Saturday, December 31, 2011

Daily 5 gets a face lift

Our family just returned from spending Christmas at Disney. Have you ever been? To say it's magical is an understatement. My sister, brother-in-law, husband and I surprised our 4 girls by giving them t-shirts that said "I'm going Disney World for Christmas". They unwrapped them minutes before we whisked them off to the airport. It was exactly what I needed after a rough fall; I smiled every minute of every day for 6 days. I feel so unbelievably refreshed. Laughter is indeed the best medicine.

While I promised my family (and more importantly, myself) that I wouldn't think about teaching while we were at Disney, I came home inspired. I decided that it was time to make learning magical and fun again.

If you've read my previous posts this fall, you'll know that we've been in learning lock-down. A big part of what finally got us on the learning track was the "no stimulation"  plan I put my firsties on. What had always worked with my other classes simply did not work with this one. On the flight home I began to think seriously about how I could keep the teaching ball rolling, but make my students thrown down their cereal spoons and rush off to school every morning.

The one area that I had reduced down to a simple stock was our Daily 5 routine. We had gone from free choice of a lovely variety to whole-group activities. As I began thinking about how I could change it up, I broke up readers workshop into the 4 main areas we, as a class, focus on: reading, working with words, writing, and listening to reading (you'll notice on the wheel that Read to Self is missing. For now, we do this all together at the end of the day). These 4 areas support the learning areas of fluency, accuracy, writing, and some comprehension. Comprehension is still an activity that we do as whole group/guided release. Each area has many activities that we do; as I just said, up until now we have done nearly all of them together at one time. I decided to add some new activities; they will have to be taught and practiced one at a time until I can release them to be done independently. I will lose some instruction time doing this, but it's important to spice things up for the long stretch between Christmas and spring break.

I have 22 students, and the best way I could divide up the 4 D5 areas was to create 24 activities. I used a wheel configuration, because the activities need to rotate, and I needed it to be as easy to do mechanically as possible. I knew that moving clips or clothespins would be too time-consuming for me, and would have me scrambling when what we really need are smooth transitions. The double-faced wheel has a gromit in the middle that holds that names and activities together, and allows quick and easy changing.

Here is the table I used to organize my thoughts about the order of the activities. (You can download my templates at You can alter as you need to, since it's a word doc. The wheel is a bit more difficult to share, since I created it in Adobe Illustrator. I created a blank PDF so that it can be printed, assembled and personalized with drawing and handwriting. You will need to print 8 of the wheel templates; it is broken into a aingle quarter, and you will need a full circle for the names, and a full circle for the activities (simply cut the outer ring off for the inner circle).

As far as adding a little excitement goes, the time has come to finally implement those darn iTouches as well. I have them all set up identically, with videos of the songs and lyrics that we sing in class (to work on fluency). The one exception has the game "Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App", which will be a real treat for the kids once every full rotation.

Now it's just to print, trim, and laminate. Then I'll be ready to relaunch a new and improved D5 guaranteed to spice up our mid-winter.

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