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.
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!