Saturday, August 27, 2011

Teaching with Daily 5/Cafe for Summer School -- My Reflections

This is a cross-post from my staff blog...the first of my blog posts to model reflection for my teachers (and "putting myself out there" for them).

Since I am asking all teachers to teach using the Daily 5 Framework for Literacy this year, I felt that it was important for me to dip my hands in this as well. How can I ask my teachers to do something that I haven't ever done? During our 2nd session of summer school I taught 6th Grade English Language Arts (students going into 6th grade) and used the Daily 2 (Read to Self and Work on Writing) as my framework and taught Cafe Strategies. One disclaimer I must mention is that this was only 3 weeks (12 days) for this session and I only had 7-9 students each day.

Since our 5th graders were used to the Daily 3 (Read to Self, Work on Writing and Word Work) I decided to continue with Read to Self and Work on Writing, but did not add Word Work due to only having them for 3 weeks.

Here are my reflections from my experience:

  • I began my planning for this class by using the Daily 5 and Cafe For Dummies guide that I found on the ProTeacher message board (I'm sorry to not give credit that's due, but I do not know who created this). From looking at the Daily 5 and Cafe books, this packet combines the lessons for the first 25 days from both of the books so you don't have to be flipping through both books. I found this packet extremely helpful. I did still find myself turning to the Daily 5 and Cafe books--they really become your "bible" as you are teaching. The Daily 5 book gives a great list of picture books for mini-lessons, however, I wish I could have found a list that was more specific, identifying picture books for each cafe strategy and specific to grade levels. After wishing that I could find this I decided to start a document in our school shared file (in the Cafe folder) so that as teachers develop their lesson they can add to this. Teachers- I encourage you to add to this document throughout the year so we can work smarter together!
  • After the first day with my students I realized how important it is to have MANY MANY books in your classroom library and a wide variety to meet their interests. If a student cannot find a book that they are interested in then they are going to have a difficult time increasing their stamina (it reminds me of how many times I have fallen asleep while trying to watch a Western movie with my husband--I have no interest in them!) When I was a classroom teacher I spent most of my money and effort to make sure I had enough leveled books, but during this summer school class found myself going to the library and gathering as many books as I could that I felt would appeal to the wide variety of interests of this group of students, because the classroom library wasn't meeting their reading appetite. As a leader, this also tells me how we need to be spending our book money at school--on classroom libraries.
  • I had this group of students from 8:00-9:10 and found it was not even close to enough time. After a class meeting and a mini lesson, we often only had one round of Daily2 and then gathered together before it was time to go. I'm glad that we have made 90 minute literacy blocks a priority in our building, but also now realize why the 2nd grade teachers have told me they can not teach science and social studies as separate subjects--to have enough time for literacy, they must integrate those content areas into literacy. With limited time and a sense of urgency for what I wanted to accomplish during this 70 minute period, I realized that I could not be doing all the talking in my mini-lessons...the person who does the most work does the most learning. I found the Whole Class Lesson Elements on pages 95-96 of the CAFE book a good reminder for how to engage students in learning and for them to be doing the most work---not me.
  • In regards to time and time spent on writing, I also found that Daily 5 time cannot be your only time for writing. Regie Routman says, "kids who have a purpose care about their writing and the people who will read it." In the Daily 5 book, the sisters distinguish between Work on Writing and Writers' Workshop (they do have a separate Writer's Workshop time in addition to D5 time): "Typically children use Work on Writing time to continue the work they have been doing during writer's workshop. The main difference between the two is that during the workshop, we may ask students to produce a piece of writing based on a strategy or genre being taught, but during the Daily Five it is sustained writing of their choice."
  • I began using the Daily framework and taught a Cafe strategy from the first day and could not imagine teaching without the Cafe strategies. I know that many teachers begin by teaching only with Daily 5 and then read the Cafe book to add on after they feel comfortable with the Daily 5 framework, but Daily 5 just gives you the HOW--how your students are using their time during literacy. Cafe gives you the WHAT--the strategies you are teaching them to use during that literacy time. I can now see how a teacher might end up reverting back to old reading practices (pulling out the basal and workbooks) because Daily 5 is not enough.
