As a fourth grade teacher, I tend to shy away from doing “centers” in my classroom. Rather, our format tends to be one of whole class instruction followed by independent practice with guided small group instruction for extra support. But I have also had a long interest in the fundamental principles of the Daily Five program, along with the Daily CAFE, both concepts developed by The 2 Sisters, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. I have implemented different strategies from these programs over the years but I have never tried to do the full program.
For fourth graders, especially, the Daily Five usually turns into a Daily Three: Read to Self, Read to Someone, and Writing. (The other two components of the Daily Five, Listen to Reading and Word Work, are done through other means but not in a centers approach.) This semester I decided to try something new so that we can take advantage of the tablets we now have available to our room. This new approach will not only incorporate the technology, it will also give me time to meet with my guided reading groups more frequently, and will allow students time to work independently on literacy tasks, such as fulfilling reading group assignments, practicing handwriting, developing vocabulary, and working on personal narratives and other writing.
Today was the first day trying this and I think it worked really well. I came up with a schedule and posted it in the room with specific times and details. With four reading groups of six students each, I decided on three “centers” for literacy activities. The first was meeting with me at the back table to discuss their reading group selection and participate in cooperative conversations. The second was working with the tablets to read the day’s nonfiction Wonder topic on Wonderopolis and answer questions at the end. The third was working independently at seats. I organised the scheduled in such a way that one group was with me, one group with tablets, and two groups at seats. After fifteen minutes, the group with me and the group with tablets switched and the groups at seats continued working independently for another fifteen minutes. Then we took a fifteen minute recess before resuming. The two groups that had met with me moved to do independent seat work and the other two groups each had fifteen minutes with me and fifteen minutes with the tablets.
I really liked how this format worked. The students were all given specific tasks to work on which kept them engaged in meaningful literacy activities. I was able to work with all four reading groups to assess and monitor comprehension. On other days I will be able to watch for the other CAFE areas: accuracy, fluency, and expanding vocabulary. The students all loved working with the tablets, of course, but they also worked diligently on their independent tasks which allowed me to focus on my guided reading groups. My goal is to use this format three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays while continuing to use Tuesdays and Thursdays and whole class instruction. And, of course, what I have students do with the tablets will vary from day to day, especially when we start our next independent research project. While this format is different from the Daily Five and the Daily CAFE models, it will work well for my class and, for me, that is what is really important.