In blogposts and via Twitter some teachers report that the Daily Five routine is often ‘tweaked’ to suit their classroom constraints. Less apparent is the ‘tweaking’ that is done to match a teacher’s pedagogy, their beliefs about how learners learn and how teaching works. If you believe that the eye and ear work best together in the reading process, then you may set up the ‘Listen to Reading’ activity to ensure that the students are looking at the words as they are hearing the words. If you believe that the teacher only must conduct all small groups focusing on fluency, you may like to reflect on why you believe this and how it affects your students’ learning. The smooth running of the Daily Five machine in my classroom, such a beautifully organised literacy system, might just lull me into omitting my questions: WHY do I use it, why do I modify or ‘tweak’ it, and do these ‘tweaks’ improve the literacy learning?


This question was an important part of the discussion at AISV with Rosalyn Muir and her colleagues. I say yes for three reasons: the Daily Five and CAFE books centre around real reading and real writing, with no worksheets or iPad drill apps mentioned. The Daily CAFE book guides the teacher to actively teach literacy – this certainly helped me to lift my teaching game. The Daily Five book is very prescriptive about setting up the literacy classroom, describing routines, book selection, systematic assessment – all helpful to the graduate teacher.

My words of advice to the graduate teacher: follow the recommende first three-week setup period closely, as detailed in the Daily Five book. Subscribe to The Sisters’ members-only materials for the first 3 months, as it’s helpful to access their videos to get a better idea of what they are talking about. Connect with other teachers using the Daily Five, via blogs or Twitter, and request an online colleague to mentor you throughout your Daily Five journey. Don’t be in a rush to be the perfect Daily Five teacher: improve your literacy teaching craft by focusing on one aspect per term, for example conducting writing strategy groups. If you encounter opposition to the Daily Five within your school, go quietly about your business of teaching the Daily Five without using the title. In this day and age of shared teacher learning and collaboration, it’s hard to imagine but in-school colleagues may talk negatively about your efforts to try something new as if it’s some sort of cult!


Have you ever noticed that some of more capable students love doing lower-order tasks and enjoy drill-based games? Are they avoiding the hard work of thinking? The Daily Five routine can easily accommodate this – if the teacher permits or prefers. I question the use of set reading comprehension tasks, writing prompts, spelling tests in the Daily Five session, as I believe these limit choice and therefore student independence. The greatest literacy potential of the Daily Five lies in the students themselves employing oral language in higher-order thinking opportunities: making a book promotion video for peers, a group reflection on the best way to learn your spelling, giving feedback to a friend as to why you love their rich sentences. Student involvement and initiative in the mini-lessons and strategy groups can make all the difference. The Daily Five session can be rich student-centred literacy rather than ‘schooly’ routines that control students nicely.


It is a difficult job managing classroom time so that the Daily Five is a relaxed student-choice-based routine. Many Daily Five teachers conduct separate literacy sessions for class blogging, word study and Writers’ Workshops. The explicit teaching in these separate sessions is the ideal moment to model problem-solving in literacy, impart expert literacy knowledge and to raise the bar on what is expected from students. I have decreased the length of time of my explicit teaching, to maximise the time students themselves spend on actual reading and writing during the busy day. One effective way of decreasing time while maximising effectiveness is to prepare explicit lessons beforehand, screencasting using screen recording tools and iPad apps. The Daily Five system has been a great way for me to examine and increase students’ daily reading time.

It is also a tough job allocating time to student Inquiry. A prescriptive -and effective – literacy system such as the Daily Five takes time, and it’s very easy to proritise these lessons that ‘work’. I have struggled with the smooth integration of our class Inquiry learning into the Daily Five. It hasn’t been enough to supply the Daily Five readers with books about cultural celebrations when conducting an Inquiry on this. The only way I have managed is to put Daily Five sessions ‘on hold’ for a few weeks whilst the Inquiry takes centre stage. Isn’t literacy a useful toolbox that is essential to Inquiry?


