30 April 2014

Exploring the Daily 5 - Chapter 3

The 10 Steps to Teaching and Learning Independence

How do I teach students a new skill or behaviour? Do I give my students a chance to use all three (visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic) memory systems? Do I give adequate opportunity for practise? This set of 10 steps is based on an analysis of the behaviours being asked of students. The 10 steps set the Daily 5 apart from other classroom/literacy management models. Here goes with my reflections on the steps.

Step 1. Identify what is to be taught.
How often have I done this? If I'm honest, I would say not often enough. One of the first things I remember learning about public speaking was "tell them what you are going to say, say it, then tell them what you told them". Why is it that I so often fail to apply that to my teaching. It will take little effort on my part, but has the potential to make a big difference in my students' ability to focus on what we are learning.

Step 2. Set a purpose and Create a sense of Urgency.
I like to know why I should do a task, so it makes sense that the children would like to know this too. Recording the reasons for whatever I am teaching will help students have both purpose and urgency. I love the example in this section, but you'll just have to get hold of the book to enjoy it. It's worth it.

Step 3. Record Desired Behaviours on an I-Chart
To keep this step to a brain-friendly time frame there is no brainstorming here. The desired behaviours for teachers and students are recorded on the chart and briefly explained. An important point here is phrasing desired behaviours in positive terms, i.e. what we want to see, not a list of don'ts. e.g. "Walk Please" instead of "Don't Run".

Step 4. Model Most-Desirable Behaviours
It's one thing to see something written down, but seeing a classmate modelling correct behaviour is going to be much more powerful. Linking that correct behaviour to the I-Chart and to the purpose of the activity will also help the children remember.

Step 5. Model Least-Desirable Behaviours, then Most-Desirable Behaviours Again.
This step could be a bit of fun, but it's purpose if very serious. At first this step seemed counter-productive, but as I continued reading it made sense. By giving a student a chance to be silly, and highlighting why this behaviour won't result in students becoming better readers, followed by another demonstration of desirable behaviours (preferably by the same student), and linking that to the I-Chart and the purpose of becoming better readers, students are more likely to remember the right thing to do. Modelling some inappropriate (or least-desirable) behaviours also has the added benefit of preventing the "But I didn't know I shouldn't do that!" comments.

Step 6. Place students around the room.
The purpose of this step is to give all students a chance to experience the various different work places around the classroom. Given that my classroom is not large, I'm going to have do some creative thinking to come up with some different working spaces, while ensuring I have adequate work surfaces for other subjects. I've got some seeds floating around in my brain, so we'll have to see which ones I can germinate. A key point here was that this step needs to happen quickly so the first students don't run out of stamina before the final student is allocated a place to sit. Sending groups of students to places will help with that.

Step 7. Practise and Build Stamina
This is where the students get to practise what they have just learnt. They key point here, I think, is that building stamina takes time, and every group of students will be different. Some will build stamina rapidly while others take a little longer, and progress in smaller increments. The other important fact here is to be guided by the children's behaviour, rather than the clock. A visual record of progress in the form of a "Stamina Chart" means the children can see their progress.

Step 8. Stay out of the way.
This step happens at the same time as Step 7. It's time for the teacher to stay in one place and observe behaviour, without any interactions, verbal or non-verbal, with the children. This is the time to identify "barometer" children and to watch for signs that their stamina is done! This step also happens only during the learning phase. Once children have learnt to be independent, the teacher can conference with individuals or work with small groups, knowing the rest of the class is working independently.

Step 9. Use a Quiet Signal to Bring Students Back to the Gathering Place.
The authors were fairly quick to highlight that once one child's stamina is done it is time to bring the class/group back together. Using a "Quiet Signal" is a respectful and non-vocal way of doing this. More about this in Chapter 4.

Step 10. Conduct a Group Check-In; Ask, "How Did It Go?"
This final step gives students a chance to reflect on how they went, and to set a personal goal for the next session. The book shares one method of students sharing their reflections without having to say a word, but with the assurance the teacher notices how they went. Goals may be recorded or unrecorded, but the children will know their own goal.

So what's next. Sometimes another round of these 10 steps is appropriate, other times it may be time to move on to something completely different. Developing independence requires, and building stamina requires gradual extension of the practise periods. In the first weeks of school this might be 3 or 4 sessions during the course of a single school day. Reviewing the I-charts and modelling behaviours may seem time consuming initially, but it will ultimately result in those desired behaviours becoming default behaviours.

