Fostering reciprocal teaching by helping students to generate higher-order thinking questions.

by April Giddens

Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12


Reciprocal teaching is where you turn the classroom over to the students and students take charge of their own learning. It also requires all students to take part in the lesson.

In my classroom, students are organized in groups and each child has a specific role. After we read a text together, one may summarize, one would ask clarifying questions, another might predict, and a fourth might highlight difficult vocabulary words. The goal is to work collaboratively to generate higher order thinking skills.

At the center of this is a continuous process to develop the capacity to ask good, probing questions. This means more emphasis on “why” questions and less on “what.” Why did the author choose to write a certain way? Why did the character do one thing and not another? Those questions, when tackled by the working groups, force them back into the text and to work together to come up with a set of possible answers.

The ultimate goal in my classroom is that students become so proficient at devising higher level questions that it becomes intrinsic. This is of course, important during their tenures as students but even more important as they enter the work world.


What I did well…

In this instructional sequence, I was effective in having the students discuss their thoughts on the two articles presented.   Having the students write their questions allows others to see and hear their thinking process so that they understand the level of thinking required to answer higher-level questions.  Eliciting critical thinking on two different articles in one class period occurred and it allowed the students to extend their thinking beyond recall questions.

What I would do more of, better, or differently…

In this lesson, I wish I had urged the participants to think more critically about the purpose of the authors’ messages.  I also wished I would have had the students analyze a third article to increase the rigor o the assignment.  There were also some opportunities where I could have extended the discussions and I could have encouraged that.  If we had more time, we would have swapped group members and had students discuss additional questions and discuss how the groups analyzed the articles differently.   I would have also emphasized the importance of reciprocal teaching and analysis to encourage students to understand a variety of decisions they will make in the future and how their analysis of decisions (which college to attend, which candidate to vote for, which car to buy) are based in factual analysis instead of guessing. 

I still want to grow in this practice by…

I want to continue to build a library of strategies that assist students in effectively working together and ensuring that I provide opportunities for reciprocal teaching.  One way to ensure this happens is by encouraging my students to provide feedback about my instruction, as well as reflecting on my teaching strategies.  I know that student personalities vary, so knowing my students and building lessons that support those differences would bring out the best in my students. Imagine if students thought critically about every decision and chose to analyze their options in life before making decisions.


About April Giddens

April Giddens is passionate educator that continually strives to encourage and support both students and teachers every day. She earned a degree in...

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