Disclaimer... and credit where credit is due!

This blog is simply my thoughts, ideas, and suggestions related to the Daily Five and Cafe. I give full credit to the creators of both Daily 5 and Cafe, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, also known as The Sisters. I have attended their workshops, read their books, and subscribe to their website. Everything else, I've interpreted on my own! :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Getting the Teacher Started with Word Work

When thinking about the Daily Five, it's the Word Work component that requires the most "stuff" for my classroom! Word Work is a time for children to independently practice our focus words for the week, as well as review words that are already listed on our Word Wall or the many charts around the room (for things like compound words, nouns, contractions, etc.)

The materials we use for Work on Writing are:
*individual whiteboards and markers (with socks for erasing)
*magnetic letters
*letter tiles
*linking letters
*magnetic words (practice making sentences, ABC order, sorting words)

These materials stay the same throughout the year, but the words being practiced change. This goes back to Gail and Joan's belief that by keeping the tools the same, children are focused on the work not on the novelty of the tools! Children may use any tool they would like; my "rule" is just that once they've chosen something, they do that the whole time.

I have tried Play-Doh during this time. Depending on the class, this can be very successful (especially for those tactile learners!) Children can mold the playdoh into letters to spell words. It can also be very messy and lead to play time, so lots of modeling is needed!

I didn't put alphabet stamps on my list, although they are in the picture and have been a choice. These particular stamps are very tiny, which leads to lots of fingers, hands, papers, and tables covered in ink! I'm trying to find sets that are a little bigger to help with this problem.

I love these containers from WalMart! They help keep everything together (neatly.) The tubs also fit nicely onto the cookie trays used as magnetic surfaces. I'm very fortunate to have shelves under my large whiteboard, which is the perfect place for storing Word Work and other materials.

Before I actually introduce Word Work, I start introducing many of these materials to the whole group. We might all take out whiteboards and play I-Spy with our word wall words. I might introduce the magnetic letters to a small group and have them introduce it to the whole group. By doing this, it eases the transition into independence when Word Work is officially introduced.

There has been a lot of Twitter talk lately about websites and apps for Word Work choices. I'm excited to learn more about these options!

Any questions? Suggestions? How do you handle Word Work in your classroom?

~Komos :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting the Teacher Started with Listen to Reading

The next component that I introduce is Listen to Reading. For me, this is quite possibly the Daily that I'd like to improve the most!

Currently, I have two "Listening Centers" set up in my classroom. Two children can use each center during a session (for a total of 4 students.) Right now, that is the ONLY choice they have for Listen to Reading!

Last year, I finally let go of my "books on tape" and switched to all CDs. There are approximately 10 books & CDs in each Listening Center. I keep the books and CDs in Ziploc bags for easy storage. Children can choose any book they'd like... they just have to agree with their partner!

As you can imagine, the most difficult part of  this Daily is teaching children to whisper when they have their headphones on! It's hard to remember just how loud our voices are when we have headphones on and are singing along with the "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" book! When first introducing Listen to Reading, I usually model what happens when headphones are on and we sing along with the song. Yes, children's hands soon cover their ears as I belt out my rendition of  "Puff, the Magic Dragon." However, it helps them to see just how loud it is if we sing or read along in our regular voices.

What would I like to do with Listen to Reading? I've heard great things about Tag Readers. I think they could be a useful tool. I've also heard about a lot of "Listen to Reading" websites. A few of them include:
*Tumblebooks (There is a free section, but also a more extensive paid section.)
*Storylineonline (Stories read aloud by actors)
*Speakaboos (Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, Nursery Rhymes, Songs)
*Storynory (a new audio story added weekly)
Websites for me are a double-edged sword. Yes, they provide great sites for listening... but currently, I only have one classroom computer available. :(

My friend Jacquie also purchased individual CD players so that her Listening Centers are portable! I believe she got a few CD players and puts them in a bag with a book & CD. I love this idea! If I can get some CD players, I think I'd buy little plastic tubs to keep them in. That way, I could have the CD player and a few books in each tub. I'm on the lookout for sales! :)

I'm curious to hear your ideas for Listen to Reading. What can I add?
~Komos :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Getting the Teacher Started with Work on Writing

The next component I introduce (just like Gail and Joan suggest) is Work on Writing. Because it is so much like Read to Self, it makes sense to introduce it next. The major difference is that kids are writing instead of reading. :)

You'll need to think about what tools you're going to use for writing time. Again, keep in mind that you can use "fun" stuff... but you'll want to try to keep it fairly consistent so kids focus on writing and not the novelty of new tools!

My first graders write in monthly journals. Each month, they are given a new paper journal. Each journal has a picture space and writing lines for each entry. The amount of lines and picture space change throughout the year. Early in the year, it is a big picture space with only 2 writing lines. By the end of the year, it is a smaller picture space with lots and lots of writing lines! (I do save their Aug/Sept journal and give it to them at the end of the year when they take home their May journal. It really drives home the point of how much they've learned!)

