Reading Licenses

When I first began teaching elementary school, the only “independent” books kids had were the books they checked out of the library. And maybe a borrowed read-aloud left of the chalk (!) ledge. Can you imagine how boring that must have been?

newbasketsMorphing to Reading Workshops and Daily Five gave our students opportunities to self-select books for reading independently. And of course, that was a lot more engaging for students. Kids being kids though, were they always doing the right thing at self-selection time?

We teach kids explicitly how to find “just right” books that are neither frustrating nor so easy that kids don’t grow as readers. In my classroom, students received a readers’ license to help them remember where their proximal reading level was. (For information on how my classroom library was leveled, see The Leveled Library Project above.)

The license included a digitized photo of the student created on one of the first days of school, the student’s name, and a color code sticker as a reminder of what just-right-level should be the current target. Students were encouraged to choose 1 book from a level down and 1 book from a level up (the challenge) as well as 2 just-right books. I usually printed all this on a 4×6 plain index card or some heavy card stock paper.

At conferencing time, the student arrived with book box and license and we’d always spend a minute or two making sure selections were a match. New color code stickers were added throughout the year as the student progressed; we’d talk about a goal or next step to work on, record that idea in the student’s reading notebook and move on.

Did I have students who tried to fake their way into a level because a friend was there? Some did from time to time. But I also had students who wanted to prove that they could read more challenging books. How I loved when a student was so bent on proving that higher challenging level was really “just right” that the student doubled down on effort to move forward!

A “license” to read… just another way to track whether book choices match independent reading levels.

It May Just Be a Good Time to Cry “Uncle”

I’ve heard all manner of reasons for why this year is exceptionally difficult.  I’m a believer in the Daily Five. It makes sense, it’s based on research – brain research AND literacy research. I saw my students grow.

But I feel that it is time to give it up.

The message I’ve been getting is that in order to follow the curriculum guides, particular lessons need to be implemented.  I tried to creatively roll these mandatory lessons into the CAFE, but sadly, there just isn’t time to do the CAFE justice.  Trying to do both the Daily Five/CAFE and the required curriculum is driving me insane.

So even though I believe the Daily Five/CAFE is a powerful tool toward helping my students become independent and become better readers than I ever thought possible, I am giving it up. Reading groups, here we go.

Sometimes it is better to admit defeat. But better for whom? Of that I’m not sure.