From Theory to Practice

Jenn tweeted this last Thursday during #G2Great on Twitter:

This Is Balanced Literacy Chat #G2Great December 12, 2019 Click here to read Brent Gilson’s post

There were so many “likes” and “retweets” that we grew curious. This tweet prompted us to think more deeply about the Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR).  Anything that is discussed widely by so many stakeholders in school is deserving of a closer look. We would bet most teachers think of the GRR in this way; I do / We do / You do. That is very memorable, and it is true, but to stop there would be an oversimplification of what it is really all about. We wondered if teachers actively think about the fact that the GRR is imbedded inside of the curriculum they teach each and every day?

From Theory

First a little history for the intentionality of the GRR’s theoretical design. Let’s go all the way back to 1983…

Gives us an idea of how long ago this was!

1983- The problem was that there was no comprehension teaching going on in school (Durkins 1978).  So, Pearson and Gallagher created a theoretical cognitive model to better understand the process for reading comprehension. It  was based on the work of Lev Vygotsky’s ZPD, or Zone of Proximal Development (1978). Otherwise known as the “just right” amount of scaffolding from an “expert” learner to a child. It had three stages:

  • I do it: Teacher models comprehension strategy like summarizing a text
  • We do it: Teacher works with the student to practice the strategy together, we summarize a text
  • You do it: Teacher observes students do it on their own, you summarize a text

2002- A new goal was being formed around using the GRR as a basis for lesson and curriculum design. Duke and Pearson moved the emphasis to embed the GRR as a part of daily practice.  They started to use it as a way to design programs and curriculum that would support instruction for reading comprehension. This was a step-wise approach of instructional scripts that teachers could follow. 

2008- The framework begins to shift again, this time moving toward a more student centered approach. Fisher and Frey included a fourth phase: a collaborative stage where students work on their own, together. The energy of the framework was being invested in creating spaces built for independence and a teacher’s observational work. Doing this opens up the learning process, I watch what you are doing and I respond with what you might need. This shift is a big step away from the GRR’s linear script to a more authentic student centered process. Students could move more flexibility throughout all four stages: focus, and guided, collaborative, and independent.

To Practice

Today, curriculum and standards are designed to be cyclical. Students are getting lots of repeated practice as their learning grows more complex over time. This is what is meant when we think about how the gradual release of responsibility rests on a strong vertical alignment in terms of curriculum. Teachers are growing a more sophisticated bank of  instructional repertoires in order to meet these higher standards and to accommodate the expanse of students’ developmental levels. The GRR has become a flexible dynamic tool that moves fluidly in order to meet the differentiated needs of our students. How do we do that in the classroom? Think of it this way: 

Three Important Questions for Your Consideration:

  1. In what ways can I work with students to support their independence?
  2. In what ways can students work either by themselves or with each other to be independent?
  3. In what ways can I monitor growth and/or adjust challenge over time? 

Our Take Away

We are facilitators for students’ learning. Students need to be driving the process, and our work is to create the conditions for that to happen. The GRR is the way to get there, it is so much more than just, I do / We do / You do.

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