Fisher and Frey have written and published a number of resources connected to gradual release of responsibility and have been sharing the benefits of this instructional framework for years. Many of us have benefited from gradual release when we were in school. Most great Math teachers naturally structured their lessons using gradual release. They used the “ME, WE, FEW, YOU” format before the catchy phrasing existed.
It began with the teacher teaching students about the new concept (ME). Then the teacher modeled the process with and for students (WE). If you had a phenomenal teacher, the next step was a low stakes opportunity to practice the new skill with a partner or small group of other students (FEW). Your lesson typically ended with the teacher checking for understanding by giving you a few problems to do independently to indicate if you, the individual student, mastered the concept (YOU).
You don’t have to be a Math teacher to use this highly effective research-based approach to teaching and learning. In fact, all teachers should be using this framework to help students learn and retain material. As an English teacher, I saw tremendous success with high needs students using this framework. One of the largest factors, was the modeling process. At the secondary level, teacher think-alouds during modeled practice are a major missed opportunity. The other game changer about this framework was the opportunity to know with certainty that students learned the concept. The danger at secondary is that often we assign group work, but never move to the next level of release which is independent practice. The danger in this is that group work can allow struggling students to hide behind the proficiency of others. Without fully releasing the responsibility of the learning to individual students, we have no way of knowing if every student is achieving.
For more information on Gradual Release of Responsibility, check-out the resources below.
Gradual Release Model – video and additional resources