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Section 4: Gradual Release of Responsibility

The content of this module is applicable for mentor teachers working with teacher candidates during their internship experience.  If you are mentoring a new teacher or on the job teacher or provisionally licensed teacher, this section is optional.

I Do, We Do, You Do

Effective teachers often use the gradual release of responsibility as an instructional model for scaffolding learning in a structured way for their students.  Framed by three key parts —I do (modeling), We do/You do (together), You do (alone)— gradual release is intended to do just that--gradually support learners’ acquisition of new skills by shifting responsibility from the teacher to the students (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983). Mentees working with teacher candidates can also use the gradual release approach to build mentees confidence and competence across the internship experience. 


Below is a sample Gradual Release of Responsibilities Map for Elementary Candidates (or this PDF Version) created by one group of mentors at Garfield Elementary in Fairfax County. In this example, gradual release of responsibility occurs in five phases. Within each phase, the mentors conceptualized expectations in four areas of professional development: 1) purposeful observation and reflection, 2) planning and instruction, 3) classroom management, and 4) professionalism.  The mentors also noted possible challenges that may emerge during the phase.


Click "Learn More" under each phase on the graphic below to see an example of how teaching responsibilities become gradually more complex.


A gradual release approach for internship can be used across licensure areas. Take a peek below at examples of gradual release in action in a licensure program at George Mason University.

Phase 1

Understanding and Engaging in the Classroom and School Community

Phase 2

Purposeful Opportunities for Planning, Management, and Instruction

Phase 3

Owning and Embracing Increased Leadership of Planning, Management, and Instruction

Phase 4

Independent Phase

Phase 5

Internship Closure

Gradual Release of Responsibility Map Examples From Other Content Areas

Pause & Reflect


After reviewing the Gradual Release of Responsibilities Map (including each of the five phases above), consider this model in terms of your own classroom and school context. What aspects of this map might work for you? What's missing?

Directions: Pause and reflect on what you learned. Use the questions below to guide your thinking and record your thoughts in your Module 3 Companion Guide. 

Modeling Through 'Thinking Aloud'

During the gradual release of teaching responsibilities, effective mentors possess the knowledge and expertise to guide and scaffold learning for their mentee.  One way mentors do this is through the act of making their thinking visible.  Much like 'thinking aloud,' a practice we routinely engage in with our Pk-12 learners, making your thinking visible gives teacher candidates a window into your decision-making. 

Watch the video embedded on the right to learn more about why 'thinking aloud' as a modeling practice is essential to teacher learning. For more information about making thinking explicit, visit Mentoring Teachers.

Permission to use content above granted, 2022

Provide Scaffolded Supports

High Leverage Practice 15

Providing scaffolded supports is a High Leverage Practice (HLP) that is important for teachers to utilize with their students, but it is also a practice that mentors can use with their mentees. The primary purpose of scaffolded supports is to provide the learner what is needed to successfully accomplish the task. Overtime, these supports can be gradually reduced until the learner is able to be successful without any supports in place. Some examples of these supports include providing familiar examples, using graphic organizers or manipulatives, or various technological tools. Knowing when and how to scaffold these supports is an important skill to be able to implement at any given time.

Scaffolding through Dialogue

Using dialogue to support learning and success is a practice that should be used intentionally. Teachers can model the skill being taught while thinking aloud. Thinking aloud is more than simply telling learners what is being done; it is telling them how it is being done and why it is being done that way. Directing learners on where they should focus their attention, providing guiding prompts, utilizing effective questioning techniques, or providing informative feedback allows learners to be the primary doers with a little guidance along the way.


Principles of Scaffolded Supports

As teachers are planning what types of supports their learners require, they should keep in mind these principles:

  • Dynamic Assessment

    • The supports should be in direct response to the learners abilities and needs.

  • Knowledge of Curriculum

    • Understanding the sequence of learning allows teachers to carefully structure supports that are designed to guide their students towards the benchmarks or objectives.

  • Motivation, Purpose, and Engagement

    • Learners who feel uncomfortable, frustrated, or disinterested will have difficulties attending to the learning tasks. Teachers should use appropriate supports to encourage students to actively participate in the learning process.

  • Varying Levels of Support

    • It is important that teachers are only providing the amount of support that is necessary for success. Students will not be successful and will become frustrated if they do not receive enough support, and students who receive too much support will fail to become independent because they have become reliant on external supports.


Resources to Support HLP 15

Highlight of HLP 15

Rubric for Implementation

Self-Paced Professional Learning

Use Explicit Instruction

High Leverage Practice 16

Explicit instruction removes all ambiguity from the content being taught. When working with students or mentees, it is important that all information is conveyed exactly as it is intended. In order to ensure that the learner is understanding the content correctly, teachers should implement the key elements of explicit instruction as identified by Anita Archer (2011):

  • Content

    • Focus instruction on critical content.

    • Sequence skills logically.

    • Break down complex skills and strategies into smaller instructional units.

  • Design of Instruction

    • Design organized and focused lessons.

    • Begin lessons with a clear statement of the lesson goals and your expectations.

    • Review prior skills and knowledge before beginning instruction.

    • Provide step-by-step demonstrations.

    • Use clear and concise language.

    • Provide an adequate range of examples and non-examples.

    • Provide guided and supported practice.

  • Delivery of Instruction

    • Require frequent responses.

    • Monitor student performance closely.

    • Provide immediate affirmative and corrective feedback.

    • Deliver the lesson at a brisk pace.

    • Help students organize knowledge.

  • Purposeful Practice

    • Provide distributed and cumulative practice.

Adapted from Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching, by A. L. Archer and C. A. Hughes, 2011, pp 2-3. Copyright by 2011 by the Guilford Press


Typical Lesson Format

  • Opening to gain students attention

  • Preview of goals and expectations

  • Review of prior knowledge and prerequisite skills

  • I do - model and think aloud of important elements 

  • We do - guided practice to ensure success

  • You do - evaluation of understanding 

  • Review of critical content

  • Preview of next lesson

  • Independent practice to develop mastery


Mentors should review their mentees’ lesson plans to support the implementation of explicit instruction. 


Resources to Support HLP 16

Highlight of HLP 16

Rubric for Implementation

Self-Paced Professional Learning

Vanderbilt University Resource Project

Pause & Reflect

Directions: Pause and reflect on what you've learned and use the question below to guide your thinking and record your thoughts in your Companion Guide.  Review the checklist below to explore the possibilities of how you can implement the principles of the HLP with your mentee.

Checklist 16 - TTAC Website

In what ways could this checklist be beneficial to you as a mentor?

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