Reciprocal teaching lesson: level 3 and 4

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This paired lesson will require students to read a segment of the text 'Among the Gum Trees' (pp. 8 – 11).

Lesson overview

Students will predict, clarify, question and summarise its content. It is assumed that the teacher has explicitly taught each comprehension strategy previously, so that students are confident with each one.

The teacher will provide prompt cards of the four comprehension strategies to assist students to independently prepare for their text discussion. Students will then bring their notes and text to a group discussion using the four comprehension strategies as a guide.

Depending on the gradual release model, the teacher may act as a leader of the discussion or become one of the group members, making contributions, providing feedback and supporting where appropriate.

Text details

Lyne and Carter (2017) Among the Gum Trees, Canberra, ACT: Australian Academy of Science.

Text contains

A non-fiction text which provides information on Australian eucalypts. The text contains:

  • a contents page
  • a glossary
  • information and labelled diagrams on a plant life cycle
  • ‘did you know’ interesting facts
  • labelled photographs

Theory to practice

Research by Palinscar and Brown (1984) identified a discrepancy between student decoding levels and comprehension levels. They identified the importance of dialogue in promoting comprehension, using the word 'reciprocal' to mean 'backwards and forwards' through discussion.

Dialogue is an important element of socially mediated instruction, as it is the vehicle through which the more 'knowing other' (i.e. teacher) scaffolds the learning of the novice (i.e. student) (Bruner, 1986; Palinscar, 2003, Vygotsky, 1978).

Lesson one: Using the four comprehension strategies

Reading using the four comprehension strategies to build understanding and guide the preparation for discussion (i.e. predicting, clarifying, questioning, summarising).

Links to the curriculum

Level three

Reading and viewing

Read an increasing range of imaginative, informative and persuasive texts by combining phonic, semantic, contextual and grammatical knowledge, using text processing strategies, including confirming, rereading and cross-checking. For more information, see: Content description VCELY256

Use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning and begin to evaluate texts by drawing on a growing knowledge of context, text structures and language features. For more information, see: Content description VCELY257

Level four

Reading and viewing

Read different types of texts for specific purposes by combining phonic, semantic, contextual and grammatical knowledge using text processing strategies, including monitoring meaning, skimming, scanning and reviewing. For more information, see: Content description VCELY287

Use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning to expand content knowledge, integrating and linking ideas and analysing and evaluating texts. For more information, see: Content description VCELY288

Learning intention

We are learning to use four comprehension strategies (predicting, clarifying, questioning and summarising) to help us read and understand a text.

Success criteria

I will read the text and make notes from the prompts to help me understand what I have read and prepare for the group discussion.

Theory/practice connections

Role of the reader

Text decoder/Text participant/Text user

Lesson sequence

  1. Introduce the learning intention and success criteria for the lesson. Today we are all going to read pages 8-11 of Among the Gum Trees (Lyne and Carter, Australian Academy of Science, 2017). As we read we are going to use the comprehension strategies of predicting, clarifying, questioning and summarising to help us understand the text. By the end of the lesson you will have read the section of text outlined and prepared your notes which helped you understand the text.  Your notes will also help you to participate in a group discussion in our next session.
  2. Students make a prediction about what they are going to read. They use the chapter heading, sub headings, labelled diagrams and prior content knowledge to predict what the text might be about. They record those predictions using the prompt card to guide their recordings.
  3. Students read the text individually. The teacher ‘listens in’ to each student as they read and provides a scaffold as required. The teacher keeps anecdotal records about the reading: what problem-solving occurred at unknown words or unknown meaning, what assistance was required, what the reading sounded like.
  4. After reading, students record whether they confirmed or rejected their prediction and why (through linking to evidence in the text). 
    • They identify any vocabulary or phrases they did not understand and attempt to clarify their meaning. They record these attempts.
    • They ask themselves a question about the text and attempt to find the evidence in the text or beyond to help them answer it. To move beyond the surface level of understanding, they can generate literal, inferential and evaluative questions for the group to help co-construct meaning.
    • They attempt to summarise the text making sure they are succinct and include the main points. They record their summary.
    • N.B. This section of the lesson can be configured in different ways:  each member of the group could be allocated one of the comprehension strategies and be responsible for leading that part of the discussion. Preparation would be confined to the allocated strategy, or each member completes preparation on all strategies but is responsible for leading the discussion in one part, or each member completes preparation on all strategies but the teacher or an allocated student leads the whole discussion.
  5. Return to the success criteria. Check students have read and prepared their notes. Seek feedback from them on the process. Do they feel confident with their understanding of the text? Are they ready to contribute to a discussion about the text?

Lesson two: Reciprocal teaching discussion

Links to the curriculum

Level three

Speaking and listening

Understand that successful cooperation with others depends on shared use of social conventions, including turn-taking patterns, and forms of address that vary according to the degree of formality in social situations. For more information, see: Content description VCELA271

Learn extended and technical vocabulary and ways of expressing opinion including modal verbs and adjectives. For more information, see: Content description VCELA273

Level four

Speaking and listening

Understand that social interactions influence the way people engage with ideas and respond to others. For more information, see: Content description VCELA304

Discuss literary experiences with others, sharing responses and expressing a point of view. For more information, see: Content description VCELT306

Learning intention

We are learning to use discussion to help deepen our understanding of a text.

Success criteria

I am responsible for leading the discussion on one of the comprehension strategies. I can lead the discussion using my notes for prompts and evidence from the text.  

I will be an active participant in the rest of the discussion. I will do this by contributing to the discussion in at least one other comprehension strategy.

Role of the reader

Text participant/Text analyst.

Lesson sequence

  1. Introduce the learning intention and success criteria for the lesson.
    • Today we are going to discuss pages 8 to ll of Among The Gum Trees (Lyne & Carter, 2017). Hearing group members make predictions, clarifications, ask questions and summarise can add to our own individual understandings and allow us to understand a text at a deeper level.
    • Each of you worked through the four comprehension strategies. Each of you will lead discussion on one of these strategies. Successful participation means you will also contribute to the discussion on at least one other comprehension strategy.
  2. The student leader begins with their prediction. S/he indicates whether they confirmed or rejected his/her opinion after reading. S/he invite other group members to also respond. The teacher makes anecdotal notes on student contributions and understanding.
  3. The student leader chooses a word or section of the text that required clarification. S/he explains his/her thinking and problem solving and relate back to the text. S/he invites other group members to add to their clarification. S/he also asks students if there are any further clarifications required. The group problem solve. The teacher may act as a support to guide students’ thinking. They also make anecdotal notes on student contributions and understanding.
  4. The student leader asks a question to the group. S/he nominates the type of question (i.e. I am going to ask you an inferential question. ‘Why do young plants grow best in Spring? You will need to find some text clues and think about your background knowledge on Spring). Group members make their inferences and discuss. The student leader then asks group members if they have other questions they need the group to help answer (e.g. I have an evaluate question. I was wondering what would happen if herbivores ate all the plants in the world?) The teacher may also ask questions to check for deeper understanding. The teacher makes anecdotal notes on student contributions and understanding.
  5. The student leader reads their summary. S/he invites group members to add to their summary. The teacher may act as a guide to direct students to the main ideas or messages in the text. The summary contributes to the group’s co-constructed understanding. The teacher makes anecdotal notes on student contributions and understanding.
  6. The teacher returns to the success criteria and asks students to rate their leadership and participation in discussion. The teacher invites feedback from group members and gives feedback from anecdotal notes. New student goals are set.