Building a Reading Bridge: The impact of reciprocal teaching on poor readers in ninth grade social studies

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The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of reciprocal teaching, as designed by Palincsar and Brown (1984), on ninth grade students who were poor readers, as they worked to make sense of what they read in social studies textbooks. Additionally, this study attempted to make adaptations to the original reciprocal teaching procedures to determine if a simplified version of reciprocal teaching would be as effective at improving reading comprehension as the original version of reciprocal teaching has been.

The study was conducted by a teacher researcher in his U.S. History classes at a large suburban high school in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. The study measured and compared the performance of three different treatment groups on pre and post standardized comprehension measures, pre and post social studies comprehension measures and eight weekly social studies comprehension measures. Additionally, the teacher researcher examined the nature of student discussion about what they read through the use of audio taped transcripts of the reciprocal teaching sessions.

The three treatment groups received different versions of reciprocal teaching training. The traditional group followed the procedures outlined by Palincsar and Brown (1984) which included training in the four strategies of predicting, clarifying, questioning and summarizing while working in small groups. The whole class group learned the four strategies above but worked only in a whole class setting. The two strategy group learned the strategies of questioning and summarizing only and worked in small groups. Each group experienced improved reading comprehension scores on the measures of this study.

The results of this study suggest that the reciprocal teaching procedures can be adapted to make them easier to implement and that student reading comprehension skills will still improve.