daily 5 reconstructed

Two wonderful colleagues of mine, Irene McKenna and  BrianHWDSB introduced me to the idea of The Daily 5 a few years ago. After quickly browsing through the book by the same name (because *yawn* that’s how I read most pedagogical texts), I jumped on it. I needed some structure to my literacy block and this seemed an efficient and effective way for me to have students practice and improve their language skills while I work with small groups on more intensive reading and writing strategies.

It was good. Not great, but good. The book seemed geared to primary so I modified it to fit in with the more mature (*ahem*) and independent grade 4 and 5 students that I worked with. Over the years, I continue to modify it so that there is more accountability on the students’ part, and less dependency on me.

This year, I kind of blew it up and started from scratch. Yes, I wanted to maintain the basics of having 5 choices, having clear behaviour expectations and having goals to achieve, but with the injection of technology into our classroom and the evaluation of important literacies, I’ve made some changes.


For those not familiar with Daily 5 (and if you are, don’t be…it’s a comprehensive and highly structured literacy framework, and I recommend it, especially teachers new to the primary panel), there are 5 options: read to self, read to someone, listen to reading, word work and writing. Let me tell you how I’ve modified these:

1. Read to Self: Students have lots of options for independent reading. There are plenty of fiction and non-fiction books and magazines in the classroom, they can borrow books from our school library or bring a book from home. If they want to use their iPad, they can borrow an e-book from our Board’s library, or they can read their own personal e-magazine using an app called Flipboard. I don’t care what they read, as long as they are reading and it’s appropriate. I generally find that students at this age will choose books at a suitable reading level.

2. Read to Someone: Same tools as Read to Self. I did make a slight change to this; I call it Read WITH Someone. I want my students to understand it’s a two-person choice, with equal reading responsibility.

3. Listen to Reading: Grade fives are starting to be aware of what is cool and what isn’t. And a grown-up ten-year-old is NOT going to listen to someone else read to them. That’s soooo grade 3! I had tried many things (can you believe they didn’t even want to listen to my voice read to them?) but this was the one option they begrudgingly chose. So, this year, I ditched it completely.

I have been poking my nose into the computer programming realm, reading about it’s importance to the future rather than actually doing coding myself, and I believe that it’s a language in its own right. Take a look at this page if you need convincing. So Listening to Reading, became Computer Programming.

We use Tynker, Hopscotch and Codecademy apps (although the first two are most appealing to my guys).

4. Word Work is a work in progress. I know there is a place in education for good spelling, as long as it’s relevant to their work. So I’m going to give Spelling City a try (students create their own spelling lists and the website will read those words while students write them). We are also giving the Word Dynamo app a go, so students can independently learn new words. Mad Libs, Apples to Apples and Bananagrams round out the list.

5. Writing: Students can write in any genre and about any (appropriate) topic. At the start of the year we brainstormed a good list of possibilities for those that inevitably say “I don’t know what to write”. There are several methods to show writing: Google Docs/Presentations, Explain Everything, Notability, Notes, Blog, Book Creator, and Toontastic. Oh, and….pencil and paper.

So, with all this independent work, where is the student accountability? How do I encourage them to become responsible for their own learning? This was always the gap in me feeling confident in Daily 5. I didn’t want to use D5 as summative assessment–this was meant to be risk-taking, practice time. I knew I could use it as formative assessment–look at weaknesses in reading and writing and use that to form small groups for more intensive instruction–but how?

The technology piece has helped a lot with this. I’ve told the students that when they complete a task, whether it be creating a simple animation or writing a rough draft of a mystery or reading a chapter in a book, they had to find some way to tell me they had done so. We brainstormed ways of sharing their learning and came up with an extensive list.


We discussed the term accountability. Now they understand that, in Daily 5, they are responsible for their learning and for their sharing. They can share by:

  • blogging
  • airdropping
  • uploading to Google
  • airlplaying
  • emailing
  • handing in pencil and paper task

They must show their work by:

  • sharing completed tasks in writing and coding
  • writing a book review (alone or with a partner)
  • sharing details of a chapter (alone or with a partner)
  • sharing screen shots of a completed task

That’s my Daily 5 block in a nutshell. Always in a state of flux as I see things that might work better.

