Teachers lauding literacy program
After attending a two-day conference in Seattle, Wash. in August, four teachers from St. Michael’s are leading the local school in a new program called “The Daily 5,” which is a structure for fostering literacy independence at the elementary school level.
“The way we go about teaching literacy has totally changed,” explained teacher Lisa Cousineau.
“The whole concept of ‘Daily 5’ was fascinating to me; to all of us at St. Michael’s,” Cousineau said.
“What it was offering to us within our classroom was time,” she explained. “Time to work one-on-one with children, time to do the assessments that we needed to do.
“Because it helped drive instruction—time for us to really get to know each child in our classroom, time for the children to do what was most important to their learning.”
“The Daily 5” was developed by sisters Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, who are teachers in Washington.
The pair “set about designing a structure that would ensure all children were working at their level of challenge while taking responsibility for their learning and behaviour.”
That, in turn, “would provide meaningful instruction blocks without extensive preparation time for teachers.”
And “The Daily 5” was born.
It is a series of literacy tasks—read to self, work on writing, listen to reading, word work, or read to someone—that students complete each day while the teacher meets with small groups or works with individual students.
Cousineau noted the program is based on plenty of research.
“Research has shown [that] for children to be better readers, they need to read and for them to be better writers, they need to write,” she stressed.
She noted “The Daily 5” doesn’t hold curriculum content, yet it helps educators know how to teach so that the children’s learning is accelerated.
“It gives the children options,” Cousineau said. “It builds habits and behaviours, it builds stamina, it gives the children time to set goals, talk about themselves as readers/writers, and, most importantly, it puts the learning in the hands of the child.
“The model that it proposes really stretched our thinking and our way of teaching,” she admitted.
For instance, Cousineau said the program has created a shift from teaching 80 percent of the time to 20 percent of the time.
“[This] changes teaching to smaller amounts of teaching time, in turn making the learning focused and precise,” she noted, adding the research within the book about “The Daily 5” showed the amount of teachable minutes is correlated to the age of a student (for children up to age eight).
“So, for instance, an eight-year-old should be able to be focused for eight minutes before they have to rest,” she remarked.
“We are building stamina and creating voracious readers/writers; in the meantime fostering a love of reading and writing.”
“It makes the kids eager to read,” enthused teacher Sharon Gurski.
“They like being in control of what they do.”
“The kids love it—they are pumped,” echoed Cousineau, noting within just the first few weeks of school, she has seen positive outcomes, with children being about to focus for longer periods of time.
“They are now working for 15 minutes, where at the beginning of the year it was three minutes,” she explained.
“They are totally engaged in their work.”
Cousineau said she and the three other teachers who attended the conference in Seattle—Jeremiah McCart, Paulette Romaniuk, and John Cousineau—were able to do so thanks to the Teacher Leadership and Learning Program (TLLP) they applied to.
“As a staff, we met and we collectively put in an application in that maybe we could get some actual training by the two sisters who wrote the books,” said Lisa Cousineau.
“They must have seen the value in it because they offered their support and it was an incredible, intensive two days of training.”
She added the behaviours the students are learning through “The Daily 5” also are being applied to other areas of the day.
And Cousineau said she’d like to see even more of it in math and numeracy.
“It is hard to believe how far we have come in such a short time,” she remarked.
“The support of staff and administration, the response from the children and parents, has been incredible.”