Debbie Draper Educational Consultant

What is the Gradual Release of Responsibility in reading instruction?

The Gradual Release of Responsibility is an instruction framework based on the Zone of Proximal Development. It is essentially an apprenticeship model which requires a more experienced learner (usually the teacher) to initially demonstrate and model what effective readers do. This is done by the teacher reading aloud and thinking aloud to articulate the processes and thinking they are using to read and understand a text. When students become more familiar with the language, vocabulary and strategies the teacher is using they join in the process through a shared demonstration. During the guided reading phase, students attempt to read and comprehend a text with the teacher monitoring and guiding the process. Finally, students use the skills and strategies for independent practice. 

The following video from Deakin University provides an explanation of some of the teaching approaches used with the Gradual Release of Responsibility model.


Step One ("I do"): In this step, the teacher provides direct instruction on a reading or comprehension skill or strategy. During this step, the teacher uses a "think aloud" in order to model his or her thinking. The focus of the lesson depends upon student needs. Foci may include:

  • decoding skills
  • using comprehension strategies
  • determining texts structures and features
  • using strategies to understand unfamiliar vocabulary

At this stage of instruction, the onus is on the teacher to provide information whilst the role of the student is to focus on the learning and to engage by actively listening and seeking clarification

This page from the Reading Rockets website provides information about the why and how of using think alouds 

Shared Reading

Step Two ("We do"): In this step, the teacher and student participate in interactive instruction. Shared reading involves all students having access to the text - preferable through a large screen, big book or enlarged copy so that all students can focus on one copy and features can be pointed out together.

The focus of the shared reading session should be the same as the demonstration lesson so that students can apply and practise the skills and strategies taught during the think aloud / read aloud process. Below are some excellent resources for exploring shared reading.

Shared Reading - the Victorian State Government has an excellent range of information about shared reading here

On Louise Dempsey's website Learning Smart you will find resources and teacher plans to support shared reading instruction and planning.

Six Reasons for Shared Reading

Building Motivation for Literacy and Concepts of Print in Kindergarten (Virtual Tour)

Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom - Shared Reading in Kindergarten (Video Demonstration)

Shared Reading of Big Books (Virtual Tour)

Supporting Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary using Big Books in the Classroom (Virtual Tour)

Shared Reading in the Primary Grades

Guided Practice

Step 3 ("We Do") shifts the focus from "I do, you help" to "you do, I help". Effective guided reading relies on the teacher knowing the students well. Guided reading groups usually comprise students with the same instructional needs but these students may require individualised support based on the reading strategies that are using and not using. This can be ascertained through information from reading assessments (Phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension assessments such as NAPLaN and PAT-R) and anecdotal records.

Independent Reading

Step 4 "You Do" is the ultimate goal of the Gradual Release of Responsibility. We want our learners to engage in, enjoy and learn from reading. Throughout the modelled, shared and guided sessions learners will have built up a repertoire of strategies to engage in successful independent reading.

Checklist of research-based experiences to improve students’ reading

The critical role of opportunities to read

Structures for Collaborative and Independent Reading

Silent Reading vs Independent Reading

Supporting Students as they Read Independently

Reciprocal Teaching

Using Reciprocal Teaching

Reciprocal Teaching: Illustrations of Practice (AITSL)

Reciprocal Reading ppt for students

Literature Circles: Getting Started

Literature Circles Workshop (PowerPoint presentation)

Literature Circles (State Library of Victoria)

Literature Circles Role Cards