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Reciprocal Teaching with Popular Reading Apps

by Miguel Guhlin
pair of glasses on top of open book

Few would disagree that reading plays a crucial role in life. Scaffolding student cognition during reading can enhance student achievement. One of the techniques I employed as a young teacher included Reciprocal Teaching. In this blog entry, you will see a few amazing reading apps you can try reciprocal teaching on.

Google Rivet Transitions to Google’s Kids Space 

This blog entry previously featured Google Rivet, which Google shelved on October 16, 2020. The Rivet content (3500 books) found its way into Google’s new Kids Space. Per the Google Kids Space website, you can get to it via select Android tablets. Children are able to access apps, books, and videos. These are age-appropriate and targeted by age. One neat feature is that multiple children can use the same tablet. This is because children’s accounts are kept separate. Children’s education and media specialists have all reviewed apps and books included.

Effect Size of Reciprocal Teaching

Reciprocal Teaching (Palinscar & Brown, 1984) has strong support among researchers. Consider that John Hattie’s meta-analyses results include reciprocal teaching as a high-impact strategy. Its effect size of .79 means that it can advance student achievement almost two years growth for one year of school. (You can learn more about Hattie’s research in these blogs or join TCEA’s empowerED program and receive inexpensive professional development on his strategies.)



What Is Reciprocal Teaching?

This tried-and-true technique works especially well with second language learners. Under the tutelage of Mark Gabehart (Round Rock ISD CTO), I discovered this first-hand working with bilingual/ESL students in urban school settings. Reciprocal teaching includes a cycle of predicting, clarifying, questioning, and summarizing. The video below illustrates the reciprocal teaching cycle:

Through the use of statement stems, students are able to learn critical processes. For example, for Predictor, students think about what they have read. Then they predict what will happen next. Assisting students in understanding how to predict is key. For questioning, students can use sentence stems such as “I wonder…” or the five Ws to unearth ideas and information.  You can see some sentence stems via this reciprocal teaching Pinterest board. Explore the Wakelet embedded below:


View Wakelet on Reciprocal Teaching

Why Is Reciprocal Teaching Needed?

If your students face any or all of the following obstacles (adapted from ASCD Publication: Lori D. Oczkus’ Reciprocal Teaching At Work),  reciprocal teaching may be what’s needed.

  • Students don’t remember what they read, even when they can decode text
  • Little to no engagement with reading material
  • Students read at two or more years below grade level
  • Informational text (non-fiction) is difficult to understand
  • Challenging words are difficult to decipher
  • Students may be unable to describe the difference between main idea and supporting details

As a result of reciprocal teaching technique’s effectiveness for over thirty years, it is worth adopting. The National Behaviour Support Service offers this visual which may assist you:

Reciprocal Teaching Outside the Classroom

We imagine that RT may be for classroom use only, but that’s not true. We can encourage its use outside of the classroom by helping students to become teachers. “The act of teaching activates more regions of the brain,” says Dr. Lou Whitaker. Another approach could involve students modeling the RT cycle. They use this high impact reading strategy with Flipgrid, as you can see below.

Another may involve recording a video and then using EdPuzzle.com to empower students. These students create a video with questions interspersed throughout.

How could students use this with new reading apps, such as Google’s Kid Space and other amazing reading apps?


Exploring Five, Incredible Reading Apps

One of the challenges students face is access to common text. Now, with these reading apps, students can access common content and can apply reciprocal teaching strategies to that text. Having apps you can share with students that feature common content is a win for both teachers and students.

While most educators may rely on Epic! books as their common text, don’t forget about other great sources of reading material online. You can find a comprehensive list in this TCEA TechNotes blog entry, Digital Stories for Remote Learners.

This blog entry was updated on 6/29/2021 with new content.

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1 comment

Jennifer Bergland July 11, 2019 - 11:01 am

Good job. I have a couple of comments/ suggestions on how technology might enhance the learning in the reciprocal teaching process. The first video you linked to in the blog post was so painful to watch because the students were using printed dictionaries and an atlas. It took them forever to look up what they were interested in knowing. How much faster would it have been to Google the words and the location. One of the students asked about the flooding and they made some educated guesses but how much more powerful for them to Google “flooding” in Bangladesh to find the real cause of the floods. Also, the teacher could have used a Google spreadsheet or Form where each group could insert the clarification questions and answers so that the entire class can benefit from each group’s work. A form would probably work best so that each group’s work is recorded, but not seen until the end of the activity.

You could use this video as a tool to not only learn about reciprocal teaching but also how technology could be used to assist the student’s work.

Also, Rivet is a pretty cool tool. I remember as far as the early 90’s our ELA coordinator mentioned how critical it was for students to have access to dictionaries at their desk so they could easily look up words as they were reading. However, even that was too much trouble for students to do on a regular basis. It also slowed down their reading considerably. At the time, there were these little devices that were “electronic” dictionaries but they were too expensive to purchase class sets. We are way beyond that capability now. Wow!


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