Reciprocal Reading Programme

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

In 2019 I attended an inspiring course The Inclusive Habits of Outstanding Teacher by Neil Mackay, who is the author of Removing Dyslexia as a Barrier to Achievement. He believes that what works for children with dyslexic like needs, works for all children. I completely flipped my current reading programme the next day and have created resources for my own take on what I call the Reciprocal Reading Programme. This is a collaborative mixed ability approach that students find engaging and enjoy from Year 3 to Year 8 (New Zealand Curriculum).

Here are some commonly asked questions I get asked by colleagues interested in the programme.

What are the roles of each of the learners? It is similar to literacy circles I have done before. But they always give each student a job, they go off and do it themselves, then have a meeting about what they have done. So it isn't really collaborative and they aren't learning anything from each other.  In this programme, students are in charge of that role and getting the information from their others in the group.  The less able reader has the READER role. They delegate the reading to others in the group (including themselves when they are comfortable). There is also the PREDICTOR, CLARIFIER (clarifying words that younger students would struggle to understand), QUESTIONER (using quality question cards/ thinking hats) and the SUMMARISER.

How roles are rotated in the group?

It is completely up to the teacher. I allocated students the roles and they kept them for the term. Once a safe learning environment was thriving, each reading group could choose. Role could be changes every lesson, each week, month or term. The READER was allocated to the reader at the lowest level. This was so they would

not feel uncomfortable with reading to the group. Once they began reading parts of the text themselves and gaining so much from others in the group helping when they were stuck, students could discuss each role and delegate themselves. 

The gains that you have noticed as a part of this reading structure?

Whatever the level my classroom needs to be at is the level of text I choose and sometimes harder. For example, with a Year 5-6 class, I used level 3 text or something I have found online that relates to our inquiry (sometimes this is for adults). Students are exposed to this level of text all of the time.  When I have selected something written for adults, I have explained that there are words I don't even understand in there. Students become excited about reading and learning vocabulary alongside their teacher.

What social gains you see?

All of the students, even the higher readers enjoy reading this way.  When someone (anyone in the group, not just the reader) gets stuck, everyone politely helps them out and its accepted.  Everyone has incredible patience for those who are slower to read.  These are not things I discussed with them before we started either.

What confidence gains you see?

To begin with, students are shy to read aloud because they haven't had to do that since they were in the junior school. But when they realise its just a paragraph, they are not so concerned.  Confidence and honestly in identifying a word that you think a younger person might not know, is a nice way to put it.

How the kids deal with conflict? There hasn't been any conflict.  If there has, students have been able to sort it out themselves.  All ideas are accepted and respected.

What academic gains you see? In my first year of using this approach I had great results. Before changing my reading programme I had just over half of the class below or well below the level of reading for their age. By the end of the year I had three students who were almost there. Since then all students have been achieving. Students who sit well below or below make accelerated progress.

How often do you use it?

This is completely up to the teacher. It could sit alongside an already established reading programme. To start with I did the whole thing with one group each day with a short non-fiction text. This was to ensure they understood the process. I only saw one group a day for a few weeks.  Once they are confident in completing the reading programme, I read with them (they delegate reading to me too) and we predict together.  The group continue to clarify, question and summarise together. In the next reading lesson with the teacher, the previous process is reflected on and discussed.

Resources for this reading programme are available in the Store.

The Reciprocal Reading Programme


- Visually attractive responsibility/role/job card

s and bookmarks with key questions

- Link to a video that explains the Reciprocal Reading Programme in more detail

- Editable resources so you can modify to suit your teaching style and learners

- Suitable for Year 3 to Year 8 (New Zealand Curriculum)

- A range of Question support structures to encourage quality open questioning, such as thinking hats and Higher Order Thinking.

- Tried and tested in the typical New Zealand classrooms with a wide range of reading abilities and learning challenges

This item can be purchased separately or as a bundle with the modelling book that includes the first 5 days of planning completed for you in a Google Slides online modelling book (also printable). Or print it off and glue in.

If you are unsure if this resource is for you, there is a FREE taster with responsibility/role/job bookmarks, and one days planning in a Google Slides online modelling book (also printable). You can try it out in your classroom - try before you buy!