The Gradual Release Model

Engage Literacy, Guided Reading, Inclusive Content, Engage Literacy Advance, Michael Ford
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Michael P. Ford

The Gradual Release Model

July 9, 2021

Engage Literacy Advance for guided reading was developed with attention to the Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) model. The GRR model recommends that instructional programs and lesson plans within those programs gradually turn the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student following a three-step process: I DO, WE DO, and YOU DO.

GRR was built into the curricular expectations and outcomes for the Engage Literacy Advance program. Instruction begins with maximum support from the teacher to final expectations that the student will be able to achieve independently. While the same objective may be present at different levels, the demands for achieving the objective may be different due to the expected level of teacher support. The GRR of specific strategies, skills, and behaviors is embedded in the individual lesson plans for each text. The instruction of these often moves from teacher modeling and demonstrating, to teacher and students practicing together, and ending with students making applications on their own.

The I DO phase of the instruction is often described as maximum teacher support with minimum student responsibility. However, this sometimes suggests a passive role for the student when it is very important that the student is actively engaged in listening and observing. Many students who struggle with literacy often do so because they have not had adequate demonstrations, or were not sufficiently engaged when those demonstrations were provided. In the Engage Literacy Advance lessons, the I DO phase is seen when the teacher is explaining, demonstrating, and modeling the strategy, skill, or behavior the students are eventually expected to perform independently. Telling students about strategies, skills, and behaviors requires a thorough explanation that not only informs the students on what the focus is, but also explains why it is important, when and where it should be used (or not), and how it works step by step. 

The suggested language in the Engaged Literacy Advance lesson plans will help teachers phrase their explanations more thoroughly. This explanation is often followed with a step-by-step demonstration using an example that will closely mirror what the students will be expected to do. This modeling component is clearly identified in each of the Engage Literacy Advance lesson plans. Modeling typically occurs after reading of the text. Once strategies, skills, and behaviors are reviewed later in the program, students are moved toward I DO work more quickly.

The WE DO phase of instruction is described more often as a partnership of learning between the teacher and the students. This can be seen in the Getting started with predictions and Reading the text sections of the Engage Literacy Advance lesson plans. In this phase the teacher works to get the students more involved—and responsible— for their learning and the class’ learning. It may be quite obvious how important this would be; but many times, teachers move too quickly from their explanations to an expectation that the students be able to perform the work independently. 

The WE DO phase is especially important in guided reading programs. It often begins with the teacher taking the lead and gradually inviting students in on the process. It then evolves to the students taking the lead and the teacher providing support and guidance only as needed. With the teacher in the lead, practice might be done together. The students observe what the teacher is doing and then are prompted to judge the appropriateness of the teacher’s actions. The students and the teacher might also work more collaboratively with the students responding to teacher prompts. Eventually the teacher might back away. 

The students now control the process as they work together and support each other’s efforts with teacher support occurring as needed. Finally, an individual student might take the lead as requested with minimal peer and teacher support. These lessons are designed to help scaffold student’s learning through guided practice with the teacher and the other students in the guided reading group. This phase is critical to move a student from not using a strategy, skill, or behavior to being able to use it with minimal support.

The YOU DO phase of instruction implies that the teacher is always teaching for transfer. The instruction in these guided reading lessons are not designed as an end but as a means toward independent, strategic readers. In the After reading section of each lesson, there is an opportunity for students to independently demonstrate their ability to use the strategy, skill, or behavior. Maximum responsibility for the learning has been transferred to the student and the teacher takes a more minimal role. This often begins with independent practice in front of the teacher.