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

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