coaching · gradual release of responsibility · literacy coaches

Teachers Supporting Teachers – Some Ideas for Literacy Coaches and School Leaders

This year, my coaching partner and I are trying out a new model for our coaching.

Pre-pandemic, we scheduled classroom visits and coaching for every teacher in the district, even if it was only for a short three or four day cycle.

Then, during the pandemic, we made it more optional. Teachers could sign up for coaching when they were ready for us to come into their classroom. We loved being able to work with teachers who had chosen us. And teachers gave us great feedback on being able choose not only the focus of the work, but also the timing.

This year, we plan to invite teachers to sign up for coaching focused on their own literacy goals — but also focused on how to support their colleagues with that same work. We’re hoping this combines something our teachers loved – choice – with another important piece we’ve struggled with in the past — differentiating for the various levels of experience our teachers bring to their classrooms. Additionally, we hope our coaching will have a more widespread impact, as teachers “pass on” the work to other teachers.

Our basic plan is designed around framework of gradual release of responsibility, a concept we often apply to our work with students, but we’re going to apply it to our work with teachers.

Gradual release of responsibility is also known as

I do.

We do.

You do!


In the beginning of a coaching cycle, I’ll provide lots of support for teachers through demonstration, coaching, and providing examples. (That’s the “I do” part, the “I” being me, the literacy coach).

We’ll work together in the teacher’s own classroom in the beginning if that’s where they are most comfortable. The teacher will choose the focus – whether it’s minilessons or conferring, read-aloud or guided reading. I’ll model what coaching and support looks like for the focus they’ve chosen. At first I’ll coach the teacher in their own goal, with some little tips on how to share the work with their colleagues.


Then, as the teacher become more comfortable with the thing we’re working on, I will do less and the teacher will do more. Instead of me demonstrating for the teacher, we’ll do the thing together, whether it’s a minilesson, conference, read-aloud, or some other focus. (That’s the “We do.”)

The teacher will practice some of the coaching moves, instead of “receiving” them from me. They can use me to practice on! We both benefit from this. Teachers can do a conference side-by-side with me, for example. Or the teacher I’m working with might practice demonstrating a minilesson, with a me standing in as another teache.


Lastly, I’ll support the teacher I’m working with in different ways to reach out to their colleagues, and they’ll practice sharing the work with another teacher (or group of teachers). I’ll be there to facilitate and be a sounding board for planning and reflecting on the work. Maybe the teacher I’m working with will demonstrate a conference for a colleague, remembering to talk to their peer as well as the child along the way. Or maybe they will demonstrate a minilesson, pausing along the way to say to another teacher why they are doing what they do.


Finally, I’ll just be there for support and small reminders, and ideally the teacher will be comfortable enough with a few coaching moves to share their work with other teachers on their own, without me present. (This is the “You do.” The “you” being the teacher doing the support for other teachers.)

A few ways we hope our teachers will support other teachers by the end of our coaching cycles with them:

  1. Simply visit another teachers classroom. Sometimes being in the room is a coaching move in itself. So many of us are accustomed to teaching alone. Having a visitor often brings out the best in us (no matter how nerve wracking it might feel). And, even if it doesn’t go well, there is always a lot to be learned.
  2. Give other teachers compliments and ask for ideas from them. Simply sharing ideas is a way to connect with each other and support each other.
  3. Invite other teachers into your classroom. Teachers often don’t get a chance to visit each other and there is always so much to be learned — even in just the way you call your kids to the meeting area, or how your students are seated during independent writing. Your actual lesson is just one of the many things your colleagues might be inspired by. Plus YOU learn a ton when someone is visiting your classroom (see above).
  4. Practice “voicing over” your lessons or conferences while another teacher observes. This means not just teaching the kids in the room, but also sharing your thoughts and rationale with another teacher! It takes a lot of practice to get used to this, but it’s a highly effective coaching move. The teacher doing the modeling learns as much as the observer. Planning out what to highlight in your lessons means thinking deeply about what is most important, and what you could probably cut.
  5. Teaching side-by-side with another teacher will most likely be the most challenging (and hopefully the most fun) to learn how to do well with other teachers. Ideally, when you teach side-by-side, you plan ahead which parts of the lesson or conference each of you will do, and figuring out a way to best provide feedback to each other.
  6. Giving supporting feedback to each other also takes some practice and there are some tricks-of-the-trade that Vicki and I can share with teachers. For example, asking a teacher ahead of time how they would like their feedback–during the lesson or conference, right after, or later in a debrief or note. Or writing down your goals for the lesson ahead of time and then reflecting on whether or not it went the way the two of you hoped. Often teachers will come to the same conclusion and say the same feedback I would have given if I give them a chance to reflect and discuss how they think it went.

I shared the story of this video just yesterday in a new teacher orientation for my school district, and I think it captures nicely how we all need to lean on each other. Teachers supporting teachers. Helping each other to get to the finish line, because none of us can do it alone.

2 thoughts on “Teachers Supporting Teachers – Some Ideas for Literacy Coaches and School Leaders

  1. Having teachers coach their peers at the end of the coaching cycle sounds like a really powerful way to make the new learning stick. It reminds me of the statistic you often see about how you remember 90% (or something high like that) of what you teach to others. It will also build relationships between team-members and might even inspire a teacher leader to consider becoming a coach!


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