Understanding that students may not have the skills they are “supposed” to have to navigate grade-level text is difficult on both students and teachers. For this reason, I always spent the beginning of the school year teaching my students reading strategies and comprehension skills that we would implement for the rest of the year. Instead of starting with a novel, we read short stories and informational text together. During the first month of school, I used the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model almost daily so that I had a better understanding of where my students were. I also wanted to make sure that they clearly understood the expectations.

A typical reading activity would look like the example below. For the purposes of the example, let’s say that we were reading a 5 paragraph essay.

Gradual Release Example

Reading the Text

I Do: Using the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model, I would model reading comprehension of the first paragraph with a think-aloud. We would discuss what I read, my understanding, and their understanding. 

We Do it Together: As a class, we would read the next 2-3 paragraphs. I would ask students what they were thinking as we read. Our discussion included understanding the text and how we arrived at the understanding.  

You Do it Together: Students read with a partner and repeated the process. At this point, students had watched me model, and they had practiced the skill with feedback and guidance. 

You Do It Alone: Lastly,  I would have students finish reading the last paragraph or 2 on their own. We would discuss the passage as a whole.

Applying Comprehension

I Do: Once I believed that students understood the passage, I would model answering the first question. In doing this, I would break down the question to model comprehension of what was being asked. Next, I evaluated my options. In choosing my answer, I was sure to show where I believed the text supported my answer.  Afterwards, we would discuss my choice. Before I shared the correct answer, I would ask students if they thought I was correct or incorrect. Why or why not?

We Do It Together: After modeling the application of comprehension, it was time to include students. We worked on the next 2 questions together, repeating the process, but with the students’ input. I made sure to ask clarifying questions as opposed to giving the answer. 

You Do It Together: From there, I had students do the next 1 or 2 questions with a partner. We then shared out our answers and discussed them. I found this to be most beneficial to students because it taught them how to analyze questions and support their answers with information from the text. 

You Do It Alone: In my opinion, this was the most important part of the model because if students could not apply the skill on their own, the activity had not been as fruitful as I had hoped. Educators have to remember that it is easy for students to hide in plain site when there are whole-class activities. However, working alone reveals all secrets. Therefore, I had students work independently to finish the questions. Once everyone finished, we discussed each answer together in the same way we had done with the others. 

The Big Picture

Teaching reading comprehension through modeling and guided practice proved to be invaluable to all parties involved. Once students mastered skills to help them independently comprehend text, I was able to cover more content and expose them to more information that would help them, not only in my class, but in all  other classes.