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Meaningful talk: Reciprocal teaching

Updated: Jul 11, 2019

In this student-led approach, students read, write, speak, listen, and think while working with a text.

The challenge of the New TEKS: make sure students are reading, writing, listening, speaking, and thinking every day. For some, that means getting that all done in 45 minutes. And it needs to be meaningful, not just a check mark.

So what do we do? In this summer series, we’ll look at different instructional elements that engage students in all those modes of communication. Today we start with reciprocal teaching.

The setup

Students are seated in groups of four. This will be a collaborative conversation.

The task

Students are assigned a text that they will read together. They can take turns reading sections out-loud or there can be one assigned reader.

There are four assigned roles. Each student has one.

· Predictor – makes text-based predictions about what the next section will be about. These predictions can be based on the title, on organizational patterns, etc.

· Questioner – develops text-based questions. Whatever questions the student asks, they should be able to answered, or mostly answered, using the text. This assists students in learning how to generate quality questions.

· Clarifier – seeks places for clarification. This usually involves new or confusing vocabulary or confusing parts of the piece. Students are asked to use context to figure it out. They may also use a dictionary if they need to.

· Summarizer – identifies main ideas and summarizes that section.

Reciprocal teaching is one of those strategies that needs to be practiced early in the year and used throughout. For the initial uses:

Teacher models each role and gives students multiple question and response stems for each role. These stems can be on the board and/or note cards at each desk.

For example:

Predictor: I think this section will be about_____________________.

Based on what we have read so far, I think the next section will be about __________________.

Questioner: One thing I’m wondering about ___________________________.

I would ask: _________________________________.

Clarifier: The part that seems confusing is ______________________.

The word I don’t understand is_______________________.

Summarizer: The main points are _______________________________.

This section is mostly about ____________________________.

Teacher practices the roles with the students. Teacher can assign a student-created graphic organizer, so students record the notes of their conversation.

An of example of a reciprocal teaching graphic organizer

Students then work in their groups to repeat the remaining assigned sections of text.

What does this look like in a lesson?

You could start with a brief journal. For example, if I am going to have the students read “The Most Dangerous Game” using reciprocal teaching, I might create my lesson like this:

Journal (warm-up)

What makes a game fun? What makes a game dangerous? Can a fun game be dangerous and vice versa? Explain.


Students discuss and then share some of their ideas with the class.

Identify learning intentions and success criteria for the day

Learning intention (based on 7th grade TEKS): Students will comprehend a short story and be able to analyze how the setting of the story influences character and plot development.

Success criteria:

· You will generate questions, make predictions, make inferences, and paraphrase information during your reciprocal teaching protocol

· You will take notes in a graphic organizer illustrating what you talk about during your conversations

· After reading the assigned sections of the text, you will discuss with your group how the setting influences characters and the plot so far

· On an exit ticket, you will explain how the setting affects the plot and characters. You will use at least one example of text evidence.

Introduce short story – consider drawing students’ attention to the different meanings of the word “game”

Teacher models strategy and assigns students’ roles.

Students begin to read the first sections of the text (this story would take more than one day depending on class length). After each section, they give input based on their assigned role. Of course, students do not have to be limited to their one role. As students get more comfortable with this protocol, conversations can become more organic. The key here is that all students need to participate and no one student takes over. The teacher will need to monitor to ensure this happens.

Exit ticket (formal formative assessment) for end of first day: How does the setting of “The Most Dangerous Game” influence the characters and the plot development at this point in the story?

This lesson covers the following TEKS:

7.5B - Generate questions about text before, during, and after reading to deepen understanding and gain information.

7.5C - Make, correct, or confirm predictions using text features, characteristics of genre, and structures.

7.5F - Make inferences and use evidence to support understanding.

7.6B - Write responses that demonstrate understanding of texts, including comparing sources within and across genres.

7.6C - Use text evidence to support an appropriate response.

7.6D - Paraphrase and summarize texts in ways that maintain meaning and logical order.

7.6H - Respond orally or in writing with appropriate register, vocabulary, tone, and voice.

7.7D - Analyze how the setting influences character and plot development.

As you may have noticed, students are asked to:

Write: During journal, notetaking, and exit ticket

Read: the text “The Most Dangerous Game”

Listen: to responses of those in their group

Speak: respond to the task of their assigned role, sharing of journal

Think: during all aspects

Notice: While I used a pair share, that was not the extent of the speaking. Most of the speaking took place during reciprocal teaching. The talk is meaningful – literally discussing the meaning of the text.

This is just one example of lessons that are designed to hit all elements of literacy. Stay tuned for lessons using conversation roundtable, pinwheel discussions, fishbowl, and readers theater.

“The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell is available in the public domain.

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