Daily 5 Book Study: Chapter 3

I'm back with chapter 3 of The Daily 5: The Second Addition brought to you by Primary Inspired.

We are starting to get into the meat of the Daily 5! I would say that this chapter is the most helpful for me as a teacher. Even if you are choosing not to do Daily 5, this chapter is still so meaningful. In this chapter, the Sisters talk about the ten steps they go through when introducing the Daily 5. The reason why I love this chapter so much is because you can apply these steps to anything you are doing in your classroom to teach independence. We all want that, right? 

First, the Sisters give you a little background as to why these steps are so effective and imperative to follow when introducing something new to a class. They used research from Michael Grinder, who explains that when information is stored in more than one system (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic), memory is improved. 

The goal is to help our students store the desired "movement" in their muscle memory to become part of of their default behavior. The movements, of course, are the procedures and routines that we want them to apply while working independently. 

This involves creating the I chart (like a T chart, but I for independence) where you write what is being taught (Read to Self, for example.) This step seems so basic, yet when I reflect back on my earlier years of teaching, I found that I didn't always state this so explicitly.  

"Setting a purpose and creating a sense of urgency establishes a culture in which every moment of learning and practicing counts." I think this is always important with teaching because kids do want to know why we are learning something. I know I do. Think about when you are forced to sit through a presentation. Aren't you thinking, "How does this benefit me?" or "How will this help me be better at ----?" We want our students to see how important reading is, and how valuable this learning time can be.

One change from the first edition is that the Sisters no longer recommend brainstorming the desired behaviors because the length of the lesson became too long (remember the brain research from the previous chapter with the correlation between age and focus time.) Now, they record the desired behaviors on the I-chart in front of the students. 

The Sisters also point out that how we choose to communicate these desired behaviors is significant. Instead of using the word "don't" over and over (don't walk around; don't talk), state  the exact behavior that you do want to see: Stay in one spot; work quietly

This isn't anything new, but they did make a good point in this section. We all know modeling for our students is effective and necessary for them to learn our expectations. However, we don't always give it the time it deserves. I know I was guilty of this!

For me, this is always a tough one. I always had those kids who loooooved this part because it was an excuse to be silly. Sometimes it felt like this was the most memorable part of the day, which of course, is not what I wanted. I was relieved to read that the Sisters did recognize this problem and have a solution. They choose a student who "frequently exhibits off task behavior" to model the undesirable behavior. Their theory is that this allows those kids to get the desired attention in a more productive way. It is an opportunity to shape his/her behaviors. The key is bringing the class back and following up with questions like, "If this continues, will he/she become a better read?" At this point, you can have that same child model the correct behavior. 

The Sisters also note that for kindergarten students, it's best to only teach them the desired behavior so they do not get confused. I was so happy to read this!

This is all about teaching students to choose a responsible work space. They recommend calling over 5 students at a time to grab their book boxes and find spot in the room. This is more efficient that one at a time because that would take too long and possibly wear out stamina time before it even begins. This was always an important time for me to watch to see what areas the kids saw as "prime real estate". It's funny how it can change from year to year. There is always that spot, that for whatever reason, becomes the coveted spot. We don't have time to keep track of who sits there and how often. At the same time, we want to make sure our students aren't all hovering in the same spot or arguing over one spot. I would love to hear if any of you has tips for this issue! :)

This was amazing to watch my first year. It truly works! The Sisters suggest letting the students' behavior set the pace. They recommend starting with 3 minutes, but that is just a suggestion. You will watch your students and determine how long they last. It may be more, it may be less. My advice: Don't push it. Sometimes we want our kids to feel success and make it longer than you had hoped. If you prolong it when their stamina is broken, you will regret it. Remember we setting the tone for the year. By stopping our students at the first sign of stamina loss, we are establishing our expectations. Don't make them feel bad if they don't make it to three minutes. Just encourage them for the next time! A stamina chart can work wonders! Students are so excited to watch that chart grow. :) 
A week ago, I posted a summer stamina graph to use at home. I adjusted it to use at the beginning of they year. You can download it here. 
I also included a blank one. :)

This step is maybe the most eye opening for me. I always thought it was best to be praising students during this time, checking in with them, walking around to monitor, etc. The Sisters make such a good point though! When we do that,  our students' "on-task behavior has been anchored to us." They aren't really independent if they are used to having us constantly check in with them and praise them. Once that's gone, they fall apart. Remember the goal is to eventually be able to use this time to conduct a reading group or a conference with a student. We need to rely on the rest of the class to truly be independent and not have to rely on us for support. 

