Sunday, December 4, 2011

How is Conferring Going?

My conferencing/conferring is going well. I have been able to meet with 12-15 students a day. I've currently put small groups on the back burner so I can focus on practicing and improving my conferring skills. After winter break my plan is to incorporate both conferences and small groups.

Even in the past two weeks I have seen tremendous growth with my students, especially in their ability to select good fit books and defend how they are good fit books. Good fit books (not too easy, but not too hard) are the crucial element to independent reading and conferences have allowed me to have meaningful conversations on how to select such texts.

On a good day, my class completes four rotations. I've noticed that most of my students do read to self in either the first or second rotation. This has made it harder for me to meet with more students, especially because this means in the fourth rotation I normally only have one or two students doing read to self! Without interrupting my students' choice, what can I do to more evenly balance the number of students doing read to self?

My second struggle is the few conferences where I am not really sure what to suggest for the student to work on! In these cases I've either picked a comprehension strategy that I feel the student would benefit from more practice or told them I'd be back in a couple days to do more research. What do you do when you are unsure of what to suggest for the student?

Scheduling conferences in a way to see who I need to work with each day is one last area I'd like to work on. It is very easy to sort by student name and see when I met with that student, their goal, etc. However, it can be a lot to go through all the data before I meet with anyone to see who I've said I need to meet with that day. Does anyone have a great calendar app on the iPad that has helped them with scheduling?

The google form I created for my conferencing is very useful. I am able to reference it during a conference, at home, and can sort the data in meaningful ways very easily. I added behavioral goals (from our I-chart) because many of my students need to focus on these before we venture into other strategies.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Data

Well, Digital Diva demands and she shall receive!

It's a little hard to read (click on the picture to make it larger), but here is how the information appears in the accompanying google doc. I have a bookmark on the iPad for both the form and this doc, so I can easily go back and forth. While I do the data entry on the iPad, I normally use the spreadsheet on a computer. It is easy to sort at the top, so I can find who is using the same strategy, sort the data by student name.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Digital Notetaking and First CAFE Day

Here's a picture of my new Conferring Form. First off, these little fish make me happy! Selecting the strength and goal in check off form was very easy today. By putting all the strategies in a drop down menu it made it very easy to remember and find goals. I also put the CAFE letter in parenthesis by the goal to help me use the strategies.

Utilizing a touchpoint is an eye opener. I was able to give my students a 1-4 today based on how they did on the strategy that I think will benefit from them. The touchpoint is helping me understand when I need to see this particular student next. If I gave them a 1, I better rush to meet with them tomorrow to help them practice this strategy more!

I met with 8 students today. My goal was nine, but I ran into an issue where one round only one student did read to self. How did this happen? Well, I really harped into them that they'd have to do read to self and work on writing today and many of them choose these the first two rounds, which meant close to none needed to read the third round!

There was only one conference where I had no idea of a strategy to recommend! I told this child I'd meet with them again soon to figure something out and she was totally okay with that, phew!

Strategies used:
Look carefully at the letters and words (A)--4 students
Abdundant easy easy (A)--2 students
Reread text (F)--1 student

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Standing On Their Shoulders

Yesterday, Joan spoke of meeting big names in literacy and thanking those men for letting her stand on their shoulders. Today, Gail and Joan let me stand on their shoulders and I have to give them a big thank you.

When I woke up this morning I had no idea I would speak in front of 320 people! Gail and I had discussed showing the group Twitter and letting them know about the #d5chat. I honestly thought they'd put twitter up on the projector and I'd tweet from my seat. And then Gail put the mic on me! I don't think I stopped shaking for ten minutes after I sat back down!

Right before I started to talk I asked Gail how she does this and her response was, it helps to do it with your sister... Joan will help you! It's all a blur from there, but we did recruit some new people to Twitter and got some people who were already on Twitter to think about joining the Daily 5 discussion.

I didn't take two days off from school to speak in front of all those people. I took two days off to learn more about reading practices and helping my students become better readers. Yesterday I tweeted that teacher preparation programs should include an acting class and after today I think teacher prep needs to include more information on how to teach children to read.

The past two days have helped me realize that I need to do more reading and research so that I truly know the best ways to help students learn to read. After Gail and Joan's presentation on the CAFE model and speaking to the wonderful two women from Wyoming sitting next to me, I've come up with a plan for what I'm going to do to start using CAFE (more effectively) in my classroom.


