Category Archives: Gradual Release

Creating Engaging Learning Objects

Creating an effective Student Council team dynamic

Learning objects: have you heard of them, or is this a new term to you?  A learning object is one object or item in an online Learning Management System (LMS) that allows the student to obtain information or practice newly obtained information. While learning objects are simple enough to define, they are not as easy to develop.

When preparing to create online content for your students, begin with the AKS (standard) being taught and the learning target for the lesson.  Learning targets help us to create a learning object that has one focus.  One distinct purpose exists for the learning object.  Students may be acquiring new information using a presentation, they may interact with embedded flash cards to preview vocabulary for an upcoming lesson, or they may complete an assessment to show mastery and understanding.  Whatever the case may be, the learning object has one, singular focus.

Breaking the lesson down into focused sections helps the teacher organize pieces of the lesson while helping the students understand what they are doing in each learning object.

  • Engage: This is the activating strategy.  This could be a video that introduces the upcoming unit or lesson, a discussion board that students can use to express their background knowledge, or embedded virtual manipulatives paired with a guiding question.  
  • Learn: What interactive activity can students use to learn new information?  This is a great place for a video, created or curated by the teacher, to teach a new concept.  In math, a teacher may want to record a new strategy students can use to solve a linear equation.  In social studies, a teacher could embed a video sharing information about the history of an ancient civilization.  In science, students may use a 3D science tool to explore parts of the animal cell.  In band, students may listen to a recording of the new piece of music they will begin soon.
  • Practice: This type of learning object gives students the opportunity to practice their newly obtained understanding and refine it when given immediate feedback.  Students may be presented with a math problem they are asked to solve and then are able to reveal its answer to see how they did.  If they were incorrect in their answer, students would have access to an explanation of how the problem should have been solved so they can identify where they went wrong.  In science, students may complete a matching activity between the parts of the cell and their functions.  Practice objects should not be punitive, but rather give students a way to try applying their new knowledge, check their work, compare their notes to the teacher’s notes and then start the cycle over again.  
  • Show: This learning object invites  students to show their mastery and understanding of the standard they’ve learned as they have completed learning activities inclass and online.  Teachers can  offer students the option of representing their learning using a web tool of their choice to promote deeper engagement  or by offering a few options that appeal to a variety of learning styles.  The intention of this type of learning object is for the students to show what they have learned so the teacher can evaluate the learning and provide additional feedback.  Teachers can use rubrics to assess an object submitted to a dropbox or posted to a discussion board.  Classroom Assessments or quizzes can measure student understanding.
  • Extend:  As students submit assignments to show what they know, teachers will be able to identify common misconceptions among students and/or develop remedial lessons for students who need additional support.  During this time, teachers can offer students an opportunity to extend or deepen their understanding through an Extend activity.  An Extend activity could include a current event article  related to the AKS (standard) being taught that students interact with, or it could include suggestions for going deeper into the content.  An Extend activity could be a preview into the next unit or a preview of how the information learned will “reappear” at future grade levels or in the real-world.  Extend activities provide a great opportunity for differentiation.

When creating learning objects, there are a few things to keep in mind.  Learning objects should be:

  1. Directly connected to a specific AKS (Standard).  All learning objects should help the student master the content.
  2. Singular in focus.  Learning objects should be focused on one learning objective at a time.
  3. Singular in purpose.  Each learning object should have a clear purpose evident to the student.  
  4. Student facing.  Ideally, the student should be able to utilize the learning object without the teacher present to give verbal directions.  Where directions are needed, they should be written to the student.  When applicable, directions should be read aloud.
  5. Level appropriate.  Differentiation based on skill and ability level should be used when developing learning objects.  Learning objects should also be grade level and standard appropriate.

Let’s start building!  Here’s a planning guide to help you:


DigitalEngagementPlanningGUide (1)Four steps to keep in mind:

  1. Prepare: Identify your learning targets and create an outline.  Perhaps start with how you’d teach this lesson in the brick-and-mortar classroom, then brainstorm ways students can obtain or interact with this information online.  “If your course doesn’t engage your learners, or overloads them with information, those all-important learning goals are not going to be achieved. Structure your content by dividing it into modules and learning paths so that there’s an achievable path for your learner to follow”  (McEnteggart, 2017).
  2. Create: This could also be subtitled: Build.  This is where you curate interactive materials and create engaging activities while considering a variety of learning styles.  Also consider how students will show understanding.  Will they interact on a discussion board or submit to a dropbox?  Will they practice using interactive tools like Quizlet, NearPod or Quizizz?  Structure your assignment into modules and sub-modules to keep it organized and easy to follow, use learning paths to help drive students.
  3. Deliver: Switch into Student view and see it from their perspective.  Did you create release conditions in your Learning Management System to drive their learning?  Do they work?  Is the content being delivered easy to follow and engaging?  If it’s text heavy, are their options for read aloud?
  4. Measure: Ask your students about the activities.  What did they like or not like about the activities?  WARNING: Middle Schoolers will say they don’t like anything so be specific.  Ask students how long they think they spent on the tasks and then use User Progress to calculate the average time spent on each activity and the module as a whole.  Measure student learning.  Based on their responses to discussion boards and/or test items, how did they do?  What would you as teacher do differently next time?


Chiappe Laverde, A., Segovia Cifuentes, Y., & Rincón Rodríguez, H. (2007). Toward an instructional design model based on learning objects. Educational Technology Research & Development, 55(6), 671-681.

Keramida, M., (M.Ed.). (2015, July 08). The Importance Of Learning Objects In Instructional Design For eLearning. Retrieved from:

McEnteggart, P. (2017, January 06). 4 Steps To Prepare Engaging eLearning Content. Retrieved from:


Gradual Release CREW

What is Gradual Release?

The gradual release of responsibility model of instruction requires the teacher to shift from assuming all the responsibility for performing a task to a situation in which the students assume all of the responsibility.

There are four components in the Gradual Release of Responsibility model:

GR Infographic

Most importantly, the gradual release of responsibility model is not linear. Students have the opportunity to move back and forth between each of the learning phases as they master skills, strategies, and standards. Teachers can incorporate the gradual release model over a day, a week, or a semester.

Gradual Release Framework (1)

Implementing the gradual release of responsibility model requires time on the front end, however, as teachers, we have to plan for a diverse group of learners—students learning English, accelerated learners, and struggling learners. Our students do not have time to waste on skills and strategies they have already mastered. On the other hand, they cannot afford to miss any instruction necessary to their success as effective learners.

In this book, you’ll find tips and tools for classroom implementation, including checklists for planning and assessment; advice on feedback, homework, group work, differentiated instruction, and blended learning; gradualreleasebookanswers to frequently asked questions; and examples that align to Common Core State Standards. No matter what grade level or subject you teach, Better Learning Through Structured Teaching is your essential guide to helping students expand their capacity for successful and long-lasting learning.

I challenge you to increase your pedagogical knowledge with the Gradual Release model. Reflect on your past and current teaching methods and think about how do you use the gradual release module in your classroom? In what areas do you feel you could grow in any of the four phases of learning?  Share your thoughts and experiences by commenting!

Fisher, D. and N. Frey, Better learning through structured teaching: A framework for the gradual release of responsibility, Association for supervision and curriculum development, Alexandria, Virginia, 2008.
Doug Fisher: A Broken Cell Phone, a Learning Opportunity [Video file]. (2014). Retrieved May 19, 2016, from