For more of my reflections on "The Daily 5", check out these posts
Chapter 1: That Was Then, This is Now: How the Daily 5 Evolved.
Chapter 2: Our Core Beliefs: The Foundations of the Daily 5
Chapter 4: What do you need to begin?
Chapter 5: Launching Read to Self - The First Daily 5
Chapter 6: Foundation Lessons
Chapter 7: When to Launch the Next Daily 5

28 April 2014

Exploring The Daily 5 - Chapter 2

Our Core Beliefs: The Foundations of the Daily 5

I love the quote on the front page of this chapter.
"Respected adults engage in respect-full interactions in which respectful students can bloom." Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin
The Daily 5 is built on a foundation of seven core beliefs. These are:

  • Trust and Respect
  • Community
  • Choice
  • Accountability
  • Brain Research
  • Transitions as Brain and Body Breaks
  • 10 Steps to Independence.

This chapter discusses the first six, while the whole of chapter 3 is devoted to the 10 steps to independence. So what did I find out about these core beliefs and how does that relate to me, teaching 4th grade at EWIS.

Trust and Respect
"Each child is worthy of trust and respect." (p.22)
"Trust is believing the best of others, even if actions and behaviours seem incongruent." (p.23)
In order for trust to be effective, it needs to be in the context of extended instruction and practice of the skills necessary for students to be authentically independent. There will be times when stamina falters, but that simply provides opportunity for reteaching and then extending trust again. By respectfully refocusing students, they know they can try again.

At EWIS, respect is an important part of our school culture, so there's certainly no conflict with The Daily 5 from that perspective. After reading this section, I can see how The Daily 5 structure will help me to be more respectful of my students each and every day.


Building on trust and respect comes a caring and learning environment. EWIS is a community and shared experiences bind classes together. As each new year begins, classes change, students leave, new students come, and classes are mixed to form new class groups. Through the development of community, the children will help each other to "do the right thing", without the need for "authority" to step in. The example in this section highlights how students can help and teach each other, enabling all students to know they are valued members of the community and can be successful.


This is going to be a challenging area for me in some ways, because hand-in-hand with giving children choice is a release, by the teacher, of "control". We all like to feel that we are in control of our situation. Why should children desire that any less than adults. I think what is going to make it possible for me to relinquish some "control" is the way The Daily 5 teaches students to be independent. After a process of learning and developing stamina, the children will eventually get to choose not only what they will read and write, but when and where they do it, within the boundaries of the Daily 5 structure. With those choices will also come:

"With the Daily 5, we needed to be accountable to our students by thoroughly teaching them what it looks like, feels like, and sounds like to participate in these productive tasks." (p.27)
Some of the things children become accountable for are choosing locations where they can work independently and maintain stamina, noise levels, and choosing "good-fit" books to read.
"Meaningful independence is the ultimate in student accountability." (p.28)

Brain Research

Our principal regularly gives us tips and hints based on her reading on brain research, so I know she'll like this bit. A key point in this section is the need to keep direct instruction to no more minutes than our students' age. This is going to be a challenge, but I'm already trying to do this to some extent with this year's class. Another important idea is to turn the 80/20 rule into a 20/80 rule, whereby 20% of class time is spent on direct instruction, and 80% is spent on meaningful practice, with focused, just-in-time coaching of individuals or small groups as needed. The third point in this section is that time spent reading is usually directly reflected in reading achievement. Short direct instruction time will give more time for reading!

Transitions as Brain Breaks

I'm sure most people reading this know how hard it is to sit in one position for extended periods of time. For me, a great example is the long haul flight from Australia to South East Asia (be that Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore). I have learnt to request an aisle seat because I just cannot sit for 8 hours without getting restless, and the aisle seat allows me to get up and move around without disturbing other passengers. Children also need to move, and the Daily 5 structure uses transitions to give children these opportunities to move. Daily 5 transitions provide:

  • A physical break from independent work
  • The movement children's bodies need
  • A brain break to help refocus
  • A natural timing for 10 minute focus lessons.

I particularly noticed that teaching children how to transition well is part of the 10 steps to Independence which are the focus of the next chapter so I'm looking forward to that.

