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“The critical stage in the model [Gradual Release of Responsibility] is ‘guided practice,’ the stage in which the teacher gradually releases task responsibility to the students.” (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983). Guided Practice is the transition phase, where children take more control of their learning and the teacher slowly steps back.
We keep the children up close on the rug during Guided Practice, so that we can monitor and support them easily and quickly. The teacher continues to read aloud, removing decoding as a potential obstacle to children’s focus on their thinking about the text. But students assume the responsibility of jotting down their thinking on sticky notes or a graphic organizer.
Structuring Guided Practice
To gradually turn over more responsibility to the students, we can structure Guided Practice in different ways, including the following:
- The first time we ask students to jot their thinking, we might think aloud briefly first. After thinking aloud, the teacher might say, “I’m going to jot down my thinking. While I do that, go ahead and jot down what you are thinking.” Even though some children will at this point simply jot down the same thing or some version of what the teacher stated, they will be getting the idea of transferring their thinking into writing or drawing. By not recording the thinking first, the teacher also leaves space for the children to use the teacher’s ideas as a springboard but not necessarily copy them verbatim.
- Begin by having the children turn and talk before they write. This gives them the support of a peer in formulating their thinking. At later points in Guided Practice, the teacher might ask the children to write first and then turn and talk with a partner. We always encourage them to add to their sticky notes if they hear something from their partner that stimulates more of their own thinking.
- Be more specific at first. For example, early in Guided Practice about making inferences, we might hear the teacher say, “What inference are you making about why the sandcastle is gone?” Later we might say, “What inferences are you making in this part of the poem?”
Conferring in Guided Practice
The purpose of Guided Practice is to serve as a bridge to being successful when students apply the strategy(ies) independently. Therefore conferring with children as they work is a critical part of Guided Practice. By listening to the children as they turn and talk, and by asking them to tell us about what they’ve written down, we are able to teach directly into each child’s specific needs. (We will discuss conferring more in Independent/Collaborative Practice.)
As you confer, find student examples to share and add to your anchor chart before moving on to the next section of text. Rather than randomly asking children to share, share examples that will add to the class’s understanding. It’s not necessary (or a productive use of time) to share after each time the children write, but sharing of well-chosen student contributions will not only motivate children to jot their thinking down, it will also serve as modeling for children who need more support. It is especially powerful to have a child share – or to share for them – when you have conferred with that child and helped him or her move from a kernel of an idea into a clear example of using the strategy to better understand the text. This builds the confidence of the children whose work is shared, and builds a strong classroom community where the whole class is aware of and respects the strengths and contributions of every member.
Part of the teacher’s job during Guided Practice is to assess when children are ready to go off on their own. Conferring is how we make this judgment. If most students are doing well with the strategy, we stop less often to finish the text if it’s a story, or stop sooner than we planned to in nonfiction (where reading the whole book is not necessary). We let them go on their own as soon as they are ready.
Additional Tips for Guided Practice:
- Plan how you would model your own thinking throughout the portion of the text you expect to use for Guided Practice. This will help you decide the best places to stop for children to apply the strategy(ies). If students are stuck, you will want to move back to modeling for them, and it helps to be prepared!
- Even though you’ve planned where to stop, take your cues from the children’s reactions as well. If there is a burst of comments as you are reading, let them turn and talk and jot their thinking.
- Add one or two of the children’s examples to the anchor chart during Guided Practice. This is a great motivator for students who are at first reluctant to record their thinking.
Reference: Pearson, P.D., & Gallagher, M.C. (1983). The Instruction of Reading Comprehension. Contemporary Educational Psychology 8, 317-344.