Big Ideas in Literacy
Explicit Instruction and Gradual Release
Skill development should be taught explicitly, but contextually. Knowledge and skills are assimilated and absorbed as students move from overt language to covert language. After students hear something and can articulate it verbally, they internally begin to construct meaning and assimilate these new behaviors. When there is a match between students’ primary discourse community and the discourse of school, teachers can be more explicit about teaching and learning. The more diverse discourses that are present in the classroom, the more the teacher needs to blend explicit instruction about language and literacy (such as whole-class instruction, individual support, direct instruction in mini lessons) with instructional supports such as environmental print, rich classroom libraries, and abundant opportunities for language enrichment.
One way of incorporating both explicit instruction and gradually releasing students to work with support (teacher or peer) and to do independent learning is found in the National Urban Alliances’ pedagogical flow map (Jackson, 2011). The flow map begins with priming activities intended to foster engagement and introduce a concept. With processing activities, the teacher can release students to independent learning activities while he or she mediates learning for those who need additional instruction. The final set of activities involves students’ presenting their learning in various modes of expression. Does this process sound familiar? Are your lessons situated in a broader flow of activities that promote independent learning?
As you've seen in the introductory units, additional sources describing gradual release of responsibility (GRR) can be seen in the work of Pearson and Gallagher or Fischer and Frey, which include direct instruction, guided practice, collaboration, and independent work. Project-based learning and inquiry learning are additional examples of a gradual release approach.
Reflect: Where do you spend the bulk of your instruction time? Direct instruction? Guided practice? Collaboration, or independent work? Write a short reflection explaining why and considering how you might shift to incorporate all four phases of GRR.