So I have been mentioning that I love using small group, guided approach to teaching. You are probably wondering how in the world I keep my other students learning in a meaningful way while I am working with these groups.

This is my first year teaching first grade. Certainly with changes in the standards, all grade levels are adjusting their teaching content slightly in order to meet the standards.

To begin, this year my team decided to read and implement components of The Daily 5.  I have to admit, when I first read the book The Daily 5 by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser I had my doubts, but

I know how important of a year first grade is , especially in regard to reading development. So I am that kind of crazy teacher who sees a new idea and says “Let’s do it!”  I was quickly excited about implementing some of the components of the Daily 5 in order to help my students become more engaged learners.

Instead of “stations” or typical centers, I began the year by launching “Read to Self”,  “Word Work”, “Work on Writing”, “Listen to Reading”, and then “Read to Someone” ( I introduced them in that order

The Launch

On the very first day of school, yes the very FIRST day, I launched Read to Self in my classroom.

I began by teaching that there are  three ways to read a book: Read the pictures, read the words, and retell the story. I realized very quickly that the students didn’t understand the retelling part, so I covered that part of my chart up, and we just practiced the first two ways. I knew by looking at their DRA scores from the previous year, that most of my students would be picture reading this time. I modeled what each type of reading looks like, then called upon a few students to try it. I put one book about apples (our beginning of the year theme) and then one “easy reader” book in each of their book boxes.

Then I set an initial stamina goal: 1 minute. That’s all… 1 minute.

I assigned students spots in the classroom that are appropriate, and then set the timer.

The students did a pretty good job during this first try. We came back together and reviewed. At this time I created my ichart- The three expectations during this time for them were “Read the whole time, stay in your spot, use quiet voices”.  I chose these three guidelines because I noticed that they could really fit any of the components of the Daily 5, and would be easy to model for the students. Again we practiced what this would look like. I did some silly modeling inappropriate ways to do Read to Self. They especially enjoyed when I crawled on the floor with a book on my head.

We practiced one more time- for one minute again and then we came back to reflect again.

Day 2, we read for 2 minutes.

Now during this initial launch there was not time for me to see any groups, but my main goal was to be busy, and set the expectation that I was not there to monitor the students, they were expected to do what they were supposed to be doing. They were not allowed to “show” me anything or “tell me” anything during this time. (later on I introduced using sticky notes to save “I want to show you” or “This is important” spots).

We continued to increase stamina 1 minute per day until about  6 minutes (interestingly enough- most of their ages. Isn’t there research somewhere about that?). I set the timer on the Smartboard, and stopped it as soon as someone was not engaged. We never pointed fingers, or talked about who was off task, we just stopped.

We were stuck at 6 minutes for about a week. We talked a lot about what I call “building reading muscles”. I explained that this happens when you keep reading even when your brain tells you that you are tired of reading.

Slowly but surely we made it over the 6 minute hump. As soon as they got to about 7 minutes I started calling some of my most needy readers over for a little boost in letter ID practice.

I also began reading groups while they were working on some independent tasks (some of it was sort of like busy work, but it is necessary in the beginning to establish routines.) After students finished a guided reading book in group, they put it right into their book box. Slowly but surely the scales tipped from mostly picture reading, to mostly word reading.

By the end of November, they were reading 25 minutes independently. That means they are all reading in their spots, reading the whole time, and reading quietly.  Now I am able to rotate which reading group I take during this time.

The very best thing about Read to Self in a first grade classroom is that IT’S WORKING! The students are practicing reading so much that it is making the biggest difference. It’s evidenced by one of my students saying “Look at me closely Mrs.Ballestrini, can you see it?”… “Can you see how big my reading muscles are.” And I can see it. 🙂