Gradual Release of Responsibility

What does the gradual release of responsibility mean to you? What does it look like in the classroom? After grade level and (pre-) professional development meetings today, this was a topic of discussion. There still appears to be varying levels of understanding of this concept.

The gradual release of responsibility is a model of instruction that shifts from guided instruction to collaboration to independent work. Teachers who embrace this methodology begin with focus lessons that model their thinking and the purpose of the lesson. Background knowledge is built and the teacher learns the extent of student understanding. It then moves into guided instruction, whereby the teacher questions, prompts, and guides students to a deeper level of understanding. Guided instruction can be whole group or small group; however, reading instruction should be in small groups based upon reading research. Collaboration is the next step in gradual release. Collaboration provides students the opportunity to delve deeper into a topic, problem solve with their peers, and think critically. Students work together to apply what they’ve learned. Finally, students work independently. This is the last step of the gradual release model where our expectations as a teacher is to see what the student can do on her own, how she can apply her skills and knowledge, and synthesize the learning.

The gradual release model of instruction was embedded into the ELA curriculum my district is using. Different levels of understanding appeared today. It is my hope that teachers see how effective this model of instruction is and fully embrace it. For some, it is a different way of teaching because you are showing yourself as a learner at times, and it takes time! Yes, precious time is built into each lesson but each moment provides you with a glimpse into your students’ thinking – you witness their ah-ha moments and see what makes them stumble. I encourage you to delve into this methodology. Try it.