Sunday, July 12, 2015

How to Get Started with Daily 5: What to do before the year begins

Oh my gosh, just the fact that you are reading my introduction to this series of blog posts warms my heart. I am honored that you are here. I am so excited to more "officially" write about a subject that is near and dear to my heart... literacy instruction. I have taught first grade for three years and I have used Daily 5 all three years. I've written small posts about some of my Daily 5 ideas and procedures in the past, but I decided to put together a more holistic look at how I use Daily 5 in my classroom.

Now, I want to put this out there right away, I am in NO way affiliated with "the sisters" or the Daily 5 in any official platform. I am simply a first grade teacher who utilizes the Daily 5 framework and I have adapted it to meet my own needs.

The posts in this series will include:

(links will be included as I write the posts)

Daily 5 Series: Options for Listen to Reading

Daily 5 Series: How to develop peer reading coaches with Read to Someone 

Daily 5 Series: Climbing the Mini Lesson mountain

Daily 5 Series: How to guide readers and writers with Small Group Instruction

Now, I am in NOOOO way an expert. Each year that I have used Daily 5, I have made changes and tweaks to my structure and I definitely do things differently than "The Sisters." For those of you who don't know, "The Sisters" are the women who started Daily 5 and wrote the Daily 5 books (link the the Daily 5/ CAFE website here). I think that they are AMAZING!! Seriously amazing! But, we are all unique and some of the things that they do just don't work for me and my teaching style.

When I decided to start this series of blog posts, I took to social media... Instagram and Facebook. I asked real teachers what they wanted to see in blog posts about Daily 5. I was flooded with questions and great ideas so much of the direction that I am taking is coming from those fabulous questions. I don't have answers for all of the questions but many are things that I have worked through over the past couple of years.

Now, let's get started! This post is all about how to get your classroom ready and how to plan for implementing the Daily 5. Here's what you can do right NOW!

I have both of the Daily 5 books and I have to be honest with you. I have not read them in their entirety. I have read the majority of both books and they have been critical in setting up Daily 5 in my classroom. I highly recommend them! When I can't wrap my head around something or I've having an issue with some part of Daily 5, I go back to "the Sisters" and read about how they set things up!

When I read the first Daily 5 book, I thought that I had to fit all of the elements of Daily 5 into each day. The elements of Daily 5 include Read to Self, Work on Writing, Word Work, Listen to Reading, and Read to Someone. I was overwhelmed... I couldn't see how I could fit all 5 parts into each day.

Over the past three years, I have found a Daily 5 structure that fits my schedule, my teaching style, and the needs of my first grade students. I have found that my students NEED read to self and word work every day for about 15-20 minutes each. I have seen other blog posts and talked with other teachers who also include Work on Writing every day. I switch off every other day with Work on Writing (M, W, F) and Read to Someone (T, Th). You will notice on my schedule that I also have a writers' workshop time in my day (which is why I don't find is absolutely necessary to include writing in Daily 5 each day.

Below is my class schedule from 2014-2015. I highlighted my literacy time in purple.
Now that you can see how my schedule is organized. I broke down my Daily 5 instruction more completely below. You will see that I also have a Phonics portion of my Daily 5 time. Our first grade team places a huge emphasis on word families and phonics. I will write more about that in a future post, but I just wanted to make is clear that a "phonics round" is not part of the typical Daily 5 framework. You will also see how I break down the other elements of Daily 5 and my mini lesson focus.
Did you notice that "listen to reading" is not included in this schedule?? My students do "listen to reading" on a set of suuuuuper old laptop computers that I have in my classroom. Each student is assigned one 15 minute round sometime during the week. Therefore, "listen to reading" is happening simultaneously with these other elements and is not included on my schedule.

Now, this brings up a KEY philosophical question.... the element of student choice in Daily 5. In many Daily 5 classrooms, students choose what round of Daily 5 they want to work on. Based on this schedule, I obviously have my Daily 5 block planned out. Students rotate through Daily 5 at the same time, completing the rounds together. I have not had success with my students choosing their own rounds and here's why... PHEW... here we go!

1) My mini lessons are extremely intentional and I want the skills that I am teaching to be applied immediately! One struggle that I had when I was allowing student choice was that I would do a mini lesson about sentence structure and then no one would choose work on writing for the next round. I was afraid that my lessons were being lost because students weren't applying what they had learned after the lesson.

2) My firsties are LITTLE and INNOCENT and they LIKE THEIR FRIENDS. During my first year, I worked sooooo hard to help students recognize which part of Daily 5 they should spend more time on. Some students understood that concept and others were very driven by what their peers were working on. It was very frustrating for me and I had several frustrated, argumentative students who really struggled when I would have to step in and help them make a more appropriate choice.

3) My planning is easier when I have a set schedule. I differentiate for my students A LOT during Daily 5 and having the set schedule helps me to know when to pull different groups for "reading group." FYI... I call all small group instruction during Daily 5 a "reading group."

4) Tracking troubles! When my students chose their rounds, I had to keep track of which rounds each student completed each day. I needed to make sure that throughout the week, they completed everything that they needed to complete. I tried several different methods and found them cumbersome and time consuming.

Okay, now clearly I have a strong opinion about how I set up Daily 5, but I have seen other teachers in my school have GREAT success with allowing student choice. These teachers teach second grade or higher. I just find that my firsties are not developmentally ready for this responsibility and they really like Daily 5 the way that we do it!

