To Scan or Not to Scan, That is the Question – Reading for the 21st Century

Ever feel like you need to read and re-read emails to fully understand them? Don’t feel like you get the most out of online articles compared to hard-copy journals? The answer to these questions lies within the mutation of modern-day reading. We scan more than ever before and yet read less.

Unsurprisingly, our students feel the same. Reading in the 21st Century has changed markedly and we haven’t prepared our students (nor ourselves) for it. According to Woody, Daniel & Baker (2010)* readers prefer hard-copy texts as they experience lower performance with digital texts. This is mostly due to the tendency to scan through a digital text without allowing time to digest the contents. In addition, reading from a digital monitor/screen is physically tiring for the eye. Does this mean we discourage our students from reading electronic texts? Quite the contrary.

The skills required for reading, decoding and comprehending digital texts are more vital than ever. Naturally, the goal posts have been adjusted. Students must be taught how and when to reflect before, during and after reading texts. They must be prompted to discuss texts and utilise the collective knowledge of the group to fully understand texts. This needs to happen with both digital and hard-copy texts.

The following is a Part 1 of a case-study on Stage 3 at NBCS.  Currently, we are using the Reciprocal Teaching methodology to help students digest the online text for the collaborative project between Nadia Wheatley’s and the ABC’s (Australian Broadcasting Corporation); My Place text ( On-hand, we have the big-book version of Nadia Wheatley’s (1988) My Place. We also used an in-house developed “RR Place-mat” to help students record their thoughts throughout the Reciprocal Teaching process. Students are grouped in multi-ability groups of 5-6 people (recent research shows that students learn far more from their peers than they do from their teachers).


A Reciprocal Teaching session (or as we call it; Reciprocal Reading) for My Place typically runs as follows:

  1. Students allocate the roles: leader, predictor, clarifier, questioner and summariser (plus, reader if necessary). All students can participate in these aspects of Reciprocal Teaching but the nominated persons must perform their role.
  2. The leader asks the predictor to predict using prior knowledge the upcoming chapter of the text. This is easier as than it sounds as the students progress from session to session. Following this, other students may add their predictions.

‘My Place’ progresses in decades so students are able to use information gleaned from previous sessions to influence the predictions they make. In addition, some aspects from the text remain constant allowing a foundation for all other predictions. The text is also linked to our Integrated Simulated Study on The Australian Gold Rush giving students opportunities to use information gleaned to assist predicting.


3. While sharing 2 electronic devices between the group, students read through one entry. The entry is short enough to allow digestion as each one is less than 300 words. Students should perform their roles silently whilst the reading is occurring.

 NB: In larger texts (ie. Novels) students should stop and discuss every 3rd-4th page. All students within the group must be able to see the text. The group’s leader (a nominated student) may ask another student to read aloud. This is okay as long as all the other students read along with the text (remember: it’s a reading exercise, not a listening exercise).

4. The group’s leader nominates the clarifier to lead the discussion on any words he/she found that required clarifying. He/she may be clarifying the pronunciation of the words or the meaning within the context. Other members of the group should participate in helping to clarify the words (a dictionary may be required) and then share any other words they’ve found requiring clarification.

  1. These words and definitions may be added to a class word-wall, particularly if it relates to a greater area of study.
  1. 5. The group’s leader nominates the questioner to ask a ‘here’, ‘hidden’ or ‘head’ question to the group about the content just read in the text. The group members should answer the question/s collaboratively.  The forum is now open for other group members to ask questions to the group.

    1. a. A ‘here’ question refers to questioning about something that is directly mentioned in the text.

b. A ‘hidden’ question refers to questioning about the text when readers may need to join 2 or more aspects of information together to answer.

c. A ‘head’ question relates to readers using prior knowledge or deeper knowledge to answer a question from the text.

Following this, the leader may nominate that the roles are changed (or the roles may stay the same). From here, the process begins again from predicting.

At the end of the session, the group fills in the centre of the RR placemat showing the distribution of participation. Those with a larger slice of the pie participated more in the session than those with a smaller slice.

Stay tuned for the next instalment and to find out the successes (and failures) of the My Place Reciprocal Teaching sessions in Stage 3.



Dundar, Hakan, and Murat Akcayir. “Tablet vs. Paper: The Effect on Learners’ Reading Performance.” International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education 4.3 (2012): 441-50. Web.

“My Place Website.” My Place Website. Ed. Screen Australia. ABC, 2012. Web. 17 Feb. 2013.

Wheatley, N (1988). My Place. Walker Books: Sydney.