  1. Teach a full class lesson on check for understanding (I taught one at the beginning of the year, but they need to have more!)
  2. Meet with my 9 of my lowest readers for one-on-one conferences
I created a new google form, which more closely follows Gail and Joan's forms. Using the iPad I will fill out this form while meeting with my students. When meeting with each of these students, I will keep handy the "Sample Needs and Strategies" form, as well as several Ready Reference Guides (realistically, as many as I can print before reading starts!).

What an exciting two days! Pushed my learning and renewed my energy... I am excited for tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

English Language Learners

Today I was lucky enough to see Gail and Joan present on the Daily 5. There were many things that I took away from the day, especially thinking about barometer children and how we can build their independence.

The thing that struck me most today was that Gail and Joan are in schools that mirror mine in terms of cultural and linguistic diversity. The students at Gail's school speak 31 different languages and Joan has 12 different languages in her classroom. My classroom also has 12 different home languages and the students at my school speak 36 different languages!

I asked Joan how to start brand new English Language Learners with the Daily 5, as I have had students who come to me speaking not a bit or just a bit of English, and have colleagues in that position now.

Joan suggests picture books and listen to reading.

These students might spend their time going back and forth between only Read to Self and Listen to Reading and it is okay to only have them do these two things!

To lower their affective filter even further it'd be wonderful to have wordless books for these students to read. Two of my favorite wordless books are Flotsam by David Wiesner and (from my childhood) Good Dog, Carl.

How do you start brand new ELLs on the Daily 5 process?
What are your favorite wordless books?

The Power of Twitter

Did you notice my new header with the adorable little owls? That is thanks to my twitter friend, @mentortexts. Jen offered to make a header and button for my blog and website and now both are looking extra spiffy thanks to her.

Jen has a fantastic website:
She reviews books and helps teachers by reviewing books and providing writing prompts, reading strategies to practice and more. This is a great place to learn about new books or learn new ways to each old favorites!

I titled this post "The Power of Twitter" because that is where I met Jen. A header for my website and blog are a small example of the support I have gained through Twitter. If you're willing to take the time to respond to people and build connections, your efforts will come back to you ten fold.

A big thank you goes to Jen for her generosity and thoughtfulness, I am glad to have a friend like her!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Introducing Computers

11/16 update--I have figured out what to have my students do to choose going on the computer! When students are selecting their choice for each round, computer is a choice, just like read to self. Once on the computer students use the website and make the choice of their activity on the computer. Keeping track of how many computers are left is the hardest part. Tomorrow I am going to put 7 clothespins on my clipboard and take one off each time a student selects computer... when there are no clothespins left, there are no computers left!

Original Post:
I created a great website for my students to use when they are Doing the Daily 5 on the computer. Following Laura's example of pre-teaching Daily 5 behaviors I have been modeling for my students how to use Raz-Kids, Tumblebooks and Storyline Online.

Our stamina is not flawless, but on most days we can get up past 15 minutes of stamina! My students make their choice of which daily they want to go to very well. It has been interesting to see them move from all picking Listen to Reading and Word Work first to picking a variety of activities first.

Tonight I am trying to figure out: how do I incorporate computers?

I have seven netbooks in my classroom and want to begin having technology being an integral part of our classroom.

My initial thought was that for an entire week (or day? or two days?) the computers could be a certain daily (Work on Writing for a week, then Read to Self for a week). I am worried that this will limit the choice my students have. What if they are doing Work on Writing and want to work in their journals, but Work on Writing is on the computer?

As I have 7 computers, I could split the students into 4 groups and they could be assigned a computer time. Students could then choose what they are working on like they normally do.

Which of these seems more manageable? Which honors my students' ability to choose what they want to work on?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Keeping Track of Listen to Reading Spots

In my classroom we are very lucky that we have five LeapFrog Tag Readers and four spots at our book on CD spot (although only three headphones are working right now!).

One thing I was having trouble with was keeping track of how many spots we had left. My students also let out a dejected yelp every time I said there were no more listening spots left. I wanted to come up with a system that easily allowed me to keep track of how many spots were left, as well as help the students understand that I wasn't just being mean when we ran out of spots!

