November 28, 2014

Every Day I'm Modelin': Thoughts About Gradual Release

Think about a time in your life where you were taught how to do something you've never tried before and were successful at learning it.  What did the person who was teaching you do to create a successful learning outcome?  I would wager that chances are, this person, whether he/she knew it or not, used a gradual release of responsibility to get you to take on the new learning.  As teachers, we must consistently be cognizant that we are using a gradual release of responsibility to get students to take on new learning.  How does this exactly play out in a lesson though?  Let me show you through an actual lesson that I recently did with my sixth grade language arts students.

I begin with what I'd like students to learn.  Today's minilesson statement is letting the readers in my classroom know that they will be learning how to write meaningful discussion points.  Setting a clear purpose for the day is important so that learning is focused toward a manageable chunk.  As a teacher, it also focuses my mind to know where to focus my teaching.





Perhaps the most important part of using a gradual release of responsibility while teaching is the teacher modeling of the minilesson.  Modeling is not reading directions to a worksheet.  Modeling is not "telling" students how to do something.  Modeling is not giving a task and saying, "Now go do this."  Modeling is opening your brain up to your students.  Modeling is pretending that you are a student and explaining exactly what you were thinking and why as you complete what you are asking students to complete later on in the lesson.

At the beginning of this blog post, I asked you to picture a successful learning experience for you.  Looking back to that experience, did your teacher in some way model the task you learned how to do?  In the case of this lesson, as I was reading our interactive read aloud, Counting by 7s, to the class I stopped and showed them the discussion points that I created while reading.  I also discussed what make me feel it was a good place to create a discussion point and modeled how a strong discussion point includes a page number, my thinking, and a question for the group to consider.


Next, I had students identify what they noticed was included in a strong discussion point based on what they knew from the ones I modeled.  This became our class expectations for what all students should include when creating discussion points for literature circles.

Students need TIME to explore the minilesson for the day and try it out independently as a reader or writer.  So often, I think this is something we, as teachers, forget to do.  We think if we teach, and teacher, and teach, this is the best use of our time with students.  I would argue that our teaching means nothing if we do not allow students the chance to independently apply and explore their new learning.

After that independent application time, it's fun to come full circle and see what students have done as readers/writers that day.  This is also a great time to receive formative assessment on who did/did not "get it."  This is also a supportive time for students to affirm the work they have been doing by what is shared by other classmates.

A challenge I share with you and something I am going to try to incorporate each and every day for my students is to use each of these elements as often as possible.

6 comments :

  1. I just took an online class about coaching and found your blog very helpful in demonstrating the role of a coach. Great ideas. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks, Molly! That's so nice to hear.

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  2. Just found your blog and I'm loving your posts!! I am the reading "interventionist" in middle school in my district and I love getting ideas from others.
    This way of delivering your mini-lessons on a Smartboard doc or what have you is brilliant! It totally keeps you focused with your teaching point, documents the learning for absent students/for you as the teacher, and provides a visual reference for kids. I'm totally stealing! Thanks for sharing! Keep them coming!

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    1. Hey Evan, Thanks so much for your comment and for reading my blog! I feel like literacy at the middle school level, to some extent, is unchartered territory. It makes me so happy to hear that my blog posts help other middle school teachers, coaches, interventionists, etc. Having minilessons on Smartboard slides does exactly what you stated! You will love it!

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  3. I love this lesson! These are the kinds of things I am looking for ... It promotes much higher level thinking. Thanks!

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    1. You're welcome! I will try to share more like this on my blog this year as a lot of times it's easier to picture what I'm talking about if I give real examples, just like we would want to do for our students! :)

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