Monday, December 7, 2015

Let It Go

Gradual Release of Responsibility For Learning...

One of the things that I have been reflecting on over the last couple of weeks as I have been doing formal classroom observations at Cantiague is this notion of the gradual release of responsibility for learning from teacher to student. This is the method that the reading and writing workshop models are built upon where the teacher slowly relinquishes control of the learning from her/himself to the students. Although we focus heavily on this philosophy when talking about literacy instruction it is clear to me that it is an instructional model that could apply to any and all content areas... math, social studies, science, engineering, etc. From my perspective, this approach to instruction validates the importance of the teaching while keeping the emphasis on the learning... both student and teacher learning.  

What does it look like?

Here are a couple of graphics that helped me visualize and better understand what that might look like in a classroom...

From Xenia Public Schools

Modeling To Start...

At the core, the philosophy is based on this idea that the teacher possess some level of expertise and thus begins the lesson with modeling or direct instruction. The lesson generally comes as a result of data that has been collected in previous lessons or a unit that has been planned with outcomes carefully considered. This is where the expert (usually the teacher but even a student can teach the lesson) models for the novice.... it mirrors an apprenticeship. This portion of the model should be short and direct - really no more than 10 to 15 minutes. Mantra for this portion... "I, the teacher, shows you, the students."

Guiding The Learners... 

The learning experience then shifts to guided practice where the children begin to explore the concept that was just taught by the teacher but the teacher now does the work with the students. This could be done independently or in partnerships or even small groups. Typically the guided practice portion of the model unfolds with the teacher in close proximity so they can monitor student progress. Proximity really matters throughout instruction so keeping the children close together allows for constant informal assessment and data collection. So, for example the children might stay on the rug for this portion of the lesson. This portion of the model should be no more than 10 minutes - it's a quick guided practice. Mantra for this portion... "I, the teacher, and you, the students, do this together. "

Empowering The Learners... 

The final component to this instructional model involves the students doing the work independently so the teacher can assess whether or not the strategy or skill or concept has been mastered and which students need more scaffolding, support or are ready for the next step. This is a prime opportunity for the teacher to either pull a small group or conduct 1:1 conferences to informally assess the progress of the group and begin planning for future instruction. This portion of the model could be anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes depending on the content, routines and independence of the children. Solidifying routines during this portion of the model will help maximize the teacher's time so they can have contact with as many children as possible and support the children's journey towards independence. Mantra for this portion..."You, the student, do the work while I, the teacher, assess and support."

Let It Go... 

I share this overview as a reminder for how any and all instructional periods could look from reading workshop to genius hour because our goal should always be to move towards student independence and always keep the focus on the learning! In the end, it behooves us to LET IT GO and empower our students to own their learning!


  1. I see a lot of parallels in this reminder to how we (Principals and admin) work with and support the learning of our educators! Well said.

  2. This article makes the information succinct and digestible so that teachers see the process and the value in gradual release. Thank you.