- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - Holly Kitson’s second-grade classroom at Harris School is almost silent, though it’s full of children.

Kids are curled up with books in easy chairs, beanbags and on rugs. Some are writing. Some are reading to a classmate or listening while a classmate reads softly.

“I have to laugh,” Kitson said. “My classroom is so peaceful, and then I go home to my 2-year-old, who’s lined up cans and is playing drums.”

The reason for the peace is the Daily Five, a reading initiative that Harris is using this year in the hope of raising reading scores and giving the primary students a solid foundation of literacy on which to build as they advance into higher grades, Principal Shannen Ray said.

“Teachers take 60 professional learning hours beyond the 24 they’re contractually required to take,” said Jennifer Panganiban, instructional technology coach. “They’re committed to making this work.”

The Daily Five components work on comprehension, accuracy, fluency and expanding vocabulary, said Tjode Shroyer, instructional coach. Kids work at their own level, using a selection of books that they’ve chosen themselves, based on their skills and interests.

Independent work is interspersed with small-group and individual work with the teacher. The “five” in the Daily Five are read to self, work on writing, read with someone, listen to reading and word work. Reading to self and work on writing are every day, but the child chooses the order.

On Tuesday, Kitson worked with a few children while seated on the floor with them, reviewing vowel sounds. At a table in the back, Kaysean Cotton had a box of colorful letters and a list of words. He said he was supposed to find the letters and use them to make the words.

“It helps with spelling,” he said.

Kitson works with one group per each of the three “rounds” every day and also has individual conferences with kids to work on specific skills.

In Theressa Tozer’s kindergarten class, she used a line and pictures to illustrate to a small group of students the proper way of reading from left to right and encouraged them to point with the hand they use for writing. At this age, recognizing pictures as words is one step of learning to read.

At her desk, Jazmyn Binkley was reading a picture book with the same goal of associating words with pictures. Next to her, Billy Sturgeon was copying words from a printed list onto a dry erase board.

Giving the students choices fosters independence, said Denita Hentz, who teaches first grade and was one of the teachers who developed and piloted the Daily Five last year.

Teachers spent the first part of the school year teaching children what is expected of them and reviewed that after the winter break. For the most part, Hentz said, students are doing their work independently, and she is seeing progress in their skills.

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Source: (Decatur) Herald-Review, http://bit.ly/1D2RTXc

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Information from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com

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