A YEAR IN THE ‘DAILY FIVE’
The ‘Daily Five’ and ‘CAFE Model’ literacy systems have been designed by the two sisters, Joan Moser and Gail Boushey. I first found out about the Daily Five through my friend Kerry Ely, who has taught in international schools in Singapore. My friend and work colleague, Robyn Fox, was directly supportive and encouraged me to implement the daily Five system in my Grade Two classroom this year.
In a nutshell, the Daily Five literacy system offers student choice, purposeful literacy practice, and self-monitoring of literacy goals for the students. For the teacher if offers a well-organised daily routine, and a systematic method of assessment of individual students.
The success of implementation of the Daily Five in my classroom has been due to these factors:
- closely following the initial five-week setup as described in the ‘Daily Five’ book
- online support from The Two Sisters’ free email newsletter and their subscription membership
- practical support and encouragement in my school from Robyn Fox
- my continual process of self-reflection, to determine if this system matched the learners in my classroom, and my own pedagogies.
THE ‘GOOD FIT BOX’
One aspect of the daily Five that instantly attracted me was the setting up of individual personal book collections for students. Instead of insisting that students borrow one book per night from the boxes of basal readers, they are taught how to select a handful of books from a variety of sources. I have always made available a collection of quality literature items in my classroom, mostly from my own children’s shelves, or from op-shops and garage sales. I know all these books intimately and am able to match them up with individual readers. I also borrow books from our school library, and I choose books that I know well and love. I also include photocopies of favourite poems: think Colin McNaughton or Michael Rosen. There are also restaurant menus, toy catalogues and play scripts. All these may be read at school and borrowed for home reading practice.
What has happened to the basal readers? They are not all bad. I have taken home a handful of these each weekend to read, and if I have enjoyed them I will promote them to the students – just as I would any other worthwhile read.
At the beginning of the Daily Five year I spend a lot of time selecting the books for each child’s ‘Good Fit’ box. This is very time-consuming -taking about 30 minutes a day – but worthwhile. I believe that the students enjoy finding something good to read in their boxes, and begin to trust me to recommend them a good book. Having completed a reading assessment during Assessment Week (each child comes in for an assessment interview in the week before school starts), I have a good idea of their reading abilities. Sometimes I don’t get it quite right, and give a student a book which is just a bit too hard for independent reading. It helps to warn parents at the beginning of the year about what books are going home, telling them not to panic but to let me know if a book is too hard for home practice.
After a few days it’s time to relinquish control. After all, the skill being practised through the ‘Good Fit’ box is for the student to find a book that is the right fit. We utilise the ‘I PICK’ chart from the Daily Five, although I found the ‘Purpose’ aspect a bit hard to explain to my Grade Twos. The good old Five Finger Test – if you make less than five errors on a page, then it’s an okay book for you – is useful and the students find this easy to do.
It is time also to call upon the power of peers and cultivate an environment where students recommend books to one another. Once a week we would sit in a circle with our boxes, and take turn to place in the middle any books we did not want, and to select any books placed there by other students.
Establishing the ‘Good Fit’ box system takes time. When the daily Five routine is up and running, students can spend a few minutes at the beginning of the day to update their boxes. At the beginning of the term I found it best to invest the time, advertise books by telling the class my summary and opinion of some titles, get students to model and recommend titles, and to spend time with individuals talking about what they had in their box.