehension skills that Close Reading requires when reading a complex text.

Reciprocal Teaching Cards

Reciprocal Teaching Cards

Reciprocal Teaching also teaches students how to create and identify on the surface questions (right here questions) and under the surface questions (inference).

Under and on the Surface Questions

Reciprocal Teaching provides students with the reading comprehension skills that are required in Close Reading.  If students have not mastered reading comprehension skills such as, questioning, predicting and summarizing then Close Reading will be a useless tool for teachers and students.

3 comments

  1. I really like the on the surface/under the surface questioning. Great way to discuss it with students.

  2. Meeghan says:

    Very interesting. This is the first I have heard of either method -so, I will have to read more about both. I definitely believe you are correct, though -with the reciprocal teaching. With our Learn to Read for Free program that we use for younger children, we teach the sight words (essentially vocabulary) in context because we know that the students learn to read better, and comprehend better. They learn reading has meaning -and they learn to love to read because they understand the text. Instead of reading isolated sight words (or vocabulary words) that don’t really mean anything to them, they read words that form sentences and have meaning. I do have many concerns about Common Core -and this is one to add to the list. Thanks for the post!

  3. Mrs Martin says:

    I love reciprocal teaching! 🙂 gives a great structure for struggling readers

  4. […] Language Arts strategies because math is not a text based subject. Comprehension strategies such as Reciprocal Teaching can be modified to support literacy in the math classroom. After all READING IS THINKING no matter […]

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