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Reciprocal Teaching Strategy in Teaching Reading Descriptive Text

Palincsar & Brown (1984) identified four simple strategies when used in concert, would tap all six functions needed for comprehension. The strategies are, predicting, clarifying, questioning, and summarizing. Palincsar, et.al. (1989) states the Reciprocal Teaching Strategy is based on four principles.

There are numerous ways which are related to one another. Predicting, clarifying, questioning, and summarizing are all strategies that fostered comprehension. Carter (2001) investigates “the combination of reading comprehension and self-monitoring of comprehension strategies is necessary for improvement while reading”. It also provides many opportunities for teaching and reinforcing strategies. In this method, the students not only monitor their own comprehension but also become active participants in their learning and learn from others in the process. According to Lysynchuck, et.al. (1990), students observe teachers completing various tasks and modeling them. After wards, students attempt the tasks with little support from the teachers. Eventually the students assume the role of the teacher using the strategies.

a. Predicting

Predicting occurs when students hypothesize what the author discusses next in the text (Palincsar & Brown, 1984). Prediciting involves finding structure and/or clues about what might come next when reading a descriptive text. Making predictions activate prior knowledge and create expectations, which makes information more meaningful and easier to remember. It encourages the students to think about what they already knew and compared that to what they are now learning, doing or planning. These processes establish expectations about what the students encounter while they work, which motivates the students to persist and continue to work to see if their predictions are correct.

According to Harris and Graham (2007), predicting involves finding clues in the structure and content of a passage like a descriptive text that might suggest what will happen next. Predicting activates prior knowledge and motivates students to continue reading the descriptive text to determine if the predictions were correct. To learn this strategy, students are instructed to use the title to make initial predictions about the descriptive text and then to use clues in the story to make additional predictions before reading each new paragraph or section of descriptive text. Students share predictions with one another.

b. Clarifying

Clarifying is an activity that is particularly important when working with the students who have a history of comprehension difficulty (Palincsar & Brown, 1984). Clarifying means attending to the many reasons why a descriptive text is difficult to understand and asking oneself and another for help. New vocabulary items, ankward structures, unclear referent words. Students are taught to be alert to such stumbling blocks, to reread ahead, ask for help, discuss, or take any other steps needed to restore meaning.

In addition, Harris and Graham (2007) states that clarifying involves discerning when there is a breakdown in comprehension and taking steps to restore meaning. Clarifying assures that the passage in the descriptive text will make sense to the reader. To learn this strategy, students are instructed to be alert to occasions when they are not understanding the meaning of descriptive text, and when this occurs to process the descriptive text again. For instance, if a word did not make sense to the student, he or she would be instructed to try to define the word by reading the sentences that precede and follow it. Students are also taught to attend to words such as or, which may signal the meaning of an unfamiliar word, and to be certain they know to what referents such as them, it, and they refer (anaphora). If, after rereading the passage in the descriptive text, something is still not clear, students are instructed to request assistance.

c. Questioning

Questioning reinforces the summarizing and carries the learner one more step along in the comprehension activity (Palincsar & Brown, 1984). Questioning is a flexible strategy to the extent that students can be taught and encouraged to generate questionss at many levels.

Harris and Graham (2007) states that questioning are constructed about important information, rather than about unimportant details, in the descriptive text. Question generation allows readers to self-test their understanding of the descriptive text and helps them to identify what is important in the story. To learn this strategy, students are instructed to select important information from the paragraph and use the words who, how, when, where, and why to make up questions. Students are taught to ask questions about the main idea of the passage, questions about important details, and questions for which the passage does not provide the answer.

d. Summarizing

Summarizing provides the opportunity to identify and integrate the most important information in the text (Palincsar & Brown, 1984). A descriptive text can be summarized across sentences, paragraphs, and the passage as a whole. When the students first begin the Reciprocal Teaching procedure, their efforts are generally focused on the sentences and paragraph levels.

According to Harris and Graham (2007), a summary is one or two sentence statement that tells the most important ideas contained in a paragraph or section of descriptive text. The summary should contain only the most important ideas and should not include unimportant details. A summary should be in the students’ own words. Summarizing can improve understanding and memory of what is read. Students are instructed to locate the topic sentence of a paragraph. If there is no topic sentence, they are taught to make up their own topic sentence by combining the sentences they have underlined as containing the most relevant ideas. Students are then instructed to locate the most important details that support the topic sentence and to delete what is unimportant or redundant. Finally, they are instructed to restate the main idea and supporting details in their own words.


Carter, C. J. 2001. Reciprocal Teaching: The Application of a Reading Improvement Strategy on Urban Students in Highland Park, Michigan, 1993-1995. Geneva: The International Bureau of Education.

Harris, K. R. & Graham, S. 2007. Teaching Reading Comprehension to Students with Learning Difficulties. New York: Guildford Press.

Lysynchuk, L. M., Pressley, M. & Vye, N. J. 1990. Reciprocal Teaching Improves Standardized Reading Comprehension Performance in Poor Comprehenders. The Elementary School Journal, 90, p. 469-484.

Palincsar, A.S. & Brown, A.L. 1984. Reciprocal Teaching of Comprehension Fostering and Comprehension Monitoring Activities, Cognitive and Instruction. p.117-175.

Palinscar, A.S. Ransom, J. & Derber, C. 1989. Reciprocal Teaching Report. http://www.newton.k12.us/dist/curr/bp/lit/guided_reading.htm.

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