Gradual release of responsibility

GRADUAL RELEASE OF RESPONSIBILITY (GRR) is a model of literacy instruction in which the teacher is responsible for designing instruction that moves the learner from a state of total dependence on the teacher’s direct instruction to a phase in which students are able to perform a task independently.

Gradual Release Diagram


The GRR model of instruction is one that outlines and delineates four distinct phases of instruction that are vital to effective learning. Many teachers practice some or all of these phases in their day-to-day teaching, but it is useful to look closely at each part individually as each has a different purpose, and analysis can reveal best practices to use during each phase, as well as to discuss how they interact with each other.

Focus lesson

The focus lesson is often the first phase of instruction. It is used to present now content or review previously learned material. It is often called the "I do" phase of instruction. The instructional focus is on what the objective of the lesson is and what strategies or methods the learners will use to meet that objective. The teacher is explicit in her explanation, and models how to perform the skill using a think aloud strategy. In reading, this could mean a teacher focuses on a reading strategy, and models her thought process to the students as she does a read aloud. In math, it could mean she is modeling her thought process as she uses the guess and check strategy to solve a word problem. A focus lesson should be brief, and should establish the purpose for the lesson and let students know what skills they will use to meet the objective.

Guided instruction

During guided instruction, the teacher begins to involve the students more actively in the lesson. It is also called the "I do, you help" or "We do" phase of instruction. The teacher continues to model and share her meta-cognition, but now prompts the students to participate and share their thinking as well. This is the questioning phase, both on the part of the teacher questioning the students as to their thinking and understanding- assessing their comprehension and readiness to move to the next phase, and on the part of the students questioning the teacher in an effort to clarify their understanding and thought processes. The teacher guides the students as necessary during the practice of the skill, gradually allowing them more independence and control as they become more proficient.

Collaborative learning

During the collaborative learning component of the GRR model, also called the "You do, together" phase of instruction, students have an opportunity to work in groups or pairs to practice the previously taught skill or strategy. In this phase, students are encouraged to talk to each other about their thinking and how they apply it to the task. Students are discussing tasks and ideas, responding to questions, problem solving, and modeling their thinking with each other. They are, in effect, teaching each other and reviewing the lesson under instructor supervision. Teachers are encouraged to create tasks that require students to use purposeful talk, and to establish instructional routines in which students interact with each other using language frames and vocabulary provided by the teacher.

Independent learning

This component, also called the "You do" phase of instruction, is the ultimate goal of the lesson-that students are able to independently apply the skill they have been practicing in different contexts. They may have been listening to the teacher model the use of a reading strategy during a read aloud, practiced using that strategy in a small guided reading group with teacher support, and shared their use of the strategy during partner reading. During this phase, they will practice that strategy during independent reading of a book at their reading level, perhaps demonstrating use of the skill with a written reading response.


It is important to note that though the model is described in a particular order, and graphic representations of the model indicate a linear flow from the focus lesson to independent learning, it is by no means necessary to follow that progression. A teacher should use her discretion in determining if a lesson is best begun with a collaborative or guided phase, or if returning to an earlier phase for reteaching is required after assessment indicates it is needed.


Gradual Release of Responsibility. Retrieved April 22, 2009 from

Fisher, Douglas; Frey, Nancy; Rothenburg, Carol. Content-Area Conversations. Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2008.

Fisher, Douglas. (2006). A Gradual Release of Responsibility. Retrieved April 22, 2009 from