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INTERROGATING THE DAILY FIVE – PART 1

January 18, 2012

In my Grade Two classroom over the last two years I have utilised the Daily Five, a literacy learning system created by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. Although this system has worked its magic with my students, I am never complacent about anything going on in my classroom and have continually questioned the Daily Five – namely WHY and HOW. My interrogation has occurred in my personal journal, on Twitter – often joining in the #D5chat discussion. It’s also been a part of my coffee conversations with friendly colleagues Michelle and Robyn. Last week, Rosalyn Muir from AISV invited me and Michelle to attend an afternoon with her colleagues to discuss the Daily Five. Ongoing conversations with my wise friend Jasmine Dwyer have prompted me to record my questions and thinking here.

HOW DOES THE DAILY FIVE DIFFER FROM THE VICTORIAN EARLY YEARS LITERACY SYSTEM?

Similar to the EYL, Daily Five operates in ‘rotations’, or time periods of about 25 minutes. Usually, EYL sessions offer no choice: each student has to rotate through all activities during the session, whereas Daily 5 students choose which activity they will do. Absent from both systems is the element of the student choosing how long they participate in an activity. Both systems halt or interrupt a student’s work after the set time, and often I wish that this was not so. I believe that in some instances young learners can decide how long they themselves need to spend on a task, being in the flow of enjoyable, sustained practice. However, the element of choice in the Daily Five is one cause of the eager reception by students each day.

The more choice, the more chaos. The EYL rotations just require students to move together to the next activity. The Daily Five transitions can take up valuable learning time while students are making their choices.  The five-week set-up period for the Daily Five, where routines and behaviours are learnt and practised, enables the teacher to fine-tune organisational decisions to maximise learning time. All literacy teachers make organisational decisions, whichever system they employ. We have to question whether these decisions are to suit the teacher’s need for control and convenience, or to enhance rich, natural, relaxed student learning.

Both systems contain explicit teaching through teacher ‘focus lessons’. Hopefully these will be centred on students’ current needs, rather than ticked boxes on a mandated checklist. Explicit/Systematic/Responsive can make a powerful focus lesson, whatever literacy system is used.

WHAT OTHER CHOICES DO THE STUDENTS THEMSELVES MAKE?

The Daily Five system requires each student to maintain a personal library, or ‘book box.’ There is a huge emphasis on learning the skill of choosing a ‘good-fit’ book, and peer recommendations are a large part of the selection process in my classroom. Many mistakes are made, and the greatest difficulty lies in explaining to parents that their child may occasionally bring home a book that is not a ‘good fit’.  I advise to remind parents of an old favourite title that may be on their own bookshelf or coffee table and suitable for home reading practice when the book from school is just not right. The ‘good fit’ box encourages independence, delight, repeated reading, meeting new reading challenges – NOT learned helplessness.

Whereas the student appreciates a title recommended by a teacher, it would be a real shame if the element of student choice was eliminated from the personal libraries. It’s all about loving what you read, thinking about how you read, and organising yourself for success. In my classroom, the element of student choice means that the classroom library is not necessarily organised by reading level. Sorry, you won’t find the purple dot books all together. Therefore I have to allow time for students to select books on a regular basis. I also have to know and actively promote all the books in my room. Basal readers? Yes, they do have a place if they are an appetising read and worth promoting.

I recently visited a Grade 5 classroom where the students each had a personal library box on their desks. The titles were revealing: a pretty homogenous selection of Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, Andy Griffiths titles.  All great reads, but I had the feeling they had been purchased by the students’ families all from from the same supermarket shelves. The Daily Five doesn’t insure against limited reading material. Whatever the literacy system, I must choose wonderful. With the help of my indispensable librarian, my mission is to flood the classroom with a wide range of material, so that they may come to love tasty, challenging, thought-provoking literature.

Other choices to be made by the students? Increasingly, I am involving my students in decisions based on their ideas. Each Daily Five session usually includes a focus lesson created by a student. Collaborative work evolves as the school year progresses: yes, as long as we can all work and you show Daily Five behaviours, you may write or work on words together. Our Bring-Your-Own-Device Classroom enables some students to choose different ways of practising their literacy. Guided reading and writing groups have benefited immensely from involving student choice, allowing students to invite friends to create their mini-learning community on the day. No, we’re not all reading and writing at the same level, but the Daily Five and CAFE model allow students access to the language of thinking about the strategies they use.