One thing I tried was an idea from a 1st grade colleague. She used spiral notebooks as topic journals that the whole class could contribute to. These are a few of the ones I made (using my DJ Inkers clip-art, of course!) So, for example, in the "Ouch!" notebook, everyone would write about and/or respond to what others had written about a time they got hurt. Kind of like a blog... but not on the computer! One child writes in a notebook during a session, so again this is similar to Read to Self in that it is a "Write by yourself" time. They can choose any journal that interests them! Other topics I've included dinosaurs, pets, Webkinz, family, and animals.

This year, in January, I introduced blogging to my first graders. While that is another topic in and of itself, it did eventually become a choice for Work on Writing time. I only have one classroom computer, so only one child can blog during each session... but as you can imagine, it was a popular choice! Students were supposed to write a new post and then respond/read other people's posts during their time. I chose to use KidBlogs.org because it seemed fairly simple and had an option to keep it private. I figured this was a good option since I wasn't sure how well parents would receive the idea! Overall, I was extremely happy with how this worked! I am going back to revisit how I introduce the concept of blogging, but I loved having the option for Work on Writing time.

During Work on Writing time, I also thought about what exactly I wanted my kids to write.  Other than the topic journals, my first graders have free choice about what they write!  During other times of the day and minilessons, we share ideas for topics and usually have several charts around the room where they can look for ideas.  I often reference writing ideas when we read books together, too. This free choice usually increases motivation for writing!

So, no. I don't have lots of writing tools or fancy pens or pretty paper. There is nothing wrong with that, though! Just remember that consistency is key. The Sisters mention a ballet studio. The studio doesn't change, but the work happening inside of it does. That's why I lean towards having my kids do as much writing as possible in the same ways throughout the year. I save the fancy tools for other times! ;)

What are your tools for Work on Writing time? Do you have ideas to share? I'd love to hear from you!
Coming up next... Listen to Reading!

~Komos :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Getting the Teacher Started with Read to Self

In my mind, Read to Self is the single most important task I have my firsties doing each and every day! At the end of the day, I feel confident knowing that each of my little friends read here at school.

The first thing I thought about was where my first graders would be keeping their good fit books. I started out with plastic shoeboxes from Walmart. I think I bought them for around $1.00 each. These served their purpose for a number of years, held up well, and fit on the shelves. What I didn't like about them was that bigger books were getting bent since they couldn't stand up in the shoebox. Some of my teammates have gone with cardboard magazine-style boxes (from IKEA, I believe.) While these solved the problem of books not standing up, they weren't as durable and had to be replaced every year. Cheap? Yes, but plan to replace them often. My solution was plastic magazine-style boxes from Really Good Stuff. I. Love. Them. I'm on my third year of using the same boxes. Books can stand up inside of them without getting bent. You can even fit 8 or more chapter books inside (as this year's class taught me!) Yes, I believe the class set of 24 cost me around $88.00, but they've lasted three years so far! (Roughly $30/year)

The other really helpful thing I did relies on information from Kindergarten teachers. We're given end-of-year guided reading levels for our incoming first graders. I use this information to fill each child's box with 8-10 books that are in the range of what I think might be the child's "good fit books." It takes me about an hour to dig through books I've set aside for beginning of the year book tubs, but it is so worth it! It makes life a lot easier as we're just getting started with building our stamina for Read to Self. We'll start talking about good fit books very early in the year, but I've found that, especially with 1st graders, I really need to help them at the beginning.

Where will your students get the books for their individual book tubs? Honestly, I struggle with this!  I have a very, very, very hard time telling a child, "No, you can't put that in your book tub." However, I firmly believe children should be reading "good fit books," which includes interest AND reading level. I have an extensive classroom library, but I also have plastic tubs full of books that I've "leveled." Now, I've been reading up on leveled books. (Side note! Have you read Beyond Leveled Books by Franki Sibberson, Karen Szymuiak, and Lisa Koch? Lots to think about, in a good way!) I do agree with the research that children need to be reading more than just leveled books, so I have incorporated that into the tubs. But I'm having a hard time just "letting go" and allowing my 6 and 7 year olds to just choose books from anywhere around the room. I'll keep working on that! :)

Inside of each tub, you will find a variety of books, genres and levels. Most of the books are regular trade books that I've collected over the years that I've "leveled." These are the very rough estimates of what I have (Fountas & Pinnell kind of levels.)
Blue: preA (pictures and captions, wordless books) - D
Green: C-F
Yellow: E-I
Orange: I-L, easy chapter books like Henry & Mudge, Poppleton
Red: J-M, beginning chapter books
Red Red: M-O, Chapter books
Purple: More difficult chapter books
I intentionally have some overlap so that children are still looking within the tub to find books that they can read and that are a "good fit" for them.

How will your children get books for their book tubs? For the most part, my children "shop for books" each week. This year, we all shopped on Fridays for about 20 minutes. I direct each child towards the tub I think best fits their needs. However, if they find a book on the regular bookshelves that they just HAVE to try, they certainly can! During this time, I circulate so I can answer questions, make recommendations, and guide children who need help. By the middle of the year, it's so fun to see them taking over my duties and recommending books to each other, swapping titles, and encouraging others to try something new!