I would highly recommend that you take a look at your class schedule and take a peek at the Sisters' philosophy for encouraging student choice. It is important for you to find what works for you!

Oh my gosh! I am so excited to share with you a FREEEEEEE resource from A Year of Many Firsts. She has a fabulous set of Daily 5 resource materials!! Here's a little peek at the ones that I use (below) but there are even more great things in her product!! Click this link to be taken directly to the product on TpT.
Now, I'm not going to share with you how I use all of these posters yet. That will come with my individual posts about each part of the Daily 5 framework.

Below, you will see my CAFE Board. The CAFE Board is a supplement to the Daily 5 and it is a collection of reading strategies for comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and expanding vocabulary. I have a picture of my board from the beginning of the year last year and a photo from mid-year.

Now, I created the headings myself. Here is a link to download and print them for free. Many of the strategies that you see listed on the board are part of a free download that I found on TPT two years ago. Unfortunately, I cannot find where I downloaded them from. I like to have my strategies ready to go and then I put them up as we learn about them throughout the year. The teachers suggest that you write the strategies on colored paper with the students as you put them on the board. Students could even write the strategies if you wanted. If you want pre-made strategies, go to Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers and search "cafe strategies." There are LOTS that come up and many are free! Have fun with this part!! Design your own!! I'd love to see what you come up with! Post a picture on Instagram and tag me @firstiefavorites so that I can see your set up!

Setting up your classroom for students to be successful is KEY for Daily 5. One of the most time consuming things that I did when I began teaching was organize my classroom library. My students choose books from the classroom library for their Daily 5 book bins. I divide my classroom library into "themed or author specific" baskets and leveled bins.

My themed and author specific baskets:
(Students pick their free choice or "read the pictures" book from these bins- MORE on that topic in my Read to Self post)

My leveled bins:

Student Book Bins:

I use plastic book bins for each of my students- this is half of my class (the rest are on a different shelf). My entire elementary school uses the Daily 5 framework so our school ordered book bins for every classroom. I'm pretty sure that these are from Really Good Stuff. Before Open House, I label each student's book bin and fill it with a few books that are at his/her reading level (our Kindergarten teachers send us some data before the year begins). At Open House, I have each student choose a book from the classroom library to add to their book bins.

I find that once I get Read to Self, Listen to Reading, and Read to Someone going, they are very self sustaining. I don't need to do a lot of planning throughout the year. However, I am constantly changing up my Work on Writing and my Word Work rounds. When I write my longer posts about word work and work on writing, I will include lots of ideas and resources you can use. However, if you have time now, start looking for some or think about how you can use already existing literacy centers that you have for word work. Take to Pinterest, Instagram, and Teachers Pay Teachers... there are great ideas out there! Here are a few of my previous blog posts that can get you started!

Wild About Word Work - includes many of the activities that I use for word work throughout the year

A Year in Review: Writing Portfolios - I use these on Fridays during work on writing

Blame it on the Blends - examples of the types of phonics practice that I incorporate into Daily 5

What's for Word Work? - a blog post that I did about word work organization in the spring of 2014

Now, GO! GET STARTED! Read the Daily 5 Books, research word work and writing ideas, think about your class schedule!! It may seem overwhelming at first, but this is a framework that I really love! Think about how you would like to use it.... how will it meet your needs? Your teaching style? The needs of your darling little learners?

Stay tuned for future posts in this series! Feel free to comment below with questions about this post and ideas that you would like me to pursue in future posts!!


  1. Thanks! I have the same "problem" with letting my second graders choose their Daily 5. We just couldn't do it, but we are able to get each round in and within each round they have their choice within that particular Daily 5 element.. what their Word Work will be, their writing topic, etc. We like to have a "Free Choice Friday" where they CAN choose the order of what Daily 5 activity they'll choose and it seems to work well, but only on Friday's :P I can't wait to read the rest of your posts!
    P.S. I'm an Instagram follower!

    1. Oh my gosh! I know, right!?! Glad I'm not the only one who struggles with giving choice! I love your idea of Free Choice Friday! I have to try that this year once we get the routine in place!!

  2. I absolutely LOVE this schedule! :) When all of the kids are at Word Work, are they doing the same activity or is it differentiated?

    1. I have multiple word work activities going at the same time during our Word Work Round. I have five different "word work centers" and each student gets to each center throughout the week. The activities are the same for all students but the words that they use are differentiated.

    2. I have multiple word work activities going at the same time during our Word Work Round. I have five different "word work centers" and each student gets to each center throughout the week. The activities are the same for all students but the words that they use are differentiated.

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  5. I'm having trouble finding A Year of First's daily 5 resources on TpT. Do you have a different link to find them?

  6. I'm having trouble finding A Year of First's daily 5 resources on TpT. Do you have a different link to find them?

    1. Me too! I know I downloaded the product last year!

  7. This is wonderful. Thank you so much! I have been using Daily 5 but needed the overview you provide. It is helpful to have the perspective of another First Grade teacher.

  8. What a great blog! I am excited to continue reading! I also teach first grade and love using daily 5 but am finding I need to adapt it a little.

    For your schedule, are you pulling reading groups during the rounds? Does that mean they miss that round? Also when do you fit in worksheets for phonics or language?

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  11. This post was extremely helpful! I am a new teacher and was interested in implementing Daily 5 this year. At our school we follow a basal reading program. I was wondering how you choose what words your students will use for word work and how do you differentiate?