Are you struggling to juggle what seems like an endless number of reading abilities that require different level texts? This was me before I was introduced to reciprocal reading. 

Also referred to as reciprocal teaching, reciprocal reading is a technique which does not use differentiation through text difficulty during reading lessons (Cooper and Grieve, 2009).

At its heart, it is a reading technique that centres on the use of four key strategies of predict, clarify, question and summarise to develop comprehension. The technique uses the same text for all learners, and differentiation occurs through question styles relating to Bloom’s Taxonomy.

How happy would our university lecturers be knowing that good old Bloom’s is being used? 

Below are five top tips to begin your reciprocal reading journey:

1 | Book choice

Don’t just choose an age-appropriate text you think the children will enjoy; choose a text that interests you or that you genuinely enjoy. This may seem pretty obvious, but I sometimes feel it’s definitely overlooked. If you’re not excited to teach with it, how can you expect the children to be excited to engage with it?

2 | Read every day

Make reading part of your everyday classroom routine. The more children read and are exposed to a range of different texts, as well as vocabulary, the more they will learn.

You can achieve this through simple tasks such as displaying a ‘Word of the Day’ and providing an example of the word used in context, or by simply reading a book with the class. I have found reading a class text, even if it is just an online news article, is a great tool in helping me to assess reading comprehension of unknown texts. 

3 | Language stems

During reading sessions, use discussions by providing language stems to prompt readers to develop their own knowledge. For example:

4 | The four key strategies

Try to incorporate any of the four key strategies into your everyday teaching, regardless of the lesson or subject. Reading skills can be developed in any areas of the curriculum, and the prediction strategy can work particularly well in science, as you could ask learners to use what they already know to make a prediction.

I have also found history is a great subject to learners’ questioning skills. You can begin lessons by giving a stimulus (in the form or a primary or secondary source) and asking the class, ‘What questions could we ask to help us learn more about this time period?’

This would also be a perfect opportunity to highlight what clues you’re using to formulate the questions, using inference skills.

5 | Finally, make reading fun!

I’ve found pupils have really enjoyed ‘Prediction Puzzle’. This is where the class have to see if they can identify what we will be reading. I give the children three clues and they are allowed three questions to guess the topic of our next text.

It has been a great tool in not only creating a real ‘buzz’ about reading, but also improving questioning and inference skills. It can also be used in any subject. As an English lecturer once told me, the more links you can make to reading, the easier the teaching of reading will be. 

Remember, throughout lessons try to explicitly model useful reading behaviours whenever possible. Point out the clues you are using to create your predictions, show how you use a sentence to identify a word’s meaning, model how to find relevant information to answer a question and demonstrate how to decide what the most important information is.

You are the most important and crucial teaching aid in that classroom, and you do know what you are doing (even though it sometimes doesn’t feel like it).

Mia Brough is a Year 5 teacher in a junior school in the West Midlands. Follow her on Twitter at @MissB_Primary.