Once you see a student showing you that his/her stamina is gone, use a quiet signal to get the class' attention and bring them back to you. The signal should be different enough to grab the attention of your students, but not too loud. I found this to be very powerful. To calmly and peacefully end a session sets the tone for the next activity. The sisters recommend using chimes or a rainstick. 

I bought a music wand when I was at a conference a few years back. Little did I know, it would be one of my best purchases ever! I love this thing. You gently tap a surface and it makes the perfect sound. There are a ton of other Music Wand options to choose from!

After calling the class back together, refer back to the I-chart and ask students to reflect on their personal behavior. Go through the chart, pointing to each expectation, and ask your students to hold up 1, 2, 3, or 4 fingers to indicate how they think they did. I remember skipping this step back in the day. I think this is a really important step though. In a way, they are holding themselves accountable. Based on these self-refelctions, students are then asked to make a goal for the next round. They can share this goal with an elbow buddy, write their goal, or just make a internal note to themselves. 

These ten steps are used for each session when introducing the Daily 5. During the first days of launching Daily 5, they do three to four practice sessions each day. I found it very helpful to spread these sessions out throughout the day. My students were excited to "get another chance" throughout the day. The goal during this time is to build stamina and to model/practice behaviors repeatedly so they become "default behaviors."

Head on over to The Crazy School Teacher who is hosting this week's chapter to see what other people are saying about this chapter. She also has a freebie for you with all of these steps on one page.  

Daily 5 Summer Book Study: Chapter 2

I'm back! And only a day late for my book study. :)Thank you to Brenda over at Primary Inspired for hosting this book study!  Ciera from Adventures in Room 129 is hosting the linky for this chapter. Chapter two is surprisingly packed with some great information. When I first read the title of the chapter: Our Core Beliefs, I admit I thought it would be a fluffy chapter. I was wrong. This chapter is essential in understanding how and why the Daily 5 works.  

Here are the Sisters "core beliefs": 

(Boushey, Gail and Moser, Joan. The Daily 5. page 22-23)

This really hit home for me. I wondered, Do I trust my kids? Or maybe a better question is, Do I show my students that I trust them?  I know I do a great job of treating my students with respect, but maybe I need to show that I respect them by giving them more responsibility and setting my expectations higher. They are capable of so much. I admit, I've done Daily 5 but not traditionally. I've always mixed it with centers, which is totally cheating and not the point. It always worked really well for me because I felt like it was a good mix. I have to admit, that I didn't trust that my students could handle it for the whole reading block. 

(Boushey, Gail and Moser, Joan. The Daily 5. page 24)

Setting the tone in your classroom is essential from day one. Creating that classroom environment that is supportive, positive, and kind has always been so important to me. In this chapter the Sisters talk about allowing kids to help each other by holding them accountable. This is the part that I know I've failed at. In my experience, kids are very sensitive when another student corrects them or redirects them. "You're not the boss of me!" What I've been reflecting on since I read this chapter is, How can I create an environment where kids can help each other in a positive way?  My students have always been very good at encouraging each other. It's just that they usually don't like when  a peer "tells them what to do." I'd love to hear your ideas on this one!

(Boushey, Gail and Moser, Joan. The Daily 5. page 25)

I would agree with this 100%. Kids love to have choices. I do think it also develops a sense of responsibly. It is scary to let go. One thing I've done wrong in the past is not spent enough time teaching my desired behaviors. That leads to choice time being more hectic than it needs to be. When I spent more time teaching procedures, expectations, and routines so that my students knew exactly how to behave, introducing choice went much more smoothly. Helping kids realize the responsibility that comes with that choice is key. It doesn't end there though. I definitely had my fair share of "conferences" with students who needed help with making choices or just needed to see the consequences of their choices. 

