D5-Chapter 7

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Happily Ever After?


Putting It All Together and Troubleshooting

And just as it started, it comes to an end. The D5 Book Study has wrapped up and I’ve learned so much! I’ve connected with some amazing blogger-teachers; learning from their experiences. It has been a wonderful opportunity for me to get “fired” up and get my “groove” going.  I’m a little nervous of the implementation of D5 and I wonder if I can get away with it next year…it’s out of the norm, especially with so much district mandated testing happening in our schools in South Florida. Between the base lines, the interims, and of course, my own assessments, when will I fit in the practice needed for the students to be successful at D5?

I admit, the stories that I read from inside the classrooms  of the book study participants sound so “dreamy.” Just like I envisioned my own class to have functioned when I started teaching four years ago. The ugly truth is that although I have seen some amazing teaching and visited several classrooms, I haven’t seen a D5 classroom in action yet. Of course there are D5 classrooms out there, I’ve just haven’t seen one yet. I  personally know some teachers that work for Charter Schools (Thanks Elizabeth!) that have implemented D5 and are being very successful at it. In fact, they (teachers) are highly encouraged by their administrators to run their literacy blocks D5 style.  Nevertheless, I haven’t heard of  or seen this happening in my own school community. Perhaps, this means that I’ve got to light the fire?

Now here are my thoughts on Chapter 7 and putting it all together:

This week’s  two hostesses were, Kim from Funky First Grade Fun and Corrina from Surfin’ through Second. I read Kim’s post first and decided to reflect on her perspective, but Corrina added some great insights too, so make sure to read both blogs!

Check In Time

I have a jingle in which I count backwards from five- that I use to get my student’s attention and it seems to work rather well.  However, I think I need a different one to use during the literacy block and Kim finally affirmed it. I’ve always wanted to invest in a rain stick and a yoga chime to use during transitions and this is the perfect excuse to so. In fact, I can justify purchasing both to use at different times and for different purposes. The sounds and rhythm they produce are calming and do not cause nerves to frazzle, yet allows everyone to become aware of the changes happening. I can’t wait to get mine!!!

Now, I think Checking In is a vital part of D5 for several reasons. For starters, there’s a bit of accountability behind it that reminds students that they even though they’re independent learners, they have responsibilities for which they are accountable. Kim shared these questions that she asks her students during Check In time:

What kind of story were you reading?
Were your partners good listeners?
Who is your audience for the writing you did today?
What stage of writing are you working on?
Did anyone enjoy a nonfiction book?

These are good questions and I’m sure that I will think of others as different situations arise in my own class.  All students need to have a sense of ownership for their work and the activities need to provide the urgency for them to comply with the expected outcome. I’m sure that without any checking in procedures many students might feel less compelled to be actively engaged in their centers. I also know from my classroom experience, that there may be some students that don’t use the group or shared work time to complete their assignments to benefit from the collaboration with their peers. These are the ones that may require some extra practice and a closer eye. Below I have some thoughts on how to accomplish that.


This past year my literacy schedule was interrupted greatly. In fact, I’d say that it was BROKEN, and not interrupted! Our day began with the Pledge of Allegiance and school wide announcements, followed by a computer based intervention program required for my students. “What’s the problem?”,  You might say…announcements usually dragged on well into my block shortening it by nearly 15 minutes every day. This is crucial time that I could rarely make up later in the day. I’m thinking that if something similar happens again, I will have to have the students get their materials ready and set up (a few at a time) during this time so that once the announcements are done, they will already be in place to start at their centers.


Due to another intervention program that I was required to teach, I was able to log reading errors and fluency gains on a weekly basis. The problem was that the program required me to work with small groups and I didn’t have an aide to help me squeeze everything in on a daily basis, so it was a challenge for me to include it in my already chopped up literacy block. Trying to do it in the afternoon only made it more difficult because I struggled with student services pulling out my kids during other instructional times that were just as important as reading and writing. Go figure…if I allowed for them to be pulled out during reading then they missed out on that, if I allowed for them to be pulled out at any other time, then they would miss Math or Science, or even Social Studies. I had very little choice in this and felt that I had to “go with the flow.” ARGH!!!! I’m not sure how I can overcome this in the future, but I know the importance in keeping data in order to drive my instruction, so maybe including the intervention data log as part of my on-going assessments within D5 may actually help me improve in this area.