You might also want to think about where your children will read. Define the areas that are acceptable. Is it okay to sit under the tables? On top of the tables? Under the coat racks? Do you have areas that are "off limits"? In the teacher chair? This will help when you start brainstorming your I-charts for Read to Self with the kids.

I think that covers what I would suggest doing to prepare yourself for the Daily 5's Read to Self! Comments? Questions? Aha moments? :)  Coming next... getting ready for Work on Writing! Stay tuned!

~Komos :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Getting the Teacher Started" Series

One major concept I gained from learning more about the Daily Five is the importance of consistency. If you are going to use the Daily Five in your classroom, you'll want to consider what exactly your students will be doing for each of the dailies before you introduce it to students. Yes, I realize that seems like common sense... so let me explain.

For years, I thought I had to come up with new activities, recording sheets, centers, and games to "change things up" for my stations. Every week or so, I'd spend hours making new "things" for kids to do. Here's where the Daily Five is different. By keeping the same 5 dailies all year and by keeping the activites within those dailies the same, children are able to focus on the actual reading and writing that is taking place. Instead of tuning in to the new file folder game for contractions (which will take me at least 10 minutes to explain and practice,) students can grab their post-its and find contractions in the book they're reading. Daily Five is a time for children to practice the skills in the context of real reading and writing, using the tools they've been using all year. One of my favorite things the Sisters said at their conference was that, too often, centers become "Reading Arts and Crafts!" Focusing on the reading and writing, not the novelty of the tools, is the goal.

Does this mean you can never, ever add something new? No. It just means you don't want children to focus on the novelty of the "shiny new toy" instead of their reading and writing. For example, last year in January, I introduced blogging to my first graders. By March, they were begging me to add it as a choice for Work on Writing time. How could I say no? :)

What I intend to do with this series of posts is to walk through each component of the Daily Five and what exactly my first graders do within those components. It might be helpful if you start thinking about what you want to include as options for each component.

In the meantime, if you have specific questions, please add them to the comments! Stay tuned!

~Komos :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I believe in the Daily Five!!

For years, I struggled with what to have my first graders do while I met with small groups and individuals. Way back when, seat work was what I gave my first graders. Then, I decided it made more sense for them to complete seat work and move to centers. Centers took the form of areas around the room, gift bags, big deli boxes from the local grocery store filled with games and activities, and even pizza boxes. After I'd tried centers, my school "mandated" Debbie Diller's Literacy Work Stations. That was a TON of work... and basically turned out to be kids doing worksheets in different areas of the room! Most of my past attempts took up way too much space, teacher time, and didn't accomplish my goal of creating readers and writers! Three years ago, I stumbled across The Daily Five book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. I'm never one to back down from trying something new, so I gave it a whirl. With the Daily Five, my first graders are engaged in authentic reading and writing tasks as I confer with individuals and provide small group instruction. Finally!! :)

Daily Five start-up does take time and patience, but I promise you... it will all be worth it! My first year of trying the Daily Five, I had all five components in place by Winter Break in December. The second year, everything was up and running by Thanksgiving Break in November. This past year, we were into our rounds of the Dailies by parent/teacher conferences, which take place at the beginning of November. I know that sounds like a very long time, but in order for children to build their stamina and get into the routine of doing the Daily Five the way I want them to, we have to take the time at the beginning of the year. It makes for a much smoother rest of the school year!

I found this info on getting started on the "free" part of the Sisters' website. If you haven't subscribed to their website and/or their weekly newsletters, I'd highly recommend getting both! When I was starting the Daily Five, I came to rely on both of those resources quite a bit. And, of course, reading the book is a must! You might also want to check out the ProTeacher website's Peony Room. I found so many incredible ideas and resources there!

Oh... side note! If you haven't heard, Gail and Joan have changed the order in which they recommend introducing the Dailies. This is different than in the book! They recommend Read to Self, Work on Writing, then any order for the last three. My preferred order is:

Read to Self
Work on Writing
Listen to Reading
Word Work
Read to Someone

By saving Read to Someone for last, the kids already know the expectations for what the room should look like and sound like. This helps as they start building their stamina while reading quietly with a buddy!

When I saw the Sisters at their two-day Daily Five and Cafe conference in December of 2009, I was enthralled with their knowledge and energy! Being that I was sitting in the front row both days (it's just my thing!) I was able to interact with them quite a bit. After the conference ended, I chatted with them and loved Gail's comment to me. She thanked me for sitting in the front row; it was very encouraging to them to see me smiling constantly for those two days! My sister's third graders also asked me to pass along a message to Gail and Joan. They asked me to thank the Sisters for giving them their love of reading and writing back. If that isn't powerful, I don't know what is!

Implementing the Daily Five in my classroom is quite possibly the best leap of faith I've taken, and it was absolutely worth it! I'm going to see the Cafe conference again in November and am super excited to spend the day with them!

Following Karyn's lead, I decided I'd better dedicate one blog just to the Daily Five and Cafe. Otherwise, it may overtake my original blog! :) Stay tuned! I plan to blog much more about the Daily Five and Cafe!

~Komos :)