Common Core Writing: Using the Gradual Release Process

December 21, 2014

The gradual release process, otherwise known as I Do, We Do, Two Do, You Do, allows students to slowly take responsibility for their learning. Read about how to use direction instruction, guided practice, collaborative learning, and independent practice with your students during your writing lessons.
This is the second in a series of posts about my online course, Common Core: Implementing the Writing Standards. You can read my first post about the introduction to the writing standards here.

In this post I will focus on the gradual release model, also discussed in the course introduction. In an article by Dr. Douglas Fisher, "The Effective Use of the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model," gradual release is broken down into its four components.

1. Focus Lessons (direct instruction or the "I Do") is when the teacher is modeling her thinking for students. These lessons should be short, set a purpose for learning, and build or activate background knowledge.

2. Guided Instruction (the "We Do") can be done as a whole class or in small group. The teacher prompts, questions, facilitates, or leads students through tasks similar to the one modeled in the focus lesson. Here the teacher is still working very closely with students, able to correct any misstep immediately. The teacher can also get a sense of who is "getting it" and who will need additional instruction.

3. Collaborative Learning (in my district there is a big push for this part to be in pairs rather than groups of three or four, so I call this the "Two Do") allows students to work through the learning with their peers. Discussion with peers means students are using language as a part of learning, which Fisher notes is critical. Having students work in pairs means more students have more time to talk. Collaborative learning, whether pairs or groups, should function in a way that allows for individual accountability, ever the challenge. During collaborative learning, the teacher has the chance to monitor the room, listen in on discussions, and continue to gather formative data on who "gets it" and who doesn't.

4. Independent learning (or the "You Do") allows students to individually apply their learning in new ways, furthering their understanding

One of Fisher's most important points is that the gradual release model is NOT a linear process. Steps 1, 2, 3, and 4 do not always happen in that order. Teachers may come back to focus lessons as gaps of knowledge or misconceptions are discovered during guided practice and collaborative learning. Struggles during independent practice may call for additional guided practice.

In a recent short story unit, I used the gradual release model to teach students about the narrative elements that effective writers employ to engage readers such as foreshadowing, flashback, setting and character description, blocking, etc. I first modeled the analysis of these elements with "Thank You M'am" by Langston Hughes. For guided practice, students helped me to analyze these same elements in "The Jacket" by Gary Soto. Students worked in small groups to analyze "The Family of Little Feet" an excerpt from "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros. I ensured accountability by using a silent discussion technique (see an example and read more about that here). Finally, students independently applied this analysis to their own narrative nonfiction writing.

The gradual release process, otherwise known as I Do, We Do, Two Do, You Do, allows students to slowly take responsibility for their learning. Read about how to use direction instruction, guided practice, collaborative learning, and independent practice with your students during your writing lessons.If you are you are looking for more effective use of the gradual release process in your own classroom, try pairing this Practice with Writer's Style and Poetry Analysis Essay on Writer's Style: A Step by Step Guide.


Practice with Writer's Style includes two practice worksheets, each with four passages for analyzing the aspects of writer's style: diction, sentence structure, language choices, and tone. The first worksheet includes four passages on the same topic, so students can see how differently the same idea can be written about.

The second worksheet includes excerpts from famous writers like Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. A focus lesson could be done with the first passage on each worksheet, guided practice done with the second passage, and collaborative practice with the third and fourth passages.

The gradual release process, otherwise known as I Do, We Do, Two Do, You Do, allows students to slowly take responsibility for their learning. Read about how to use direction instruction, guided practice, collaborative learning, and independent practice with your students during your writing lessons.For independent practice and a chance for students to apply their new knowledge about writer's style, use this Poetry Analysis Essay on Writer's Style: A Step by Step Guide. Students will select a poet and three of his/her poems to analyze.

After analysis of three poems, students will then write a thesis summing up the poet's style and outline their essay.

The essay packet also includes additional practice with writer's style (a linked video of a young poet), sample thesis statements and topic sentences, a structured introductory paragraph, and a sample essay.

Next up: Writing isn't caught, it needs to be taught.

For more writing lesson ideas and resources:


You Might Also Like

0 comments