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! :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

"How is it better than what I'm doing now?"

Thanks to my friend and Twitter colleague, Nicole, for always asking me brilliant questions! This morning, I received this tweet:

So here's my daily 5 question...How is it better than what I'm doing now in K? Go :)

LOVE IT! Now, unfortunately, I got it right before my first graders returned from PE... but I've been contemplating it ALL day! For years, I struggled with what to do with my first graders while I met with groups and/or individuals for reading instruction. I've tried many things (read more about them here) but always had issues with children being off-task, not completing their work, and an incredibly noisy classroom. When I read The Daily Five, it all starting falling into place and making sense for me! From the last three years of using the Daily Five in my classroom, here is why I believe it's better than what you're doing now!
Children are engaged in reading and writing tasks for extended periods of time. Because we've practiced and practiced, I know that my first graders are accountable for what they should be doing at each Daily. I am confident in knowing that the time my children spend reading, writing, working with words, and listening to stories will help move them along in their literacy journeys.

Children are ONLY doing literacy tasks at this time. If I want to create readers, they need time to read. If I want writers, they need time to spell and write. While there is value in using math manipulatives and games, those are saved for our math block!

The "activities" stay pretty much the same throughout the year. Occasionally, I'll add something new (because I just learned about it on Twitter the night before!!) This places the focus on the "work" that children are doing and not the novelty of the new tools. Gail and Joan compare this to the Scientists' Lab or a Ballet Studio. The basic framework remains the same, but what the scientists or ballet dancers are working on changes throughout the year. The same holds true with the structure of the Daily Five. Yes, file folder games and sparkly pens are fun... but are they helping children attend to the task at hand?

My school brought in a trainer and held PD sessions on Debbie Diller's Literacy Stations. I know there is value to what she believes, but what I found is that it created TONS more work for the teacher. That time could be much better spent preparing for mini-lessons and small group instruction rather than who is going to which station each day. I have never been a fan of "worksheets," and I also found that this approach basically ended up as doing worksheets in different places around the room. I don't spend hours grading worksheets that were just used to keep children busy. Plus, when there is so much change in the week-to-week routine, how can children build their knowledge base?

The notion of building stamina with the Daily Five is H.U.G.E. I never understood that before, but I can tell you now... by taking the time to let children build their stamina and practice the behaviors that are expected, it makes for a great rest of the year! I play soft music (nature CDs are my favorite,) and can still hear the children who are sitting with me. It is a calm, yet very productive, part of our day!

I firmly believe in the power of choice! Because my children get to arrange their learning in a way that fits them, it increases motivation immensely! It also saves me the time of figuring out who should be in which group, who goes where, who works on what, blah, blah, blah. I'd much rather spend time cozied up with children around books we're enjoying together! As an adult, I also do much better in situations where I'm given on choices on what I learn and when. The same holds true for children! By keeping track of their choices, I still have the option of guiding those who need it.

After reading so much about the Daily Five, seeing Gail and Joan at workshops, and talking to them in person, I know their beliefs are based in what best practices are for literacy instruction. They've learned about brain research, literacy instruction, and so much more. All of this was taken into account as they created the Daily Five. I'm also able to tweak the Daily Five to meet the needs of my first graders each year and have implemented a whole group Read to Self time, in addition to the choice time.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is that my children truly love this time of the day! We did our first "choice" session just today, and immediately afterwards, I got bombarded with, "Can we do that again?!" Children love the relaxing, peaceful calm structure of this time of our day. Each year, the Daily Five has been among their favorite things about first grade. That is what it's all about! :)

So, Nicole... hope that helps! You know I'm always willing to share my thoughts and appreciate your questions! (That goes for everyone else, too!)

~Komos :)

P.S. I'm sure I'll think of a billion things I forgot to say... so I may update this post again!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Shopping for Books

I'll admit... it looks like chaos when we shop. And sometimes, it is. :) In the three years I've used Daily Five in my classroom, I've always had kids shop for books all together at the same time. There are many, many, many different ways of shopping, but I've found this way to be the easiest, simplest to manage for me! What I love about shopping all together is that I dedicate that time to wandering around the room, searching for books and guiding readers. What's even better is when I see my first graders doing the same thing! I love seeing them all huddled around the big book boxes, making suggestions to each other, handing books to a friend, and excited about discovering what new books they can read!

