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Reciprocal Reading

“It makes you think about what you read instead of just reading it”.

RECIPROCAL approach to READING for fluent readers

When children first enter Viscount School at 5 years, an early assessment would find that while approx. 70% have attended some sort of early childhood facility, the majority arrive at school with little English literacy.

They typically do not know the alphabet or the sounds of letters, they have not had a lot of experience with books and do not appear to be confident speakers. Approximately 60% of these students are considered to be ESOL although it also seems likely that few have had extensive oral or written experiences in their heritage language either.

This might lead one to conclude that a strong programme of phonics was indicated but this was already being done and while we still encourage this within the context of the current learning in a balanced programme of book experience, oral language and a focus on early skills, it was clear that this was not sufficient to create effective readers working at their curriculum level.

Instead, we observed that students were either:

  • trapped in a cycle of item knowledge learning that was not connected to the basic reason for learning to read – understanding messages in print …typically students were found to be still at L1-2 in Year 2 – not only were students still at early and emergent literacy levels but over time they tended to stay trapped in disproportionate underachievement.
  • or for those who had a good visual memory to become “readers” who could make the phonetical sounds but not understand what they are reading (i.e., bark at print). Many of these children by Year 7/8 were assessed as having a RA above their actual age e.g., 12-year-olds could read a passage and be judged as having a 15+ year RA – using the Warwick Elly scales. However, while this showed they could decode, many didn’t understand what they were reading. This conclusion was borne out by very low and poor writing results and huge discrepancy between RA results and a PAT test of Reading Comprehension.

Since the purpose of Reading is to understand messages in print, we set out to find a better way to help our children to

    • Understand what they were reading.
    • Become active participants and have agency over their learning.
    • Increase their vocabulary knowledge in meaningful contexts
    • Switch on an inquiry mindset
    • Utilise the latent desire of Viscount School children to collaborate and help others in the class that didn’t quite “get it”.
    • Enjoy reading more.
    • Be confident readers who can identify their own strengths and learning needs.

This search for a better way was not just focused on literacy but also seeking to use the inherent strengths and the cultural capital students brought – a desire to work collaboratively, a natural empathy for the welfare of others and the promotion of other languages. We started Reciprocal Teaching through Reading with RT3T in 2020 with a few early adopter teachers in Y7/8 and Y5/6 and was able to continue and expand via an MOE PLD contract in 2021 to all Y5-8 teachers and begin with Y3/4 staff. Our staff are very enthusiastic about this approach as they can see many benefits both in better reading and in the way in which children engage and support each other.

Reciprocal reading is a group process based on the Ako principle to teach reading comprehension through an explicit focus on 4 thinking skills to enable students to access text meaning. In this process, students actively take interchangeable roles as teacher, and other roles. Children ask questions and check with each other in a cooperative way to support each other. This approach improves skills in comprehension, metacognition, social participation and self-management as well as comprehension and vocabulary. The end result is higher literacy achievement and an actively engaged class.

Groups are usually of mixed ability and the membership of groups are flexible. Sometimes the teacher may select group members based on other criteria for particular purposes. The underlying reason for mixed groups is so that children can learn from each other, and they can do that better if everyone can share. The growing de-streaming movement and research show that streaming only benefits high achievers and locks low achievers into groups that cannot help them to grow John Hattie, James Nottingham

Mixed groups run by students are also a safe space for students “It is ok to speak up when you don’t know.” This approach also fosters empathy and can also be adapted for special needs students so they can also feel included.

Reciprocal pedagogy is not an exclusive approach and teachers will determine for their class whether they will use this approach exclusively or in blocks across the term/ year and mix in other approaches such as guided groups, chapter books and/ or Readers Theatre.

Reciprocal teaching and learning approaches can also be used across the curriculum- in maths, writing and general theme work as they use the skills of predicting, clarifying, questioning and summarising to stimulate thinking. As part of a balanced programme, we also use bilingual readers as part of shared book lessons partly to communicate the message that success in literacy is not always the same as success in English literacy. We believe that every child can succeed – we just have to help them learn in ways that make sense and support the ways they prefer to learn.


Year 7-8 students make choices between Robotics, Foodstorm, Bike maintenance, Dance, Ukelele, Minecraft, Gardening and Technology design and consider careers that might arise from these activities. Our Y8s go by bus to Mangere College each week for their technology electives and the Y7 programme is at school.

Curriculum Delivery 2022

We seek to use our local community as a base for our learning. We have four themes a year – and seek to bring the local environment and local interests into our work. Our themes for 2022 are

  • Wayfinding – how we got her and where we will go – We will use the work of Sir Ian Taylor www.maatauranga. and explore a lot of aspects of Technology, Social science – history, navigation, careers, goal setting, orienteering and many other aspects
  • Art inspired – exploration of the Arts
  • Eureka – Science focus
  • We are the champions – Health focus

Teachers develop these themes into learning programmes based on the NZ Curriculum learning areas and their learning objectives.

We will talk with you each year about what learning is important to you and seek to build that into our programmes.

Key Competencies

The NZ Curriculum identifies 5 main areas for children to develop competence in areas that will enable them to he be successful lifelong learners and productive members of NZ society.

They are not separate or stand-alone. They are part of all of our learning programmes.

Thinking skills

Using creative and critical thinking, to make sense of information, experiences and ideas is important to successful learning. Inquiry learning helps to develop these skills through developing understanding, making decisions, shaping actions, or constructing knowledge.

Students who are competent thinkers and problem solvers actively seek, use, and create knowledge. They reflect on their own learning, draw on personal knowledge and intuitions, ask questions, and challenge the basis of assumptions and perceptions.

Language symbols and texts – these are the foundation blocks for all learning at school.

Using language, symbols, and texts is about working with and making meaning through developing a fluent understanding of how people communicate information, experiences, and ideas.

This can be through written books but also through talking, pictures, and movies,. As well children can learn a number of languages and also understand and use the special languages of maths, science and technology, including computers.

Managing oneself

This competency is associated with self-motivation, a “can-do” attitude, and with students seeing themselves as capable learners. It is integral to self-assessment. Students who manage themselves are enterprising, resourceful, reliable, and resilient. They establish personal goals, make plans, manage projects, and set high standards. They have strategies for meeting challenges. They know when to lead, when to follow, and when and how to act independently.

Relating to Others

This is about interacting effectively with a diverse range of people in a variety of contexts. This competency includes the ability to listen actively, recognise different points of view, negotiate, and share ideas. Students who relate well to others are open to new learning and able to take different roles in different situations. They are aware of how their words and actions affect others. They know when it is appropriate to compete and when it is appropriate to co-operate.

Participating and contributing

This competency is about being actively involved in communities. Communities include family, whānau, and school and those based, for example, on a common interest or culture. They may be drawn together for purposes such as learning, work, celebration, or recreation. They may be local, national, or global.