Monday, August 22, 2011


The Daily 5 is a book (resource) written by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, also know as "the sisters", which focuses on literacy instruction and independence.   It is currently being used in many classrooms across the country.
There are 5 literacy components:  Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Word Work, and Work on Writing.

The most important discovery that I've made after getting started with the Daily 5 was this: Make It Your Own. The Daily 5 is a structure and management piece for a lot of the things you are already doing in your classroom.  As with most things, there is more than one way to do the Daily 5. You have to make it work for You and Your classroom. 

Digging In
When digging in with the Daily 5, you'll want to focus on your classroom library.  My books are arranged in baskets, which I keep on top of counters, and others are displayed on shelves.  My classroom library is a combination of books organized by reading level (GRL), genre, theme, topics, and units of study.  In fact, how books are arranged is not that important.  What's more important is that your students know how to pick "Good Fit Books".  One of the first focus lessons that you will teach is the "I Pick" lesson, where you teach students how to pick books that are a good fit for them.

Meeting Area
Another important component of the Daily 5 is creating a meeting area within the classroom.  The meeting area is a place where students come together as a group for mini-lessons or focus lessons, book discussions, checking in, and sharing/reflecting on learning.  Many teachers anchor the meeting area with a large rug.  The rug helps to identify the meeting area for your students.

Finding a way to get the attention of your students and bringing them back to the meeting area, is the purpose of the signal.  There are many creative signals that you can use.  I use chimes in my classroom.  I love the calm sound of the chimes.  For me, it's a calm and quite way to signal my students that we need to stop what we were doing, and go to the meeting area.  Music, drums, spoken signals, etc. are other great ways to reconvene your students.

One of the best aspects of the Daily 5 is that it builds independence.  As the students are working independently on their daily 5 choice, the teacher is able to work with students.  This structure allows the teacher time for conferring one-on-one with students, while the rest of the class is busy working on their Daily 5 choice.  Choice is key.  Having the ability to choose what to work on, engages students and promotes the independent work habits that are so important to a successful Daily 5 round. Take a look at my conferring bag below.

If you would like additional information on the Daily 5, like my conferring bag, refer to my post on Ten Tried and True Tips For Using the Daily 5.

In my next few posts I'll focus on the 5 different components of the Daily 5, so stay tuned and Dig In.  You'll be glad you did. 

Friday, August 12, 2011


As I prepare myself for the beginning of another school year, I have a million thoughts swimming around in my head. It's like filling a teacup with a fire hose.  My thoughts range from new ways to arrange my classroom to the best ways to engage above-grade level readers.  Many of you are planning to incorporate new structures and strategies from The Daily 5 and the Literacy CAFE.  Many of us are anticipating the thrill of blogging with our students for the first time.  Other fortunate teachers, I'm extremely jealous of this bunch, are in the process of unpacking new iPads for their students as we speak.

The last days of summer seem to be speeding right by.  Okay, some of you have already started the school year, and are probably tired of hearing the rest of us lamenting over summer.  Forgive me, but sometimes it's ALL ABOUT ME!  Or, that's what I tell myself from time to time.  As we prepare for a new school year, and as our classrooms and curriculum maps start to take shape on paper or at least in our minds, what's next on our To-Do lists?  WRITE IT DOWN!

Over the summer, I purchased a new journal.  This is not to say that I have never kept a journal before, because I have.  Whenever I attempt something new or major, that I expect to have a positive impact on my teaching, I keep reflection notes about it.  After every new lesson, activity, or instructional piece, I try to reflect on what went well, what didn't go so well, new ideas I want to incorporate next time, and things I want to change.  I plan to do those same things this year as well.   However, this year my plan is to start on the Very First Day Of School.  Additionally, I plan to use my newly purchased journal.

What I like about this journal are the writing prompts.  Yes, writing prompts are not just meant to support our students' writing endeavors, but they are helpful to adults who are trying to get their writing juices flowing too.  Each day's entry consists of two pages.  One page of writing prompts, and a second page for documentation/notes.  The writing prompts themselves are great.  Here are a few examples:  I am concerned about..., People/Students that touched my life..., Goals and ideas for a better tomorrow....  If you want to hear more you'll have to purchase one of these fantastic journals from The Write It Down! series at Journals Unlimited, Inc.  The website is

It's never too late to start a journal.  Keeping good reflection notes is a part of good teaching, regardless of which tool you use to do it.  I'm so excited about using my new journal that I couldn't wait to share it with you.  Do you keep a personal or professional journal?  I would love to hear your comments about how you use journals (for yourself/teaching) because today, it's ALL ABOUT YOU.  So, write it down!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I'm always interested in ways to involve parents in learning activities.  I don't have to tell you how important it is to promote the home-school connection.  A few years ago I came across a wonderful idea for involving parents in the first few weeks, while they're still eager and excited about making the school year a positive experience for their children.  I can't recall where I initially came across this idea, but it's one of the best activities that I know of for involving parents.  What is it?  It's called a Read-along.

The Read-along is an event that involves students, staff, and parents or other family members.  It takes place on the 2nd Friday of school, near the end of the school day.  The major focus, which I think is the best part, is literacy.  The Read-along sets the tone for the school year by letting parents know up front that our classroom is a reading classroom where books are read, shared, and valued.  The Read-along is inspired by the book, The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant.  The story is about a family whose relatives come to visit, and the house is filled with aunts, uncles, and cousins.  The relatives spend a few days together eating, talking, sharing, and hugging.

I start preparing for the Read-along by reading and discussing the book during the first week of school.  After the initial reading, I only reread portions of the book.  I send home the parent letter on the first Friday of school, along with the other important mail the students take home that week.  The Read-along is a surprise event and the kids don't know anything about it.  In the letter I tell parents that it's a surprise and not to let the children know about it or it will spoil the surprise.  I've held a Read-along with both my third and first grade students.  I don't think age really matters, however, as they get older, it becomes more difficult trying to keep it a secret.  I'm happy to say that keeping the surprise has never been an issue.

In the letter I tell the parents to bring a handful of books, a blanket, and a few snacks.  The Read-along is held during the last hour of the school day on the second Friday of school.  I ask parents to report to the classroom at the scheduled time but to wait quietly in the hallway.  I prearrange for one parent to knock on the door.  A few minutes before the arranged time, I bring the students to the meeting area to discuss a portion of the book again.  All of a sudden there is a knock at the door.  I ask one of the students to open the door, and to their SURPRISE, their relatives start pouring in.  You should see the look on their faces when they realize it's their parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents-Their Relatives.  The look on their faces is priceless.  I take the students and their families to the cafeteria, we spread out, and we read and eat for about half an hour.  At the end of the Read-along, we gather everything up and the students leave for home with their parents since this occurs at the end of the school day.

What about the kids whose family can't attend?
I'm always concerned about making sure these kids don't feel left out.  First, I determine which families plan to attend and those that will be unable to participate.  I do this by asking parents to return an RSVP indicating their intentions, and letting me know if they will attend the Read-along or if another family member (like a grandparent) is planning to attend in their place.  Next, I enlist the help of staff members by asking them to adopt students whose parents can't attend the Read-along.  The staff people that I enlist are the principal, learning consultant, resource room teachers, parents, and any other available staff that would be willing to adopt students.  Finally, I pack extra snacks for those children and they each get their own bag of goodies.  Sometimes I group 2 or 3 kids together depending on the number of staff willing to adopt kids.  My students truly enjoy this event!  Be sure to have your camera handy because there are lots and lots of photo ops during this event.