For more of my reflections on "The Daily 5", check out these posts
Chapter 1: That Was Then, This is Now: How the Daily 5 Evolved.
Chapter 3: The 10 Steps to Teaching and Learning Independence
Chapter 4: What do you need to begin?
Chapter 5: Launching Read to Self - The First Daily 5
Chapter 6: Foundation Lessons
Chapter 7: When to Launch the Next Daily 5

27 April 2014

Exploring Daily 5 - Chapter 1

One of the daily challenges of a primary school teacher is getting students to read, and to progress in their reading. One part of the solution is ensuring that students have access to enough books at a variety of levels and from a variety of genres. I'm happy to say that I've definitely made progress in this area from when I first started at my current school. I have a classroom library of about 700 titles. I wish it had more non-fiction but that's a whole extra challenge. Another part of the challenge is that rarely are two students at exactly the same place in their reading development, even within a single fourth grade class. This year I started the year with students reading at beginning first grade level, through to fourth grade level. This is no-one's fault, it's just the way it is. Another challenge is getting kids to actually read whole books, and another is to get them to sit still and read for extended periods (like 15 minutes at a time). Yes, I know some kids will read quite happily for an hour or more, but many of my students don't have that stamina.

I've struggled with all of these challenges,and others, and after posting in a Facebook group, I kept getting recommendations to look at The Daily 5. When I discovered a new edition was due out in February I delayed purchasing until the new edition came out, and I am very happy that I did. The new edition is 8 years further on in development than the first edition, published in 2006. When I first received the book I read it in 3 days. 188 pages in 3 days. Fortunately I got it on a Friday afternoon, and yes, I still managed to get my prep and marking done that weekend. It was such a great read that I found it hard to put down. That's all very well, but it's going to take more than one reading to implement changes in my classroom, so I decided that I need to reread the book, and this time I'm going to take notes and reflect as I go. That's what this post is about. There will be a series of these posts appearing in the next couple of weeks. I process stuff by writing, and so I'm going to do it here, which will also help me be more accountable to finishing the process.

Chapter 1: That Was Then, This is Now: How the Daily 5 Evolved.

1. Children flourish through choice (p.3)
2. Application of brain research
3. Embraces individual needs - Barometer kids
4. Structure not content.

In the Beginning
As I read the author's descriptions of their early days of teaching I was able to relate, and I yearn for what they describe as their more recent experiences.

What Changed.
They created routines and procedures that fostered independent literacy behaviours in a way that those behaviours become habits. Children are trusted to make thoughtful choices during sustained independent work periods.

Management: Evolution
I love what I see in the Daily 5 column of the chart showing how their classroom management evolved, and I especially can see how it fits in perfectly with our school-wide goals. The Daily 5 Evolved through the emergence of five tasks: Read to Self, Read to Someone, Work on Writing, Listen to Reading, and Spelling/Word Study.

What Sets Daily 5 Apart
This section asked me to think about what I'm currently doing, which is The English Workbook, Novel Studies, Independent Reading Log & Task, and Write Rights. It then proposes that Daily 5 will result in meaningful and authentic reading and writing for extended periods of time, while allowing the teacher to conduct individual conferences and work with small groups. Daily 5 involves a mixture of whole-class focus lessons, small group instruction, and one-on-one conferences.

Overview of Daily 5
Read to Self comes first, using the Ten Steps to Independence to build stamina for this task. The other Daily 5 choices are added slowly, until eventually all are taught. At this point students have short sessions of all Daily 5 choices every day. The number of choices each day gradually reduces as stamina for independent work time increases. Read to Self and Work on Writing must happen every day, but children can choose the timing. Read to Someone is important for auditory learners (I'm going to have to work on that one) while other students (usually more advanced readers) may not actually need to do this. Word Work (Spelling) eventually becomes a small part of a Work on Writing session.

Daily  5 goes hand in hand with something called CAFE (Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expanding Vocabulary). It provides productive work time for students not meeting with a teacher. Daily 5 is flexible enough to work with whatever classroom schedule you have, even if literacy time is broken into more than one block. Daily 5 is not content. Content is based on individual assessments and CAFE (a whole other book) helps with ways of teaching and assessing within the Daily 5.

So that's Chapter One. I'm excited and seriously thinking about how I might use Daily 5 in my classroom next year. Stay tuned for Chapter Two: Core Beliefs.

For more of my reflections on "The Daily 5", check out these posts
Chapter 2: Our Core Beliefs: The Foundations of the Daily 5
Chapter 3: The 10 Steps to Teaching and Learning Independence
Chapter 4: What do you need to begin?
Chapter 5: Launching Read to Self - The First Daily 5
Chapter 6: Foundation Lessons
Chapter 7: When to Launch the Next Daily 5