I taught 4th grade Reading and Writing for fifteen years. In our state, it’s an intensive assignment because it’s the first year students take the state mandated writing test. Reading and writing go hand-in-hand. However, in the lower grades, writing sometimes takes a back seat to learning to read.
I get it. Kids have to read to be successful and, for various reasons beginning in infancy, third graders can find themselves behind in learning to read. So every precious moment of instructional time must be spent on reading instruction.
The Need for a Better Resource
This places many fourth grade students in the position of needing to play catch-up in writing instruction. This was the position I often found many of my students in. Not only was it difficult for some students to simply write a complete sentence, they found grade level spelling difficult. Capital letters were often missing. And forget about an ending mark!
My students needed a way to learn and review basic grammar and sentence structure. They needed basic instruction and repeated practice, and they needed it every day in small chunks that did not eat up a big chunk of class time. Yes, they were getting writing workshop. We worked on writing personal narratives and expository essays on a daily basis. But they also needed to build skills that are the underlying foundation of successful writing.
Problems with the Textbook Approach
My district’s language arts adoption was very deficient with what my students needed. The textbooks had one or two lessons on each skill. They usually took too much class time to complete, so I could cover only one skill each week. Only one sheet of practice was provided for the whole year, so there were not enough practices to provide for review. My students needed more frequent review in smaller chunks.
I tried the mass-marketed language reviews by big publishers. Most of them didn’t work for my students. They would touch on a topic for one day, but never visit it again until several weeks later. This did not make sense to me. I could see that the lack of repeated practice left many of my students floundering.
That’s when I developed the Five Minute Spiral Daily Language Review. I honestly believe this is the best spiral language review a teacher can provide her students. Brain research shows that repeated practice helps the learner transfer new learning into long term memory. Five-minute practices each day for five days is better than a 30-minute practice once a week. This Daily Language Review uses this concept in that it provides repeated practice in small chunks every day of the week.
The Brain Researched Approach
Let’s look at the first week to discover the features that follow commonly accepted brain research that make this Daily Language Review so effective.
This is Monday of Week One. Notice that there are five boxes on the page. These are the same boxes that appear on every page, all week. The first box provides practice for a skill that is practiced for a minute or two every day of the week. In Week One, students identify complete, simple sentences. On Monday, teachers give a mini lesson on identifying complete, simple sentences. This only takes a minute or two. There are four practice sentences in this first box.
The beauty of this resource comes on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Brain research tells us that retention in long term memory is stronger with repeated practices. Based on that research, this spiral review provides practice for the exact same skill – identifying complete, simple sentences – every day for the rest of the week. So every day for four days straight, students are practicing this very important skill in small chunks that take only a minute or two of class time. Even your most below-level students will have a pretty good understanding of this skill by the end of the week.
Several Skills Covered Each Week
Now look at the second box. In Week One, students are required to identify nouns and verbs. Do the 1 or 2 minute mini lesson on Monday and, following brain research, students practice the same skill in the same location on the page for the rest of week.
In the big box in the center of the page, students edit a sentence. Every day there is a sentence to edit so students can apply grade-level grammar skills.
In the next box, in Week One students practice spelling words, using the same pattern all week. In this case, students are practicing double consonants in the middle of a word.
Finally, the last box provides one question in test format. So, from the first day your students begin this Daily Language Review, your students are introduced to this type of questioning, but in a non-threatening way. It’s just part of their daily routine. Many students have never seen this format before. It is not provided in textbooks. Test format takes practice! Teachers support their students’ success when they present questions in different formats, including test format.
The skills presented each week are different, spiraling through the entire grade level curriculum each quarter.
Daily Procedures Explained
What is the daily procedure for using this spiral review? Copy a week’s worth (or a month’s worth if you like to batch your copying or if you have a volunteer helper). At the end of the day, after all your students have gone home, place the next morning’s sheet on each student’s desk. The next morning, as students arrive, they begin working quietly. This gives you time to take attendance and turn in your lunch count. By the time the morning bell rings, most students will be finished. Don’t wait until all students are finished, because some students tend to take longer. They still will get the benefit of the practice when you go over the answers in whole group.
When the bell rings, project a copy of the review and go over the answers with your class. Read here about ways to vary your questioning techniques to make it super fun for students. Check out number four in the article to read about Sit on Your Desk questioning. In addition, try Ask an Expert or Phone a Friend if students need help answering a question. Kids look forward to this routine each morning and everyone feels successful. You’ll see smiles on faces and eager hands in the air to answer your questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should Monday through Thursday be graded?
I don’t recommend it. They are for practice. Many students haven’t mastered the skills yet.
How do I know if my students have mastered the skills?
Some spiral reviews provide a Monday through Thursday practice, but the Friday quiz must be purchased separately. This spiral review includes the quiz for Friday. It is in the exact same format as the daily practices. In fact, the questions come directly from the Monday through Thursday practices. If you want to take a grade, the Friday quiz is a perfect opportunity for every student to be successful.
Can students study for the Friday quiz?
Yes! Students can save their practice sheets from Monday through Thursday in a folder. They can take them home daily or on Thursday to practice for the Friday quiz. Parents love that a study guide is provided for the Friday quiz. It’s the perfect home-school connection to keep parents informed about what their child is learning at school each day.
How can I cut down on the number of copies?
Personally, I like using a separate sheet for each day. That way, the sheet is on their desk for the next day and there are never any lost copies from day to day. However, if you need to cut down on copying, you can use your printer’s settings to print Monday and Tuesday on one sheet, with Wednesday and Thursday on the back side. Copy the Friday quiz on a separate sheet. This uses two sheets per student each week instead of five.
Are these grade-level specific or do they cover a range of grades?
This resource is written specifically for each grade level. An entirely separate resource is available for second, third, fourth and fifth grades. Students are most successful in fourth and fifth grade when all four grades are vertically aligned and using the same format throughout the grades. That way, no skill is ever missed at any grade level because time ran short during class. (Of course, the skills are best retained when students apply their new skills during daily writing workshop.)
Can I buy one copy and share it with my teammates?
No. The license you purchase is very reasonably priced. Additional licenses are available at a discount. The resource is not a consumable where you have to buy a book for each student. You only need one license for each classroom. That’s the cost of only one consumable workbook. Also, you can use it every year for no additional fee! You can be honest, follow copyright laws, and be respectful of the work that went into creating this amazing resource by purchasing a very reasonably priced license for every classroom that will use it.
How do I recommend this to my administrator?
Just send them a link to this article to let them know you’d like to implement this Daily Language Review on your campus or in your district. Your principal can purchase a transferable license for each classroom so future teachers can legally use this resource. Click here to read more about transferable licenses on TpT.