Gradual Release Model

Got Sub Plans?

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When I was in the classroom, we had to turn in a sub folder at the beginning of every year. This caused me great angst. What should I leave in it? When would I need it? I didn’t want to leave busy work, but to leave something in a folder for an “emergency” was far too overwhelming for someone like me to process. Honestly, I feel the worst thing you can do is require kids to do something that is absolutely pointless. What’s worse, inadequate plans are unfair to your substitute. Idle children, no matter how well behaved, can become little terrors from sheer boredom alone. Not to mention that wasting instruction time should be criminal in and of itself (but that is a conversation for another day). So, in light of the sub plan debacle, I have created grade-level specific sub plans that are aligned to Common Core and provide relevant practice for students.

For the students:

6th - Grammar

Grammar Practice
Each set provides a specific grammar skill for students. Instead of having students complete meaningless worksheets that don’t help them retain the skill, these grammar sheets introduce rules and have students practice those skills through various tasks. By embedding the skills in their own writing, students better retain the information.


6th - VocabularyVocabulary Practice – Word of the Day
Students get one new word for the day. They are provided the part of speech and the definition. Students then practice the word with 3 different thought-provoking exercises. In the first activity, students find a synonym, antonym, use the word in a sentence and draw a picture that displays the word.

In the next activity, students make connections to themselves, text, and the real world. Lastly, students understand word relationships when they identify the parts of speech for 2 different forms of the vocabulary word. Students then use the word variations in sentences.

6th - ReadingReading Comprehension
Each reading comprehension passage is an original, grade-level appropriate informational text with common-core aligned questions. To engage students, passages are about animals, plants, or insects that most people are unfamiliar with. Also, students can click on a QR Code that takes them to a video displaying what they have just read. (This is definitely the coolest part of the activity per the students who sampled the product for me.

6th - WritingWriting Skills
Students read a short passage and revise and edit the passage to include more descriptive language by adding various types of figurative language, phrases, and parts of speech.

For students that may struggle or need a refresher on certain elements, students have a cheat sheet at the top of the page for their reference.

For the substitute:

To assist the substitute with the plans, there is a chart the details what the substitute can do to model for each activity and how to have students complete each activity. Designed for a 90-minute block, there is more than enough for students to do.

For the teacher:

Answer keys are provided for the activities. Also, the design of the activities allow for conversation and interaction after completion. The teacher can provide meaningful feedback that students can apply in other assignments, regardless of what they are.

For principals and administrators:

Sometimes you are left holding the bag when a teacher has an unexpected absence. These packs would work well for your middle school ELA classes.

This activity is currently available for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade in my TpT store.


One last note:

If you are not an ELA teacher, or this is not something you are looking for, I encourage you to consider what you leave your students to do in your absence. Meaningful work should not disappear in your absence. Instead, consider foundational skills that your students need to work on consistently, and devise a plan around those concepts. This will sharpen students while you are away, and make the most of instruction time. Also, consider how improbable it is for students to sit idly for an extended period of time. Allow them to work with a peer or discuss information with your substitute. You will be amazed at the outcome!

Secondary ELA: Analyzing Characters with Graphic Organizers

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Teaching students to analyze anything can be a daunting task. So when students have to make sense of all of the characters in a short story or novel, and THEN analyze them, the frustration can reach a boiling point for both the teacher and the student. To mitigate these frustrations, graphic organizers can be a tremendous help.

In the classroom, I remember all of the organizers my students had to create by hand as I drew them on the board. Then, using the Gradual Release Model of Responsibility, we would walk through them so that students could really flesh out their characters and ideas, and support that with evidence from the text. Once we were able to do all of that, we were ready for the hard part – writing the analysis.

Today, I have eliminated much of the frustration by creating an Analyzing Characters Organizer Pack.

character cover.pngPicture1


Included, are 6 graphic organizers, a table of contents with instructions on how to use each, directions on using the Gradual Release Model of Responsibility, the Common Core Standards the activities are aligned with, AND learning targets.





The activities can be used for any secondary ELA classroom. There are a variety of ways to use the organizers including whole-class, independent practice, small groups, or stations.


If you are looking for an engaging way to teach students how to analyze characters, check it out. I found that once students were given opportunities to practice the skill in different ways, the outcome was increased engagement and greater achievement.

Gradual Release of Responsibility Model

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The Gradual Release of Responsibility Model systematically transitions the responsibility of learning from the teacher to the student through four different phases. At each phase, the teacher and student share different responsibilities that decrease for the teacher and increase for the student as the class progresses through the model.

Gradual Release - Roles - Small Image

Ideally, teachers would use this model in every lesson plan. Aside from the fact that it is just good teaching, it serves a few other purposes:

  1. Preparation and Planning– The I Do phase requires that the teacher use a think-aloud while modeling. In order to model the skill, the teacher has to not only thoroughly understand the content to be presented, but lesson planning and practice are required. Therefore, there is a level of preparation necessary that better equips the teacher to anticipate and answer questions students may have, thereby curtailing the modeling to adequately support the class. When this happens, instruction time is maximized.
  2. Application – During the We Do It  Together phase, students should start at application through guided practice and interactive activities that require their participation. Because students are included in understanding the expectation as well as the process, there are opportunities for clarification and questioning without penalty . Additionally, students are applying the skill with the assistance of the teacher AND their peers.  Most importantly, at this step, students are building confidence, and the teacher can identify possible frustrations before the student is required to apply the skill on his/her own.
  3. Collaboration – At the You Do It  Together step, students have taken notes, actively listened, and applied the skill. Now that they are ready to collaborate with a partner or small group, students can ask those questions they were too embarrassed or too shy to ask in front of the class. Here, students can share what they understand with their peer(s) and glean additional information as understood by someone their own age. I think about how many times I’ve watched a student explain something I’ve already explained 100 different ways, and for some reason, their explanation pulled all the pieces together for a student that still did not understand.
  4. Independent Practice – In the final stage of the model – You Do It Alone – students can independently display their level of understanding. Ultimately, it only matters if a student can complete the activity independently. When students make it to the final stage and they still cannot proficiently apply what they have learned, it is important for the teacher to understand exactly what the student needs and how to best help him or her.

Are you using the Gradual Release Model in your classroom?

Secondary Reading Comprehension – Gradual Release

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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.