Using the Gradual Release Model as an ELA Strategy
This post was updated in October 2019
By taking a step-by-step approach to learning, you can guide your students in achieving independence. The gradual release of responsibility model (gradual release model) helps students develop the skills they need to become independent learners.
What Is Gradual Release of Responsibility?
Dive into your professional development books, and you’ll see the gradual release of responsibility outlined in many different ways. Regardless of the variation, each takes a stepped approach to promote the successful and meaningful transfer of knowledge from the teacher to the student. The original “I Do – We Do – You Do” teaching strategy is often expanded to a four-step model that includes an “I Do – We Do – You Do It Together – You Do It Alone” progression.
To start, the teacher takes center stage in providing direct instruction and modeling. As the lesson progresses, students become the stars with collaborative peer work, followed by the independent practice where they show what they know without prompting.
Teachers can implement the gradual release of responsibility for nearly any type of lesson, from solving long division, preparing a public speaking assignment, or even learning proper behavior in the classroom.
For example, in a math lesson, the gradual release method can help students as the teacher first explains the skills and concepts they will be learning together and walks through several example problems as the students observe. Then with prompting and assistance, the students complete several practice problems. Practice problems usually include a series of questions that help students build to the right answer. Finally, the students are expected to solve the equations without help or hints.
But how does the gradual release of responsibility translate into an English language arts curricula where not everyone always arrives at the same answer and so much more is left up to personal interpretation? Here’s how we can help.
Putting Gradual Release into Practice
Continental’s Finish Line workbooks for grades 1–8 use the four-part gradual release model to support teaching plans and help students learn the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. Below is an example of a gradual release model lesson plan you’ll find in our resources.
Part #1: Introduction
To start the lesson, teachers provide direct instruction for the Common Core Standard(s) designated. This section provides the lesson’s foundation, reviews the standard(s) using text or graphic examples, and presents important vocabulary and reminders in context.
Part #2: Focused Instruction
In Focused Instruction, teachers lead students in activities, requiring them to apply new skills and develop reading comprehension strategies.
- Think About It –A passage and question are followed by a series of leading questions to help students interact with the text, organize their thoughts, and build reading strategies.
- A Closer Look – In this activity, students are engaged in close reading of the text. Hints and reminders provide extra support.
- Discuss It –This question reinforces the focus standard(s) through speaking and listening activities. Students are asked to analyze part of a text to answer a question, and then discuss their answer with their peers.
Part #3: Guided Practice
In the Guided Practice section, students begin to take the lead in their learning. They can work collaboratively with the class or in smaller groups as they read a passage and answer text-dependent questions. They will continue to see close reading activities and hints and reminders to guide them along the way.
Part #4: Independent Practice
Each gradual release model lesson plan concludes with Independent Practice to measure understanding. Students work on their own to read a passage and answer a variety of item types, including one- and two-part multiple-choice, short response, extended response, and/or essay. These types are often found on today’s Common Core and state assessments.
Want to see another great example of the “I Do – We Do –You Do It Together – You Do It Alone” strategy in practice? We love this Teaching Channel video, where English teacher Sarah Brown Wessling leads her class through the gradual release model.