You may already be familiar with the gradual release of responsibility model for teaching and learning: “I do, we do, you do it together, you do it alone.” You may be incorporating it on your campus, in your classroom, or with your small group. Today, I want to share a little bit about what the gradual release of responsibility model is, different activities that support it, how to implement it in a whole group structure, and how to implement it in a small group structure.
My son got a new puzzle for his birthday. It was super complex for a four-year-old. There were 16 cubes, all with different pictures on each side, to make 6 different puzzles. When he sat down to work on it, at first he was frustrated. He didn’t fully understand how to put the puzzle together and couldn’t seem to understand what parts of the puzzle to use. Together, we sat down, and I modeled my thinking: “Maybe we should find the corners first.” Then, we went on to find the edges and talk through where they could go. We created a process that he slowly was able to think through on his own. Aren’t our students like that?
There are several differing theories on how much information to give up front and how much to let students explore and struggle with on their own. I tend to be in the camp that says, “There is a great time and great content in which both can be applied.”
What is the gradual release of responsibility model?
In brief, the gradual release of responsibility model is that in which over the progression of the lesson, the teacher becomes less and less involved and the student takes more and more ownership over the content. I think this can be incredibly powerful in a math classroom and even more specifically when working with struggling students.
One of the biggest things to note is that this is not a formula with step 1, step 2, etc. The overall concept is that the student takes more and more ownership over the content, and the teacher is less and less involved. When designing the lesson, you might plan for students to explore the content together first and then share as a class, where you could summarize and demonstrate your thinking.
I wanted to share a few different ideas that can be incorporated within each part of the teaching model.
This is also known as the focused instruction portion of the lesson. In this section, you might see a model being presented or the teacher modeling their thinking with a think-aloud or a direct explanation.
This is also known as guided practice or guided instruction. In this section, you might hear the teacher facilitating questions and discussion, and you might see students answering questions and asking questions of each other. This is a collaboration of everyone in the classroom.
“You Do It Together”
This is also known as “y’all do it” here in Texas, or collaborative learning. In this section, you would see students working together, dialoguing, communicating their thinking, and problem solving. As a teacher, we should try not to intervene too quickly. We are questioning students through their struggles and then allowing them to come to the solution.
Based on the conversations and dialogues that I have with teachers, I would venture to guess that this is the first step to “go” when we are rushed for time, running behind in the calendar planning, or have shorter class periods.
I would propose that this is one of the most critical components of the gradual release model.
“You Do It”
This is also known as independent practice. In this section, you might see students working independently in some form of practice (homework, worksheets, computer-based practice, etc). This is an opportunity for students to see that they are capable and self sufficient, or that they are struggling and ask for help. This is also a great time for teachers to be meeting with students and correcting any small misconceptions.
Is the gradual release model always in whole group?
It doesn’t have to apply to only whole group settings. You could do a bit of modeling and then move into small groups while students work collaboratively.
You could allow students to work together on a new concept and work backwards with a more “You Do It Together, We Do It, I Do It” pacing.
The students in your class and the content should help you to determine what components of the gradual release model can be utilized.
Do you have a GT, Pre-AP, or Enrichment class? Then, it is likely you can allow your students to struggle together before you debrief the process as a class. Is your content more of a review? Start with the “You do” as a pre-assessment and then plan your activities based on those results.
How can the gradual release model be incorporated into small groups?
If you have been reading for long, then you know that I am a huge fan of small group instruction. You can accomplish so much, correct many misconceptions, provide specific feedback and encouragement, and build relationships with your students all within the context of a small group. You can also incorporate the gradual release model.
1. Model your thinking: Struggling students benefit tremendously from hearing how you are problem solving and thinking through the problem.
- “When I see a problem like this, I ___.”
- “I noticed that the fractions both have a denominator that _____.”
- “I know that 4 is divisible by 2, so ____.”
- “I see that the line goes through the origin, so that make me think ______.”
2. Question students through the process: There is much power is questioning students rather than telling students.
- “What do you notice about ______?”
- “I notice that something isn’t working out right here; what do you see?”
- “Is there another way to get to the same conclusion?”
3. Work in groups at the small group table: Even at the small group table, you can incorporate collaboration.
- Provide questioning prompts.
- Teach students how to coach each other.
- Have students check each other’s work before you look at it.
- Have students work together on the same problem, taking turns on each step.
The gradual release of responsibility model can be flexible to meet the needs of your students and classrooms. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!