Posted in general education, literacy, math, mind, more seeds, special education

Using the Daily 5 and Daily 3 in High School

A New Normal

I’m having flashbacks of teaching my self-contained high school last spring.

Kids on Zoom, coming to school anywhere between 7:45 am and 6:00 pm. Kids leaving to go to the store, go to the bathroom, go on the trampoline, go to sleep. Sometimes, they didn’t “leave us” to do those things (another flashback to reminding a student that he was taking the whole class with him to the bathroom – yikes).

I had great lessons prepared, and had worked out the technology kinks ahead of time. But I was exhausted by the sheer MOVEMENT of students into and out of this little window of space in front of me. At any given time, I could have two black screens, one student twirling a toilet brush like a baton (I’m not even making that up), one student with her head thrown back and mouth gaping open in a snore, two students saying, “Miss, what do I do…” or “Miss, I need help,” all while I’m trying to coax another student to NOT go to the grocery store with his mom and stay in class at least until 11:00. Oh, and don’t forget texting/emailing/calling students who have “ghosted” for the day. 

Because I work with students who have a multitude of behavioral health and academic needs, I also need to build in time to explicitly teach rules, routines and procedures that would help them build the skills they needed to be advocates for themselves and lifelong learners. Students need to learn how to wait, how to use their time wisely, how to find and submit work, how to use on-screen etiquette ~ all skills that will benefit them in post-secondary or workplace settings.

One reason I love teaching summer school is that I have a small group of students that I can experiment with for the next school year. They love being the experts in the fall, and I look like I’m an expert, too, because I had a chance to fail, refine and reimplement for 6 weeks.

Over the past summer, anticipating some form of online learning would take place, I practiced my old, elementary workshop model. The workshop model allowed students to still get individualized attention (even if that attention was a phone conversation on the importance of coming to school), while allowing kids to take a break from looking at the entire class for a period of time and practice the skill of coming and going ON A SCHEDULE. Kids appreciated the customization, fewer students fell behind on work, and the movement on the screen was more predictable.
hybrid learning workshop
Managing student needs in a hybrid learning model can be challenging. Use a workshop model to help organize student needs ~ and create structure! {Image credit: (c) 2020, Kim Bennett. All rights reserved}

Workshop: The Daily 5 and the Daily 3

The Daily 5 is part of a learning model (the Daily CAFE) developed by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, two sisters who also happen to be elementary educators and literacy experts. Their model uses kid-friendly language to explicitly teach students all the skills in a comprehensive literacy program, as well as the self-regulation skills that they need in all subject areas. The original model was designed for K-5 students: however, more and more secondary educators (and not just SPECIAL educators) are finding that it presents an elegant way to manage a classroom of diverse learners, give them time to work with individuals and small groups, and manage the classroom at the same time.

The Daily 3 is a similar learning model, focusing on math instruction in a workshop model.

Two paragraphs in a blog post do not do these learning models justice. I encourage you to check out their website, or even become a member (as I did this summer). Fear not if you are a high school teacher – there is a large community of secondary teachers who are members of the Daily CAFE.

What is the CAFE? How do I use the idea in a secondary setting? {Image Credit: 2013, Duncan C via Creative Commons}

Adapting the Daily CAFE Model for a Secondary Setting

First, I took the liberty of creating high school-sounding equivalents for the “5” and the “3,” leaning toward terms that my students would already recognize.

Element in the Daily 5… Becomes This in My Classroom
Read to SelfIndependent Reading
Read to Someone{Part of Conference with the Teacher OR Assessment}
Listen to ReadingChallenge Reading (with audio support)
Work on WritingWriting
Work with WordsWord Work or Vocabulary
The elements of the Daily 5 and what they look like in my classroom

The elements of the Daily 3 model, and what they become in my classroom.

Element in the Daily 3… Becomes This in My Classroom
Math by MyselfIndependent Math OR Skill Practice
Math with Someone{Part of Conference with the Teacher OR Assessment}
Writing About MathMath Applications
The elements of the Daily 3 and what they look like in my classroom

I also added Math Games, using Greg Tang Math and other resources, as a fourth element for math instruction.

