Developing Student Independence Is Not a New Concept

In my recent newsletter, I shared some tips regarding Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR).  Building student independence is not necessarily a new concept.  I would trace its origins back to influential educators such as John Dewey and Marie Montessori.  These iconic educators promoted the importance for students to develop independence while learning since I lead to greater motivation and achievement.  With the introduction of the Common Core State Standards and other state equivalents, greater emphasis is being placed on fostering student independence.  It’s not enough for students to just know content or have skills, they must know when and how to use them.  I discuss GRR as part of my theoretical model for my Literacy and Learning Centers.  If you missed my latest newsletter, here it is!  You can also register for my newsletter at

Learning and Literacy Centers & Gradual Release of Responsibility

They go together like sha-na and na!
And we can use both strategies in tandem to fill our classrooms with confident learners who accept responsibility for their own learning.

Learning and Literacy Centers & Gradual Release of Responsibility

By now we’re all aware that the new college and career readiness standards promote greater student independence. And the popularity of Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey’s book, Better Learning Through Structured Teaching: A Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility, has made the GRR model the go-to framework for helping students achieve independence in the classroom and beyond. This educational model is being instituted in school districts all over the country because, frankly, it's kind of fabulous – and it augments the Learning and Literacy Center classroom perfectly!

Just look at how the steps in a Learning and Literacy Centers lesson match up to the GRR steps:


Here are two tips to help you keep Learning and Literacy Centers run smoothly in YOUR classroom.

Tip 1: Offer Written Instructions at Each Center

Ideally, you’ll offer a brief overview instructions for each center at the beginning of the class period. But give students the option of confirming the instructions before beginning each activity. How? Individuals, pairs, or teams read instructions themselves. Hang signs on the wall, tape hand-written instructions on top of each table, or display all the instructions on the whiteboard on via LCD projector.

Tip 2: Read 3 Then Ask Me

What good are written instructions if the students start waving their hands before they even settle in at the center? I've seen some really effective teachers nip that impulse in the bud by instituting the Read 3 Then Ask Me rule. They instruct students to read the written instructions at each center at least 3 times before asking the teacher for help! This simple step increases the amount of independent reading, fosters independence, and frees the teacher to lead a center or institute formative assessments. It's a simple tip to keep things running smoothly in the centers-based classroom.


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