Reciprocal teaching 101

reciprocal teaching

Published: April 19th, 2023

Reciprocal teaching is a form of guided learning where students assume the role of teacher. 

This strategy is often employed in a small-group setting where students can be given more autonomy over how they tackle their lessons.

Using edtech solutions like Promethean’s ClassFlow, reciprocal teaching is possible with any combination of in-person and remote students. Keep reading to learn more, and request a demo to see the Promethean ActivPanel live in action.

The four core strategies of reciprocal teaching

A reciprocal teaching strategy is composed of four core activities: summarizing, question generating, clarifying, and predicting

All students are given the opportunity to take on each role, rotating until each student has had the chance to complete all four roles.

A complete understanding of these four objectives is necessary for educators looking to take these strategies back to their classrooms.


Immediately following a reading session, students break into their respective reciprocal teaching groups. The activity begins with a summation of the text. 

Here, the student summarizing reflects on the most important details of the piece – characters, events, and other crucial information. When students are asked to summarize text, they’re exercising their reading comprehension skills and critical thinking abilities.

Students don’t only focus on what they’re hearing. They must also make critical judgments about the nature of the piece (i.e. what events or details deserve summary).

Question generation

Following the summary, a student will ask questions about the text. These questions are meant to stimulate further discussion, prompting the students to take an inquisitive approach to dissecting their texts. 

Most often, the question generator will pose questions about:

  • Character motivations
  • Unclear or confusing information
  • Themes or intentions
  • Connections to existing learning precepts


Following the question generation is the clarifier, who hopes to address the questions posed in the prior step. 

The student tasked with clarifying works with their peers to try and parse through the text as well as the summary. The goal is to pull out key information that can be used to answer any questions the group may have.


Finally, the remaining students will offer up their predictions. Using the information given to them by the summarizer and questions posed by their peers, small groups work to predict what events will take place next in the narrative.

Following the end of the prediction round, all students shift their roles to one person to the right and move on to the next section of the reading. This process is repeated until every student has the opportunity to take on each of the four roles at least once.

Benefits of reciprocal teaching

A reciprocal teaching strategy provides educators with several practical benefits. Breaking up a classroom into multiple small-group sessions provides educators with a greater degree of control over their students’ learning time. It also ensures each student is given more active participation time.

Reciprocal teaching encourages students to think critically about their assignments. Students are taught to look at their own thought processes as a series of distinct steps that can be worked through to reach an informed conclusion. 

Providing students the space and opportunity to “teach” their peers is invaluable for building their confidence and strengthening their reading comprehension. With tools like Promethean’s ActivInspire, educators can even coordinate group activities between in-person and remote learners. 

Ultimately, students who participate in reciprocal teaching are able to engage more readily with the reading while also forming deep and pragmatic questions about their material.

Use reciprocal teaching across all subjects

While some areas of study lend themselves to the format more naturally, reciprocal teaching strategies can be adopted across the full spectrum of topics and subject matter. 

Reading and ELA

Reciprocal teaching activities are easily applied to group readings, literary critiques, and other English language arts. These small teams of students receive their respective roles and read through a selection of text. Text often ranges from a few paragraphs to a couple of pages of text at a time. 

Once they reach a stopping point, each student acts out their role in the given order. A student will summarize the key points and highlight any crucial information they find pertinent before the next person shares the questions they’ve developed. Then, the third student clarifies any confusing points while attempting to answer the questions shared by their peers. 

Finally, the remaining students will offer their educated predictions about what will happen next in the reading. Following that, the students rotate their positions and continue on to the next block of reading.


Reciprocal teaching strategies can provide students with a framework for breaking down and solving problems. In the case of mathematics, students can break into small groups and solve one particular type of problem. 

Going through each role, students can offer up their ideas on which information they believe is crucial to solving the question – much the same way they would summarize key information in a text. 

The questioner can offer up ideas about which strategies they might use to solve the problem, and the clarifier can supply a rebuttal with their insights. Finally, the predictor can use the information offered up by their peers in an attempt to solve the equation. 


Those educators familiar with the scientific method will find that reciprocal teaching follows a very similar strategy. 

In this case, the group’s predictor offers up a hypothesis – theorizing about the outcome of a given experiment. As the group moves through the assignment, the questioner will note any concerns they have about measurements, tools, and motivations. Students can even share and collaborate using their classroom’s ActivPanel

The clarifier works with the questioner to navigate the muddy waters of scientific discovery before the summarizer answers the question and offers the steps their group took to reach their conclusion.

Social studies

Educators can use this process when teaching about social topics such as history, culture, geography, and the humanities. 

In an example where students are learning about a historical topic such as the Industrial Revolution, the predictor can offer up their ideas about what might occur immediately following these technical innovations. 

Questioners can ask important queries about what inventions were developed, which regions of the world saw the most growth, and what the lasting impacts of the event were. Clarifiers will work to answer questions by using outside sources like Merlyn, the AI digital assistant that integrates with the Promethean ActivPanel to gather further information. 

Then, the summarizer takes all the information given by their peers and distills it into clear insights about the assigned reading.

Promethean products facilitate reciprocal teaching

In the age of hybrid classrooms and remote learning, students have fewer opportunities to learn and interact with their peers. That is why Promethean offers a variety of edutech solutions designed to give educators more control over their classroom instruction.

Find out why thousands of teachers across the country are switching to interactive displays and online learning software