In person, I’ve used partners and small research groups for literacy and numeracy work ~ I’m working on using the Zoom break-out rooms for this work. Stay tuned for updates!

Creating Instructional Groups for Workshop and Conferring

I did not change my procedures for creating instructional groups. To start the year, I will group the students using any convenient means, and assess their starting point during my first round of conferences. Because I’ve had my kids multiple years, I used roughly leveled groups, using their overall levels in reading and math, and will change my groups in a couple of weeks, based on conference data.

Planning for the Daily 5 and Daily 3 in High School

There is really no difference between planning for the Daily 5 in high school and in elementary school. The only difference might be the time you have available to use the model each day.

I am fortunate to have a self-contained classroom, and, because we have a school-wide focus on social-emotional learning, I have greater flexibility with my schedule (out of necessity). I DO, however, teach all the subject areas. I put together a schedule which divides my day into literacy/social studies (a.m.) and numeracy/science (p.m.), and thought about each class period (48 minutes) as 3, 15-minute segments: a mini-lesson, and two student tasks. Instead of letting students choose their tasks, I rotated the daily 5 and daily 3 elements through their schedule for the week, as well as my times to confer with students individually and in groups.

Here is a sample schedule of my school day:

But I Don’t Have a “Workshop-friendly” Schedule

No worries. 

If you have a set schedule by subject: Mini-lessons and groups address learning needs. Some are subject-specific (e.g., finding differentials); others cross all content areas (e.g., setting up a notebook entry). Think of your instruction as a week-long process: if you teach 5 classes a day, you have 5 mini-lessons and 10 student tasks = 15, 15-minutes blocks to fill. Plug in your conferences into the 10 student tasks, and sprinkle your mini-lessons and skills in accordingly – don’t worry if they cross into other content areas. This is where thematic teaching works well – kids (and administrators!) don’t say, “Why is this writing task in their math block?”

If you teach traditional sections: Again, think of your classes (now, they’re sections – maybe 4 sections of freshman biology and one of AP biology, or 5 sections of pre-algebra and 1 section of geometry). It might take you longer to “rotate” your students through the different elements, or you might assign one element to each day of the week. You might use the same framework for 3 sections of algebra, but a different framework for a 4th, because of the student needs. The point is, flex it however you need to – just think about your class period as 3 blocks of time: time to directly instruct, time for students to practice and apply skills, and time for you to work with specific groups of students based on need.

How do I Begin with Workshop and Groups?

Right now, on a piece of paper, I want you to think about your last group or section of students, and write the students who:

  1. Needed help reading the text
  2. Had difficulty following the directions
  3. Needed more time to copy notes from the board
  4. Were absent frequently
  5. Had para or Special Educator push-in support
  6. Were English learners
  7. Didn’t pay attention the first time you gave directions
  8. Frequently finished before the others
  9. Had more than one place to be during your class (e.g., speech services, band rehearsal)
  10. Needed a movement break

We’ve already come up with 10 “groups” for you to think about – and you don’t need all of them! My advice is to think about what you already do to support these kids, and PLAN for it, instead of reacting to it when it comes. Start small – one student, one need, one group, one section, one class period. Add more as you feel comfortable (because the kids adjust faster than we do!). Be okay with regrouping and trying something new. Invite the kids’ feedback. 

empty desks
Starting groups for workshop can be as simple as forming a “catch up” group for students who missed school earlier in the week. Start with what you already have! {Image Credit: naosuke ii, 2004 via Creative Commons}

A Workshop Planning Tool… for You!

I created a thinking tool for you! It represents a self-contained day with four subject areas, but you can modify it to make each “rotation” a separate section or day – whatever works for you. Feel free to modify it, change the names of the elements – whatever makes it easier for you to start. 

Secondary Workshop Planner FREE
Download a planning template for your secondary workshop classroom. Click on the image, make a copy and edit it to suit your own needs! {Image Credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2020}

I’d love to hear how it turned out for you!



Mom of four, Nana to seven, homeschooler, special educator, and lover of all good things... striving to do His work every day.

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