Here is a super old, blurry, dark picture of my Daily 5 board:
I didn't make those signs and have no idea where I found them! I 'm so sorry to the creator! Since then, I've made my own but I only had this super old picture. EEK! Kids would put their pictures on under the section to show what they would be doing during Daily 5. 

(Boushey, Gail and Moser, Joan. The Daily 5. page 28)

This really stood out to me. It's not just the fact that students are accountable for their choices and actions, but we as teachers are also help accountable. This goes back to what I was talking about earlier. We are accountable for how well we teach our students. They do need to know how each task should look, feel, and sound during Daily 5. It's important to remember we need to be help accountable, too. How many times have you gotten frustrated and complained about a lesson gone wrong or a students who were doing something wrong. Well... maybe it wasn't the kids. Maybe we didn't hold up our end of the teaching/learning bargain...

Here are some ways that I help students accountable when I taught first grade (warning, these pictures are old and dark.)

I glued these sheets into their reading notebooks. I taught them to record the title of the book they were reading and date. (They didn't have to fill this out every day if they were continuing a book from the day before.) I would often take time to have the class pull out their notebooks and celebrate their reading logs. 
Here's an updated version:

I had something similar for writing notebooks. It just has the month, a picture and that tab. Here is a picture of a writing notebook with the tabs. It was a quick and easy way to see how much they were writing in a month. 

Here's the updated version:

(Boushey, Gail and Moser, Joan. The Daily 5. page 31)

I love brain research. I have three books on my reading list this summer that have to do with brain research and teaching/learning/reading. I love that sisters take a lot of research into account when creating this model. I was super surprised with the research from Ken Wesson. Since we teach little ones, we are looking at 5-8 minutes of real focus time. This is so true though. We've all seen those glossed over looks. The sisters have taken this research and created their Daily 5 model with short, focused lessons between each rotation. It all makes sense now! Remember in my last post when I mentioned that I got sloppy with teaching mini-lessons between each rotation? Ahh! I was missing this great opportunity! 

(Boushey, Gail and Moser, Joan. The Daily 5. page 32)

I'll admit. I'm afraid of transitions. They go really well most of the time when your class is trained, but sometimes someone throws a curveball. Even though I've mostly figured out how to have successful transitions, I still have that lingering fear from my earlier years where transitions were a hot mess. Ha! Now that I do reading pull-out and I only have 4-6 kids at a time, I actually do TONS of transitions during my 30-45 minute groups. I find that it really helps my students. The transitions are super short. Sometimes it's just moving to a different place in the room. Sometimes it's changing gears and cleaning up some materials and doing a little brain break. So it made me smile when I read how transitions are actually helpful with

Daily 5. Transitions really are beneficial for our kids. I know when I'm working on something (like this super long blog post,) I get up a ton for snacks, a drink, a bathroom break, etc. Then I hop back in my chair and feel refreshed. Makes sense, right? Now what I need is tips on how to make these transitions smooth as possible. One thing I know for sure is that these transitions need to be modeled, practiced, and practiced some more.

So there you have it folks! Chapter 2. Head on over to my friend Ciera from Adventures in Room 129 to see what everyone else is saying about chapter 2. The linky to other blogs is there! :)

All about Phonemic Awareness

Hello! I'm back with another blog post about one of my favorite topics.  I've blogged about phonemic awareness a few times already, but it's such an important topic that we're going for it again! 

Phonemic awareness is the understanding that spoken words are made up of smaller parts and these parts can be pulled apart into individual sounds. The first step is recognizing that words can be broken down into their individual sounds (phonemes). Students must be then be able to isolate sounds (identify the 1st/last/medial sound in words,) blend sounds together to make a word, segment (break apart) sounds of a word, and manipulate sounds. Phonemes are the smallest unit of sound. Think about the word chip. You can break this word into three parts: ch-i-p. /ch/ is a phoneme. /i/ is a phoneme. /p/ is a phoneme. When a child has phonemic awareness, he can break that word up into its individual sounds like I just did. He can also identify the first, middle, or last sound in chip. He should then be able to  manipulate that word by deleting a sound (what is chip with the /ch/) or substituting a sound (what do you get if you change the /i/ to /o/.) Manipulating phonemes comes later. Initially, we want our soon-to-be readers to be able to blend sounds (ch-i-p=chip), segment sounds, and isolate sounds (first kids can identify beginning sounds, then ending sounds, and last middle sounds.)

