Monday, February 21, 2011

Lesson design~ What do you believe?

I am currently working with a group of educators in central Ohio and the Literacy Connection. Our focus this year is Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller. This post is in response to chapter 6, Lesson
Design: Creating Lessons Based on Principles and Practices You Believe In.

In this chapter Debbie explains her lesson design as it reflects her belief statement-
"I believe the gradual release of responsibility model, integrated into a workshop format, best guides children toward understanding and independence. (Pearson and Gallagher 1983)"
Debbie provides us not only with the thinking behind her lesson design (teacher modeling, guided practice within the lesson, guided practice beyond the lesson, independent practice and application) but also the advatanges the design provides to the learner (making the thought process visible).
As I read this chapter I reflected on my lesson design and my tenative belief statements. I, like Debbie believe in a gradual release of responsibility. It's a beleif I developed early in my career as special education teacher and was reinforced as I  moved into regualr education. This is a popular format and for good reason.  
This belief  statement speaks to my lesson design and is one I strive to place in all parts of my  day

A framework, which incorporates a gradual release of responsibility, is the most effective teaching model.
In my classroom reading, writing, math and content (when possible) are all taught in a workshop format which incorporates a gradual release of responsibility to the kids. Each workshop begins with a focus lesson. This lesson begins by activating prior knowlwdge (schema) and making connections. New content is introduced (modeled, demonstrated or guided) all the  while continuing to make connections as we go.  

As I guide the kids through this new learning I listen carfully to their thinking and the language they use. I use their words to create our anchor charts. These charts serve as a tool for the kids throughout the year and make our thinking public. 
The lesson continues as the kids are released into the workshop but, not before taking a few minutes to allow the kids to envision their learning during the workshop. This envisioning allows the kids to verbalize the learning and set goals. I also believe I am sending the message- the new learning is important and will help you to deepen your understandings.

Envisioning also serves as an assessment tool for me. I use the information to guide my conferring and small group work during the workshop. The workshop provides time for the kids to work independently, in partners, or small groups and time for me to conference with the kids, work with small groups, and observe the overall learning of the class. All the while I am making instructional decisions for tomorrows learning.

Our workshop concludes each day with a share time. We gather on the carpet and talk about new discoveries, questions, ideas and our experiences during the workshop. Share time is my favorite part of the workshop. During our share kids are listening to their peers process their learning in their language. While some listen others respond and connect their ideas, the conversation flows openly! This is a time when the kids understandings become visible to me! These new understandings asses todays learning and guide the work for tomorrow. 

In talking about the teachers Debbie observed she says~
"These teachers trusted themselves and they trusted children-there was shared responsibilty for teaching and learning."  
 As I reflected on these words it became clear to me, this is the gift of the share time. The workshop can appear "messy."  But when you sit and listen to the kids share their new understandings and see their processes at work, the power of gradual release in a workshop format becomes evident.

For me it all comes down to your knowledge of the kids, the curriculum and trust. You have to trust your teaching, your observations, and your kids!

Things to think about:
Are the experiences we provide for the kids authenic?
Is the purpose of the lesson clear to the kids?
Are the materials appropriate to the learning?
Are we meeting the needs of the variety of learners in our room? 


  1. I too believe in the balance between what we need to teach kids, what we observe and the trust we have in ourselves. I am missing being a part of Lit Conection this year after reading your post. Thanks for this Deb! And, I love the look of your blog!!!

  2. Katie thank you for your comment on the look and the content of my blog. I am so enjoying blogging and the literacy connection, how could they miss with Debbie Miller!?

  3. The word envision is an important concept for teachers to keep thinking about. I'm going to think more about this, too.