We are often asked how to incorporate a basal reader into Daily 5 and CAFE. The answer to this question varies, depending on how you are required to use it.
You’re required to use it cover to cover, following a scope and sequence: Our first piece of advice is to advocate for the ability to meet your students’ individual needs and use the basal as a resource, combined with many high-quality resources. Knowing this request is not always heard, we have some suggestions and tips we would like to share.
The story of the week is most likely not a good fit for all students. Use it as a class read-aloud, instead of assigning it to every child. This read-aloud can be done the previous Friday so students already have an understanding of the story before strategy instruction begins, or it can be done in one or two focus lessons at the beginning of the week.
Use the weekly plan in the basal to view strategies for the week. Determine the greatest needs of the whole class. Make these lessons your whole-group focus lessons. Then, look for strategies needed by small groups of children or individual students. Use these lessons in your small-group instruction and one-on-one conferring sessions.
Incorporate phonics instruction and spelling words into Word Work.
Determine which practice pages are busywork and which you deem necessary. Can they be used as part of a whole-group or small-group lesson? Do all children need them? A few of them? None of them at all? If you must use a practice page, limit the number of questions and infuse it with instruction to enhance meaning and application.
Use story vocabulary in a class word collector, Work on Writing, or Word Work.
You are required to use the basal only as a resource: Consider yourself fortunate. Many basals include some great material and can be useful tools when used intentionally to meet the needs of students. Here is our suggestion:
Review your assessment data along with your required standards and identify the needs of your students as a whole. What lessons would they benefit most from in whole-group instruction? Once you’ve determined that, look through your basal to find recommended literature, lessons, questions, and writing prompts to support their learning. Use what best fits students’ needs, and supplement with other high-quality resources as necessary. Using a curriculum calendar will help.
Work with colleagues to refine the focus of scripted lessons. Shorten them to concentrate on one specific instructional strategy and reduce their length to be brain-compatible (the average age of children = the number of minutes they can attend to direct instruction).
Whether you are required to use your basal cover to cover or encouraged to use it as a resource, the main goal is to give students as much time as possible to be engaged in the authentic acts of reading and writing. Remove unnecessary worksheets, projects, and assignments that create “busywork,” and provide time to read, discuss, and write—in other words, to engage with text. The amount of time students spend reading per day has a direct effect on how much they're exposed to words. Create a classroom environment where the emphasis is on student need, time spent reading and writing, and brief, focused lessons, and your students will benefit.