I created a small flip book and tied it with yarn to the front of my clipboard. The numbers go from 8-0 and every time someone picked Listen to Reading, I'd flip to the next lowest number. Quickly my students got used to following the numbers and I even have a few students who will help me flip the numbers.

8 spots left!
No more spots left!

Please share the "easy fixes" you have implemented in your classroom during the Daily 5!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Using Google Forms

To record conferences and the work done in them, I wanted to try out google forms.

Here was my first form:
From here, I realized several things:

  • No need to have a date, google will time stamp it when it goes into the spreadsheet
  • The more drop downs, the faster you can fill out your form
  • It is necessary to have more than one strength/needs section so that you can more easily sort needs for groups
  • If you are going to record Text Level or any other level, make sure to include an N/A choice in your drop down list or else you'll inadvertently end up with incorrect information
  • Adding an "additional notes" column helps with anything that might not quite fit in

Having the form bookmarked has made it super easy to find at the start of conferences. Once you submit the form, it gives you an option to reload the form, which makes it easy to complete the form again.

I might make separate forms for Read to Self, Word Work and Work on Writing. This would allow the data to be much more specific and searchable.

Right now I have the spreadsheet with all of my information bookmarked, as well. When I am looking at who to conference with I am able to see who I conferenced with. As I conference with more students, the data on the sheet will be come too much and it will be hard to see who I have conferenced with. I wonder if creating a google doc with a table (listing each student name down the left hand column) and then multiple columns where either Xs or dates could be entered.

This digital pensieve is highly internet dependent, which I don't love, but I will see how it continues!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Word Work

Word Work was the turning point for my class. Once they had the choice between Read to Self, Work on Writing and Word Work the whole class really started to work hard to keep going!

Each week my students have one of three lists (based on their Words Their Way level). On Mondays we glue their list into their Daily 5 journal (we use these for writing).

Student list in journal, with date.
The first day I introduced Word Work I wanted an option where every student could practice at the same time. I recently received a class set of whiteboards through Donors Choose, so I thought this would be a great option. I showed the students how they could write the words regularly, with dots, squiggly letters or bubble letters.

Student using whiteboard for Word Work!

Writing fun letters makes this a favorite choice!
We practiced with the whiteboards for two days and on the third day I started pulling small groups to teach them the other materials that would be available for Word Work Choices. I have bendaroos and reading rods available for students to also use.

Zainab making words with bendaroos!

In small groups we reviewed how to handle the materials, carry the boxes they are stored in, and how to put the materials away. Students then practiced the activity.

Word Work boxes

Students are doing a great job with Word Work and it is certainly their favorite choice so far!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Building Our Stamina Through Choice

When we were building our stamina with Read to Self I was very worried about my class because it seemed our stamina would not go up! I added Work on Writing before we were probably truly ready for it (if you use the "8 minutes of stamina in one activity means you're ready for a new activity" rule).

What I found was that my students were highly motivated by the choice and that our stamina has continued to grow with the more choices they have. They now can pick between Read to Self, Work on Writing and Word Work (right now, they do all 3 everyday). In word work they can write their words on a whiteboard, make their words with bendaroos or make their words with reading rod letters.

When I first introduced Word Work our stamina was around 5 to 8 minutes depending on the day. Today we did 3 rounds of at least 12 minutes each!!!

One thing I've done with my barometer children is to give them a timer, but also to give them a sheet that has a simple 2 row table with the numbers 1-16 at the top. They flip the sand timer over, read/write/work the whole time the timer goes, and when the sand runs out they put a check under 1. They repeat the process the whole time that we are working. This really helped a couple of friends who were struggling with their stamina.

A student using timer and personal stamina graph!

Here are the personal stamina graphs!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The First Week

The weather the past few days has been beautiful here in Chicago. In fact, it is so breezy right now I just fell asleep on my back deck! While I am exhausted after the first week of school, I am also excited for week two.

On the first day of school we launched Read to Self and began practicing our stamina. The Hefty two and a half gallon bags are doing well (the zipper has broken on one, but I bought three bags so this is no problem!).

This week I have realized that my students really struggle to get started right away. Between getting their bags, finding a spot and conversations with classmates some where not even getting started before I called them back to the carpet. Now, before we leave for lunch and recess, we've been placing our reading bags around the classroom. This has helped us (for the most part) get started right away.

