Small Group Instruction Series: Daily 5

Hello Friends!

Today I wanted to pick up where I left off with small-group instruction in my classroom. It's a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and it's a song I'm singing in my district right now. Kiddos learn best in small groups, teachers teach best in small groups, and independence and engagement abound when kids are learning in small it's a win-win-win! Today I want to share how we run Daily 5 in my room.

The Basics

For those of you who are not familiar with Daily 5, it's a system in which students learn to work independently and productively at rigorous literacy tasks. You need to read the book, for sure--there's so much valuable information in there! But, this post will give a very basic overview.

Depending on the classroom:
  • Students have a certain amount of choice in the tasks they engage in. Choice is important because it breeds engagement!
  • Rotations last a certain amount of time (about 15 minutes for me); after each, students clean up and move to the next choice.
  • Structure includes mini-lessons and rotations.

While students are working INDEPENDENTLY on their literacy tasks, teachers are running reading groups. This past year, I had 5-7 groups at any given time, which were created by reading level or a targeted skill. We usually had 2 groups running simultaneously; we saw our neediest groups daily, and others 2-4 times per week based on need (I say we because my coteacher was generally in my room during this time and ran reading groups simultaneously).

Everyone handles this part of Daily 5 a little differently, but personally I like to know that students are getting to their literacy tasks a certain number of times per week while still offering some choice. For example, Read to Self is super important to me, so in their independent work time, my students will always have the highest number of Read to Self slots to fill. Their weekly schedules look like this:

A bit about this schedule. First, the little deer clipart signals that this is a schedule for members of my Deer reading group. Their Teacher Time sessions have already been added onto the schedule for them. From there, I've dictated at the top of the schedule how many of each task they now need to fill in on the schedule. At the bottom of each day, there's a spot for students to reflect on and rate their performance that day (how hard they worked, how focused they were). Depending on which group students are in, the number of times they need to complete a task will vary based on the number of Teacher Times that group has.

The Tasks

Read to Self

  • Students read “Good Fit” books from their book bins independently (Good Fit means that the books are at that student's reading level; there is an entire lesson at the beginning of the year to teach students what that means)
  • There are 3 ways to read a book: read the pictures, read the words, retell the story (again, this is taught and modeled at the beginning of the year)
  • Sit in a good spot for them (bean bag, table spot, on rug, teacher chair, cushion, etc.)
This is from the beginning of the year when we were first learning Read to Self. Students are reading on the rug, in their chairs, on a cushion, and in a teacher chair.

Work on Writing

  • Students write independently 
  • May work on something from Writer’s Workshop, journal writing, etc.—you pick! I will either make this solely a journal writing time this year, or remove it from Daily 5 time in favor of a longer writing block.
  • Sit in a good spot for them (rainbow table, privacy desk, on rug with lap desk, etc.) 
  • Need to know where resources are (more paper, spelling resources, prompts, etc.)
These friends are working in writing journals from Sunny Days in Second Grade at one of our rainbow tables.

Read to Someone

  • Students take turns reading with a partner and checking for understanding; I plan to make a new resource that builds on the "check for understanding" concept and broadens students' conversations about what they're reading. I promise to share it soon!
    Sit EEKK (elbow to elbow, knee to knee), read from same or different books 
  • Sit in a good spot for them (usually rug or cozy stools) 
  • Find partners by raising a hand and asking the FIRST person they meet

 Work Work

  • Students practice spelling words (I have a weekly word list based on the phonics skills we're tackling that week); can be independent or partnered 
  • Tasks are basic but fun: magnetic letters, Wikki Stix, Scrabble tile spelling, Write It! 
  • Sit in a good spot for them (rug or table) 
  • Can be tracked with a bingo board or checklist

These students are doing Sign Language Spelling from 3rd Grade Thoughts.

Listen to Reading

  • Students listen to recorded stories on iPad and follow along with the text 
  • Can be independent or multi-person (headphone splitter or rockstar) 
  • Scholastic is a great way to build your collection! I order the monthly listening library sets when they're available and built my collection over time. You can also record yourself reading books you already have!
  • Can be eliminated/replaced in upper grades

Next Steps

It takes time for students to learn how to do each of these tasks independently and responsibly, so a good chunk of time is spent at the beginning of the year teaching that. Once you're ready to put it all together, your literacy block could look like any of the scenarios below, or something else you create entirely!

My schedule this year will likely look Schedule 2, but I've used a version similar to each of these in the past!

Making Reading Groups

Fall/Mid-Year: Use your DRA data, or whichever reading assessment your district uses! I find that groups tend to be level-based earlier in the year, and skill-based later in the year. I try to switch them up frequently; this could mean every 2-5 weeks, depending.

Other Times: I use post-its from 3rd Grade Thoughts to record reading conferences with students or running records and keep them in a file folder in that child's reading group basket. That way I can easily add a post-it or two to student folders any time I'm running a reading group. These are a great formative assessment that can be used to regroup students by reading level or skill.

The pink thing is half a sheet of cardstock that also lives in each reading group's basket; it helps me and my coteacher track what we did with each reading group and any notes we want to track.
Remember: Fair doesn’t mean equal! I don’t meet with each group the same amount because their needs are not the same. Some groups have Teacher Time twice, Read to Self, Work on Writing, and Read to Someone 3 times, and Listen to Reading and Word Work twice. Others have Teacher Time 5 times and all literacy tasks twice. It totally depends on the kids!


This format gives you so many opportunities to differentiate! Beyond reading groups, students can have personalized word lists, book bins filled with good-fit books, and the freedom to work at their own pace.

Additionally, if you have extra teachers in your room, they can be put to great use here! Special Education teachers, Title I teachers or paraprofessionals can run additional reading groups, phonics intervention, shadow a student, or float to help where needed. 
Book Bins are one of the most important ways to differentiate in Daily 5. I assign books in Teacher Time and offer additional good-fit books from the book room then. However, students choosing their own books is also crucial! I used morning work and Ketchup & Pickle as times when students could change out books in the classroom library.


Listen to Reading and/or Read to Self are opportunities to integrate technology into Daily 5 time. I have monthly Listen to Reading lists on my computer; it only takes a few minutes to update each iPad and change out the books. Another way to do Listen to Reading (or Read to Self) would be to use RazKids or another reading app.

Classroom Management

This all sounds great in theory, but how and why do kids stay on task in this format?

That’s where clear, taught, and enforced expectations come into play. First up, voice level. Students need to understand the voice levels permitted in the classroom from the get-go, and when creating your charts, you’ll need to teach those expectations.

I recommend reading Boushey and Moser’s book, because they do a beautiful job of teaching the gradual release of responsibility.

For each task, they recommend:
  • Making an I-chart
  • Modeling positive/negative/positive
  • Building stamina (starting at 1 minute!)
It takes patience and time to set up this structure, but it is worth it. I usually take the entire month of September to build up to actually trying Daily 5 for the first time. Don’t rush it! Using this process makes expectations known, clear, and ingrained, and I find that I have very few behavior problems, especially because students are engaged!

We add gestures to go along with each item on our charts! This helps to memorize them and give silent reminders to students when they get off task.

I hope this has given you a little clarity on how I run Daily 5 and reading group instruction in my classroom! Please feel free to leave questions in the comments, or share your own experiences!

Happy Teaching!
- Lisa


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