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Friday, June 26, 2015

Daily 5 Book Study- Chapter 2

Today I’m catching up with Primary Inspired and the rest of our book study to read Chapter 2, which is all about the foundations of the Daily 5, and I have to say- in my classroom, THIS is what made it work!

daily 5 chapter 2

So many of the foundations we built in Daily 5 didn’t just hold for Daily 5. They became the basic foundations of our interactions throughout the day- and I think that’s why it was so powerful.

Here are the basic foundations:

  • Trust and Respect
  • Community
  • Choice
  • Accountability
  • Brain Research
  • Transitions as Brain and Body Breaks
  • 10 Steps to Independence

I mean, look at those. I want my classroom to be based on these things- not just in reading, but in everything!

Since I’m no longer a traditional reading teacher, I’ll talk a little about how this looked in my 3rd grade classroom a few years ago, but also how I’m looking at incorporating these foundations into my science/ social studies classroom this year.

Trust/ Respect/ 10 Steps to Independence

Imagine a school building where you feel your principal doesn’t trust you, or doesn’t respect you… or where you’re told vaguely what to do, but expected to go from zero to sixty immediately without any support. (Yes, I’ve been to those PD meetings too!)

I know I cringe at the thought- and yet, sometimes this is the kind of environment teachers put their students in.

Probably the biggest one I was guilty of? Not trusting my students to be independent.

It wasn’t that I didn’t think my kids would try- but I didn’t think they were capable of it. And honestly, before I taught them the expectations, modeled them, practiced them, and took the time to build up stamina… they probably weren’t capable of independence.

I loved this quote:

“If children came to our class needing to be taught to become better readers, we had such respect for them; of course we would teach them the skills and strategies to achieve that goal. However, it students came to our class without the stamina or engagement skills needed to sustain reading and writing, we didn’t realize we should teach them these things just as we taught reading skills and strategies to them.” (Emphasis mine.)

Um, DUH. We teach so many procedures at the beginning of the year- so why had I never thought to spend time on this?

The first day I taught Read to Self to my third graders, I told them the goal was 3 minutes- but secretly, I thought sure they’d be able to get to 5. Especially given our school population (a lot of professors’ and engineers’ kids in a pretty well off area), I thought we’d hit 5 minutes.

Yep, didn’t even make it to three minutes that first day.

The little one who was the first to “break” from his concentration was a kid who probably had ADHD, but his family didn’t even want to consider a diagnosis. I didn’t blame them for not wanting to go the medicine route, but to not see if there was anything that could help him broke my heart- because he was one of those students who desperately wanted to make his teachers happy. He came in every day with a smile on his face, but with such an impulsivity that being “good” was so, so difficult. He had come into my classroom that fall with a warning from his second grade teacher, but that first day of Read to Self, I saw the biggest thing holding him back.

He could sit still and focus for a little over 2 minutes. That was it.

Over the next few weeks, we built up our stamina. This sweet little boy tried so hard- and we made it to 25 minutes of reading, including him.

I was so, so proud of him- and more importantly, he was proud of himself, and he was slowly learning to be more in control. It didn’t mean he never talked out, or that he was never impulsive, but he had so many less behavior problems- and I think it was absolutely because training to sit still and focus on learning in Daily 5 carried over to the other times in the classroom that he needed to sit still and focus on learning.

Now that I teach science and my students switch classes, I need to think about how I can trust them to be independent. I’m already thinking about some of my routines (stations, labs, coming into the room, moving to the carpet, getting supplies, notebooking, etc.) and how I can directly teach what it looks like to be successful, and scaffold until they build stamina at it.

I think anchor charts, modeling, and practicing will probably take up a few days- but I think it’ll be worth it!


Building community in the classroom is so important. It’s what makes students feel safe and comfortable trying, even at the potential expense of failure, because they trust their teacher and classmates to respect them.

I found this easiest when I taught youngest kids. Around third grade is when, developmentally, our kids start to move from caring mostly about themselves to worrying about what others think. This year, when I taught 5 classes of 4th graders, I found the community-building piece even harder.

Is there really anything more important, though?

