Few would disagree that reading plays a crucial role in life. Scaffolding student cognition during reading can enhance student achievement. One of the techniques I employed as a young teacher included Reciprocal Teaching. In this blog entry, we’ll explore a new Google app in the context of powerful reading strategies.

Effect Size of Reciprocal Teaching

Reciprocal Teaching (Palinscar & Brown, 1984) has strong support among researchers. Consider that John Hattie’s meta-analyses results include reciprocal teaching as a high-impact strategy. Its effect size of .79 means that it can advance student achievement almost two years growth for one year of school. (You can learn more about Hattie’s research in these blogs or join TCEA’s empowerED program and receive inexpensive professional development on his strategies.)





What Is Reciprocal Teaching?

This tried-and-true technique works especially well with second language learners. Under the tutelage of Mark Gabehart (Round Rock ISD CTO), I discovered this first-hand working with bilingual/ESL students in urban school settings. Reciprocal teaching includes a cycle of predicting, clarifying, questioning, and summarizing. The video below illustrates the reciprocal teaching cycle:

Through the use of statement stems, students are able to learn critical processes. For example, for Predictor, students think about what they have read. Then they predict what will happen next. Assisting students in understanding how to predict is key. For questioning, students can use sentence stems such as “I wonder…” or the five Ws to unearth ideas and information.  You can see some sentence stems via this reciprocal teaching Pinterest board. Explore the Wakelet embedded below:


View Wakelet on Reciprocal Teaching

Why Is Reciprocal Teaching Needed?

If your students face any or all of the following obstacles (adapted from ASCD Publication: Lori D. Oczkus’ Reciprocal Teaching At Work),  reciprocal teaching may be what’s needed.

  • Students don’t remember what they read, even when they can decode text
  • Little to no engagement with reading material
  • Students read at two or more years below grade level
  • Informational text (non-fiction) is difficult to understand
  • Challenging words are difficult to decipher
  • Students may be unable to describe the difference between main idea and supporting details

As a result of reciprocal teaching technique’s effectiveness for over thirty years, it is worth adopting. The National Behaviour Support Service offers this visual which may assist you:

Reciprocal Teaching Outside the Classroom

We imagine that RT may be for classroom use only, but that’s not true. We can encourage its use outside of the classroom by helping students to become teachers. “The act of teaching activates more regions of the brain,” says Dr. Lou Whitaker. Another approach could involve students modeling the RT cycle. They use this high impact reading strategy with Flipgrid, as you can see below.

Another may involve recording a video and then using EdPuzzle.com to empower students. These students create a video with questions interspersed throughout.

How could students use this with new reading apps, such as Google’s Rivet?

Exploring Google’s Rivet

Before we go further, let’s take a closer look at Rivet. Adapted from the May 2019 announcement, here is the backstory:

Rivet is a new reading app from Area 120. Area 120 is Google’s workshop for experimental projects. Rivet addresses the most common barriers to effective reading practice. It accomplishes this through a free, easy-to-use reading experience optimized for kids. One of the major differences between poor and strong readers is the amount of time spent reading. Rivet makes high-quality reading practice available to all.

The main benefit of Rivet is that it includes a fast-growing library of over two thousand free ebooks. These books cover a wide range of topics and have been leveled by context experts. Take a look at this photo album of Rivet app first login. This is important because readers see content appropriate for them. Other benefits include these features:

  • Tap for Help: Tap a word to have it read to you
  • Say the Word: Readers can read aloud. The app will let them know what they pronounced right or wrong. It will assist them in getting their incorrect pronunciation, right.
  • Definitions and Translations: Definitions are available for every word. Translations into more than 25 languages for non-native speakers are present.
  • Follow Along: Students can follow along as Rivet reads full pages of text aloud. Highlighted words appear so readers can follow along.
  • Real-Time Feedback: As students read text aloud, Rivet will offer support if it detects a struggling reader. At the end, students can see how they did. To protect privacy, all processing of speech takes place on the device (not the web).
  • Earn Digital Badges and Points: Students earn digital points and badges.

Rivet is now available and free, including for the classroom. Get it for your Android or iOS device. What’s more, it’s globally available for Chromebooks in eleven countries. Get the Teacher Guide for classroom use, the Deployment Guide for device fleet distribution, and the Take-Home Flyer.

One of the challenges students face is access to common text. Now, with this free app, students can access common content and can apply reciprocal teaching strategies to that text. It’s a win for both teachers and students!