Saturday, June 8, 2013

What Does My Literacy Program Look Like?

This year I have changed  my literacy program by providing more choice for my students to learn, show and share their learning.  Recently I was involved in a discussion on how I use Daily 5 and the Cafe in my classroom.  While I do Daily 5 in my room I'd say I do a modified version of the program.  Below is an insert from the e-mail I sent to a fellow colleague explaining my version of the Daily 5.  I am posting it here with hopes that it may help others but I am just as eager to hear how you are using Daily 5 in your classroom.

In a typical day I do three rounds of daily five two before recess, and one between recess and lunch, followed by math before lunch.  What that does is  allow me to focus on literacy and numeracy before lunch, and other topic areas in the afternoon (which most often also include literacy or numeracy).

 I do a modified daily five because I dictate the focus of the rounds but provide choices with in each round. Our first round of the day is word work and my students have a ton of choices with in that. Sometimes I will start the round with a mini lesson either on our weekly word wall words, or a letter pattern, word family etc but these mini lessons are quick.  Then everyone is learning in their own way, getting what they need from what they are doing. It frees me up to 1:1 conference with kids re their writing or reading. My room isn't silent at this time but the conversations are those of children engaged in learning and helping each other. My kids also do their planners and change their home reading
books at this time. Typically this is 20 - 30 minutes.

My second round is reading. I begin it with a story and a learning focus.  Here is where I introduce Reading Power and Cafe strategies in a whole group setting.  Then I set my class off to do read to self.  At this time my LST kids are also pulled for reading instruction, and I do student swapping with another grade one teacher at my school on Thursdays.  All my kids have to read to self for at least 12 minutes (sometimes longer). My kids are well trained here and they know the room has to be quiet. During this time I typically work with a guided reading group either strategy based or reading level based.  I may actually do less of this next year because kids have such different needs and 1:1 conferencing is just the best way to meet those needs and have those strong connections with your kids. After about 12-15 minutes I let my students know they have free read - which for me includes listen to read, and/or read to someone. Actually they can read what ever they want as long as they are reading.  Again this isn't always a silent time but it is an on task and focussed time.  I will continue working with my group or start more 1:1 conferences.  My students read from their just right book boxes during read to self but are free to read from any classroom book or digital books during free read. This brings us to recess.

After recess we meet again for another story (writing focus) and/or mini lesson. I tend to teach a new writing concept each week so Monday/Tuesday often has the longer a mini lesson (still no more than 10 minutes) while the rest of the week the mini lesson (review)  is quick followed by more time to write.  I get a lot of my mini lesson ideas from the book No More I'm Done by Jennifer Jacobson. It's a really great book. It is here that I can also teach new forms (which can also be pointed out during the reading mini lesson time). For the most part my students have free choice on what and where to write. There are times where I structure what they need to write but this is few and far between.  We deal with non fiction writing both here but it is also gets covered during our science/socials inquiry in the afternoon.  When we are studying fairy tales we learn about writing stories, and for the most part they write them too. If I don't see something that I need to see I'll ask a student  to demonstrate that they know how to do that. So when I need to I will highly encourage kids to write what i need them to write when I need them to write it to demonstrate learning but again this isn't often. Most of the time though my goal is to foster a love for writing, because with that love writing forms just become different ways to show the love of writing.  This year was certainly a year of experimentation on my part of letting go of telling my kids what to write but my students have surpassed all expectations I've had.  I have truly engaged readers and writers. 

My students also write two mornings a week, and read with a friend every day after lunch. We have families in to read twice a week too.  Twice a week I do a structured phonics lesson (McCracken) and we add poems to our poetry book once a week too so there is word work/writing/reading at other parts of the day.

During my small group instruction I focus on reading strategies (cafe strategies). We talk about reading and writing strategies in many different contexts because they are beneficial in all parts of learning. I figure the more tools I can give my young learners the better.

As for kids that have more trouble working independently creating a team of learners has been key for me.  I have kids who take care of those that are struggling so I rarely have to intervene. It has a lot to do with class culture in my class. I also refocus when I need to. We use the mind up chime for calming and being mindful. We talk a lot about expectations and how if your behaviour is affecting the learning of others then your behaviour has to change. 

Grade one is a huge year in terms of learning to read and write.  I take the "learning to read and write" challenge very seriously and I  do what I can to create authentic readers and writers who can think and problem solve on their own.  Literacy is engrained into everything we do but this modified Daily 5 time does play a key part in  my students literacy instruction. 

My afternoons are a lot more free for child centred inquiry studies.  This afternoon block allows my students to use these skills in other authentic/meaningful ways.

Now I'm curious, how do you teach literacy skills to your young learners?  


  1. Thanks for this post. Like you said, I want to take "learning to read and write" very seriously. I need to improve strategies and techniques. I want kids to be responsible for their own learning. I have started reading Daily 5 but haven't completed it or determined how to use it yet. Thanks again for the great post.

    1. Thanks Scott. I struggle with fitting it all in and wanting to cross mix too since the skills shouldn't be done in isolation. I already have ideas to change for next year but I am also glowing in the progress my once very challenging class has achieved this year. They have truly amazed me. In addition, the more tools i can give my students, and the more opportunities I can provide that allow them to use their tools the better readers and writers they will be (I hope). Ultimately I hope that I am doing what's best for them as young learners.

  2. Have you been to a D5 workshop? I went to Houston in February to see the sisters. It was worth the time and money. I too modify a little still holding onto a few guided reading groups but doing lots of 1-1 reading as well.

    1. I went to a CAFE workshop a year ago but found it aligned so closely with the book which I had read. I have modified the Daily 5 structure to work with my students, the additional support that I receive, and what I am okay with as a teacher. This is, of course, always changing.

  3. Karen, it always amazes me how much you and I think alike. I too use a modified Daily 5 and this year moved to almost entirely individual reading conferences. I find it always a struggle to have a balanced literacy program. I feel like I am constantly tweaking to get more time in for one literacy strand or another. So great to see your routine.
    Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Oh Kathy, it's a constant struggle of what to throw from my program and what to add to it and the reality is when I want to add I need to find things I can throw. I find our days are way too short and are filled with way too many interruptions. I'm doing everything I can to claw back the precious time that is taken from my students. I'd love to get rid of bells and scheduled recess time but that isn't a reality any time soon but a girl can dream.

    I'd love to hear more about how you do things in your room to Kathy. I love the idea of more 1:1 conferences and less guided groups but I just worry that I'll get distracted and not be as efficient with my time. As it is when I have visitors in it's a lot harder for me to get to my conferencing and when I'm out of my room a lot it's much easier for a teacher on call to teach a guided reading group, then do a 1:1 conference with students they don't know. This is where I struggle a bit particularly this year when I've been out of my room a lot more than before. Hmmm. More brain spinning.