The first time I ever shut the classroom door and turned to my students on that first day of school, that first minute, I had a brief panic-filled thought. What do I do now?!? How do I start this?!?
After a moment to collect myself–and I do mean a moment, because, you know, there were 18 five-year-olds who needed me to be in charge–I remembered my plan and I remembered the place to start.
The Daily News routine.
I started with Daily News that morning and I’ve started roughly 2610 mornings since then with Daily News. I am such a creature of habit that it is almost impossible for me to start my school day without a classroom routine that we call Daily News.
The Language Experience Approach (LEA) is an approach to language that uses personal experiences to connect to reading and writing. Described as a whole-language approach, LEA uses the skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing to build fluency in language skills. There are many ways for teachers to use LEA to enhance literacy skills for their students, and a prominent LEA in my classroom is the Daily News.
So picture a room full of kindergarten students, all busy with various morning activities. The teacher taps a wand or taps a chime, and the students clean up and go to the “Classroom Meeting” area, chatting as they go. This is January, by the way–the glory days of kindergarten. August would look, sound, and smell differently. Anyway, I digress…
The students have made it to the rug, and the teacher leads them in a song or rhyme of greeting, and then it is time to start the Daily News. My routine goes something like this…
Me: I’m going to start our news the way I always do…with the word good. (Several students have already started to say the word good and make the initial sound for good.)
Student 1: /g/…./g/….You need the letter G.
Student 2: You need an uppercase G, because you are starting a sentence.
Me: Okay, I’ve got my uppercase G. Now what? (Students begin to make the middle sound in the word good.) What two letters go together to make the /oo/ sound?
Student 3: Two o’s.
Me: Okay, how do I end the word good? (Students are stretching out the word and isolating the final sound.)
Student 4: With the letter d. Lowercase because you didn’t start the sentence.
And we keep going with the following words and sentences.
“Good morning! Today is Monday, January 21, 2019. No one is absent.”
We pause on certain words or phrases according to the amount of time, student engagement, and according to the skill that I am really wanting my students to gain for the month (see below).
Once we make it past the section where we report absences, I invite our Helping Hand to share a bit of personal news of their choice. Our Helping Hand is a person chosen systematically to lead the class for the day and generally help us as needed. For a kindergarten student, being the Helping Hand is an important highlight of their month.
We always go back and read the Daily News fluently and expressively. Before reading, I allow my Helping Hand to share some news of their choice to end our writing. I write what they dictate. I’ve heard everything through the years.
I have three dogs and a pig.
My sister is having a birthday.
My brother is going to college today.
My grandma died and I am sad.
We bought a new car yesterday.
I love to eat hamburgers.
Sam is my cousin and he is spending the night with me.
My kitten ran away.
Being able to share their own experiences and narratives gives students a sense of belonging and the knowledge that their words are important and meant to be shared, even if the words are not always happy or expected. Seeing the words travel from their mind to their lips to the written form on a board lights up so many passages in their brain that point them towards fluent reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
For a teacher who is just beginning an LEA journey, something like the Daily News routine can be overwhelming. I use the following tentative schedule each year, tweaking here and there to fit the needs of my classroom.
In August, my students are just learning how to sit on the rug and attend to the activity at hand. My goal for the Daily News in August is that it becomes an expected part of our classroom routine, and that students begin to realize that written words have meaning. Students who have already been exposed to books and language will begin to notice spaces between words and even punctuation at the end of sentences. It becomes an expectation in our room that the class will actively listen to the ideas of the teacher and students.
In September, students begin to supply letters for sounds, as they now realize that every letter makes a sound. They know that when we want to write words, we can write the letters for the sounds we hear. It becomes music to my ears to hear voices start to spontaneously sound out the words that we are writing. Since the first half of our Daily News is so routine, students learn quickly that two o’s make the /oo/ sound and ing goes together to make the /ing/ sound. Students who were previously exposed to letters and sounds before kindergarten being to realize that in many words, two or three letters can be blended to make new sounds. Many students begin to recognize simple sight words within the news as well.
In October, the class learns how to use words in our environment to spell many words in our Daily News. Students begin to point out that the correct spelling of their friends’ names can be found on name tags and the Word Wall. They realize that calendar words can be found on our calendar, and also on the Word Wall. They start to point out sight words, color words, and number words in the room; and then I start to see more and more of these words in students’ own writing pieces, whether it is their journals or writing workshop papers.
November and December
In November, I begin to emphasize the use of punctuation and capitol letters at the beginning of sentences and proper nouns. I gradually begin to let our Helping Hand write a sight word here and/or a letter there. By the time students return from Christmas break, it is my goal that they will be able to write the news on their own, with prompting and support.
While students are busily engaged with morning activities, I will call over the Helping Hand and give the level of prompting/support needed for the student to write the Daily News on his own. Some students will need LOTS of help still, and this is okay. Other students will be ready to go! This one-on-one time gives me a good overall assessment of a students’ language skills.
I can’t imagine starting my day without Daily News. Over the years, I’ve learned so much about my students’ language skills through this routine; but just as importantly, through this shared language experience, I’ve learned about their likes and dislikes, their families, and their sweet little hearts.
If you have a similar LEA in your classroom, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below!