Daily 5 Activities
A few years ago, all the teachers at a faculty meeting were
given the Daily 5 book. As the books were distributed, we were told that we
would be required to use the system outlined in the book to teach ELA. I have
to be honest… as an upper elementary teacher, I hated the Daily 5 when it was
first introduced to me. I struggled to make the Daily 5 activities meaningful
for my upper elementary students.
Then, my school sent me to the Daily 5 conference which was led by the creators, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser (also known as “the Sisters”). There, my perception of the Daily 5 completely transformed. While attending the conference, I learned strategies to make the ELA program work for me. Since then, I have been effectively using Daily 5 activities for upper elementary. Now, I want to show you how you can make it work too! In this post, I will answer some of the most common questions asked by upper elementary teachers.
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What is Daily 5?
Before sharing Daily 5 activities and tips, I want to briefly
explain what it is. The Daily 5 is a way of teaching ELA that encourages
student autonomy. Students are given a series of reading, writing, and word
tasks to complete while the teacher meets with individual students and small
groups for guided instruction. The system for teaching ELA was first introduced
in The Daily 5, which was published in
If you are interested in purchasing The Daily 5, here is my Amazon affiliate link to the book:
What Daily 5 Rotations Work Best for Upper Elementary?
At first, I disliked the Daily 5 because I did not feel that
all five rotations were relevant to upper elementary. At the conference, the
Sisters explained that the Daily 5 is not meant to look exactly the same in
every classroom. Rather, it should be modified to best help the students in
each class. After hearing that, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from
me. I realized that I no longer had to use rotations that were not beneficial
to my students.
The Daily 5 rotations introduced in the book are:
- Read to Self
- Read to Someone
- Listen to Reading
- Word Work
- Work on Writing
Read to Someone and Listen to Reading are intended to help
students with accuracy and fluency, which are skills most upper elementary
students have already developed. So, I do not use those two rotations. The
Daily 5 rotations I encourage upper elementary teachers to use are Read to
Self, Word Work, and Work on Writing. Since I only use three rotations, I refer
to these as the Daily 3 in my classroom.
What Daily 5 Activities Work Best for Upper Elementary?
Like the rotations, I was relieved to learn that Daily 5
activities do not need to look the same in every classroom. Here are a few of
the activities I use with each of my rotations.
Read to Self
It is important for students to have time to read for fun
each day. For my Read to Self rotation, students are expected to find a book
and a comfy place to read for the length of time given. For this to work, it is
important that students are allowed to choose what they read. When requiring
students to read a specific text, they usually do not develop a love for
reading. Requiring a specific text can also lead to students getting off task.
Some teachers like having a way to hold students accountable
during this time. If this is the case for you, use a reading log for students
to write down what they read each day. If you want to incorporate technology
into your ELA block, have students submit a reading log using Google Forms.
This will keep all of the students’ Read to Self work in one place, making it
easy to review and check.
Another way to keep students on task during Read to Self is by using book bins. Require students to keep a certain number of reading materials (books, magazines, passages, etc.) in their book bins at all times. When it is time for Read to Self, students just grab their book bin and get started reading. I buy these inexpensive book bins from Amazon at the start of each year. Students decorate the book bins and take them home at the end of the year.
For Word Work, students can use spelling, vocabulary, or Word Study words. I have more than 20 Word Work activities included on task cards in my Word Work for Upper Elementary resource. When it’s time for Word Work, students select a task card with an activity and get started. Some of my favorite types of activities include:
- Use Technology: There are many ways to incorporate technology into a Word Work center. For example, students can create a slideshow with their words using Google Slides. You could also have students use Flocabulary words as their Word Work words. Flocabulary is an online program that uses catchy songs and fun games to help students grow their vocabularies. Flocabulary does require a subscription fee, but I have found it to be well worth the money. If you use Flocabulary words for your Word Work station, students can use the digital activities and songs that are part of the Flocabulary site when they work at this station.
- Partner Activities: Not all Word Work activities have to be independent activities. Have students work with a partner to play games with their words.
- Create Something New: Students can also create something with their words. For example, students can write a short story that incorporates their words and
drawa picture to go with it.
Work on Writing
The Work on Writing station can be used to have students
work on a specific writing assignment or to give students an opportunity to
write for fun. There are three types of fun writing options that my upper
elementary students enjoy.
- Journals: At the beginning of the year, I give each student a notebook. When I give students their notebooks, I also give them time to decorate the covers and make them personal. Students store their journals at the Work on Writing station. Occasionally, I will read what students write in their journals and write a short response to one of their entries. Not only is this something students enjoy, but it has also helped me to build relationships with my students.
- Pen Pals: If you are like me, you love getting hand-written notes. There is something special about someone taking the time to write you a message. I think this is why students of all ages love writing and passing notes at school. Just like us, they love getting hand-written, personalized messages. For this reason, I love using a pen pal program as part of my Work on Writing station.
- Fun Writing Prompts: I also provide an assortment of writing prompts that promote creativity and critical thinking at my Work on Writing station. My writing prompts resource has more than 100 writing prompts that I use throughout the year.
For more tips on how to create Daily 5 activities, check out the Daily 5 Activities for Upper Elementary video. This video contains activities and suggestions that are not listed in this blog post.
What is the Teacher Doing While Students Complete Daily 5 Activities?
While students are rotating through the stations, the teacher is meeting with students. Sometimes I use this time to have individual reading and writing conferences with students. Other times, I use this time for guided instruction with my reading groups. In my Daily 5 for Upper Elementary resource, I have a guide that explains how to keep your classroom organized during Daily 5. In the guide, I explain how students should rotate through stations and more about what the teacher should be doing during this time.
How Do I Keep Students On Task During Daily 5 Time?
Another challenge teachers face when using Daily 5 is keeping students on task. The solution to this problem can be found in the Daily 5 book. The Sisters say the success of this program is dependent on building stamina and expectations. It is unreasonable to expect a fifth-grade student to read for 30 uninterrupted minutes without practice.
During the first days of school, start building stamina. Tell
students to find a book and comfy place to read for five minutes. During that
time, they may not talk or move. When the timer goes off, students should quietly
get up and return to their seats. Every day, add one to two minutes to the
timer until you build up to about 20 minutes.
Also, remember to slowly introduce Daily 5 activities to
students. At the Word Work station, do not allow students to choose from 20
activities on the first day of school. Instead, give students two activities to
choose from. When they have mastered those activities, add a third activity. As
students continue to master the tasks you give them, add a new activity to the
As elementary teachers, we feel overwhelmed by the amount of
content we have to teach. It is easy to think we do not have enough time to
build stamina and teach procedures, but these things are so important. By
taking the time to develop good habits, you will ultimately save yourself time
throughout the year as you will not have to stop to review expectations.
Is Daily 5 for Upper Elementary?
If you would have asked me this question a few years ago, I
would have said “no way!” Now, I don’t want to teach ELA any other way. There
are a few things that are key to successfully running Daily 5 for upper
elementary. First, make sure the Daily 5 activities and stations are relevant
and appropriate for your students. Second, take time to build stamina and
practice good habits at the beginning of the year. Finally, do not be afraid to
adapt Daily 5 to meet the needs of your students. If you do all of these
things, you are sure to find success using Daily 5 activities for upper