Each Friday for about 20 minutes, our room becomes a book store. Readers grab their individual book tubs and move around the room to the book boxes I've directed them to. I have 6 "levels" of tubs, ranging from blue to purple, which contain very easy readers to in-depth chapter books.

You'll notice, too, that there is a lot of overlap in the levels. The very, very rough guidelines are:
Blue = preA-D (wordless picture books, books with only captions, books that follow a pattern closely)
Green = C-F levels (patterns are more complicated and aren't followed as closely)
Yellow = E-I levels (moving away from patterns and relying less on picture cues)
Orange = I-L levels (beginning chapter books like Henry & Mudge, Cork & Fuzz, Poppleton)
Red = J-M levels (more beginning chapter books that are a bit more complicated)
Red Red = M-O levels (chapter books that are a bit longer and more complicated)
Purple = More difficult, longer chapter books

By asking them to choose from certain book boxes, I am easing my mind in knowing that there will be books in that box that they can read. However, there will also be many, many choices and opportunities for them to use the I-PICK method. (If a reader asks to choose from another box or to put a library book in their tub, I'll chat with them and decide case-by-case how to honor those choices. If there's rationale behind it, most often it's an enthusiastic "YES" from me!)

Also within the big book boxes are lots and lots of books. Fiction. Nonfiction. Poetry. Some graphic novels. Very generously leveled books. Easier books. Harder books. I try to make it as diverse as possible so my readers have many choices.  There is also more than one book box for each color so there are always enough books to go around!

Keep in mind that I've been teaching for 17 years and pretty much obsessed with books. I've built quite a collection over the years! Scholastic book orders and my own personal purchases have been the biggest contributors to that collection. Garage sales and resale shops are also good places to search!

My firsties are well aware that tomorrow is shopping day and are already asking when we get to shop! I'm looking forward to helping put good books in their hands!

~Komos :)

On our way!!

As of yesterday, we've built our stamina for Read to Self to 19 minutes! We're making great choices on where to sit around the room and are working on making good choices for books in our individual book tubs. Knock on wood, there really haven't been any major issues that have come up! Slow and steady progress has definitely been the key. I've been more conscious of allowing time at the end of a session for us to reflect on how we did. Using the Sisters' "thumbs up, thumbs sideways" technique, we've thought about how we did on our quest to become better readers. I've also been asking children to share with the group what they've done to make themselves better readers during a session. I've been very impressed with ideas shared, including rereading, reading the whole time, learning new things, and more!

Our Work on Writing stamina is now up to 7 minutes, and we are now choosing our own spots around the room. Currently, if children want to use crayons or colored pencils, they need to stay at a table spot where the materials are located. I'm rethinking how I can better accomodate this part of Work on Writing! Otherwise, they grab a clipboard, pencil, and their journal... and can work anywhere around the room. Building stamina for writing has been a little trickier as it tends to be a much harder process for emerging writers! Thanks to a Twitter friend, Krista, for giving me the idea to create an anchor chart on what to do during Work on Writing time! Much like the 3 ways to read a book chart, we now have our Ways to Write chart to refer to. I'm sure we'll go back and revisit this often to add more ideas throughout the year!
Anchor chart: What to do
for Work on Writing
The next step for us is to add the choice factor. Children will be asked to choose between Read to Self and Work on Writing. Starting with just two choices seems to help my first graders at the beginning of the year! Waiting to introduce choice after all 5 Dailies have been introduced was a bit chaotic. When I saw Gail and Joan in December of 2009, they gave the idea to introduce choice earlier... and it works much better! While we're doing those sessions, we'll continue to introduce the Dailies at another time of the day when we'll have an opportunity to build our stamina with those activities.

Listen to Reading will be next on the list for us! I just found headphones for $3.99 at our local Farm & Fleet store yesterday, so I'll now be able to use my computer for another spot to Listen to Reading. Our school has a subscription to Tumblebooks, and I've already started "pre-teaching" how that site works. We've used the laptop/LCD cart to listen to stories together. I've also been able to model how to open a story, close it again, and choosing new ones off of our "Favorites" page.

I've also continued to "pre-teach" activities we'll use during Word Work time (since these tend to be noisy!) Children are now choosing between playdough and whiteboards for practicing their weekly spelling focus words. Slowly, I'll begin training them how to use magnetic letters, linking letters, and plain paper for building their words. By doing so, it makes for a much easier transition as we build our stamina for Word Work time!

