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Questions and Answers Contact    
Many questions from YOU!


Many of you take the time to email us with your thoughtful questions. We decided this would be a place to post the most frequently asked questions and responses so others may share in this learning. 

For more FAQs take a look at our FAQ section on our new site
The Daily Cafe.


Q1: Phonics Instruction with Primary Students

Question: Hi Sisters, I have read your book online and am anxiously awaiting its arrival in the mail. I think our district is constantly trying to find the best way to teach reading. We have had book clubs based on the Mosaic, Strategies and Reading with Meaning and have now spent many hours training and implementing the Foundations and Frameworks program. We are inservicing on curriculum next week so my question is (after all of that background!) what do you recommend for phonics instruction at the 2nd grade level (or is there any research that you would find helpful for our work)? Thanks for sharing your ideas and expertise.

Answer: Thanks for the note.  We find that with our phonics instruction (as with everything else we teach) there is no ONE magic program that works for all students. Research suggests that the "window" for phonics instruction ends by about mid to late 2nd grade, depending on the developmental level of the child.  We are finding that really working with our Kindergarten teachers and children in phonemic awareness has shown great rewards. Then based on our one-on-one assessments, we provide the appropriate phonics instruction.

We love the phonemic awareness book by Marilyn Jaeger Adams, Barbara R. Foorman, Ingvar Lundberg and Terri Beeler called Phonemic Awareness in Young Children: A Classroom Curriculum. With our first and second grade students, we assess using the Word Feature Analysis found in Words Their Way. Based on the results of the Words Their Way assessment, we then weave into our shared, guided and one-on-one instruction the pieces we find our children needing.

So, long answer made short, there is no one magic program. The focus should be on building GREAT phonemic awareness with our K's, using a combination of strategies and resources, along with great accuracy strategies. Watch for more information coming about the CAFE' menu on our website, which will include videos of Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency and Expanding Vocabulary strategies.

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Q2: Daily Schedule

Question: I am trying to look at and plan our daily schedule. What does your teaching day look like?

Answer: We get this question a lot. Even though our schedule changes every year (in terms of lunch, recess and specialists times), below is our current schedule that we have in place. One of the frustrations we frequently hear from teachers is the lack of “big chunks” of time to focus on literacy. Keep in mind that one of the wonderful things about Daily 5 is that you have the flexibility to complete the 5 rounds in chucks throughout your day. For example, you could do one round before you head to library, the second round before recess and another round before you head to lunch. Daily 5 works well with various schedules.

Here is our current schedule in our K-2:
8:40 – Open Classroom – Students come in when they arrive at school. They put their things put away, chat and book shop during this time.
8:50 – School begins
8:50 – 9:10 or so – Whole Group Shared Reading
9:10 – 9:30 or so – Morning message, shared writing, calendar
9:30 – 11:50 Daily 5/ Writer’s Workshop
11:50 – 12:50 Lunch and Recess
12:50-2:00 Math
2:00-2:30– Science/SS, Art, Student Initiated Time, Research
2:30 – 2:50 Recess
2:50 – 3:20 Chapter Book

*Specialists: 2 days/week, one am and one pm

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Q3: Tracking Students’ Daily 5 Choices

Question: How do you make sure that students are practicing all 5 Dailys and not making the same choices everyday day?

Answer: Part of what makes The Daily 5 so effective, is that children have the opportunity to practice in the five areas that research states are essential in improving student’s reading and writing. However, some children will inevitably attempt to choose their favorite, most comfortable part of the Daily 5 day after day, without practicing in the other areas. To help redirect and encourage our students to make appropriate choices, we have created a “Check In” before each round of Daily 5.  In our book, The Daily 5, on page 94, we write about the “Check In.” We have children tell us their plans before we send them off at the beginning of each round.  Each time they check in (at the beginning of each round), we mark it (as shown in the book) on our clipboard so that we can monitor their choices and, if needed, redirect them to make a different choice. You can find the “Check In” form we use now available in Resources 4 you! Hope this helps!

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Q4:  Balancing the basal and meaningful work for all children.

Question: I'm a fourth grade teacher who just loves your philosophy and your book. Although I would love to use your system, I don't know how comfortable I am going away from the basal. Do you have tips that would help me do both and still cut down a lot of the paperwork as well as keep parents happy?

Answer: Thanks so much for your message.  We are glad you enjoyed our book!

We get many people asking the basal question. We know that basals are a wonderful resource, but are also aware that they are not the magic bullet, as they cannot meet the needs of each and every child in our class.  That being said, we also understand that some districts and schools require the use of the basals. 

We begin each year, whether using a basal or not, by doing a one-on-one assessment with each child in our class. We use DRA and/or IRI and running records along with a couple of other assessments.

Once the assessments are given, we are able to see the strengths and needs of each child and the level in which they read (If we have kids who are in 4th grade, yet read at a 2nd grade level, or the opposite end, read at a 6th grade level, then the 4th grade basal stories are not the best fit for them). We then put our children into like strategy groups, grouping them together based on their similar needs in terms of strategies used in reading.

Now, using the basal….We teach the skills presented in the basal as whole group focus lessons, as pertain to the needs of the class (Of course we know what they need because of their assessment results). For those children who need more extensive work with those skills included in the basal, we use the basal strategies during their guided groups.  (You can refer to the form on page 14 of The Daily 5 to see how the guided groups and whole group focus lessons fit).