When talking about phonemic awareness, you are not involving print. It's all about the sounds in words. When a child is able to break apart a word into its smallest units of sound, he is ready to read. 

This is exactly how I felt when I first heard these two terms. I'm pretty sure I used them interchangeably for my first couple years of teaching. I had a really hard time wrapping my head around it! Phonological awareness is a more general term. It is having an awareness to larger parts of words, such as syllables or word endings like -at in cat. Having the ability to recognize rhymes and count syllables are two examples of having phonological awareness. Phonemic awareness is specifically understanding that words can be broken down into individual sounds. I think of phonological awareness as the umbrella and phonemic awareness is underneath it, along with rhyming, alliteration, and syllables.

Click here for a printable version of PHONOLOGICAL skills.

In order to read, a child must be able to break apart the sounds in words.
A phonological weakness will impair a child's ability to decode words (Shaywitz 2003).

Research: Adams, 1990; Juel, 1988; Share, Jorm, Maclean, and Matthews, 1984; National Reading Panel, 2000; Scanlon & Vellutino, 1987 
(Photo: Dollar Photo Club)

Developing phonemic awareness leads to success with the next step in learning to read: phonics. Once a child has developed a strong phonemic awareness, he is ready to connect letters to those sounds and blend them together to read words. He is also ready to break apart sounds in a word and connect these sounds to letters to write words. Phonics is an instructional method that involves matching letters to their sounds to decode words. Have you ever had a student who struggled with phonics. You asked yourself, Why can't he sound out words? The answer is he most likely has not developed phonemic awareness. You need to throw the letters out the window for a bit and focus on strengthening his ability to hear the sounds in words. When applying phonics strategies, a child must first look at the word and identify the letters in that word. Then he connects the sounds to those letters. All the while, he is having to hold in his memory the previous sound. After matching the letters to their sounds, he is ready to blend the word together. But wait. He isn't able to blend! I've had several students who seemed like they were ready to read because they had the letters mastered. They  knew their sounds perfectly well too. But they still couldn't blend those sounds together. Both letter/sound knowledge AND phonemic awareness must be present in order to begin phonics. Once those pieces of the puzzle are put together, the child is ready to decode!
Phonemic awareness comes more naturally to some kids. With others, it needs to be explicitly taught, modeled, practiced, and practiced some more. 

  • All children benefit from phonemic awareness instruction, but it is absolutely crucial for kids who are lacking this skill.
  • Instruction can begin as early as 4, but it should be in every kindergarten classroom.
  • Before you can dig into phonemic awareness instruction (breaking apart the individual phonemes in words,) make sure your kids have a general phonological awareness: Start with rhyming, alliteration, and syllables. Here are some tips for developing these skills:

Once those skills are solid, you are ready to move into instruction to develop phonemic awareness.

Here is a link to an older blog post with some specific tips and ideas about phonemic awareness. It is packed with information, so I hope it helps! It's a long post, so get some popcorn and a cup of coffee. :) 

If a child continues to struggle with phonemic awareness, this may be a sign of dyslexia. I will blog more about dyslexia in a later post. For now, just know a lack of phonemic awareness IS a sign of dyslexia. They will need more specialized help. 

Now that your students have developed a strong phonemic awareness, phonics is a natural next step.

I made this to illustrate how phonics cannot happen without both pieces to the puzzle: phonemic awareness and the alphabetic principle. I will be blogging more about phonics soon! In the meantime, email me or comment with any specific questions you have so I can make sure I include it in my post.

If you are looking for some RTI resources, I have a few available too:

Small Phoneme Kit: 
(I use this to send home to parents but you could also use it at school for ideas)

This is a huge pack of activities to laminate and use for RTI and small groups:


And this is similar to the pack above except it is ALL print and go. No laminating and no color.


There is also a bundle where you get the kit for FREE! You can find these here.  

Looking for a FREE assessment? Look no further!