Making the Daily 5 Work When You Get New Students

One of the greatest privileges in working in such a big district is having such a diverse population represented in our student body, and it is also one of the greatest challenges. The students are very transient as the regional school boundaries get shifted rather often and new families come from and go to other districts. This year I had a student enrolled the week before our FCAT (State Test) testing was scheduled to begin! Although I provided one-on-one instruction in learning our class procedures and sent home my “Welcome to Our Class” packet, and provided peer helpers, the student proved to be a handful and required much more proximity control than I expected. All this at a critical point before testing. NOT FUN AT ALL! I will have to include what the “Sister’s” recommend on pages 102 and 103 to build muscle memory.

What Do I Do When a Student is Not Able to Be Independent with the Daily 5?

Well I can’t answer this question as I haven’t implemented D5 yet, but I can anticipate it happening and based on the suggestions written by the “Sisters” and the other bloggers, I will have to set up individual conferencing to discuss and review the appropriate behaviors and guide them with close proximity. If necessary, I will need to arrange for the student to practice during recess, not as a punishment, but to deter them from getting off task during the literacy block. From personal experience, this usually needs to be done a couple of times before the students self-correct the undesired behaviors.

From Corrina…

I wanted to highlight a few freebies posted on Surfin’ Through Second Grade because they are really cute resources to have and share. Corrina shared a center scheduling system that she created for her class. She posted a picture of one she found on (where else?) Pinterest via responsetointstruction.net This is one of severals you will find in her blog, so make sure to visit!

If you’re not using Google Docs yet, then make sure you register to be part of a wealth of resources available for educators. Another cool medium she uses is Pinterest and well, if you have been reading my Facebook Page then you know how much I love my PINTEREST!

Well that’s a wrap! Feel free to post comments both constructive and motivational!!! Happy blogging and happy teaching to all!

Mrs. P


D5- Chapter 6

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This chapter is titled, “Work on Writing and Work Work.” Deb from Fabulously First hosted this chapter so make sure to stop by and read about her ideas in getting kids to write and enjoy becoming writers. I liked a few of her ideas like having a Sharing Chair and an Open Mic to have students read aloud their writings. If you are looking for more ideas then make sure to going the blog hop and read all the other bloggers posts. I’m sure there’s something for everyone!

Now on to my thoughts and ideas regarding writing.  As a 4th grade teacher this past year, I had to hone my craft and get my students ready for the Florida FCAT Writes Test required of all 4th graders in my state. I started the year introducing the students to basic writing skills by using Four Square Writing and daily journaling. I found it very helpful to them since many had difficulty writing a complete sentence at the beginning of the year. As the weeks passed and they developed as writers, I was able to release them from the confines of using the Four Square templates and was pleased with their pieces as they published them. Week after week,  I could see how they were developing from transitional writers to conventional and finally to become traditional writers. Truly- it was an up hill battle for many because most were ELL learners and SPED students, yet they all performed as well as many of their peers in other classes of the same grade level. I was very proud of their scores and feel that we learned so much together, but I know that there’s so much more that I could add to teaching the writing process and the focus lessons give me another layer to add.

Since this component of the D5 does not dictate any padagogical approach in particular, I feel that I can easily add it to enhance the writing experience for my students. I really like how the children get an opportunity to practice spelling, learn how to use high-frequency words, and develop a richer vocabulary. They key here is to establish clear guidelines for the routines and procedures that will promote independent learners. 

The Sisters again as in the previous chapters include three anchor charts (I-Charts) to launch Word Work  which will really help me teach the students what they are responsible to do while I work with students. As I’ve said before, “I can’t forget a thing if I follow these” and in turn neither will my students. These charts will not only create order, but if taught with fidelity, it will ensure that the students become autonomous and responsible for setting up and cleaning up centers.

In years past, I’ve collected Wikki Stix, Stamps, White Boards, magnetic letters and other specialty paper to promote writing, but I’ve had little success in getting students to use them without getting into trouble in the process. Even after this “gong-ho” book study, I’m a little skeptical if I can provide these to my students. Sure it’s fun and writing should be a fun activity, but I’m not sure if all students are ready for the freedom in practicing with such materials.  I think that I still prefer using the on-line interactive, Composition Notebook Free Writes, Video Writing Prompts among other activities. These are just a few of the many writing activities that I offer my students that are independent but can be used in small or whole group instruction that still engage them without causing them to “goof off.” Maybe I’m being narrow minded here, but I know that many of my students lack the self-control required to use the supplies and still stay on task. This is one I will have to ponder upon and see how I can gradually introduce to my students so that they can enjoy and benefit from the experience.