  • I realized how important it is for students to set their purpose before they go to a round. I started out by having them tell me where they were going (Read to Self or Work on Writing) but then found one student spending quite a bit of time flipping through pages of his writers notebook, not accomplishing anything. Since he was not being independent and building his stamina I ended that round, came back and reviewed the I-Charts. Before having them go the next round I talked about how they also had to set their purpose. That student picked Work on Writing again, but this time I asked him what his purpose was, what was he going to work on? He told me he wanted to write about going camping. Guess what he did for the next round? He was completely focused and wrote the entire time--we actually ran out of time for him and he asked me if he could take his notebook home to finish that night (and he did)! The sisters say, "for each Daily Five choice the sense of urgency comes from understanding the why. The purpose for each task is clear, so the activity becomes worthy of concentrated effort and time. When we begin each lesson by telling our children why we are taking time to teach the idea or concept, we consistenly see more motivation and on-task behavior no matter what we are teaching."
  • After my first week and a half of trying to decide what CAFE strategies I was going to teach and how, I realized there is an entire section in the back of the CAFE book to help you out (DUH!!) starting on page 153. Put a big, bright tab there, because you will be using that section!
  • This is just "cosmetic" but I think the CAFE board we created would have looked better if I made the colored paper long enough to cover the length of the board (like the Sisters show). I don't really like how mine looked. I think it also looks more uniform when sentence strip paper is used instead of what I did (just cutting up construction paper that didn't end up being strips of the same size).
  • 1:1 Conferring and "The Pensieve": I set up a pensieve for conferring with students and used the forms that the Sisters recommend in their book. I used the calendar to write down when I planned to confer with students (although I found this did not always get followed). I used the Keeping Track Form to document the dates for when I conferred with students for reading and writing. I found this more helpful for me, because it was a quick visual to see that which students I hadn't met with much at all (I tried to confer with the below readers every day for reading and only a few times for the higher readers during this 12 period session). I also used the Reading Conference with Icons form, but didn't find this to be very helpful when looking back to try to look for patterns/trends in a student's reading habits. After this session of summer school, Stacey Johnson shared with me a form she created that I liked much better, because it gives more of a checklist of what to listen for (so see her if you want to borrow or adapt it for your grade). I also found it helpful to keep a reflection page for myself in the Pensieve--I could turn to this and quickly jot a reflection note for myself in just 30 seconds (I am using my list of quick reflections to write this post).
  • I wish I could go back in time and teach with the Daily 5/Cafe. I cannot tell you how enjoyable and relaxing it was. I think back to teaching with guided reading/literacy centers and all the time/effort I spent to creating those centers, trying to decide what/how to grade centers work and really how much more work I did than the students. With Daily 5/Cafe, the students are doing the work, applying the strategies, and improving as readers. When given a choice, students have the motivation and develop a love for reading and writing.
  • As I said in the beginning of this post, I think it is essential that as the leader, I experience teaching with Daily 5/Cafe and that I continue to learn along with you through this journey at Dodgeland. I would love to spend more time in the classrooms teaching alongside teachers, not just coming in to observe. If anyone is open to this, I would love to come into a classroom for a week at a time to co-teach during the literacy block. Let me know if you're interested!


  1. Thanks! :) You really captured what I needed to hear at this point. I'm just getting started along with everyoe in my school this year, and I'm in that stage where I want to try things, but I'm worried about when to do them, how to do them, and if I don't do them, It'll be too late to start them. The writing reminder is key too...we need to teach writing in a separate session.

  2. Your blog is great! I am actually doing some research on The Daily 5 right now and would love to talk to you! Do you mind emailing me? My address is Thanks a bunch!


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