We also use the stories in the basal only with those children for whom it is the appropriate reading level.  The wonderful thing about the basal skills is that they can be taught with ANY story, not just those found in a basal reader. So if you have kids reading below level and they cannot read the basal story, you can still teach the skills highlighted in the basal- just pull books at their good fit level!

This is a very brief answer to a big question! We are hoping that it can give you a bit of a different look at using the basal as a resource and letting your philosophy drive your instruction! Hope this helps.

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Q5: 4 Types of Assessment

Question: I just ordered your book and it won't be here until the 19th!  Ugh!  I read on your site that you are referred to as somewhat of assessment gurus?  Our school is making some fast, not so good for kids, changes. Our literacy coach wants to use DIBELS as our only assessment.  As a first grade teacher, I know that doesn't even sound "sound."  So I have 1 week to put together a proposal for an assessment package.  Does your book cover assessment?  Do you have a few ideas?  I'd love your input.  Can't wait to get your book and see you in Portland in October!

Answer: We have all felt the "assessment woes" just as you!

Here are some thoughts (in a nutshell) that may help!

There are 4 types of assessments:

  1. Screening: Taking the child's temperature, so to speak. DIBELS is a great one for this. It is quick and lets us know if we need to dig deeper right away. It is given to every child, but is not diagnostic.

  2. Diagnostic: For primary readers, we find the very best diagnostic assessment is the DRA. It can also be used as a screener (as we do at my school because we give it to EVERY child who reads at K-2nd grade level). Once children are able to read at a 3rd grade level, we move them into an IRA (we love Burnes and Roe). Both of these assessments are diagnostic and can inform and narrow our instruction.

  3. Progress monitoring:  This requires us to check back and see how instruction is impacting student progress.  Tier two and three kids get progress monitored quite often. We use the DRA to monitor progress.

  4. Outcomes: These include your state assessments.  They don't really drive instruction.

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Q6: Building Stamina with Students

A note from a website reader regarding the Building Stamina Phase of Daily 5

Question: I just finished reading your book and my head was filled with all kinds of wonderful ideas as a result.  Thank you for your concrete suggestions and wonderful ideas in your book.  I have a question about procedures during the stamina building training period of the Daily 5.  When the teacher goes to the assessment/small group area during the training time, the teacher just sits there quietly, not making eye contact right?  Does the teacher do this all the way up to the 30 minutes total time during the entire training period?  Don't the kids wonder, "Why aren't you doing YOUR job on the I-chart---working with students?"   Or after a few days do you begin working with students? Or do you model reading quietly or writing quietly during that time?  I'm just confused as to what I should be doing during this training stamina-building time.  I'm used to circulating and giving feedback and now understand why that may be counterproductive to independence.  Can you please advise me?

Answer: Hi! Glad you enjoyed the book.

During the building stamina training period, as soon as the kids are able to have stamina for about 5 minutes, we begin our one-on-one assessing during their practice time.   This gets the class used to us working in our teaching area and hearing our very soft voice while they work on their Daily 5 choices.  It also allows us to diagnose our students’ reading so that by the time all Daily 5 choices are up and running, we will have our assessments done, and be ready to work with small, flexible groups and conduct individual conferences.

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Q7: Materials Used During Work on Writing and Word Work.

Question: I am wondering about where you store writing supplies and the kinds of supplies you use with Work on Writing and Word Work.  Thanks so much!

Answer:  Thanks so much for the note. For writing supplies, we do not have desks in our room, so our writer's notebooks are stored in tubs in one area of the room (see the photos from Trading Spaces on the front page).

Once the kids who have chosen Work on Writing are released, they go to their designated tub, grab their writer's notebook, pick up a pen or pencil on their way to their writing spot and get started.

Some of our children sit at tables, some on the floor, and other various spaces in the room (once again, see photos from Trading Spaces). Part of the building stamina phase of beginning Daily 5 is teaching children where they can sit in the room, and how to make the best choices for their own learning and the learning of others.  Nothing fancy for materials. We use the composition notebooks for all writing (see Ahh Haa Moments – our Featured Favorite for how we cover our kid’s notebooks to personalize them).

As far as materials for spelling, you can do it with as little as white boards!  Currently we have in our rooms:  white boards, Wikki Stix (www.wikkistixcom), magnet letters, stamps, play dough and just plain paper.  Anything will work, but we find that nothing too elaborate is always best.

Hope this helps!

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Q8: Guided Reading and the Daily 5

Question:  I loved the Daily 5 book! Do you have any suggestions about pulling students for guided reading during the Daily 5? Do I make myself part of the "rotation" or do I just pull students as necessary? I would like to meet with each group everyday if possible wihout them missing components of the Daily 5...Please help!

Thanks for your time,
Beth Parson

Answer: Hi Beth,

We just pull our groups as necessary.  Here is how that looks:  When the focus lesson is done, we call out the children with whom we would like to have a "book club" (guided group).  The rest of the class checks in and we dismiss them.  We meet with our group for no more than 10 minutes, then we either give them an assignment or have them tell us which Daily 5 choice they are making now, send them out to join the rest of the group, then we get up and begin our one-on-one conferring.

The number of "rotations" we have time for each day is how many guided groups we do each day.

Hope this helps!

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