Structured Teaching – A Teaching Model for Caregivers

The "Gradual Release of Responsibility" model promotes the child’s independent learning. Learn more as SPD's early intervention teacher, Gerry Da, explains.

Caregivers’ involvement is important in extending learning opportunities to children with developmental needs at home. As quality intervention most often takes place in the child’s natural environment, caregivers can play the role of the teacher at home. SPD’s early intervention teacher, Gerry Da, explains how.

What is Structured Teaching?

Structured Teaching, also known as “Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR)”, is a model of instruction that gradually shifts the responsibility in the learning process from the teachers/caregivers to the child to enable the child to become a more independent learner. The model aims to promote the child’s independence and mastery of targeted skills through three stages of structured teaching involving demonstration, prompting and practice.

Three Stages of Structured Teaching

Stage 1



I Do Stage

Direct Instruction


  • Tells the child the expected learning outcomes (e.g., writing, counting)
  • Conducts teaching demonstrations
  • Explains the step-by-step processes
  • Answers questions
  • Watches the teaching demonstrations
  • Listens to explanations
  • Asks questions or seeks clarification

Demonstrations should be incorporated into the instructions to help the child understand an action better. Caregivers should also explain to the child the purposes of the activities and the expected learning outcomes. To make the demonstrations successful, caregivers should provide examples and explanations.


Caregiver: “Today, we are doing colouring (make the presentation interesting for the child). Mummy/Daddy will show you and we will do it together later (try to build the child’s confidence). I will start now, please watch me.”

Child: “Ok” and watches the demonstration.

Explaining the activity to the child
Explaining the activity to the child
Stage 2



We Do Stage

Guided Instruction

(caregiver and child)

  • Guides the child in doing the activities
  • Repeats the teaching demonstrations (if needed) and asks the child to do the activities with the assistance of the caregiver to increase the success rate
  • Asks questions to check the child’s understanding (if possible)
  • Takes the lead initially and gradually reduces assistance/help
  • Gives positive feedback (e.g., verbal praise, tap on shoulder)
  • Watches and promptly assists the child to help him avoid committing errors
  • Encourages the child to do the activities by himself
  • Applies what he observed in the “I DO” stage (demonstration)
  • Answers questions from the caregiver (if possible)
  • Works with the caregiver in completing the task
  • Asks questions, seeks clarification and assistance (if possible)
  • Gradually takes the lead in doing the task


At this stage, the caregiver will guide the child along. They will strategically use prompts, cues and questions to get the child to do more of the work. Assistance provided will be gradually withdrawn in preparation of the child’s independent practice. However, support will be given again when the child experiences difficulty carrying out the activity.


Caregiver: “Now, let’s colour the picture together.”

The caregiver uses physical assistance (hand over hand) to help the child in colouring the picture. The caregiver gradually reduces assistance by slowly releasing the control of the child’s hand movement while colouring. If the child is doing well, the caregiver can move his hand from the child’s hand to his wrist until independence is achieved. However, the caregiver can hold the child’s hand again to offer assistance if the child experiences difficulty colouring within the lines.

Guiding the child during the activity
Guiding the child during the activity
Stage 3


You Do Stage

Independent Practice


  • Supervises the child’s independent practice
  • Provides positive feedback (e.g., “Good writing, keep going”)
  • Evaluates the child’s readiness to work independently
  • Does work independently


In the final phase, the child applies what he has learnt and carries out the activity independently. The child is primarily responsible for his own learning, where he processes information, transforms ideas and solidifies his new learning. This phase will also identify the need for re-teaching of the skill, if necessary.


Caregiver: “Now, can you colour the other side of the square?”

After the caregiver and the child colour one side of the shape (We Do stage – guided practice), the caregiver will let the child colour the other side by himself (You Do stage – independent practice).

(Photo: Freepik) Carrying out the activity independently
(Photo: Freepik) Carrying out the activity independently

Gradual Release of Responsibility Flowchart

Gradual Release of Responsibility Flowchart

Though the framework is presented in this sequence, depending on the child’s level of confidence, caregivers may appropriately choose to begin in any of the stages and the child can move back and forth between each of the stages as they learn.