We usually don’t switch classes in the typical sense until the third day of school, so I’m digging into what books I want to read (like Exclamation Mark) and what activities I want to do to really build a rapport with my homeroom. (See my exclamation mark below?)

For my other science classes, I plan on starting the year again with learning about neurons and synapses. It sounds too hard for them, but it’s a great lesson for my students to think about how we learn. (I plan on posting about it later this summer!) I want to add a few activities that dig into our own strengths and weaknesses, too- the more we realize that everyone has strengths and everyone has struggles, the less ashamed of our struggles we will be!

I loved this quote about building community so much that I tweaked it into a poster for my classroom. Feel free to click on it to download a copy!

Daily 5 Quote Freebie- Luckeyfrog Learning

Choice/ Accountability

One of the hardest parts about letting go of all the “stuff” in the literacy block is the panic of:

“How will I know if my kids are actually doing the work?
And how do I grade it?”

They’re understandable questions. When my kids did literacy centers, I’d come home on Friday with a stack of center work to sort and grade, and while it was a lot of work, I had some proof that they were or weren’t getting their work done… and it was easy to put something in the gradebook.

What I should’ve been asking myself, though- did their grade really reflect their achievement in reading, or just their ability to complete work independently?

I really struggled with this because I didn’t start the Daily 5 with my school- I started it alone, and I was afraid that the parents or principal would balk at the lack of evidence, or the amount of student choice. The big key for me was making sure that my students had accountability- and it came in the form of individual conferences and their reading notebook. (Read more about our easy reading notebooks here.)

reading log

We were required to keep our 90 minute reading block as just reading, so Work on Writing was really Writing about Reading in my room. We used simple reading notebooks (read more here) and checking their reading log and reading their entries were great for assessing my students’ reading. My students always knew what they had to complete because of our Weekly Must Do’s board.

weekly must dos 2

As for choice, it was a little scary to give them freedom to choose- but I found that if I gave them guidance about how to make good choices (not just fun ones), they were actually suprisingly responsible- even without me recording their choices. You can read more about Daily 5 choice and accountability in my room here:

daily 5 choice

Brain Research/ Transitions as Brain and Body Breaks

If I were to go back to school for my doctorate, my research would probably have to do with the brain and learning. It fascinates me- always has! It’s part of why I started out studying biology, and why I read books like The Woman Who Changed Her Brain in my free time. (Very interesting, by the way!)

Seeing the brain research behind Daily 5- especially this nugget of research from Ken Wesson- really made me think:

The average number of years our children are in age parallels the average number of minutes they can maintain attention during direct instruction- whole group, small group, or one-on-one, as measured by PET scans.

What? That means my ten year old students should not be expected to attend longer than ten minutes to one single task.

The good news is that John Medina’s research says after ten minutes, the brain can refocus with a slight shift. I’m already thinking about how I can switch locations, input, etc. to shift slightly. Whole Brain Teaching, technology, GoNoodle… so many ideas!

I definitely think the transitions were a huge part of making Daily 5 successful in my room! I was initially worried about the transitions taking too much time, but they were helpful for letting my kids get the wiggles out- and they helped my kids focus during the mini-lessons and Daily 5 rounds.


See how much thinking I got out of one chapter of this book? The Daily 5 book really makes you examine what’s important in your classroom. You can read what the other bloggers in our book study thought by heading over to Ciera’s blog, Adventures in Room 129.

daily 5 book study logo

*Note: Links to books are affiliate links.


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  2. Hi Jenny! I enjoyed reading your post! When I saw the original post about this book study, I decided to finally read The Daily 5. It reminds me a lot of Harry Wong's book The First Days of School, in that teachers model classroom routines at the beginning of the year. The part that was new to me was the bit about building stamina. I had never thought about that before, but it makes perfect sense that kids would need to start in short bursts and then work up to longer periods of time for various independent classroom activities. I am looking forward to trying these principles in my fourth grade classroom this year. Thanks! Carol's Teaching Garden

  3. Thank you for hosting this Book Study of Daily 5! I just bought the new edition and am moving to a new school, so I am enthusiastically reading all the different ideas all of you are sharing!

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