Any comments? Questions? Feedback?



4 Responses to “daily 5 reconstructed”

  • adunsige Says:

    Adele, thanks for sharing how you make The Daily 5 work in your class, and how you’ve integrated technology. I never would have considered coding for “literacy,” but I can definitely see how it connects. I just had a couple of questions:

    1) I saw that the independent reading activity is based more on decoding (or at least, reading the text). How do you get students to demonstrate their comprehension skills?

    2) I sometimes find that The Daily 5 tasks can be very low-level. How do you help students develop critical thinking skills during this block of time?

    3) I know how important inquiry is in your classroom program. How does the Daily 5 support your inquiry learning? If it’s separate, how do you arrange your schedule to provide blocks of time for The Daily 5, Science or Social Studies inquiry, and the other subject areas. I always love to hear different ideas.

    4) How do the students select their Daily 5 activities? How many do they do each day, and how do they balance both reading and writing centres?

    Thanks for getting me thinking, Adele!

  • astanfie Says:

    Thanks Aviva. You always hold me accountable and your comments always give me pause for reflection. Thanks for that!

    Generally speaking, my D5 program is for practice only….any assessment is only to inform my small group instruction. This encourages students to be comfortable taking risks. Another point is that D5 isn’t done all the time, and it’s not the only language I do. When I’m in a TLCP, language is integrated into the content subjects. When I’m not in a TLCP, language comes in D5.

    Specific responses below:
    1. Comprehension is done at other times. Usually in TLCP when language is embedded in content subjects. But, when students are giving details about their reading (when blogging for instance), I can often tell when they are not comprehending their reading, so again, this informs my small group instruction.

    2. D5 can be low level, but I like to see it more as practicing the basics with a lot of freedom and choice to keep them engaged. Students are encouraged, through feedback loops, to take risks and persevere to go further.

    3. I’m sure I’ve addressed this above, but inquiry happens through my content subjects (and dabbling in math too). So, in a TLCP, the language and science/social studies are intertwined with inquiry. When not in a TLCP, I’m using inquiry in science/social studies (well, it’s only science actually that isn’t in TLCP for me). Further, D5 does offer a chance for inquiry. Students are encouraged to pursue new genres in reading and writing. They also set goals in reading and writing and these goals help navigate a direction for their D5. This is all inquiry-based as the goals are their choice and how they try to meet them is their choice.

    4. How many stations they do each day depends on our time. I try to do a hundred minute block (remember, this is outside of TLCP) so we do 5 twenty minute stations. Sometimes it’s only 3 stations. Short times keep students engaged, I find.

    If we are doing all 5 stations, then the choice is the order in which they do it. If we do less, they can choose whatever they want. All stations are important, so I don’t mind if a student doesn’t choose coding or read to someone. Students in my classroom know that they are responsible for their learning, with me as their guide and mentor. They need to know their weaknesses and know what to work on. Generally, they are pretty good with this, although I certainly do have students who take advantage of the freedom and responsibility part of this. When it happens, we have a group discussion about it.

    Any other questions? Fire away! 🙂

  • adunsige Says:

    Thanks for the details, Adele! I really appreciate you answering my question. I was interested in your comment about the TLCP Cycle. With integrating Science and Social Studies with Language and Math, I always feel as though we’re never out of a TLCP/Inquiry Cycle. I was curious when your “cycle” changes, and how you decide on the time for that to happen. A new blog post perhaps … 🙂 I’d love to know more. I’m always interested in learning new ideas.

    Thanks again, Adele, for really getting me thinking!

  • astanfie Says:

    I tend to end my TLCPs when I feel that the students are getting tired of it, and when I feel like they’ve achieved a level that I’m satisfied with…..or when it’s just time to abandon. 🙂 I find that they can get pretty intense, so the in-between times ease up a bit, hence the D5 and the fun science experiments. Thanks again Aviva!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.