In blogposts and via Twitter some teachers report that the Daily Five routine is often ‘tweaked’ to suit their classroom constraints. Less apparent is the ‘tweaking’ that is done to match a teacher’s pedagogy, their beliefs about how learners learn and how teaching works. If you believe that the eye and ear work best together in the reading process, then you may set up the ‘Listen to Reading’ activity to ensure that the students are looking at the words as they are hearing the words. If you believe that the teacher only must conduct all small groups focusing on fluency, you may like to reflect on why you believe this and how it affects your students’ learning. The smooth running of the Daily Five machine in my classroom, such a beautifully organised literacy system, might just lull me into omitting my questions: WHY do I use it, why do I modify or ‘tweak’ it, and do these ‘tweaks’ improve the literacy learning?
IS THE DAILY FIVE SUITABLE FOR GRADUATE TEACHERS?
This question was an important part of the discussion at AISV with Rosalyn Muir and her colleagues. I say yes for three reasons: the Daily Five and CAFE books centre around real reading and real writing, with no worksheets or iPad drill apps mentioned. The Daily CAFE book guides the teacher to actively teach literacy – this certainly helped me to lift my teaching game. The Daily Five book is very prescriptive about setting up the literacy classroom, describing routines, book selection, systematic assessment – all helpful to the graduate teacher.
My words of advice to the graduate teacher: follow the recommende first three-week setup period closely, as detailed in the Daily Five book. Subscribe to The Sisters’ members-only materials for the first 3 months, as it’s helpful to access their videos to get a better idea of what they are talking about. Connect with other teachers using the Daily Five, via blogs or Twitter, and request an online colleague to mentor you throughout your Daily Five journey. Don’t be in a rush to be the perfect Daily Five teacher: improve your literacy teaching craft by focusing on one aspect per term, for example conducting writing strategy groups. If you encounter opposition to the Daily Five within your school, go quietly about your business of teaching the Daily Five without using the title. In this day and age of shared teacher learning and collaboration, it’s hard to imagine but in-school colleagues may talk negatively about your efforts to try something new as if it’s some sort of cult!
WHAT LITERACY ARE THEY ACTUALLY DOING?
Have you ever noticed that some of more capable students love doing lower-order tasks and enjoy drill-based games? Are they avoiding the hard work of thinking? The Daily Five routine can easily accommodate this – if the teacher permits or prefers. I question the use of set reading comprehension tasks, writing prompts, spelling tests in the Daily Five session, as I believe these limit choice and therefore student independence. The greatest literacy potential of the Daily Five lies in the students themselves employing oral language in higher-order thinking opportunities: making a book promotion video for peers, a group reflection on the best way to learn your spelling, giving feedback to a friend as to why you love their rich sentences. Student involvement and initiative in the mini-lessons and strategy groups can make all the difference. The Daily Five session can be rich student-centred literacy rather than ‘schooly’ routines that control students nicely.
IS THIS THE ONLY LITERACY THEY NEED TO DO?
It is a difficult job managing classroom time so that the Daily Five is a relaxed student-choice-based routine. Many Daily Five teachers conduct separate literacy sessions for class blogging, word study and Writers’ Workshops. The explicit teaching in these separate sessions is the ideal moment to model problem-solving in literacy, impart expert literacy knowledge and to raise the bar on what is expected from students. I have decreased the length of time of my explicit teaching, to maximise the time students themselves spend on actual reading and writing during the busy day. One effective way of decreasing time while maximising effectiveness is to prepare explicit lessons beforehand, screencasting using screen recording tools and iPad apps. The Daily Five system has been a great way for me to examine and increase students’ daily reading time.
It is also a tough job allocating time to student Inquiry. A prescriptive -and effective – literacy system such as the Daily Five takes time, and it’s very easy to proritise these lessons that ‘work’. I have struggled with the smooth integration of our class Inquiry learning into the Daily Five. It hasn’t been enough to supply the Daily Five readers with books about cultural celebrations when conducting an Inquiry on this. The only way I have managed is to put Daily Five sessions ‘on hold’ for a few weeks whilst the Inquiry takes centre stage. Isn’t literacy a useful toolbox that is essential to Inquiry?
Any literacy system I use must be interrogated, to keep my eye on the ball of my students’ literacy learning. How do I interpret and then ‘tweak’ a literacy system, and is this based on how I learnt and succeeded at literacy when I was a young learner? Am I aiming for a quiet, controlled classroom and somehow then omitting the foundation stone of good literacy – oral language, and also the power of collaboration? Am I meeting the needs of all my students? Please post your questions in a response to this post so that I may continue my interrogation of any literacy system that I use.