Half way through the week I realized that I was using the "stink eye" to help a few kids continue reading, even when they had stopped following the behaviors on our chart. After doing research on I knew I needed to stop my students as soon as they displayed behaviors that didn't match our expectations. Our stamina is only about a 1 minute and a half right now, as I have several students who are struggling to get started right away and read the whole time.

When we gather back on the carpet between practice sessions we have been discussing what behaviors we've been doing well and which behaviors we need to work on. I've given my student who struggled the most with read the whole time a small hourglass timer, which has really helped give him focus to read.

How do you help your students build their stamina? What strategies do you use for your students to get started right away? How do you decide if a student is readjusting or if they are no longer displaying the correct Read to Self behaviors?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gearing Up For The Year

I still haven't decided how my students will store their books in my classroom and my to-do list is getting longer and longer. On Thursday evening my mom arrives and she will stay through Tuesday, helping me set up my classroom!

As I begin planning our first week activities and lessons, this quote from the Daily 5 book is sticking with me:

"It is the explicitly teaching and practicing of behaviors that sets the Daily Five apart from the other management systems we have tried over the years." (pg. 6)

I think that the explicit teaching and practicing of behaviors is important throughout all aspects of classroom life. I have been seeing a trainer this summer in my effort to get in shape. Throughout our hour long training sessions my trainer models how the exercise should look and as I am doing the exercise she makes corrections to what I am doing. The first time we complete an activity we go slowly, not worrying about repetitions, but worrying about doing the exercise correctly. Even if we have done an exercise before, my trainer will often still model it for me, as that assists me in doing the exercise correctly.

This has been an important reminder to me in the importance of explicit teaching and practicing of behaviors.

What are some creative ways that you explicitly teach and practice behaviors at the beginning of the year? What procedures do you make sure to teach on the very first day?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Storing Library Books

This is an issue I've been debating in my mind for quite awhile now. What should I do about book bins?

For my first two years I had nice, sturdy magazine holders that my students would store 5 books in per week. With twenty (or less!) students they were able to pick books on their assigned day, store them in their bins and we had no problems!

With 28 students over five kids are picking books on their assigned day it clogs up the library (the solution to this is easy--give them more/different times to pick on a day). With 28 students I didn't have enough of the plastic, sturdy magazine holders so I turned them over to a colleague and bought the white magazine holders from IKEA. 28 boxes don't fit well on the shelves where I had previously had LOTS of room for 20 boxes.

The kids destroyed the magazine holders from IKEA. I wonder if I didn't give good enough ground rules on how to treat the boxes? Were the shelves too crowded? Were the holders not durable enough? I had students for whom 5 books was not enough, but more books clog the container and "hog" books from others.

Anita (@amsgoodwin) uses the ice storage containers for her book boxes and says they have held up well. I have seen other recommendations for bags (the thought of storage for these makes me cringe). There are teachers in my school who let kids pick books when it's time to read (the time that must take!).

What should I do??

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Checking In

Sometimes my thoughts on the Daily 5 jump around and today I was thinking about how students will check in.

On the 27th, Gail and Joan (The 2 Sisters) held a workshop on the Daily 5 in Washington. Lori Sabo (@lorilovesbooks) sent out this tweet that really struck me: "It takes time to check in. It just does. But it's time well spent and an important part of accountability."

Accountability and choice are two of the main reasons why the Daily 5 appeals to me.

I found this Choice Sheet. Students' names are put in the blank space next to the days of the week and check marks (or Xs or stars!) are made after students have made their choice. I cannot find where I originally got this sheet, so if you know, please let me know--I'd like to give credit where credit is due!!

I would like to use the SMART Board to have my students check in between each round and so I created a notebook file for the 4 choices we will have each round. In the middle column would be each student's name or initials. Students will slide their name or initials to the box for the choice they'll make. Given that my board only allows 1 student to touch it at a time and I do not have a mounted projector, I am not sure this will be the most feasible option, but I am going to give it a try!

Other Accountability Resources:
Mrs. Bainbridge's Student checklist--> this seems like a great sheet & the kid icons are cute, but no brown faces :(
Mrs. Grochocki's Stamina Graphs

How do your students check in?
How do you keep track of the choices your students make?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Using Computers for Daily 5

Last night's #ellchat on twitter was focused on using technology to teach English Language Learners, which encouraged me to write a blogpost on how we can use technology in the Daily 5.

