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Elementary Teacher Resources, Issue #043 - A Massive A-ha Moment
January 31, 2010

A Massive A-ha Moment

About a month ago I looked around my classroom and realized that my students were not getting as much quality, on-level, independent reading time as I would like.

I kept thinking, “How can they become better readers if they don’t have time to read?”

I searched the internet for ideas. Lots of book buckets ideas, gimmicks and stuff floated by my screen. I was quite disillusioned because I wasn’t finding what I was looking for.

Then I came across a book called The Daily Five. I had heard of it before but didn’t really know what it was about.

I ordered it – and read the whole thing the day it arrived! I was in love with the concepts presented in the book. Lots of independent reading, writing and word work.


So, I talked to my teammate and we tweaked it to fit our students, our needs and our requirements.

This is what we came up with: The Independent 3.

We have broken our reading block into 3 mini-lessons and 3 sessions of independent work.

Every day our routine is the same… and we love it. The kids love it. We are seeing growth. It’s good!

Here’s what we are doing:

  • 20 minute lesson (Read aloud / skill work)

  • 20 minutes of Read to Self (Directly taken from The Daily Five) and Guided Reading

  • 10 minute lesson (Shared reading / skill work)

  • 20 minutes of Work on Writing (Directly taken from The Daily 5) and Guided Reading

  • 10 minute lesson (Skill work, Phonics, Whatever your kids need!)

  • 20 minutes of Word Work (We use our Primary Literacy Centers) and Guided Reading

This comes out to be our 100 minute reading block.

At first we weren’t sure about the pacing, but now that are students are trained to read, write and work on centers for 20 minutes it flows like a dream.

We are also finding that with practice and repetition we are having many less behavior distractions during the independent work times than previously.

An extra added bonus is that it keeps our Guided Reading groups on track so we can meet with 3 groups a day!

Now – here are the nuts and bolts…

First, I do not recommend just leaping into a massive reading block change without reading The Daily 5 first. They explain each step in a logical, tested manner that makes it work. The book walks you through the language of independence, the charts you create, and how to pace it so every child can be successful.

It also really brings home the fact that you have to model, model, model over and over to help the children truly gain the concept of what you are looking for.

Second, this process isn’t expensive. We bought twenty $1 book bins, The Daily 5 book and use our affordable Primary Literacy Centers. Grand total about $40 for tons of amazing academic learning.

Third, if you have a buddy to try this with you it helps. Even if it is someone in a different grade or at a different school – it’s nice to have someone to discuss this process with.

Pros of this plan:

  1. It breaks up the teaching blocks into smaller, more child friendly times

  2. The children will learn the routine quickly – so you can spend more time teaching

  3. It takes tons of planning away from centers and give you more time to teach

  4. The children will have more time reading and writing – I have already seen growth and I’ve only been doing it about 3 weeks
  5. It is building academic stamina – upper grades teachers will thank you!

Cons of this plan:
  1. It will take about 2 weeks to teach – but in the long run this isn’t really a ‘con’ because it will change the way you think about centers

What my kids are saying:

“I didn’t know I could read so many words!”

“I like having more time to read.”

“Writing is my favorite and now I can do it every morning!”

All in all I could not give The Daily Five a higher recommendation. It has changed the way I look at reading, centers, and teaching!

If you already use The Daily 5 or have more questions, visit the question and answer group here.

Happy Reading!

Check out my podcasts on my podcast blog. They are fun and helpful!

I hope that you have enjoyed this newsletter. Please feel free to email it to friends and family who are teachers or homeschool moms!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

See you next month!

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