If you hear your child come home from school talking about “reciprocal teaching” have no fear. It is not some new teaching degree or worse! It is merely a theory of teaching that incorporates leading children in four basic strategies by modeling, then gradually giving full responsibility to the students to carry out the strategies independently, with eventual independent cognition or learning. Sounds complicated? It really isn’t.
Annemarie Sullivan Palincsar and Ann L. Brown helped to create reciprocal teaching. The whole purpose is to help students from first grade on up for improving their understanding when reading. According to creators, is best described as a dialog between teacher and students. Reciprocal teaching involves using four strategies: summarizing, question generating, clarifying, and predicting. Summarizing is pretty self explanatory. Students are taught how to shorten what they
have learned into a few important sentences. Question generating could take the form of a Question Answer Relationship, where students answer
questions directly from the text, or from information they may already know. This also involved the who, when, where, why what, and how of the story. Clarifying asks students to identify and explain difficult words or phrases from a selection and to use strategies that help them to make the meaning clearer. Often times this involves teaching the student how to look for context clues or break the sentences or words apart. Often, students are asked to come up with prediction of their reading. Students are taught to look for proof in the text to support their prediction or theory. When all four of the strategies are put together, they are called cognitive strategies. ( A Practical Guide to Reciprocal Teaching by Shira Lubliner) ( http://www.ncrel.org)
When teaching these strategies, the teacher must use a technique called scaffolding. Scaffolding is simply where the students are directly taught
a skill, with the teacher modeling. The next time the students use the skill or strategy, they will do it with less teacher instruction.Gradually, as the students become more efficient at using the strategies, the teacher gives up responsibility and the children begin to learn and co-teach each other with less and less student involvement. The ideal situation is that a teacher will tell the students ” Today we are going to do a reciprocal activity, and you have some organizing sheets to help you with the four strategies. You are on your own, and I will set the timer.” The way it works and the way it is suppose to work are two separate things. Students are use to having teachers give them step by step instructions, and asking students to take responsibility for their own learning is often difficult.
After practicing these skills with direct modeling, students often begin to take more responsibility for their own learning. As our students get older, more and more is of course expected of them. So if your child tells you he is receiving reciprocal teaching, you now know what he is learning, and it is to his benefit.