Lori Oczkus's Reciprocal Teaching at Work: Powerful Strategies and Lessons for Improving Reading Comprehension, Second Edition provides both an overview of the strategy of reciprocal teaching and specific implementation ideas. Reciprocal teaching is a multistrategy strategy developed originally for use with struggling middle school readers. It involves teaching four major components of reading: predicting, questioning, clarifying and summarizing within the context of reading. For her it is essential to model and teach the components together so that students can begin to understand that readers do these things together. While lessons may focus on a particular skill, students are expected to incorporate all the parts.
She has a wide variety of reproducibles and posters throughout the text that can be utilized as reinforcement of ideas, checklists of stages, and evaluation of process. A teacher can easily find the things that would work best in his or her class and use that material only.
Although the text is geared to the K-12 market, I think that primary teachers would need to incorporate more support and secondary teachers might need to be prodded to incorporate this concept. If a school or district decided to utilize the approach, it would be easier. Common Core State Standards, with their emphasis on reading in the content areas, could be facilitated by this approach which focuses on comprehension. Still, I think many high school teachers need to continually be pushed to teach reading in their classes.
Of interest is her reminder that this is only one strategy and not a comprehensive reading program. Reciprocal reading is primarily focused on comprehension with some vocabulary/ language issues being addressed. Students need instruction in phonics, phonemic awareness and fluency as is appropriate to the grade level and student skills. While significant reading gains have been documented when utilizing the program, it is not a self-contained out of the box approach. Teachers are respected as bringing lots of knowledge and skill to the table. They should not ignore what they know works, what students have previously been taught and what their personal expertise is.
Another critical feature of reciprocal teaching is teaching social skills appropriate for groups. Since much practice is likely to be in groups, students need to be taught group social skills. These skills include, but are not limited to: looking at the speaker, being polite, disagreeing appropriately, staying on topic, piggybacking comments (add on comments), not interrupting, helping others, praising, and participating (see the observation sheet on p. 203). This is especially important to students who struggle with social skills, like those with autistic spectrum disorders and nonverbal learning disabilities. These students may need extra focus, practice and reinforcement to be able to interact effectively and meaningfully in the group. Expecting students to use appropriate group skills without instruction is a doomed proposal for some. Even at the upper grades, these skills should be reviewed and assessed. If there is a problem, it should be addressed with teaching not punishment.
I liked how the author integrated literature circles with reciprocal teaching. Literature circle jobs are described and options for modification are discussed. These jobs flow nicely into Socratic seminars. If you teach students to actively read, work cooperatively in groups and be responsible for moving conversation along, they will be ready for seminars.
Overall the book serves as a nicely organized resource. The table of contents and index facilitate its use as a refernce manual. The online support will appeal to many. The sample lesson plans are designed to be genric so that any reading material may be supported using the plan. The reproducibles are varied and helpful for both the teacher and the students.