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Scaffolding using 'I do, we do, you do'

How we introduce new information and skills is vital when it comes to pupils’ understanding and the learning process. One method for scaffolding new skills is the Gradual Release Model designed by Fisher and Frey (or I, We, You). The I, We, You model is a powerful framework that can help pupils in their journey from novice to expert and helps to bridge this gap by offering accurate structured support as well as building the confidence of your pupils. This approach supports pupils at each stage of their learning and also ensures that you as the teacher have control over the learning that is happening in your classroom.

Fisher and Frey’s 2008 Gradual Release of Responsibility Model (GRM)


Sometimes it can be a challenge to bridge the gap between guided instruction and pupil independence, but forward planning in this area can really help. I like to work backwards: what do I want pupils to be able to do; how will I know they have been successful; how will they know they have been successful? Once you know what the end goal is, you can start to plan out your activities and consider how to structure the different steps in order to support and develop pupils at every stage of learning.

I have found that I encounter the most success when combining this with Roshenshine’s advice on teacher modelling as well as utilising task steps (please see separate blog post).


The Different Stages


I do (direct instruction) – this is where the teacher models a process or task to pupils.

  • Plan what and how you will model. For example, will you model how to annotate a poem or how to write an introduction to an essay? You may even model how to read for meaning. Whatever skill or concept you want pupils to understand or be able to demonstrate, you must ensure you have modelled it through first.

  • Talk pupils through your process and verbalise your thinking e.g. “I’ve chosen to highlight this phrase because it contains imagery.”

  • Break the task down into steps – these should be the same steps that pupils will also use in the subsequent stages.

  • Ensure your explanations are simple and where possible build upon prior knowledge in order to manage the cognitive load placed on pupils.

  • Ensure you explain the task and the learning intentions. Pupils should understand the purpose of the activity and their own role within it. You my even include pupils in this stage by asking them to discuss what is on the board, think about how they might approach it or link it to prior learning.


We do (guided instruction)

  • Application is an important part of this stage as pupils need to try the task out for themselves. However, they still require some guidance and support from the teacher and this stage should involve collaboration.

  • This stage is guided by the teacher and helps to build confidence in pupils before they attempt the task in pairs or groups. You should aim to foster an environment of high expectations and use questions and cues to stretch pupils’ answers and extend their thinking.

  • You might begin this task by giving a partially attempted example or start it off yourself.

  • You may also wish to provide prompts or scaffolds here to ensure pupils are fully supported. This support will be faded out in the next stage.

  • Use the same language that was used in the previous stage and draw upon the steps identified in the ‘I do’ stage.

  • Pupils should work through the task in the exact same way as the teacher led example. This can be as a full class if you think this is appropriate for your pupils or you may use group work and circulate as pupils attempt the task. You should use questions, prompts and cues to guide pupils as well as to develop and stretch their responses.

  • You may wish to use the main board to do this and engage pupils via their verbal contributions. Alternatively, they may all have mini whiteboards; or they may have a copy of the resource you have on the board in front of them so they can make notes.

  • This stage allows the teacher to gauge what has been learned and if any misconceptions have arisen. If so, there is an opportunity to reteach before the next stage.


You do together (collaboration)

  • Quite often this stage is neglected in favour of the following (independent) stage. However, it is important to allow pupils to collaborate and build confidence together before embarking on this independently. You should still be circulating and checking understanding at this point in case there are any misconceptions that were not addressed in the previous stage.

  • This stage should be just as purposeful as the previous ones and you may wish to consider groupings here – you may even decide to assign roles.

  • Resources such as guiding questions, steps or sentence stems, that can be printed or displayed, will assist pupils with their discussions and decision making.

  • You might also think about laying down some ground rules for good discussion and successful group work behaviours.


You do independently (independent practice)

  • This is the part of the task that will enable you to see just how well the new skill or learning has been adopted. It is important to ensure pupils have enough time to complete this stage as it can often become rushed when placed in the final minutes of the lesson.

  • Check understanding for a final time before pupils embark on this task and ensure you use language and steps from the previous tasks. Introducing new information, vocabulary or instructions as this stage can be confusing and impact working memory.





  • Effective when introducing new skills.

  • Can be used for reteaching based on formative assessments.

  • Helps to develop collaboration skills as pupils work together on the ‘You do it together’ stage.

  • Manages the strain on cognitive load by repeating steps and language throughout.

  • Builds autonomy and confidence.

  • Helps to make links between similar skills / task.

How to implement:

  • Give pupils time to get used to this strategy and spend time explaining it.

  • Plan, plan, plan! Always plan when, where and why you will use this. It must be purposeful and so therefore must be planned in advance. That isn’t to say you can’t stop a lesson if you feel that pupils are struggling with a concept and jump into an 'I do, We do, You do' activity, but there should also be allocated time planned into your lesson for this.

  • Plan these together as a department. Not only does this ease workload but the collaboration will ensure that you are in agreement on which skills or learning pupils will need the most support with. This will also help you to plan ahead for any misconceptions and address these in your own model.

  • Practise – write out your own models and practise how you would use these in your lesson.

  • Ensure all instructions and steps are clear and these are repeated at each different stage. You do not want to overload the working memory by changing the instructions or steps or adding new information so try and keep these as similar as possible.

  • Provide guidance in the form of steps, criteria, sentence stems that give assistance to those pupils that might need extra support.

  • Ensure the success criteria is easy for each pupil to see. You may even include a checklist so that pupils can actively assess their progress as they write.

  • You could also leave some time for reflection so that pupils can fully digest the task and consider the extent to which their own work meets the criteria. Self or peer assessment may be utilised here and will support further progress.



  • Think about how, when and where you will use this in a unit or scheme of work. This is a supportive scaffold that pupils can become over-reliant on so you must ensure you consider how and when you will reduce support. If pupils no longer need the support, then continuing to utilise it could serve as an unnecessary strain on their working memory.

  • Consider prior knowledge. Does the task you are planning draw upon any prior knowledge? Have there been any misconceptions that you need to address before you begin? Or will the task itself address these misconceptions?

  • One way of adapting this structure once pupils have become more independent is to offer a partial model or an incorrect model. This forces pupils to engage with problem solving using the strategies that they have now mastered.

  • Differentiate accordingly. Consider which pupils would benefit from this strategy and at what point in the lesson or unit. It may be that not all pupils will need this for as long however it may be extremely beneficial for those pupils who have struggled to grasp a concept.

  • At each stage, as the scaffolding is slowly removed, the teacher should still be checking and monitoring to ensure pupils fully understand the task and how to complete it.

  • The more pupils experience this activity, the better they will become when engaging with the different stages.



I hope this has helped to break down a much loved activity of mine and gives you the confidence to utilise it in your lessons! Pop in a comment to let me know how you get on or how you use this already.

*All examples shown are from my own schemes of work.*


Reference: Fisher, D. and Frey, N. (2008). Learning Better Through Structured Teaching A Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility.  









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