Sunday, July 28, 2013

Keeping Students Accountable in Daily 5- Without Taking Away Student Choice!

In my last post, I shared about my Daily 5 adaptation. Some teachers and I were recently talking about the idea of (structured) free choice. It’s something that the original Daily 5 book emphasizes and encourages, but I was surprised to find out that a lot of teachers aren’t comfortable giving up that control.

To be fair, many of the teachers I talked with are in younger grades, which I think makes a huge difference… but I have loved giving my students free choice during the Daily 5 rounds!


P.S.-- Aren't these circle signs perfect? I got them from Ladybug's Teacher Files, but I'm not sure she's still offering them anymore.

Choice bolsters enthusiasm and gives students a sense of personal responsibility for their learning- but I was concerned about making sure the students were still reading. While I’m working with small groups and individuals during the rounds, my students are allowed choice each day, but not without accountability.

How do I keep students accountable while giving them choice?
My students should be doing Read to Self every day, and should be engaged in reading tasks throughout every reading round. I ask them to keep track of what they read in a reading log, which I check regularly when I confer with each student (usually once a week).


Each week, students look at the Weekly Must Do board to find out their responsibilities. The tasks are also explained on Monday.


Because I teach writer’s workshop separately, our “Work On Writing” choice really means “Writing About Reading” in their readers’ notebooks, so most of their Must Do’s are reading prompts. On an average week, my third graders did one guided response (to something I read aloud or we read together) and one free response (about something they were reading during a reading round).

(Read more about our easy reading journals here or by clicking on the photo.)

Some students “forget” to complete their reading journals, but I can usually motivate them by showing them (or their parents) what a zero or two do to their grade… or keeping them in from recess one day to finish them. I only had to do that once for one student- and she never “forgot” again!

Sometimes the students also had a Must Do at the Word Work station, such as my Word Detective freebie or one of the activities I used to use as centers, if it fits with our current learning.

Word Detective preview1

Other than knowing that these tasks must be done by Friday, students get to choose Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Word Work, or Write About Reading during each round. I do urge them to do Read to Self every day and try to get to each other choice twice during the week, but I get more lax later in the year as the kids get “into” reading!

So what if my students CAN’T handle the choice?
Take it away!  I warned my students that choice was a privilege that could go away at any time. When there was an issue with a student not completing the “Must Do’s” for the week, I brought it up during our weekly one-on-one conference.  Usually, by talking to them individually, I was able to help most develop some responsibility without a scheduled rotation. For a few, it was too much to handle and I ended up needing to give them a structured rotation, but it was very rare I had to do that.

If the whole class wasn’t handling it well, you could try a rotation system. I used to handle my center rotations through a wheel like this, so I would probably use something similar with Read to Self on every third spot.


So is it bad to take choice out of the Daily 5?
I think choice really helps give students ownership of their learning but also allows them to develop a stronger love of reading. I had 2 students who spent every round for 3 days reading a book together and responding to it in writing because they were so into it- and if I’d limited their choices, that would have never been able to happen!

But while choice has its benefits, it’s not right for every class or every kid. I don’t think it’s terrible if teachers decide it’s not working for their class- but I do suggest that every teacher try it. If you set up the Daily 5 procedures as the book suggests, you’ll be really surprised how well your kids handle the choices! Give them a chance- and if it doesn’t work, you can tweak it! That’s the beauty of the Daily 5.

My kids LOVED having choice- and the threat of losing it was usually enough to motivate them to do it right! What about you? If you do the Daily 5, do you allow your students choice? Why or why not?

Before I go, though, I have to share how much I am absolutely LOVING my new blog makeover by Kimberlee at Digital Doodle Designs!


When I won her giveaway, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted, but she sent me options and helped me figure out the perfect idea- and created it within a couple of days! Kimberlee was so easy to work with, even when I was being picky! She clearly wanted me to LOVE every detail of the final design, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out! Everything on my blog  is finally cohesive and professional, while still keeping the cute. I would HIGHLY recommend Kimberlee to anyone looking for a blog update- you won’t be disappointed!

She’s even having a 50% off sale right now on her top level of blog designs! Check out Kimberlee’s incredible freebie blog and design blog, and tell her I sent you!

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  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing your experiences with choice and the daily 5. I haven't yet started my first year of teaching, and Daily 5 is something I've been very interested in (it's on my reading list :P). It's great to hear from an experienced teacher who has successfully put it in place! I think choice can be such a great motivator, so I'm glad to hear that it worked out well for you and your kiddos.