Until next time...
~Komos :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Digital Pensieve (sounds so fancy!!)

A few people have asked, so I decided to reflect and share on how my notetaking is going this year! After a couple years of trying the Pensieve the way Gail and Joan suggested, I wasn't able to make it work for me. This summer, I co-hosted a #cyberPD chat around the topic of conferring, and one major idea that was shared over and over again related to note-taking and record keeping. Because of this, I was inspired to try a new approach.
My friend Jacquie told me about an iPad app called Confer that helps to organize small group instruction. There, you can add reading levels, strengths, teaching points, and tags. I am using this app as a part of my Digital Pensieve to keep track of my groups! I am also entering benchmark running record information here. With the click of a button, I can arrange groups by levels, teaching points, or tags. It really adds to the notion of having "flexible groupings!" :)
Evernote on iPad

Through the #cyberPD conversation, Evernote was mentioned repeatedly. I decided to include that in my Digital Pensieve as well!! Evernote is where I'm keeping the majority of my notes. I love the way I can record conferences in Evernote! It will not only help me fine-tune my conferring skills but will also help me to have readers be able to hear themselves. I am contemplating how I can use this for parent-teacher conferences as well! I've set up a notebook for each child and created a "stack" for my class. (This doesn't show up on the iPad but does show on the computer.)

Evernote on my Droid

What I also love about Evernote is that I can get to it ANYWHERE! Computer at home or school, iPad, or even my phone! I'm almost wondering if it would be less distracting if I took my notes directly on my phone... hmmm...

High-tech notetaking! :)

Now, day-to-day notetaking... I thought I was going to just carry my iPad with me and take notes that way. However, I've found that my first graders are a bit intimidated by that (and distracted, too!) So, I have one paper notebook I've been carrying with me to jot down quick notes as I move from reader to reader. As I reflect later in the day, I enter these notes to Evernote.

I'm interested to see if this system continues to work for me this year! If you have a system that's working for you, I'd love to hear about it!
~Komos :)

**October 1st update!
I have dropped the use of the paper notebook. I've discovered that it is much faster (and less distracting to my readers) if I take notes directly on my Evernote app on my phone. I can edit and re-organize notes later, if needed. I can also quickly glance at the last notes I took before meeting with a reader again. The last part I'm still struggling with is the calendar component. How do I keep track of conferences? After last night's Daily 5 chat on Twitter, I have some ideas that I'll be trying out!

***October 5th update!!
My sample Planbook.com page

I had an "Aha!" moment... or maybe it was a "Duh" moment... but in any case, I think I have a plan! I'm using http://www.planbook.com/ for my lesson plans this year. I keep it up on my computer each day (instead of a paper copy.) I can also access it from my phone. (Now should the site go down, I'm out of luck!!) When I do my lesson plans, I'm typing in who I'm meeting with... therefore creating a calendar of sorts! It's worked out perfectly this week. If someone is absent, I simply bump them to another day and switch another reader in that spot. If I happen to get to more readers than expected, I type them in and re-adjust later! It's a work in progress, but so far, I think it just might work.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pre-teaching (I guess that's what you'd call it!!)

We're off to a great start with Read to Self in first grade! As of Friday, we made it to 10 minutes... and I was able to confer with two students during that time!! This shows me that my firsties are ready for the next step, which will be Work on Writing.

Something that I haven't mentioned yet, but that I feel is really important, is "pre-teaching" how to use some of the materials. I've found that this really helps when it comes to building stamina and being independent during Daily Five time. For example, I know that writing in their journals will be a choice during Work on Writing time, so I've already been teaching them just how to do that. Now, when we start actually practicing Work on Writing, it's one less thing we have to master.

Other things I've started "pre-teaching" include whiteboards and playdough. Both of these will be used for Word Work time, but I've already been teaching the whole class how to use these materials.  When it's time for Word Work to be introduced, they'll already have a handle on how to care for these items and how to use them properly.

This year, I think I'm also going to attempt to pre-teach other Word Work materials such as linking letters, magnetic letters, and alphabet stamps. Showing the whole class how to use these materials and giving them time to practice now will help to make it an easier transition during Daily Five time. I've also started introducing some of the websites we'll be using, such as Tumblebooks for Listen to Reading.

Just my random Sunday afternoon thoughts as I am planning for this week! :)
~Komos :)