Choosing The Daily 3 in the Upper Elementary Classroom

As a fifth grade teacher, I was excited and hopped on the bandwagon of the Daily 5 in 2010. I loved the structure, loved the purposeful activities, and loved how it seemed that my students were engaged from the get go.

But as the first few weeks of establishing routines, and building stamina came to a close, I noticed that not all of my fifth graders were engaged or using their time wisely with all the choices. I knew right away that changes had to be made.

When looking at The Daily 5, I analyzed what choices seemed to be the most troublesome as far as classroom management. "Read to Someone" came right to the forefront of my list. Yes, "I" charts were made, routines were established, and stamina was practiced. But as soon as I started my guided reading groups at the back table, read to someone became an issue. I could see that students were not always fully engaged with their reading partner, and I sometimes had to interrupt my group to remind the students what their job was during this time. It became clear to me that this choice would be abandoned in my fifth grade classroom. They just didn't need to read aloud to each other anymore.

The second Daily 5 choice that I eliminated was "Listen to Reading." This choice involves having devices in the classroom that students can use to listen to literature. My first dilemma was that I did not have anything to start with. I had to get a radio that had a tape player, then find tapes to go along with books. Once I had that set up, only one student could use it at a time. My school district purchased a device that would allow four students to listen to literature at the same time, but this became a management issue as well as I could see students not using their time wisely sitting next to each other. This was my second Daily 5 choice that went by the wayside.

I was left with three choices: "Read to Self," "Word Work," and "Work on Writing." These became the foundation for my Daily 3 rotations during the school year.  Below are some helpful tips and ideas that I have used to implement these three components in my classroom.

1. Read to Self
This option is the most important one to me. This is a chance for my students to read books of their choice independently and to practice fluency and comprehension. This is a must choice every day for my students. The only requirement I have is I would like them to read from a variety of genres throughout the school year. They keep track of the books and genres they have read on a simple log in their reading notebooks. We have a free chart that you can download here.

Daily 5 Read To Self Poster FREE

It is easy to get the students excited about books for read to self, either from my personal classroom library, or books they could check out in the school's library. I do book talks and even sometime show book trailers that you can find online. Click here for one such website that has numerous titles. This gets them fired up to read!

2. Word Work
Word work has evolved quite a bit in my classroom. What started out as daily task cards has turned into a weekly word study. On Monday students are given a set of words based on a spelling pattern at their level. They are to determine what pattern(s) the words can be classified into. On the next day, they write down those words onto paper based on the categories they discovered. The third day is dedicated to sorting the words once again and using them in meaningful sentences. The sentences have to have at least five words and cannot begin with "I." The fourth day is two-fold. Students once again sort their words, but then they write them in cursive. You may hear moans and groans, but the practice of sorting and writing them in cursive will help them remember. The fifth day is always quiz day. You can match up partners from different lists and have them write their sorts on paper to be handed in. I can then check the papers and if there are any students that struggled with the sort, I can meet with them and see what issues they were having. This option basically ran itself after I got it up and running in my classroom.

3. Work in Writing
The number one goal of work on writing is for students to continue to work on the piece that they were doing during writing class. However, there are times that students are either done or that there was no assignment. During these times, I love for students to have the freedom to write about what they want. To give them a little guidance, I created 40 engaging writing choices that my students could pick from. They loved the variety, and it made writing time during Daily 3 more exciting for them. You can download the writing choices for free here.

FREE Great Writer's Race Q & A, Writing Rubric, Activities

If you would like 15 FREE Daily 5 Resources (that does include read to someone and listen to reading), you can access them by clicking here or on the image below!

Here is to a successful Daily 3 schedule in your upper elementary classroom!


  1. Thank you sharing your Daily 3. I have been trying to get this started in my classroom and think I am on the right track after reading your post. However, I am struggling how to manage the rotation in upper grades with Ipick books and class novels. How do you rotate through the the 3 choices? When you are pulling groups do you focus on reading comprehension strategies or something else?

    1. Kori, those are all great questions. I do 4-15 minute rotations during the hour long guided reading block. The students must do a read to self choice and a word work choice (that is their Words Their Way time). One of the other choices they are meeting with me for groups, and then the fourth choice can be a work on writing or another read to self (If students want to do read to self twice I am OK with that!)

      I use a combination of fiction and non-fiction. We have a class subscription to Scholastic News which is already common core aligned. For fiction, we do mostly novels at the fifth grade level. We focus on a strategy or two based on the CCSS for each lesson. I hope this helps!

  2. Having moved from third to fourth last year, my challenge is how to incorporate the much larger class into reading groups. This information helps me with the day students aren't with me. I so appreciate this insight. :)

    1. Malena, thanks so much for your response! It is always a challenge every year. This year I have 26 students so my 4 groups are manageable, but not ideal.

  3. Having moved from Kinder to 4th, all I can say is, Thank god I found you guys! I will be following you throughout the year.

    1. Thank you so much. The group of teachers that post on this blog are all phenomenal! We are just honored to be part of this group!

  4. I loved reading this! I, too got enthused about the Daily 5 after I had taken a workshop with "the sisters". And then I had the exact same experience as you with my 4th graders. My "Listen to Reading" turned into my 15 min read-aloud that I do every day while the kids have their snacks. (That's listening to reading, right?!) My "partner reading" got switched out for class choral reading with poems (Think "Joyful Noise-Poems for Two Voices" and I split the class into groups. I might do this once a week or so. That's a fluency activity, right?) I'm thinking Daily 5 is great for Primary Kids, and the scaled back "Daily 3" works way better with the upper grades. Thanks for your post (and affirmation)!

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