handing it over: planning for a gradual release of responsibility.

any time a new reading skill (or even a new, complex strategy) is being introduced, we’ve found it beneficial (i.e. our teaching has the most traction) to plan for a gradual release of the work. this could be done across days (or larger chunks of time, like weeks) or across a read aloud.

since close reading is a high level skill, we think it’s important to think about how students may be supported at the start of the work and then the work gradually handed over to them so that they’re doing it more independently, and successfully, by the end.

if you’re thinking about a gradual release across a week of lessons (whole-class mini-lessons or a small group strategy lesson that you’re meeting with multiple times), it could look like this:

  • day 1 – teacher models the strategy (through think alouds and jot alouds)
  • day 2 – teacher models the strategy (see above) with some opportunities for shared writing of the jot alouds (perhaps having students turn and talk first and then doing a shared writing as a class that reflects the collective thinking)
  • day 3 – teacher alternates between modeling (think alouds or jot alouds) and having students turn and try the same strategy with a partner (even using the same phrasing that was modeled)
  • day 4 – students use turn and talks first and then stop and jots to try the strategy
  • day 5 – students use stop and jots (well, stop and thinks then stop and jots) to try the strategy and then have the opportunity to talk with a partner or club after

of course, there may not be five days! as the teacher, you’ll figure out the appropriate amount of time by using formative assessments of how the students are doing with the work independently. you may find that you need to stick with a level of support for more than one day before releasing the work more to the students OR that your students are ready to make a jump and don’t need it as gradually released.

similarly, the work with a strategy can be gradually released across a single text. this requires some purposeful planning before the read aloud is read to the class. we’ve found post-its with notes to ourselves throughout the text reminding us what the work we’ll be doing or the work we’re asking students to do helpful. placing the post-it at the exact spot in the text that the work will be done works well.

 FullSizeRender-1 FullSizeRenderyou’ll notice that the post-it is placed right where we’ll pause, and that it’s coded so we know what we’ll do (“ta” for a think aloud, and then a prompt followed by “t/t” for a turn and talk with a partner). the pages above are from the giving tree by shel silverstein.

it’s also effective to practice a strategy that’s new over and over again across a text. the repetition of the strategy gives a lot of practice, and the gradual release of the support when practicing the strategy guides students toward doing it more independently by the end of the text.

a gradual release of a skill across a text being read aloud may go like this:

  • teacher thinks aloud, using phrases that are posted on a chart that can be mimicked in talking or writing
  • teacher “jots aloud” (i.e. writes in front of the students) using the same phrasing (probably most effectively modeled by first thinking aloud, then jotting aloud based on thoughts)
  • teacher starts thinking aloud using the phrasing and then asks students to turn and talk to finish the strategy
  • students turn and talk then stop and jot
  • students think then stop and jot, maybe turning and talking to share after (we think giving students chances to think or write, and then share with a partner after, is important so that students all have the opportunity to do the work. sometimes, we overuse turn and talks before stopping and jotting, which makes it difficult for some students to think through on their own; they may end up leaning too heavily on their partner’s ideas, just because they haven’t had enough time to think. so, varying what students do first – writing or talking – is one way to help to balance this.)

of course, each of these may be done more than once, especially the ones that allow students to participate.

we’ve found that planning in advance in this way – whether it’s for mini-lessons or small groups across a week or a read aloud – gives students more practice and success with challenging strategies and skills.


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