TODAY’S CONCLUSION

My writing contains a thread about choice, emphasising the relaxed, independent, joyful literacy going on in my classroom. I could interrogate any literacy system and adapt it to suit the learners in my room. The elements of the Daily Five are a ‘good fit’ for me, but I have a niggling undercurrent: I have discussed two aspects of literacy systems via the Daily Five, namely teacher organisation and student learning.  I feel I have left out a discussion on which students benefit the most, which students’ needs are ignored, which hierarchies or priveleges are maintained – all by the decisions that I make in my literacy classroom?  Hmm, another time.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2012 7:56 am

    An interesting compare/contrast. I look forward to your next article about the Daily Five.

  2. Franny permalink
    January 20, 2012 10:25 am

    Once again impressed with the way you engage your kids! Very lucky students to have you as their teacher! Love your ‘whose learning is it anyway approach’!

  3. jasmine Dwyer permalink
    January 29, 2012 3:28 am

    My dear friend Brette,
    You have challenged my thinking and caused me sleepless nights thinking about your thought provoking tweets and #edquestions. And yet again your post has caused my summer holidays waterskiing on the Murray River to be interrupted with more learning and innovation. I applaud you and thank you for this post.

    I am Victorian trained and implemented the Vic Early Years Literacy Block with vigour, enthusiasm, organisation, control and meticulous precision. I rarely deviated from the well oiled formula and stuck to times and groupings like clockwork. I believed it was based on sound underpinnings, theoretical research and pedagogical best practice. I staunchly up kept records, controlled timers, conversations, groups, literacy centres, questioning and even directed thinking.

    My how I have had my practice disrupted!

    I am learning how to see that literacy is every where & anytime and embedded in all things. My control and need for perfectly behaved kids had me believing that because they were quiet, they were engaged. Oh dear…

    Since moving to the Territory and working with indigenous kids that have high truancy rates, low socio-economic backgrounds, minimal English proficiency skills or even motivation to come to school at all, my thinking has been challenged and philosophies tested.

    I am moving into waters I have never been in literacy and realising learning is messy, noisy, uncomfortable, inquiry-based, opinionated, creative, collaborative and play-based. I am learning through my twitter PLN that innovation, creativity and digital media allowing for personalised learning and differentiation is scaling up pedagogy and shifting our practice into the 21st century. I am learning more about building student efficacy, passion and engagement through tools, negotiated inquiry and project based learning.

    I have followed the #D5 chats on twitter and have bought some books and read the wikis. It is based on very sound principals and I am drawn to many of it’s beliefs particularly with building independence and reading good fit books as opposed to levelled readers. I can’t help but wonder though, is it really as revolutionary as many teachers following it believe it to be? Is it really that different to Vic Early Years Literacy Block? Is it something us Victorian teachers have always done in a prettier ribbon?

    – Yes D5 has choice on the day, BUT they do HAVE to do the 5 tasks at some point over the week. So is that choice or postponed control?

    – D5 has 5 strategies, but no one seems to fit them all in. So can it really be called D5? A diluted system is not effective.

    -Writing hour? In an already crowded curriculum and after 2 hours of D5, how do schools timetable more time for writing. Shouldn’t it be more integrated through strategies like Writer’s Notebook or Writer’s Craft?

    -It is a behaviour system also so are teachers falsely believing that because their students are quiet, they are engaged?

    -Opportunities for inquiry? It still operates in controlled, timed rotations.

    I am trying to disrupt my practice this year and am trying to scale up my pedagogy in the areas of literacy particularly with my new role. I am interested in classrooms of the future- well of the now!! Check this out. If we are planning to teach today’s kids, we are already too late. Innovation must be bold.
    http://www.good.is/post/is-sweden-s-classroom-free-school-the-future-of-learning/

    And although I am a long way from setting up ‘learning islands’ and ‘collaboration corners’ I think the purpose of these innovators is building up student efficacy as future life long learners. Im excited by this thinking and bold design. So I question D5 as being truly innovative or being the best management/organisation system for classroom teachers who like to keep classrooms quiet and tidy.

    I am thinking out loud, and have many things I am learning and wishing I could play with, tinker with and implement this year. Just because Early Years Literacy Block always worked for me before does not mean I should be complacent, agreeing or uninspiring to my students. Lets scale up! Let’s be bold! And more importantly let’s be brave!

    What does the future in literacy hold?? I don’t know but I am sure excited to be part of it!

    Jasmine :)

  4. Pauline permalink
    May 15, 2012 8:49 am

    Our staff is looking to visit schools who have implemented the daily five for more that a year in Grade 1& 2 area. Can anyone tell me the names of a victorian school that has done this program for more thatn 12 months so that we may contact them. contact person name if possible too please.

    • brette lockyer permalink*
      July 21, 2012 12:50 am

      Hello Pauline
      You are most welcome to visit my Grade Two classroom to check out the Daily Five in action. My College is located in melbourne’s western suburbs.
      cheers.

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