Revisiting the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model
by Wendy Seger
Whew! Winter Conference in both Districts is now behind me. It was just a short while ago that I was emailing back and forth between coaches and classroom teachers in our final steps of planning. As I file away my materials, I recall how quickly those days passed. I wish for more time to think, to talk together with colleagues about how the work should look, especially regarding the gradual release of responsibility. Perhaps there is someone who was not able to attend this year, but would still like to learn from the content presented. I offer a few highlights and links to materials from this year’s session so we can continue the conversation about gradual release.
The need to look more closely at a gradual release model has developed over time through our work with the students in classrooms of each District. In December, there was a preview of the topic in a newsletter article entitled, “Teaching in the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model”. The article provided an overview of the model by Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey that has influenced our present understanding of gradual release. We applied their labels to the four quadrants of our visual model. During the Conference session, we considered an important focus question:
How do we move the students from the explicit instruction and modeling in Crafting to build the capacity to work independently during Composing Meaning?
We believe the answer to this question is found in the understanding and application of a gradual release of responsibility model. Our current thinking, particularly about reading, is shown in the graphic below:
Of course, during the week of Winter Conference, there were many questions. “What does it look like?” “How do teachers decide what they should be teaching during Crafting?” “How will students gain independence for meaningful work during Composing Meaning?” “Why is Composing Meaning shown twice?” While there is no “one way” to move students through the process, there are some characteristic behaviors that correspond with each phase. The chart below is a representation of the descriptors presented during the Thursday afternoon session:
How can we share this knowledge and create dialogue with other colleagues in our schools? This year, each Cornerstone school was given two bags of books: the primary bag contained books about “Bats & Sound”, the intermediate collection included books on “Civil Rights in the 1900s.” We created an example plan to show the gradual release for one of the general standards over a two-week period for the primary set of books. Using the steps in the chart below is one way a Literacy Leadership Team might introduce the gradual release of responsibility model to their staff with these materials. Through an Inquiry Cycle, a grade level team could investigate how to design instruction and create opportunities to build capacity for independence in their students.
We are moving more deeply into our understanding of how children become life long learners. If we keep our eyes on the students and the impact of our instructional choices, they will continue to show us our next steps. Remember, we also build knowledge by learning with and from each other. The District Coaches and Cornerstone Fellows are eager to continue the conversation about how your schools will implement a gradual release of responsibility for all learners, student and adult.
I am not planning to file away these materials. I anticipate future discussions in our collaboration.
Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2008). Better learning through structured teaching: A framework for the gradual release of responsibility. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Gibbons, G. (1999). Bats. New York: Holiday House.
Harvey, S. & Goudvis, A. (2007). “Seeing with sound,” Toolkit Texts. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann & Carus Publishing.