Any literacy system I use must be interrogated, to keep my eye on the ball of my students’ literacy learning. How do I interpret and then ‘tweak’ a literacy system, and is this based on how I learnt and succeeded at literacy when I was a young learner? Am I aiming for a quiet, controlled classroom and somehow then omitting the foundation stone of good literacy – oral language, and also the power of collaboration? Am I meeting the needs of all my students? Please post your questions in a response to this post so that I may continue my interrogation of any literacy system that I use.



  1. I have used Daily 5 in the past and I use some of their ideas in my French class this year as well. The other teachers in my wing are just getting on board with Daily 5 this month and it’s interesting to see how they are tweaking it. For example, one teacher wants so desperately to include work sheets to make sure her students are working and another doesn’t want to involve writing because he wants to only do writer’s workshop so his Daily 5 has become just a reading time mostly.
    My class switches to English in February and I’m looking forward to doing Daily 5 and Cafe again.

    1. Thanks for your comment Jeannie. How fabulous that you have applied Daily Five ideas in your French class. In the midst of all these different ‘tweaks’ that you and your colleagues are doing, I hope that you are managing to have some rich conversations that all get back to: ‘what IS literacy?’ and ‘How do students learn?’

  2. This is my first year doing the Daily5. I will say that I am more in tune to my students as readers this year than ever before.

    One point that you bring up really caught my attention: The greatest literacy potential of the Daily Five lies in the students themselves employing oral language in higher-order thinking opportunities. This is where I think I have fallen down as I am constantly questioning whether or not I’m working in those opportunities. I think the Daily5 is a perfect vehicle for this.

    Will be coming back to this and rereading it! Thanks for your wonderful post.

    1. Thanks Nancy. I love your comment about being more in tune with your students through Daily Five.
      The oral language focus for me is important as I believe it is the foundation for all other literacy. It’s not easy to put oral language on centre stage during the Daily Five setup period. I just have to provide other opportunities for oral language in this period, and remember to capitalize more on it when the Daily Five is running smoothly.

  3. I haven’t actually used daily 5 as I have not been in a classroom of my own for about 6 years now. I have read a bit about it and seen it in action. I think you have hit upon the most important element in any teaching “program” and that is don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. (Learning good language skills as opposed to a quiet, orderly classroom) Your intention to maintain a reflective approach, question what and how you do things is the crux to continued improvement both for yourself and your students. How you assess your students growth in your daily 5 approach and compare it to other “systems” or “programs” is important as many standardised, summative assessments may not capture the deep and transferrable understandings you seem to be aiming for. I think your blogging will help you identify what it is you value and how to identify and record this as wellas how to “tweak” the daily5 to meet your (and your students) needs.
    Keep up the great work!

    1. Thanks for your words of encouragement Heather. If you would ever like to pop in to check out my Daily Five classroom, you are welcome – in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

      1. Your thoughts about the Daily 5 have raised some very interesting points about real literacy learning. Creating a learning environment that inspires, engages and encourages student independence sounds achievable by implementing the Daily 5 and making it your own. Like Heather, I have been out of the classroom for over 5 years now and as a curriculum leader, I am always interested in learning about rich, student-centred learning programs. Currently I am focusing on developing the Literacy workshop in the Junior school and was wondering if you would be willing to share your knowledge with other educators?

      2. Thanks for your response Jodie. Thank you for the invitation to share knowledge with other educators. This can be done by inviting me to your school, visiting my classroom, following me on Twitter @brettelockyer, viewing my class blog at I also suggest joining in the Twitter Daily Five discussion hour, usually at 10.00am AEST. Follow the #D5chat hashtag.

  4. Hello Brette,
    I have been enjoying your posts. I like the fact that you highlighted tweaking based on the needs of the students. Every group we get each year is different from the last, so being flexible is key. I love the Daily 5 and CAFE, and I have grown tremendously using this management method with my students. This year in our multiage classroom we are using the foundation of the program, but change the time flow each day based on student needs (meaning students are encouraged to change up the strategy focus or book every 10-15 to get the most of their learning time, and we ask them to integrate some of the jobs like “while reading to self reflect in your notebook as you go” or “as you are writing to self on the computer research as you need to”).

