Daily 5(ish) in Middle School

Last year, I got sick of constantly re-teaching concepts to students who hadn't been paying attention while my other kiddos were bored out of their minds waiting for their classmates to catch up. I was printing an ungodly number of worksheets and no matter what I did, I didn't feel like the students were taking ownership over their learning.  I also felt like I never had enough time to work with small groups or one-on-one with students. I knew there had to be a better way.

Our school has been using Daily 5 in the elementary grades and after hearing more about it, I decided to try out a version in my classroom. I know I'm not technically following the Daily 5 framework, but the way I'm organizing class this year follows a few of the basic principles. I have been blown away by the success I've had with this framework.  By the 4th week, the students were asking and teaching each other concepts on their own.  Kids that I would have to hound to do work were pulling out what they needed and actually staying focused for extended periods of time.  I finally feel like kids are working at a pace that fits best for them and there is choice involved.  Students who need more help can get more support because I'm not teaching as many whole class lessons and I can meet weekly with each small reading group (without a thousand interruptions and classroom management issues).

So basically what I do is create a "Daily 5 Board" (Google Slide) for the week. Each of the five categories has assignments posted next to it for that week.  Each day, I start class with a 10-15 minute mini-lesson and the mini-lessons (or whole group learning activities) are also posted on the slide.  All of my students are split up into small reading groups and they are assigned a day that is their group meeting day.  On those days, we meet to work on comprehension skills and to have our literature circle discussions.  The students not meeting with me, select one of the 5 options to work on for that "round." We usually fit two 20 minute rounds in and then usually end class sharing our writing or reading together.  It has been a game-changer for our middle school students!

A few of the best strategies I've used to make it run like a well-oiled machine:

  • I purchased two shelving units that have pull-out drawers. I label one "word work" and one "work on writing" and fill them with any materials we are going to be using for the week (the students pick up what they need from the bin during the first minutes of the round and they replace it when the timer goes off).  I only make about 8-10 copies of the materials (because the students are selecting what tasks they want to do each day, so they aren't all always doing the same thing at the same time) and I slip them into plastic sheets for the kids to use
  • TONS of modeling with the students about the behaviors I want to see during this time for each activity (I let kids read wherever they want during read to self and buddy reading, but I make them sit at their desk for work on writing and word work)
    • for example, students are not allowed to interrupt the small groups meeting with me (Ask 3 before me) 
  • I don't let students do buddy reading until Thursdays to help them prioritize getting the work done that I will be grading
    • There are still due dates for assignments, but now students can make choices about what days they want to work on them (one student's strategy is to complete an activity he doesn't like for the first round, and then the second round, he chooses something fun like reading to self or working on his writing)
  • I've also created a "Daily 5" calendar where they fill in which rounds they selected each day and what they accomplished during each of those rounds
  • I don't let students take bathroom or drink breaks during the rounds
  • Before we begin a round, I ask "Who will be selecting Work on Writing? Word work? Read to Self? Comprehension Strategies? Read with a buddy?" and make them raise their hand. I have found this helps speed up their decision-making process (especially students who aren't planners and would debate all day about which one to actually start on)
  • I set timers that they can see easily and I require the students to switch to a different category each "round" because it creates a sense of urgency to get the work done.
  • Finally, I keep a checksheet for each day's participation and I give a participation grade at the end of the week. I post all of the work (slideshow page, pictures of the spelling lists, diagramming and grammar exercises, etc.) on Google Classroom so they don't have excuses to not have it done.