  2. Thanks so much for posting about the Daily 5! I love to see how other teachers are using it in their classrooms! At the beginning of the year, our kids don't have a lot of choice, but once they learn all the routines, we let them choose! We all do read to self at the same time everyday {that way it is super quiet and peaceful!}

  3. Just wanted to let you know how much I love your blog. I just recently entered the blogging world and I have had a lot of fun perusing your site. I also teach grade three and have really enjoyed seeing how things run in your classroom. Lovin the new look too!!

  4. Your new design looks great! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I implemented D5/CAFE after winter break last year (I was able to see The Sisters in November and wanted to wait until after I saw them to jump into it). Giving the students (first grade) the choice was very different for me but I was willing to jump into it. I can't tell you how amazed I was!! I kept track of which activities the kids did (we usually had time for 3 rotations each day) and they had to do read to self and work on writing each day. This only left them with one free choice really, but I think giving them the choice of what to do and in which order really motivated them and empowered them. They were great about varying their free choice each day. My teaching and the students' learning was totally transformed, for the better, when I made the switch to this framework. I can only hope it goes so smoothly this year!
    I like your ideas for holding the kids accountable. I really want to keep read to self being self-selected (with some teacher assistance) books, but given that I'll have our more advanced readers this year (we regroup for LA), I think they can handle something like a reading response journal with open ended/generic weekly must dos.

  5. Great new design! Last year was my first year for Daily 5 and I was in first grade. I ended up taking away the choice because it just took too long for my firsties to decide. This year I'll be in 2nd grade and not sure yet how I will do it...

    Teaching Little Miracles

    1. I use Daily 5 with Year 2 students and I took a tip from another teacher at my school... we have a pocket chart where the kids "sign up" for their rotations as part of their routine when they come in the morning. The children also fill out a "Daily 5 planner" and I give Class Dojo points at the end of the week for making good choices and filling out their planners properly (they just fill in the day of the week and highlight their stations for that day). It really works and the planner helps the kids to see what they've already done that week and which stations they should choose. The only "scheduled" station is Meet with Teacher so I can do small guided reading groups.

  6. Thanks for the shout-out *blushing,* as I truly appreciate it. It was a pleasure working with you!! :)

    Kimberlee @ iTeach 5th & Digital Doodle Designs

  7. I'm so glad I was able to share about your lesson plan template. It's fantastic and I absolutely love it! It may sound crazy, but I hadn't even considered creating my plan book in Microsoft Word. Now, I don't think I'll ever try anything else! You're a life-saver and a fabulous blog! Thanks so much!

    Super Sparkly in Second

  8. Hi Jenny! I love your blog too Kimberlee did a great job; thinking about heading over there after I make this comment. I awill be trying Daily 5 with my kids this year and I know for sure I'll have tough kids, but I am going to at least try giving them choice first. I'm hoping that by making a big deal about how responsible I know they are, it will make them want to meet the expectations. Thanks for stopping by and supporting me as a new blogger; you made my day!

  9. Hi Jenny,
    I just found your blog, and feel like I've hit the jackpot! I'm over and Kindertastic and after teaching kindergarten for 6 years, I felt like I was able to adapt Daily 5 for my kiddos pretty well. After teaching 3rd for a year, I realized that something had to change with my Daily 5. I was **this** close to taking away choice, but your blog entry makes it seem really doable to keep them accountable in a VERY simple way (no menus, extra printables, etc.) so I just wanted to say THANK you!! :)


  10. Love this post! How did you make your sign? Is it all cut outs on black paper? It looks phenomenal!!!

    1. Thanks, Alicia! I had a black chalkboard last year in my room, so that was my background. The Daily 5 choices came from Ladybug's Teacher Files (where I also got the CRAFT board). The words- student choice in the Daily 5- were just added to the picture in Picasa after I uploaded the photo. They're not actually up in my room :)


    2. Thanks for the reply! It looks SO cool!

  11. I love your post! However, I would love it if you could clarify how your schedule or "rounds" work! I am trying to figure all of this out, as I am new to this. I have moved from Pre-K to 5th grade.

    1. Hi Melanie! This post might help: And definitely check out the Daily 5 book!

  12. The link for the word circles does not work and I tried to search for it in the site it went to-no luck!



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