    A question for you: do you integrate student self-assessment into the Daily 5 time?


    1. Thanks for your comments Celina. Daily Five has also been for me a brilliant source of my professional growth, through implementing and interrogating. I have not factored in any regular student self reflection time in the Daily Five rounds. This could be another goal for me now! I think I will go with an oral ‘turn to a partner’ reflection rather than a written one.

  5. Love this part 2 post too Brette!

    Of course the Oral Language component is the platform to all literacy engagement, attainment and potential. It is paramount to get this foundation up and running as an integrated and permanent part to any literacy program. Thanks for bringing this important aspect to the forefront and I hope we can get into this much deeper throughout the year.


  6. Brette,
    I am a Daily 5 worshiper! I met my real life heroes, the two sisters, this fall. I skipped lunch today to peruse the Peony Room on Pro Teacher- a daily 5 group of teachers. There was a link to your blog. As a second grade teacher, I find it uplifting to read a more adult genre! Your blog was amazing. I am in the 6th year of D5 and Cafe. When teachers say “I don’t have time.” or “How do you have time to meet with small groups?” Daily 5 is my answer! I have 1 and 1/2 hours of small group intervention, at least, EVERY day. It takes priority with our schedule and our “being” in our classroom. It is my favorite time of day and has completely altered my way of teaching.
    Check out the Peony Room! Would like to see more of your posts there!
    from Illinois

    1. Thanks for your response Candace. Wow, six years of Daily Five. Is it true to say that the students’ amazingly positive response to Daily Five is our biggest encouragement? I am sure your students are like mine, and berate me when there is no time to squeeze in Daily Five. Thanks for the Peony Room link.

  7. Hi Brette,
    Thank you for sending me the links to your blog. Since meeting you and having the amazing opportunity to visit you in the classroom, I have been researching the Daily Five and The Cafe model of teaching literacy. The ideas and routines are great and I can’t wait to use them in the classroom, when I am there next. I have been looking in to adapting it to Maths and what that might look like – so far I have just been playing around with ideas.
    Again, thank you so much for enlightening me with your knowledge and skills as a teacher, I appreciate it.
    Warm Regards
    Kristin Humphreys

    1. Thanks for your encouraging words Kristin. There is also the Daily Five Maths system. The Sisters, I believe, are in the process of writing a book about this. If you follow the Twitter hashtag discussion group on Saturday morning, 10.00am Perth time, you might be able to join in the discussion and ask any question about both Daily Five Literacy and daily Five Maths. #D5chat I look forward to catching up with you sometime in Perth when I am over!

    1. Thanks for the link, Tina.It’s a useful suggestion contained in there. Our class inquiry this term is a science-based one. I hope to incorporate science vocabulary words in Word Work, offer science big books for ReadtoSomeone, offer science-based iPad apps such as DangerOz for ReadToSelf. I also intend to conduct focus group work for science reading and writing. One way of ‘covering’ content has been to conduct oral language-based focus groups based on our inquiry topic. Sounds ambitious doesn’t it? I hope to lead the students into CHOOSING to learn with these science-based materials, rather than forcing them. Choice is still critical. Can I make science tasty and attractive so that students choose it themselves? We shall see!

  8. Hi Brette,
    I first heard of Daily 5 late last year and set about reading the books. I implemented it in 2nd term of this year. A CRT who took my class in term 2 for a week was amazed at the difference in independence in my Year 1 children in just the first 5 weeks of term. I just love the flexibility of the program and how it allows for greater differentiation and catering for individual needs.
    It is great to read about other teachers implementing this in their homerooms.

  9. I want to begin the Daily 5 this year in my 3rd grade classroom. When do you teach the mandated objectives like inference, main idea, predicting, etc? Maybe I missed something in the books.

    1. This is something that I also worry about as a graduate teacher. How can I incorporate the program in with the departments objectives and my schools planners?

  10. Brette I actually emailed you a while back about visiting your class thinking that you were in Perth … but much to my disappointment …. you aren’t. I am still desperate to visit a Perth based Daily 5 established classroom and was wondering whether you have any new contacts over here who would be open to a visit??

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