Is there a basal series for Daily 5?

Here is a cross-post from  “Monday Musings” post on my staff blog this week…

Recently a principal from Twitter contacted me regarding Daily5/Cafe and asked if I could recommend a reading basal series that is conducive to Daily5/Cafe.  Once I got over my immediate cringe at the word “basal” I asked why were they looking for a basal?  This principal was worried about the amount of time required of teachers to plan to teach with Daily5/Cafe,because it is much easier for them to open up a basal and teach from it.

We had a great discussion on the impact I have seen in our building since implementing Daily5/Cafe and I just wanted to share with you some of my reflections on this, because it does all come back to the work that YOU all have done and continue to do each day…

Teaching from a basal is easy.  Everything is in there ready to go for you, aside from possibly having to make additional copies of worksheets and decide what components will be used, because a basal series typically has too much planned for 1 week.  Essentially, all you have to do is open it up each day, read the teacher notes and teach from it.

There is a great deal of research that supports the notion that this is NOT good for kids.  Stephen Krashen says “we are denying students access to the one activity that has been proven over and over again to increase their language acquisition and competence as communicators: free, voluntary reading.” (The Book Whisperer, page 51).  A reading basal is “one size” and we know that one size does not fit all.

Since we dropped our basal series and implemented Daily5/Cafe, here’s what I have seen change…

  • Students reading and writing.  That’s it.  No more drill-and-kill worksheets with low level comprehension questions that have minimal transfer to actual reading. 
  • Teachers continuing to read/learn to become experts at literacy and teaching struggling students to read and higher readers to comprehend/discuss higher level texts. 
  • Classroom libraries continuing to grow so they are filled with high interest books that students want to read.  These libraries are filled with a variety of genre that are often organized by the students which helps them to know what books are there and where to find them.
  • Students (and teachers) enjoying reading.  I recall a teacher saying that reading used to be the worst part of the day, because it was SO boring.  Now, that teacher says Daily 5 time is the best time of the day.
  • Students and teachers talking about and recommending books to each other. 
  • Teachers sharing their “reading lives” with students, being a reading role model.
  • Teachers using what they know about student strengths, goals and interests to find books to “hook” students that haven’t quite found the right book to get them to enjoy reading. 
  • Teachers using mini-lessons with a variety of picture books or parts of novels to model the meta-cognition that happens while reading text, creating Anchor charts with student input to refer back to in future lessons and giving students time to practice applying newly learned skills with teacher feedback.
  • Teachers introducing new authors through read-alouds that lead students to expand their reading to new genres and authors.
  • Students giving mini book-talks/book recommendations to their peers to help others expand their reading choices. 
  • Teachers conferring with students 1:1 for reading and writing, giving individual coaching sessions on what students are doing well and creating next step goals for what will help that student continue to become a better reader/writer.  Using this conference to model for the student and give practice again to provide feedback to the student, continuing to check in with the student on this goal until it becomes mastered.
Image from Clark Chatter
Yes, this is all much more work than opening up the reading basal, but it is SO much better! You are not just teaching children to read, you are teaching them to enjoy reading, which we know leads to more reading and builds their background for all future learning.  
Thank you for all that you do to lead our students to be readers and writers!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Debbie Pope

    What a great post! I too am currently finding myself answering a similar question with a colleague here in Australia. Not that we have a basal system, however we do have something a little similar. What we don’t see from these regimented systems is transference. I’m always saying…we are teaching kids to read anything not just one particular style of book or worksheet.
    I really like your reflections here and can honestly say I’m seeing very similar things here as we enter our second year of using Daily 5.
    Thanks for sharing!

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