Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Better Learning Through Structured Teaching

Fisher, D. and Frey, N. (2008). Better Learning Through Structured Teaching. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD.


This book gives teachers a guide to instruct students so they can develop stronger learning skills. “It is a framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibilities.” The authors walk teachers though process of modeling (or focus lessons), guided practice, collaborative learning, and independent practice. These four approaches to a single lesson help meet many critical challenges teachers face like differentiation and time management. Each step is important for students to see in a series of lessons. The Focus Lesson establishes the purpose of the lesson. This is where the teacher needs to do explicit modeling for the class. Students may have many questions at this time. During Guided Instruction the teacher will use prompts to facilitate learning as students increase participation in the lesson. Students may begin to understand the expectations at this time but are still not ready to complete the task independently. Collaborative Learning is a vital step in the process. They must work together, with the teacher nearby, to create independent work. The teacher has not back away completely yet but is slowly handing more responsibility to the students. The Independent Practice is when the teacher has stepped away for running the lesson and the students are now in control of their own learning. Throughout the book there are examples and dialogues from across grade levels.


I have actually had this book sitting on my shelf for a while now. I got it while in the BTSA program for Chula Vista Elementary School District. CVESD is a big participant in Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR). One of the authors, Douglas Fisher, provided many professional development meeting through the year. I understand the idea of GRR and like the concept. I think it is a natural way of teaching, starting with modeling and setting the expectations then slowing giving control to of learning to the students until finally they are working independently. There was just one part that I could never wrap my head around. AS CV administration preached GRR they explained that the framework was linear and that every lesson had to have all components every time. I never understood why exactly. I didn’t understand why you couldn’t start at a different step. Now that i read the book, I understand that I can. Not all lessons will have all parts of GRR at one time in one setting. It makes so much more sense to me after reading the book. I enjoyed the reading. It was quick and provided lots of examples. Most of the book is just good teaching practice and nice to hear reiterated from time to time.


“All focus lessons should establish a purpose for learning...setting objectives and providing feedback. That is critical to the success of English Language Learners.” (21)

“Guided instruction is not ability grouping. A hallmark of guided instruction is that the dialogue between teacher and learners is carefully crafted following the principles of scaffolding.” (40-41)

“Independent learning is not simply photocopying worksheets for students to complete.” (86)

“Independent learning should allow students a ‘direct encounter’ with the phenomena being studied rather than merely thinking about the encounter, or only considering the possibility of doing something about it.” (89)

“Learning occurs through one of the following four ways and that each person probably learns best through just one way: concrete experience, observation and reflection, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation.” (90)

“Although we have presented this framework in a sequential manner, implementation is not a linear process. We rarely march lockstep through a focus lesson, followed immediately by guided lessons for all students, then collaborative learning, holding independent learning for the very end of the unit. Instead, we view these components as recursive and iterative.” (110)

1 comment:

Stacey Caillier said...

I really like that you are pushing back on the idea of using these techniques as a linear script (that you have to do all components in a certain order). I agree, thoughtful teachers should pull from these techniques and use different ones when they work best for their particular students. It's more important to be thoughtful and responsive than to just march through a set of steps. Bravo!

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