Big boon to reading practice

21st October 2011 at 01:00

I was delighted to read your article about reciprocal reading (7 October), which I first discovered when working as a support for learning teacher in the 1990s.

Until its demise in 2002, the SW5 Network Support Team in Glasgow introduced the approach to many schools, adding the strategy of visualisation to the four original strategies of questioning, clarifying, summarising and predicting. Our unpublished research showed the same remarkable improvements in reading "scores", although the increased enthusiasm for reading and engagement with texts, particularly among less skilled readers, was the main reason for schools taking up the approach.

While unconvinced by the effectiveness of "packs", the team produced one in the hope that the work would carry on. Every school in Glasgow received a copy, in 2003, of Thinking about Reading, which describes the strategy of reciprocal teaching. We also included two additional sets of materials - a booklet on how the strategies link with good practice in early-years language development, and a complete pack of 16 well-tested class lessons, including full-colour resources, aimed at first-level learners, in which the strategies are taught overtly (these were originally taught by network teachers in a "coaching in context" model).

I know many schools and teachers still use this approach, but I would advise that any interested in finding out more should rake around wherever "packs" are stored.

In my current role at the school of education at Glasgow University, I try to ensure that student teachers are familiar with the approach and take some resources with them when they go out on their induction year. It's one of those rare things in education which, once you have tried it and seen its effect, changes your practice forever.

Dr Margaret McCulloch, School of Education, Glasgow University.

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