Follow-up project: meRLe - Promoting reading skills in German via multilingual- sensitive reciprocal teaching in primary education


This intervention study aims to foster reading skills in German by taking students’ multilingualism in the classroom into consideration. The project investigates a combination of reciprocal teaching and multilingual-sensitive instruction in primary school. In reciprocal teaching, students in small groups acquire reading and learning strategies (i. e. question formulation and summary of a text as well as learning goals). This teaching method has shown to effectively support students’ reading comprehension. Furthermore, reciprocal teaching allows for the use of children’s heritage languages as a resource for learning. Although empirical research is scarce, the BiPeer study has shown that Turkish-German bilingual children can benefit from reciprocal teaching with the inclusion of their heritage languages. In this follow-up project, reciprocal teaching is embedded in multilingual-sensitive teaching in wholeclass instruction.

What is investigated?

The meRLe intervention study is being carried out at primary schools in the Wuppertal (23 classes) and Frankfurt am Main (15 classes) areas. Participating teachers are trained in reciprocal teaching and multilingual-sensitive instruction in workshops. During these workshops, the teachers are trained in a lesson unit on a journey around the world with the character Merle; they also receive useful teaching materials such as language portraits, bilingual prompt cards, an electronic language-learning pen, and worksheets for strategic teaching. The teachers should then implement these methods in their lessons to support students’ reading comprehension in German. Students in classes will be grouped together according to their heritage languages to allow for classroom dialogue in different languages. Findings from the treatment group will be compared with those from a waiting control group (i. e. a group of teachers that attends the same workshop, but a few months later). Our data derive from accompanying surveys (questionnaires, tests, classroom observations, video graphies) which will be applied in both groups before, during and following the teachers’ in-class implementations. This will provide new insights into the use and effectiveness of multilingual-sensitive reciprocal teaching. As with the BiPeer project, one of the strengths of meRLe that is particularly relevant for the transfer from research to practice is that it demonstrates how to use the children’s heritage languages as resources without the teachers themselves having to be multilingual.

Expected outcomes

The meRLe project aims to provide new insights into the ways in which teachers can promote reading skills in Germany among primary school children through reciprocal teaching and opening up to multilingual communication in the classroom. The accompanying surveys will convey the extent to which and under what conditions teachers and students will use these learning opportunities. In addition, findings should highlight in more detail which children and classes benefit from the intervention. Our project therefore has implications for research as well as educational practice. To promote continuing implementation and transfer from research to practice, the participating teachers receive free, scientifically sound training and teaching materials. They can further apply and adapt the teaching unit and materials to instruction in other subjects and share them at their schools.

Implications for educational practice