Teach reading comprehension effectively using the gradual release method.

Lost in a Teacher’s Guide

I was brand new to Utah. Like, hadn’t even found a place to live so I was staying in my cousin’s basement kind of new.

Being a planner, I had gotten early access to my new classroom and lugged out all the teacher’s guides I could find. Having never had an official reading curriculum to work with before, I was psyched! Surely, these guides would tell me step-by-step, how to teach reading.

My assumption was totally wrong.

Eagerly, I turned the pages across the wobbly spiral binding. The lessons were rich, and by that I mean every kind of integration, accommodation, and a bunch of other “ations” that left my head spinning.

After a couple of hours draped in the heavy guides, I felt defeated and not anymore sure of how to organize my reading comprehension instruction.

There was no way I could go these guides and efficiently pull out the next lesson. Little did I know, there was a much simpler way to go about it.


A Go-To Framework

If you’re anything like me, you want to use research-based practices in your classroom whenever you can.

You also probably don’t want to reinvent the wheel with your instruction every single week.

There’s one classic teaching technique that is both research-based and can be turned into a repeatable weekly framework.

Watch the video below to learn about the gradual release model:



What Would Martha Stewart Do?

Teaching would be so easy if you could hook up some kind of jump drive and transfer the knowledge that expert readers have, into the mind of a novice reader. The next best thing is demonstrations.

To understand the power of demonstration, think about Martha Stewart. I have no idea how to make a delightful butternut squash soup, but I could watch her do it, listen to her describe her thought process, and I’d be ready to try it, too!

Watch the video to see how demonstrations set your students up for success with reading comprehension:


Turning Over the Pen

You’ve demonstrated your thought process. What’s next?

Now it’s time to let your student get their feet wet. Students have enough input to give the skill a try but you don’t want them off on a crazy tangent.

In the middle of the gradual release model is the “shared” and “guided” teaching approach.

Think of it this way:

-In a shared activity, the teacher holds the pen. The teacher takes some input from students but steers the conversation in the right direction.

-In a guided activity, the student holds the pen. Here, the student takes on more responsibility but the teacher is close by, giving prompts and redirecting as needed.

Watch the video below to see how shared and guided experiences can lead to great reading comprehension:



Letting Go of the Bike

You’ve propped your students up while they learned a new skill for a while but this is the exciting part!

You’re ready to let go of the bike and watch them take off on their own! This is the independent phase.

Best practice tells us that kids need several chances to practice a skill before they master it. If you’ve given them a solid footing, kids can go back to the skill on their own to retain and refine it.

Watch the video below to see how to nurture independent reading comprehension practice so your students will become pros:



Rinse and Repeat

The gradual release model is not just an effective way for students to learn. It also gives you a process you can repeat each week in your reading instruction with little prep.

Watch the video below to see the weekly schedule that saves planning time and still deliver effective reading comprehension instruction:

Give it a try in your class!


All activities featured in the videos above come from The Big Book of Reading Comprehension, Grade 3.

The Big Book of Reading Comprehension Activities, Grade 3


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The Best Way to Teaching Reading Comprehension for Mastery - Find out how to use the gradual release teaching method to effectively teach reading strategies in the elementary classroom #readingcomprehension #literacy #3rdgrade

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Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun is a former teacher with 8 years of experience in the classroom and a master's degree in early childhood education. She designs engaging, organized classroom resources for 1st-3rd grade teachers.