Building Student Confidence with Gradual Release of Responsibility

The Gradual Release of Responsibility Model (GRR Model) is a progressive method of learning that walks students through the learning process. Students start as observers watching their teacher model an action, then they become active participants who perform the action with their teacher and peers, and finally, they become confident, independent learners who can perform the action by themselves.

This idea of guiding students towards learning independence has been studied by educational researchers and theorists for many years, but it became widely known as the gradual release of responsibility in 1983 after the release of a report by P. David Pearson and Margaret Gallagher at the University of Illinois. “Basing their model on the ideas of the Russian educational theorist Lev Vygotsky, Pearson and Gallagher envisioned instruction that moved from explicit modeling and instruction to guided practice and then to activities that incrementally positioned students into becoming independent learners.” Vygotsky’s concept of having a teacher interact with and support a student as he learns a task is called “instructional scaffolding” and it’s a necessary component of the GRR Model.

Gradual Release of Responsibility is a very important method used in the GrapeSEED program. Each step of the model is necessary for students in order to allow them time to build confidence as they practice and move from one Unit to the next, growing in their oral language and literacy development.

First, the teacher reads a story or poem, sings a song or chant, or demonstrates an action activity. The key is for the teacher to model the exact language she wants the students to use when they start participating. Through repeated exposure and other techniques, like pointing to the pictures, the students begin to understand the meaning behind the words and phrases they are hearing. As the students become more comfortable with the language, they will begin to say the words along with the teacher.

Reading to Students

Teachers must determine when their students are ready to move on to the next step and participate with peers in speaking the text, asking questions, or demonstrating other language skills during an activity.

Shared Reading with Students

Once they are confident in using the language with the teacher and the class, teachers should encourage independent reading. Students can read from their GrapeSEED take-home books, for example, in a designated area for reading or in the listening center where they can follow along with the DVD.

Independent Reading By Students

With repeated exposure to the language through teacher modeling and shared reading with the teacher and peers, students build the confidence they need when it’s time to start reading on their own. This confidence will lead to much more enjoyable reading experiences as the students continue to grow and learn.