Friday, December 15, 2017

Helping Students be Successful by using the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model

I recently had the opportunity to teach an inquiry lesson to third graders, during which we explored how the moon appears to change during the month. (The lesson is fully described here: Inquiry into Moon Phases). The essential question that we were seeking to answer during the lesson was:



One of the goals of the lesson was that students would be able to accurately describe how the moon looks like it changes during the month and provide evidence/details about what is really happening. In order to get them to meet this goal, I used the Gradual Release of Responsibility model, as described by Doug Fisher in the article Effective Use of the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model.


Focus Lesson/Modeling (I DO IT)

After walking around a model of the moon in the dark (with a flashlight pointed at it) and observing how the moon looks like it changes, we returned to the classroom and began to draw our observations out on a Moon Calendar (we used pictures to help us remember). After week one, we paused so I could model how to make a scientific statement.

On the board, I wrote the sentence stem, "I observe ..." and modeled how I would describe how the moon looked like it changed during week #1.




I said, "I observe that the moon looks like it is changing because the shadow on the moon is getting bigger."



I asked students to notice which scientific words they heard and added those to a bank of science words on the board, by the sentence stem. I added moon, changing and shadow.


Guided Instruction (WE DO IT)
We continued to draw our observations out on the Moon Calendar. After week two, we paused to make a scientific statement together.


I asked for volunteers to describe how the moon looked like it changed during week #2. I guided the volunteers to use the sentence stem, "I observe ..." and as many scientific words as possible. When students said scientific words that weren't yet in our word bank, we added them (eventually that list grew to 9 words).


As I guided different volunteers to describe how the moon looked like it changed during week two, my responsibility as the teacher was to:
  • encourage them
  • celebrate their effort and successes
  • give feedback on how they could improve by
    • adding more scientific words
    • including additional new ideas
    • addressing misconceptions

Collaborative Learning (YOU DO IT TOGETHER)
We continued to draw our observations out on the Moon Calendar. After week three, we paused to so that pairs of students could make a scientific statement together.


I asked the students to think about how the moon looked like it changed during week #3. I reminded them to use the sentence stem, "I observe ..." and as many scientific words as possible. After students had a chance to think, I invited them to pair up and share their scientific sentence with a partner.

After 1-2 minutes, I signaled all the students back together and randomly chose 3 different pairs. As one partner said their scientific sentence, the other partner was in charge of counting how many scientific words they used. 

As the different pairs described how the moon looked like it changed during week three, my responsibility as the teacher was to:

  • encourage them
  • celebrate their effort and successes
  • give feedback on how they could improve by
    • adding more scientific words
    • including additional new ideas
    • addressing misconceptions
Independent Learning (YOU DO IT ALONE)
We continued to draw our observations out on the Moon Calendar. After week four, we paused to so that individual students could make a scientific statement.


I asked the students to think about how the moon looked like it changed during week #4. I reminded them to use the sentence stem, "I observe ..." and as many scientific words as possible. After students had a chance to think, I randomly chose 3 different students to share their scientific sentences with the class. As each student shared, the rest of the class counted how many scientific words they used.

As the different students described how the moon looked like it changed during week four, my responsibility as the teacher was to:
  • encourage them
  • celebrate their effort and successes
  • give feedback on how they could improve by
    • adding more scientific words
    • including additional new ideas
    • addressing misconceptions
Post-Assessment
After gradually releasing responsibility to the students to describe how the moon looked like it changed during the month, I asked them to respond to our essential question (just as I had at the onset of the lesson for a pre-assessment):


The difference between students' response to this question at the beginning of the lesson versus the ending was astonishing. Below is a sample of students' responses. It is clearly evident how much they grew during this lesson in their ability to accurately describe their scientific observations.

Student #1 PRE:

Student #1 POST:


Student #2 PRE:


Student #2 POST:


Student #3 PRE: 


Student #3 POST: 

By slowing and gradually releasing responsibility to students, they were ultimately able to independently describe how the moon changes during the month. How do you successfully use the gradual release of responsibility model in your own classroom?

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