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Daily 5 & CAFE ~ Thoughts for Special Education

Last week, I mentioned that I had the opportunity to see The Sisters speak about using CAFE in the classroom.  You can read about that {here}.  It was really great getting to visit with my Hawaiian blogger friends and listening to The Sisters talk about teaching reading.  It was really motivating and got me thinking about how I've taught reading in the past.

There were a couple of points that made me really think about how Daily 5 and CAFE apply to special education.

Idea #1:  Small groups should be 2-3 students. 

When I heard that I was like WHAT?!?!  2-3 students???  Since I've always taught special ed (except for a half year gig of teaching PreK), I've mostly done all small group instruction.   Although, I don't think I've ever had groups as small as 2 or 3 students.  My groups have typically ran 7-8 students at a time.

The Sisters showed us some videos of them working with a group of 4 students.  And guess what?  Even The Sisters only got to interact and teach with 3 of those 4 students.  I really got to thinking about how I've conducted my lessons, and they are right.  Four or more students in a group is really too many.  I know I could get a lot more quality instruction with a group of 2-3 students.

How many students do you typically have in your small groups?  Do you think 2-3 is feasible?

Idea #2: Students should be reading their own books during small group instead of all reading the same book.

This thought was another one that I really had to think over.  I have always done guided reading where students are all reading the same book.  I "try" to listen to each student read their book aloud, while the other students whisper read to themselves at their own pace.  Honestly, I wouldn't get to all of the students or my groups would be way too long since I had too many students in each group.

The Sisters mentioned that if all students are reading the same book the lowest readers will piggy back off the stronger readers.  So true!  I've witnessed that so many times with my students.  If students have different books on their independent reading level, none of them can piggy back off each other.  Brilliant!

Idea #3: Everyone who teaches the child should be informed of what the other teachers are doing.

The Sisters discussed how often students who are receiving services are pulled from the room and none of the teachers know what the other teacher did.  I admit I've been guilty of that as the special education teacher.  I pull students into my room, I teach them, and I send them back.  The gen ed teacher has no idea what I've done or not done.

Really, that can't be in the students best interest.  One suggestion was to have a folder or notebook for the child and each teacher jot down the date they saw the student and what skill they worked on.  If all teachers are teaching from the same thing (such as using the CAFE system), everyone can easily look at what was done by the previous teacher.

Idea #4: Students should receive interventions in the classroom.

The Sisters really emphasized that students should receive their interventions right there in the classroom.  The students who are receiving these interventions are typically the lowest performing students.  By pulling these students out, we are expecting them to remember bits of information from different teachers who are often teaching different curriculum or materials.  Is it really fair to expect our lowest performing students to retain all of this information and apply it?

I've never taught inclusion before, so I don't feel like I can make a valid judgement on how I feel about inclusion.  The Sisters made some sound arguments that made me wonder if inclusion is the best method for reaching all of our students.  I feel like this model could really work if teachers are providing a lot of small group and individual conferencing to give those lower performing students more support and guidance.

Idea #5: All of the teachers working with a student should meet weekly to discuss what's been going on and decide on the next steps.

Of course, when they said this I'm thinking, "Sure in a perfect world all of the teachers would have a time to meet weekly but no way is that happening."  Right?  I mean we're all so overwhelmed with teaching and planning and assessing and now you want us to meet weekly?

They actually had a great idea to make this possible and doable on a weekly idea.  Once a week, the teachers who work with the student (i.e. SPED, ELL, aides, etc.), meet together during a Daily 5 rotation right in the classroom.  Instead of pulling a small group during that rotation, the teachers would meet and the students would complete their Daily 5 rotation.  Wow, another brilliant idea!

I know what you're thinking, "My admin would never agree to this!"  But that kind of collaboration could make a world of difference in helping meet students' needs.  I've always struggled with finding time to meet with the gen ed teachers and really discuss the student.

So there you go!  Do you think any of these ideas could be implemented in your school with your students?  Do you have any great ideas for how to best support our special education students?


  1. Great post and terrific ideas! I have been a special education teacher for eleven years. Most of those years have been within an inclusion model and I support inclusion to the maximum extent possible. For some children, an inclusive classroom in not their LRE and just not in their best interest. So, I just wanted to say that I LOOOVE The Sisters, CAFE and Daily 5 and these are fabulous points to consider. Meeting together during rotation would work if you have an inclusion model with the gen. ed. and special ed. teacher in the classroom, but I don't see how it would work if you need to meet with the SLP, ELL, etc... since their schedule may not be able to accommodate a meeting. It is always a challenge. I pinned your post to my Word Work board:

  2. Amazing and striking ideas..we are applying and using collaborative approach in our sch and it is really helping children with special needs..

  3. Amazing and striking ideas..we are applying and using collaborative approach in our sch and it is really helping children with special needs..

  4. I really enjoyed reading this post. I don't know much about Daily 5 yet. I plan on reading their book over the summer. A lot of students that I have cannot read. The read to self would not work. I wonder if it would be better to put them on the computer with an interactive reading program like Starfall or RAZ Kids to replace read to self? Do the sisters have a suggestion for students that cannot read yet?

    A Tender Teacher for Special Needs

    1. I know this isn't my post to reply on, but I wanted to tell you that I am in the same boat as you. I also have some very low readers (almost nonreaders). The read to self does work, because of the 3 ways to read a book---read the pictures, read the words, retell the story. Even my lowest readers can do these things. The students pick books that are on their level to read. I make sure to have sight word readers for them to choose from (even if I have to make these). During read to self, even if the kids look at the pictures and make up their own stories this works. The kids are still building stamina and learning to use the pictures as context clues to what the story is about. I do use RAZ kids during the listen to reading rotation. I think it is appropriate to use during read to self, but I would push them and set expectations for them that Read to Self is a time to gain independence in reading and to really work on practicing the reading skills they have learned. My kids have been successful with this management strategy and enjoy doing D5 in the resource setting. The kids even ask for Read to Self if we've had to miss it for some reason. Just some thoughts... :)
      Mrs. H’s Resource Room

  5. I found this post this morning and I have to tell you that I love the ideas here. I came from a school that used Daily 5 and CAFE in every classroom and now I am in a school that does not. Some teachers use it, but the intermediate grades (the level I work with) do not. I love Daily 5 and the management structures and independence that it brings to ALL readers. Eventhough my gen. ed. teachers do not use it, I do use D5 in my resource room. I wouldn't teach reading any other way. This gives me time for individual attention for my lowest students while building independence for all of them. I like that final idea about all teachers working in the classroom one day a week and maybe one day my fellow teachers will also go to D5 and we could do this. I would love to hear more about the way you use Daily 5 and CAFE.
    Mrs. H’s Resource Room

  6. I teach a self contained class of kids with autism, emotional and behavioral challenges. I look forward to trying out the Daily 5 for the first time this year . I love the idea of using a rotation to meet with staff. Usually I squeeze in a few minutes to discuss a new behavior plan or send an email and ask for questions. I have been rotations of centers in the past years, but I look forward to using this framework to build more independence in my students.

  7. Thoughts have been well initiated here and will bring around every fact needed to be made by the professionals. check my thesis

  8. I also teach in a school that does not use full inclusion. I have kids in a small group (7-9 students)for reading instruction. I am looking forward to trying much of the daily 5 structure in my classes. I have been wondering how it would work in my setting, so it is helpful to read how some of you have already used it for special education. I can see how this program could really work, especially if done school wide. I look forward to reading more of how others are making this work for special education students and settings.

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