Throw Out Centers: Empower Students with Dinner and Dessert Instead


Changing Up Your Reading Workshops


Let me start of by saying that I am by no means anti-Daily Five. I have used the D5 every day for the past six years and found much success with it and absolutely loved it. However, after that long, I am finding that myself and my students are ready for something different. Something with a different pace, a little more student choice, and that can easily be embedded into the D5 if I choose.

My students and I have switched to “must-dos” and “may-dos”, or “dinner and dessert,” if you will. Essentially, I make a list of things my students need to have completed by the end of workshops up on the board (dinner), and a list of things my students can work on when they complete their work up on the board (dessert). This gives my students the ability to time manage their own work, but also gives me flexibility with my reading groups. If I have one group I need to see longer, and one that is shorter, I can pull groups however I want. It also gives me time in between groups, because I don’t have 4-8 students standing at my back table eager to get started. Another benefit is that if we have a shorter writing activity that needs to be completed as well, I can have more than 4 tasks for them to complete each day. For example, if we still need to edit our writing or need to finish publishing, I will just add this to our must dos.

Most of our work still falls into the components of the Daily Five, I have a read to someone activity, a word work activity, a read to self activity and a writing station under the must dos each day. But afterward, my students can really pick what their passion is and can get to it. Many of my students love this because they can get caught in a good book and work on that for an extended period of time, or they can get started on a really good story and they are not being interrupted and confused when one workshop ends and it is time for another to begin.

I was also hesitant to do this because I have a computer station and I was unsure how I could organize getting all of my groups on an equal amount of computer times, except this actually proved out to be much easier than I anticipated and my kiddos end up with more time to work on Lexia (a reading program) on the computer than they had before. I just set a timer, and call groups to go onto that when I call my reading groups over. For example, I’ll just say “red group, computers, green group, with me”.

Another benefit is that if my students are all collectively stuck on something, I can just halt my groups or pause in between groups and go help them.

As students complete assignments, we have a designated area for them to place completed work. My students usually have 2 concrete tasks to complete. One of them we grade as a class after all of the workshops, and one of them I have them leave open on their desk for me to go check. This makes it easy for me to spot check work and hold my students accountable for their learning.

I love the responsibility and accountability that this puts on my students each day. If I notice certain students are not getting their work done in an appropriate amount of time, we start making a list of everything that they need to complete before Friday, or it comes out of their Fun Friday time. This usually alleviates any students intentionally slacking off.

My students love the choice that comes with this. This allows students to work at stations with different students other than just those in their reading groups. I also still allow my students to work around the room and use the “center” areas I have set up if they want, or they can set anywhere on the floor or at any desk they want, as long as they prove to me that they are working.

If you are still wanting to do Daily 5, but want to try this model as well, start by putting your five components as the must dos, and the fun choices you have as the may dos, and see how that works for you and your students. I think you will be amazed at how well you and your students respond to this freedom and change.

I do think it is important that you set up clear expectations before implementing something like this in your classroom. Students should know exactly what a completed assignment looks like for each task, and you should have modeled something similar with them before you expect them to be able to complete it with minimal questions about it. You can start at the beginning of the year by clearly modeling each task together, or if you are changing something throughout the year, have students do this altogether the first time.

While I do love this for my classroom, I also recognize that it is probably not what is best for every classroom. I would be hesitant to try this with kindergarteners or preschoolers, but do know a few first grade teachers that have much success with this. I think it is very well-suited for any grade that is second or above.

How It Looks In My Classroom:

In my classroom, we have almost the same 4 “Dinner” items (must-dos) each day. They are:

  • Word Work – Either a workbook page from our reading program or students need to do something with their spelling words, such as sort or use the words in sentences.
  • Read to Someone – Fluency practice. Students practice reading different fluency passages aloud with a partner and answer a variety of questions about the passage with their partner. This is a student-favorite in my classroom and I really just use a variety of passages I have collected over time from various programs and websites for my students to practice, along with our basil reader.
  • Writing – Students read a short passage and answer 4 multiple choice answers on the passage, then answer on short response questions and write a five sentence summary about the passage. We use a program called Read Naturally for this, but there are also TONS of comprehension passages on TpT to pull from for students to do this with as well.
  • Read to Self – My students do this with the writing passage, but also work on Lexia Core 5 or RAZ Kids on the computer to fulfill this requirement.

We also have a LONG list of Desserts (May Dos) that we add to throughout the year, so I will just list some favorites here:

  • Silly Story Contest – All week, I take submissions for our silly story contest. Students need to use all of their spelling words in a story, and the best story wins.
  • Read seasonal books
    Read leveled books
  • Read chapter books
  • Play literacy games (various word work centers that are laminated)
  • Practice spelling words in various ways (whiteboards, magnets, stencils, markers, play-dough)
  • Write a story about anything they want
  • Read or Write in Shared Class Journals
  • Write more in their morning journals
  • Read to someone (only sometimes)

Hopefully you found what you were looking for in this blog post! If you have any of your own successes with this topic, please feel free to share helpful tips or stories below! Check back each Monday in 2018 for a new post on my blog. Enjoy!

Emily - The Mountain Teacher

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