Gradual Release Method

I was sitting in my supervisor’s office last week discussing a lesson evaluation from the prior week. The health lesson went horribly awry. My classroom management was on point as always, but the lesson itself was poor. I had packed too much into the lesson. Student choice became overwhelming and what I wanted to accomplish didn’t happen. There are multiple reasons why this happened but that’s not the main point of the blog. My supervisor asked me if I was familiar with the Gradual Release Method. Right away my mind went to Sting. Then I thought about what he was really asking me. I answered truthfully I hadn’t.

Once he explained it to me I realized that I used it in physical education all the time but not in health as often. The full name is called the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model. Most educators were taught this sophomore year in college. Physical Education teachers do it naturally. Health teachers maybe not so much.

“Pearson & Gallagher (1983) who coined the phrase “gradual release of responsibility” to describe this dynamic in the classroom. Basing their model on the ideas of the Russian educational theorist Lev Vygotsky, Pearson and Gallagher envisioned instruction that moved from explicit modeling and instruction to guided practice and then to activities that incrementally positioned students into becoming independent learners. The teacher guides the students to a point ‘planned obsolesces’ on the part of the teacher “…where the student accepts total responsibility for the task, including the responsibility for determining whether or not she is applying the strategy appropriately (i.e, self-monitoring)” link

The Gradual Release Method boils down to I do, We do, You do it together, You do it alone. Dr. Douglas Fisher, Professor of Language and Literacy Education San Diego State University, sums it up as:

                “The gradual release of responsibility model provides teachers with an instructional framework for moving from teacher knowledge to student understanding and application. The gradual release of responsibility model ensures that students are supported in their acquisition of the skills and strategies necessary for success.” link

From what I understand of this theory, I start out demonstrating what I want. We then move on doing an example as a class. This is followed by group work and independent work honing the skill they just learned. That sounds like good old fashioned teaching to me. I am sure there is a time and a place for this.

The problem with my lesson wasn’t that I didn’t model the skill I wanted them to understand, it was that I tried to do too much. I created a flipped video of the skill. That should have eliminated the I do and We do stages and allow them to go right into you do. The Gradual Release Method sounds a lot like the Spoon Feeding Method to me. Sometimes the students need this. Other times they need to go right to the You Do skipping the first two or three stages.

Either way, I am glad that I learned a new term in the edubabble world of education. Excuse me as I go back now and change what was wrong with my lesson so I can reteach it this week.

Q1: What are your thoughts on the Gradual Release Method of Responsibility?

Q2: Is the Gradual Release Method of Responsibility the way you were taught?

Q3: Does I do mean direct instruction for step one?

Q4: Do you ever skip over the I do method and go to You do? How do you do this?

Q5: How do you make sure that you don’t pack too much into a lesson?



4 thoughts on “Gradual Release Method

  1. Pingback: Teamwork | #slowchatPE

  2. dkreiness


    Your honesty in this post is quite admirable. Starting out in the New York City Schools system, I do, We do, You do was something we learned to do as the “point of entry” or “workshop” model. To me, the I do is not direct instruction but modeling. I would only skip over it in a flipped classroom-style lesson.


  3. Doug Timm

    I was struggling with my abilities in the classroom… My admin suggested I go with a gradual release strategy.

    “I mean like, I do… We do… You do..” I asked?

    He said, “yes”, but think more spiraling it with after an activating strategy that gets them excited.

    Then he went off for like 5 min…

    “Once you have them hooked… Think, pair, share to pull on and expose those deep connections that are important in any deep understanding. At this point lights on or lights off, “ah-ha” moments should occur where you realize failure is not possible, because the productive struggle in your vertical aligned standards has been met.”

    He continued… “This is the edutopia we seek. To have a rigorous differentiated experience for those involved that includes all stakeholders engaged in depths of knowledge beyond surface level exposure to standards with appropriate output”

    He left me with, “Go on great educator and bring lessons to where the magic happens, where real learning occurs.”

    I left shaking my head and feeling a little funny…



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