Gradual Release of Responsibility - Jess Newman


Jessica Newman is a third grade teacher at Olson Elementary School. Jess provides scaffolded support for students and regular opportunities for peer collaboration to facilitate student learning.

Instructional Strategy

Jess utilizes the gradual release of responsibility for instruction in multiple subject areas, including literacy and math. The gradual release of responsibility is an instructional framework that consists of four phases: focused instruction, guided instruction, collaborative learning and independent learning.

Learning target & performance criteria are posted for student reference. 
During focused instruction, Jess sets a clear purpose for the lesson by addressing four key questions: What are we learning? Why are we learning it? How we will show what we’ve learned? When we will know we’ve got it or recognize that we need to ask for help? Posted standards-based learning targets, performance criteria, and anchor charts provide a visual representation of the lesson’s focus (pictured to the right). She models her thought process to provide examples of how experts think about the content or use the strategies and skills related to the lesson’s learning target. “I’m always thinking about what students need me to model and what they are ready to try on their own,” says Jess.
Anchor charts provide a visual representation
of the lesson's focus.

During guided instruction, the teacher’s role is to provide support for students as they take on more responsibility for demonstrating the learning target. “During guided instruction, we practice the strategy or skill focused on during our whole group mini-lesson in small groups to provide reinforcement. This informs my teaching for the next day as I identify student misconceptions.” Jess often pairs guided instruction with collaborative learning by providing opportunities for small group discussion and paired work.

During independent learning, the final phase of the gradual release of responsibility, students apply what they’ve learned in new ways. By providing focused and guided instruction, Jess sets students up to have the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in completing independent tasks.

See What It Looks Like

Take a peek into Jess’s classroom to see how she uses think-alouds and modeling during focused instruction on identifying the main idea of an informational text.

Additional Resources

  • Read chapter 1 in Better Learning through Structured Teaching: A Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey.
  • Watch Doug Fisher talk about the gradual release of responsibility.