a framework for approaching writing that can be especially good
for encouraging expressions of empathy and understanding of another's perspective
Papers are simply a way to think about the four main things that all
writers have to consider:
· Role of the Writer
Who are you as the writer? A warrior? A homeless person? An auto mechanic?
The endangered snail darter?
To whom are you writing? Is your audience the American people? A friend?
Your teacher? Readers of a newspaper? A local bank?
What form will the writing take? Is it a letter? A classified ad? A
speech? A poem?
What's the subject or the point of this piece? Is it to persuade a goddess
to spare your life? To plead for a re-test? To call for stricter regulations
Papers give students a fresh way to think about approaching their writing.
They occupy a nice middle ground between standard, dry essays and free-for-all
creative writing. RAFT papers combine the best of both.
They also can be the way to bring together students' understanding of
main ideas, organisation, elaboration, and coherence...in other words,
the criteria by which compositions are most commonly judged.
a constructed activity for students to collaborate in understanding
a selection of content (can also be done individually); students take on roles
as Summariser, Questioner, Clarifier, or Predictor
Is Reciprocal Teaching?
The creation of Palinscar and Brown, Reciprocal Teaching is in some
ways a compilation of four comprehension strategies:
Please understand that some think the choice of "reciprocal"
in the name of this strategy is slightly misleading. It conjures up
the image of a student in front of the class, or of students taking
turns telling each other important ideas in the text. Instead, the strategy
is best at seeking to promote comprehension by tackling the ideas in
a text on several fronts.
Does It Work?
The order in which the four stages occur is not crucial; you'll want
to try out different versions of the strategy to see if a particular
protocol suits your teaching style, and your students' learning styles,
better. You will also want to choose text selections carefully to be
certain that they lend themselves to all four stages of reciprocal teaching.
How Might I Implement Reciprocal Teaching in my Classroom?
Before you can expect reciprocal teaching to be used successfully by
your students, they need to have been taught and had time to practice
the four strategies that are used in reciprocal teaching.
1. Put students in groups of four.
2. Distribute one notecard to each member of the group identifying each
person's unique role.
3. Have students read a few paragraphs of the assigned text selection.
Encourage them to use note-taking strategies such as selective underlining
or sticky-notes to help them better prepare for their role in the discussion.
At the given stopping point, the Summariser will highlight the key ideas
up to this point in the reading.
5. The Questioner will then pose questions about the selection:
· unclear parts
· puzzling information
· connections to other concepts already learned
· motivations of the agents or actors or characters
6. The Clarifier will address confusing parts and attempt to answer
the questions that were just posed.
7. The Predictor can offer guesses about what the author will tell the
group next or, if it's a literary selection, the predictor might suggest
what the next events in the story will be.
8. The roles in the group then switch one person to the right, and the
next selection is read. Students repeat the process using their new
roles. This continues until the entire selection is read.
emphasis on the word "selective"; a means for students
to read for key ideas, essential vocabulary, cause and effect, etc.
Is Selective Underlining?
Well, there's underlining, and there's underlining selectively. The
way to make underlining useful as a tool for comprehension is for it
to be strategic, selective, and purposeful. The underlining must be
undertaken toward particular ends.
With selective underlining (and highlighting!), the idea is to underline
ONLY the key words, phrases, vocabulary, and ideas that are central
to understanding the piece. Students should be taught this strategy
explicitly, given time and means to practice, and reinforced for successful
Can I Teach My Students to Selectively Underline?
1. First of all, let's realise that not every single bit of text you
have students read is in a textbook and untouchable.
2. Second, consider seeking out appropriate content sources, such as
newspapers, that students can indeed learn this strategy with while
still pursuing meaningful social studies goals.
3. Third, think about how you can get around the problem of textbooks
that can't be marked in. For instance, in order to teach the strategy,
you might photocopy a page or two out of the text that students use
and distribute it to them. Make an overhead of that selection for yourself.
Model for them and guide them in practising the strategy on the photocopies.
Alternatively, if you have enough of the materials available to you,
give each student a sheet of transparency film, some paperclips, and
some overhead pens. Let them practice directly on their texts by using
about how this strategy would work when combined with power thinking.
Students might put a box around Power 1 ideas; an oval around Power
2 ideas; and an underline under Power 3 ideas.
Students might also use different colours in their underlining. Power
1s could be blue, Power 2s could be red, and Power 3s could be green.
Practice selective underlining for different purposes: underline key
vocabulary and its definitions or explanations, and use this as an opportunity
to focus on how authors reveal the meaning of new terms within the context.
Or have students underline cause and effect. Or ask them to underline
the facts and concepts that support a particular viewpoint, as might
be useful with a strategy such as Opinion-Proof . Remember, you're limited
only by your own imagination with teaching and applying selective underlining.
an attribute analysis tool; students can compare different ideas,
concepts, people, events, etc. against a cross-referenced set of criteria
With a Semantic Feature Analysis chart or grid, one can examine related
concepts but make distinctions between them according to particular
criteria across which the concepts can be compared.
Does It Work?
A set of concepts is listed down the left side (or across the top; it
doesn't much matter which) and criteria or features are listed across
the top (or down the side). If the concept is associated with the feature
or characteristic, the student records a Y or a + (plus-sign) in the
grid where that column and row intersect; if the feature is not associated
with the concept, an N or - (minus-sign) is placed in the corresponding
square on the grid. For instance, consider types of government: democracy,
dictatorship, monarchy, oligarchy, theocracy, and republic. What might
be the characteristics of governments that might be associated with
a strategy for developing coherent but brief expressions of larger
ideas by focusing on key words and main ideas; included are suggestions for
various ways to teach summarising, including an activity called Sum It Up
Can I Teach My Students to Summarise?
Please be warned: teaching summarising is no small undertaking. It's
one of the hardest strategies for students to grasp, and one of the
hardest strategies for you to teach. You have to repeatedly model it
and give your students ample time and opportunities to practice it.
But it is such a valuable strategy and competency. Can you imagine your
students succeeding in school without being able to break down content
into manageable small succinct pieces? We ask students to summarise
all the time, but we're terrible about teaching them good ways to do
are a few ideas; try one...try them all. But keep plugging away at summarising.
This strategy is truly about equipping your students to be lifelong
· After students have used selective underlining on a selection,
have them turn the sheet over or close the handout packet and attempt
to create a summary paragraph of what they can remember of the key ideas
in the piece. They should only look back at their underlining when they
reach a point of being stumped. They can go back and forth between writing
the summary and checking their underlining several times until they
have captured the important ideas in the article in the single paragraph.
· Have students write successively shorter summaries, constantly
refining and reducing their written piece until only the most essential
and relevant information remains. They can start off with half a page;
then try to get it down to two paragraphs; then one paragraph; then
two or three sentences; and ultimately a single sentence.
Teach students to go with the newspaper mantra: have them use the key
words or phrases to identify only Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.
· Take articles from the newspaper, and cut off their headlines.
Have students practice writing headlines for (or matching the severed
headlines to) the "headless" stories.
· Sum It Up: You have students imagine they are placing a classified
ad or sending a telegram, where every word used costs them money. Tell
them each word costs 10 pence, and then tell them they can spend "so
much." For instance, if you say they have £2.00 to spend,
then that means they have to write a summary that has no more than 20
words. You can adjust the amount they have to spend, and therefore the
length of the summary, according to the text they are summarising. Consider
setting this up as a learning station, with articles in a folder that
they can practice on whenever they finish their work early or have time
when other students are still working.