Let It Go! Let Students Do The Work

Too often we teachers go home feeling like we have read hundreds of books, written dozens of essays and solved pages and pages of math problems. By ourselves. We’ve done all the work.

No wonder we are exhausted by the end of the day. 

But shouldn’t the students be the ones worn out from all their hard work?

The more WE do, the less THEY do. And the less they do, the less they learn.

Scaffolded instruction is a great way to gradually release the responsibility from the teacher to the student. 

Perhaps you’ve heard of I Do, We Do, You Do.

I Do: This is where the teacher uses direct instruction to explicitly teach and model. 

We Do: This is where the teacher uses guided instruction to practice and apply skills and concepts alongside students. Teacher prompts students. For example: When students are sounding out a word, teacher may prompt with the word “sound.” This one-word prompt encourages students to attack the word sound by sound. Teacher voice is mostly off so students are doing all the thinking and the work to apply what they have learned. 

You Do: This is where students are ready to apply what they have learned independently.

Most of us have the I Do and the You Do down just fine.

It’s the We Do where the teacher needs to guide without too much teacher voice. Support students without giving it all away. Back off a little to allow the students to practice and apply a skill. Jump in only when needed. Use one or two-word prompts without long explanations. Stop doing all the work.


Prompt and Guide.

We Do Example 1:

Students have had instruction on the new sight words and sounds for the week. Now it’s time for We Do where students apply the skill with teacher guidance.

A group of 10 students who need more practice with decoding using a decodable reader gather in the front of the room. Those students who are ready to read the decodable on their own are partner reading the text. Those students who are above level readers are partner reading differentiated text at their level.

The teacher projects the decodable reader on the white board for all to see and follow along.

The teacher prompts students to whisper read the page for individual practice.

The teacher then points to the first word on the projected page and prompts, “Ready, read.” Teacher points to the words as students read. Teacher voice is off. If students need support with a word, teacher points to the beginning of that word and prompts, “Sound.” If the word is a sight word, the teacher prompts, “Sight word.”

Notice the Following:

1. Teacher has already instructed the sight words and sounds for the week and students are now ready to practice with teacher guidance.

2. These students are not quite ready to read this decodable on their own. Students who do not need as much guidance are partner reading the decodable or reading other text at their level.

3. Teacher allows students to whisper read, giving students opportunity to practice prior to reading aloud.

4. Teacher uses one or two-word prompts and turns teacher voice off. (When teacher is reading the text with the students, students work less and learn less.)

We Do Example 2:

If you are having troubles with the video try THIS LINK.

Notice the Following:

1. Students have previously learned the skill of differentiation of long/short vowels from the I Do lesson during whole group instruction at the carpet.

2. They are practicing the skill.

3. Teacher is guiding students to apply and practice this skill.

4. Teacher uses quick one-word prompts where students are doing most of the thinking and the work. Teacher voice is mostly off. (When teacher is reading the text with the students, students work less and learn less.)

5. Teacher can quickly identify and informally assess who is responding correctly and who needs more review.

6. Students are learning through application.

When the teacher gradually releases the responsibility of learning on the student, the student learns more. 

Hopefully, the students have worked hard during their lessons and go home just as (or even a little more) worn out than their teacher!

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    1st Grade Pandamania

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    I am a newly retired first-grade teacher in the beautiful state of Colorado. I taught for 32 years (17 of those in 1st grade.) Watching my students learn and grow was such a blessing for me, and I'm excited to share what I've learned over the years with you. Read More

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