Until next week…

Mrs. P

D5- Chapter 5

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The last two weeks have been a blur…

My youngest daughter had an operation last Thursday,  July 4th and my mommy became ill on Sunday, July 9th. Just as my daughter was beginning to feel slightly better, my mom was admitted to the hospital, had surgery (abdominal hernia) and after a 14 day hospital stay is thankfully recovering in my home. It’s a good thing that we are in the middle of our summer break because I’ve been free to be with them without worrying about my students, substitute teachers and drafting extended emergency lesson plans. I am extremely grateful for all the calls and prayers sent by friends during this stressful time, indeed we are blessed. Both my daughter and mom are expected to make full recoveries and I should be catching up on sleep in another couple of days. Today my sister is covering for me here at home for a few hours, so I was able to finish reading and update my post.

AHHH! I actually feel relief in reading and reflecting on D5 if you can believe it!

Here it goes:

This week’s host is Kelli from Castles and Crayons Blog and like the other hostesses, she has some good insights and freebies available on her blog. I am just clicking away and downloading all of them! They are so adorable and with all the planning that I will need to do in order to launch D5- why waste time making my own when so many fantastically creative teachers are giving them away for FREE! 

Chapter 5 is titled, Read to Someone and Listen to Reading. It is written in a very descriptive matter making it easy to teach in the right order, while also teaching the students the strategies they need to use to be successful in reading to someone and listening to reading. I  had already started reading the chapter and as I was re-reading it,  I laughed at a note that I made myself about how teachers get frustrated when students get so loud during buddy reading.

“The Sisters wrote in their book, “Some teachers, believing in the benefits, have tried partner reading only to feel frustrated with the noise level and accountability issue. ” (p. 61)

I wrote a giant YES! right beside that quote and after reading the rest of the chapter I realized that it was because I haven’t spent enough time teaching my students the behaviors that are needed for them to enjoy reading to their partners without getting the teacher (ME!) angry at them. After all, I allow for buddy reading so that they can discover the pleasure in reading and sharing it with a friend.  If I get frustrated within 20 minutes of the activity and stop it because they have gotten too loud then it’s not really having the positive impact I wanted. BUSTED! It is up to me to teach, model and practice with the students so they can truly enjoy their partner reading and gain the benefits from it.

Now, while teaching the students the appropriate behaviors that they should demonstrate in Reading to Someone it is also very important to teach them where and how to sit while reading to someone. I really didn’t think that this was important until I reflected and realized that part of the reasons that my students weren’t behaving like I expected them to was due to the absence of the parameters that would keep them “on track.”  The Sisters, have this little acronym, “EEKK” which represents, Elbow to Elbow, Knee to Knee, to help students remember how they need to sit during Read to Someone.  I really like the poem that Kelli shared on her blog and I’ll probably use it myself. It’s a quick and easy way to teach the students and explains how to sit and listen while reading. There are a couple of other important lessons that I need to make sure to include when launching Read to Someone and those include, Voice Level and Checking for Understanding. Another lesson that I must not forget is how we Read to Someone. It’s important that the students understand that that this will help them with their fluency and it’s important that they choose a partner that will help them. This is a separate lesson  and deserves being taught explicitly to avoid problems.  Once they have chosen a partner, they can choose from these three ways:

  1. Check for Understanding, reading one book.
  2. I Read, You Read, reading one book as well, but taking turns.
  3. Read Two Books, reading two books varying in difficulty levels.

I really like option #3 because it exposes less fluent students to stories that they wouldn’t be able to read independently while also allowing the more able student gain self esteem and practice. I also like how the students must remember that when listening to their partner, they need to remember to not intervene too much to allow their partner increase their fluency. This is a separate lesson as well and I believe is the essence of purposeful listening to reading. I especially like the guidelines recommended in the Coaching Sheet on pg. 74.

I really like the Anchor Charts that are included in the book to create with my students. Whew! NO THINKING REQUIRED, the Sisters have it all ready for me to implement this fall. All I really have to focus on is teaching the lessons and keep my D5 book handy!

The next part discussed in Chapter 5 is Listening to Reading and these entail four focus lessons that are very well explained in the book too. In a nutshell, it’s offering the students a variety of listening to stories read aloud from different resources, such as books on tape or CD’s, on-line book sites, e-books downloaded from the Internet to computers or I-Pads, etc.  In fact, I can even record my own stories to go with the books in my library! Woot! Woot! I’ve got to get so much done before we go back to school!!!!

Well, after nearly two weeks of being absent from the blog hops I better head over and do some reading and gather some insights to what the other bloggers have shared about Chapter 5!

