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Reciprocal Teaching - A Guide

Reciprocal teaching is an instructional activity where students work in groups to arrive at reasonable conclusions. The purpose of reciprocal teaching is the facilitation of a group effort between the students and the teacher as well as among students in the context of bringing meaning to the text. However, there needs to be some kind of regulation lest the discussion becomes redundantly syllogistic, so the teacher will take a passive role and play the role of a guide. This makes sure that the conclusions they come to are on track.

Types of Reciprocal Teaching

Even though the above-mentioned method is the most popular form, there are several forms of reciprocal teaching that are present because as mentioned earlier, reciprocal teaching is a more personalized approach to learning. However, they can be broadly classified into three -

The Teacher-Leader Model

Here, the teacher takes up the role of all the Fab Four members, and the students participate in it. The engagement can be quite less, as it mirrors the traditional teaching technique with some extra steps.

The Student-Leader Model

Here, the teacher offers a single student or a single group of students the responsibility of teaching. This can be more jovial and fun for all the students, as one among them will be teaching them.

Shifting Roles Model

This is the most common type of reciprocal teaching teachers employ. This improves a student’s level of cognition, reasoning ability, and a lot more, which will be discussed below.

The 4 Pillars of Reciprocal Teaching

Reciprocal teaching has 4 major components, known as The Fab Four. To make the context clear, we will be using the Shifting Roles Model of reciprocal teaching.


In this phase, the student is expected to ask themselves questions pertaining to the text. These questions need to be written down for later clarification. The students who prepare the questions can answer the questions themselves and share them among themselves. These questions, however, need to be from a place of genuine curiosity and in the light of searching for meaning in the text.


The summarizers need to create a summary of the passage they just read after reading the entirety of the text. Their role is to identify all the themes that recur in the text and list them down.


The clarifier’s job is to clarify the questions posed by the group and give them concrete answers. Even though this is done in the context of comprehension, the clarifier might sometimes have to refer outside the text to clarify certain questions.


The students who will be making predictions will have to make an educated guess on what they think they will be learning from the text. Sometimes, they might have to tap into knowledge they might have previously acquired.

Why is Reciprocal Teaching Important?

This concept was first developed in 1984 by  Annemarie Sullivan Palincsar and Ann L. Brown for students who showed a discrepancy between their decoding skills and comprehension skills. However, that does not clarify why reciprocal teaching is useful. However, fear not, for here is your guide to see why it is so.

Puts the Student on the Spot

First of all, reciprocal teaching puts the student on the center stage. This makes the learning process much more active and engaging, making the entire lesson a student-centric experience. Such a teaching strategy is arguably the most effective because it allows students to learn not just for the sake of learning but also to teach others, which takes much more preparation and planning.

Uses Techniques That Encourage Collaboration

Several studies have shown that collaboration trumps competition when it comes to a learning experience. Reciprocal teaching makes students engage with one another and use each other’s skills to their advantage, hence learning how to do teamwork. This is one of the most important lessons children can receive at school.

Helps Students Develop Leadership Skills

When students are pushed to take the role of the teacher, they are inevitably pushed into a corner where their fight/flight response kicks in. When the environment provided is friendly, the students find themselves in a safe space and this can help them cultivate a proper sense of leadership.

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