Thanks to I will have SEVEN netbooks in my classroom next year. When I introduce a new website in class I tend to use the computer lab or the computer on wheels to make sure everyone understands how to use the different sites.

My plan is to have the computers be a different Daily 5 choice each week. When I first started to gather resources I thought that I would list them all here, however there a bunch of teachers who have already gathered resources together. There was no reason for me to try and recreate their hard work! You will find their sites at the bottom of this post.

I am going to have my students use this website I created to easily navigate computer choices: I think that I will have this page be on our bookmark bar, or maybe even change the homepage to the choice for that week.

It is my suggestion that if you have a site for the kids, you keep a list of ALL the amazing resources somewhere else. At the beginning of the year kids need fewer choices and it'd be great to keep the choices rotating throughout the year.

There are two sites I would like to highlight. The first is (subscription is about $80 a year, I got a 3 year subscription through Donorschoose: Raz-Kids project). This site can be used for read to self, read to someone (students can record themselves reading) or listen to reading! My students really enjoyed Raz-Kids and it kept them engaged in reading in a different way.

The second is (we journaled about our caterpillars: This upcoming year we are going to keep a wiki to document what we learn in each unit. Laura (@komos72) has spiral notebooks in her room that students use for work on writing. They have different topics like sports or getting hurt--all students contribute to the same notebook. I love this idea and think it could be easily translated to the wiki.

Crista Anderson (@cristama)'s awesome Livebinder
Jill Fisch (@jillfisch)'s resources
Susie Goneau (@suser1)'s wiki page
Barbara Day (@BarbaraDay) suggested Spelling City
Laura (@komos72) has used kidblog for blogging as a work on writing option

And just about everyone suggested Tumblebooks (check to see if your local library has a subscription)

How do your students use the computer during Daily 5?
What is your number one resource on the internet for students?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Starting To Think About Organization and Activities

One of my colleagues is sadly moving to a different school, but she gave me this great wooden organizer/bookshelf from her room. I haven't figured out exactly where I want it to be in my classroom, but I do have several ideas for what I'd like to use it for!

The white containers above hold Leap Frog Tag Readers and books. I need to purchase headphones that will fit inside these cases, but I love the idea of students grabbing a case (they look like little briefcases when the kids hold them!) and quickly finding a spot to begin listening to reading. I have 5 Tag Readers and currently have 3 working headphones for my listening center. Developing accountability and exploring more ideas for listening to reading will be another post!

The organizer with the three drawers is where I am hoping to put several options for work on writing. A friend on twitter (I wish I could remember who!) gave me the idea of having the kids write comics as an option for work on writing. I'd like to keep comic strip templates in one of these drawers. I haven't found a template I love yet, as many are pretty boring. In another drawer I would like to keep mini-books (inspired by the book Library Mouse).

For the rest of this great organizer/bookshelf I am going to purchase small containers that can be placed into each opening. I'd love for the activities to be ones where students can pull the drawer out and go and get to work. For writing I am thinking of adding words to wordless stories (thank you @nsharoff), cutting words/pictures out of magazines for sentences and story inspiration, and story starter cards.

I'd also like to include Word Study options in this bookshelf, but I think that might be another post!

What activities do you have for work on writing?
Do you think colored or clear bins are best for this type of bookshelf?
Any thoughts on what should go on top of this bookcase?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Where Do I Start?

So, I have decided to do the Daily 5 for next year. Over the past 3 years I have tried different formats of centers. Mostly, students have rotated in groups among centers at appointed times. This past semester I gave students 15 activities they needed to complete for the week and they were allowed to pick the order of activities they did and where they completed their work. And my students liked the choice. Maybe they wanted to read at their desk or on the carpet or over in the library. As long as they are doing their work I really can't care where they work!

I am hoping that the entire primary team at my school adopts the Daily 5.

To begin my work on the Daily 5 I have created a LiveBinder that collects many of the great ideas of Daily 5:

Right now my schedule has been to have centers from 10-11 and independent reading (Read to Self) from 11-11:25. I think that I will keep this schedule as I really enjoy the environment created by the whole classroom reading at once. This also allows me to pull Guided Reading Groups from 10-11 and conference from 11-11:25.

I also joined The Sisters' website: They have tons of downloads, videos and photos to support teachers who are doing the daily 5 in their classrooms. I know it will be worth the $70 to join for the year!!