Mrs. P

“We interrupt this program for an important announcement!”

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I received my newsletter from Laura Chandler, from Teaching Resources and linked up with some intermediate teachers also participating in an on-line book study for D5. The host for this week was Katie Lyons, from The Art of Teaching for Teachers and she posted some thought provoking questions that merit that I use for further personal introspection. I wanted to add them here just to make sure that I address them because they point out areas in which I can further develop in my classroom. I highly recommend that you hop on over to We Read, We Blog, We Teach,  to learn from other intermediate teachers, but here are Katie’s questions:

  1. What do you envision your gathering place looking like?

  2. If you already have one, what makes it work?  Any tips for us beginners?

  3. What are some ways you help your students select books that work for them? 

  4. Do you use the I PICK acronym or something else?

  5. Have you ever used book boxes before?  If so, what did you use?

  6. Do you have a classroom library?  How many books do you have?

  7. Do you consistently use anchor charts?

  8. Do you use the I PICK acronym or something else?

  9. Any tips on displaying anchor charts?

10. How do you overcome any obstacles placed on you by school, city codes, etc on displaying materials?

11. What are some tips that you have for teachers when doing repeated practice?

12.  What signals do you use in your classroom?

13. Why do you think check-in is an important aspect of this model? 

“And now, we return to our regularly scheduled program!”

D5-Chapter 4

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Today I needed to come to terms with a decision that I made and was looking for encouragement from the moment I woke.  As a Christian, I had prayed about it through the night and remembering 2 Timothy 7:

God didn’t give us a cowardly spirit but a spirit of power, love, and good judgment.

I was determined to allow His Spirit take over me. Ironically, after starting up my computer and checking (what else?) my email and Facebook, I found another really good one, Psalm 27:14

Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.

I had no choice…there they were,  “answers” to my prayers,  in the most obvious of places, my Facebook News Feed. Now, I know what you must be thinking, “You’re kidding right?” I mean, after all, I can see where one can think that it’s a bit of a stretch to see signs of God’s Mercy on Facebook, but in a peculiar way, I was desperate. You see, I was feeling uneasy about my decision.  I went about making my Cuban cafe and as I slowly came alive, I stumbled upon this other quote:

Do not anxiously hope for that which is not yet come; do not vainly regret what is already past.

SPLAT! (Me slamming against the computer screen!) OK! I GOT THE MESSAGE! I need to let go and let God and get to today’s business: D5 Book Study will be due tomorrow and I haven’t finished reading Ch. 4 yet! After checking other blogs, I realized that NO ONE else had been too eager to post ahead of time so I was safe…I still had time to read and reflect.

This week’s framing questions are:

1. In reflecting on your students’ work with these strategies, what can you celebrate at this point in the year?

As I read Laura’s post today (July 6th) from Tattling to the Teacher, (By the way, the picture came straight from her site!) I was happy to see that I wasn’t alone in being a “newbie” at D5 and she like me, couldn’t answer this question either.  I can’t reflect or celebrate any accomplishments thus far, but like Laura, my biggest concern is going to keep the students from getting up and changing books. This year I had students that picked a book (for the wrong reasons) and returned it back to the shelf a few seconds later, making the library a communal area to hang out with a buddy. I thought I was explicit when I told them that they had to read the whole book before changing it to a new one, but as I reflect I realize that I was doomed from the start for two reasons:

    • I didn’t have book bags or boxes for them to exchange from their picks.
    • I didn’t teach them how to PICK a book!

I had expectations that they would know the Three Ways to Read a Book, and what they were to do when they Read to Self   and without proper training of what they were supposed to do I can’t really blame them, can I?  Laura did a wonderful job explaining the steps in teaching our students the necessary steps in establishing good routines on her blog, so make sure that you click on the link for a step-by-step explanation in successfully implementing D5 at the beginning of the year. I actually scribbled and highlighted on my book something similar, but I’m so thankful that all I really need to do is “Linky”  over to her blog and I have the perfect cheat sheet.

  1. 2. How might you help your students continue to build stamina at this point?

Again, with school not being in session right now this is impossible to answer at this moment. What I can definitely share about stamina is that it is important to start S-L-O-W-L-Y and build up from the very first day. I haven’t really done that for my students before. I guess I just expected them to read until I was done with what ever else I was doing. I admit: I tried to use that time for small groups and or conferencing with students but most days, it felt that I was more preoccupied with re-directing students back to their seats with the book they had picked! Which brings me back to question #1!

Ay! Ya! Yay! I have my work cut out for me!!!!

Mrs. P