From Daily Five Dropout to Center Success!

First, I must admit— I am a Daily Five dropout! #dontjudge  I really, really, really wanted traditional Daily Five rotations to work in my classroom. We rolled them out, we built our stamina, we practiced, we gained our independence…. but after a couple months, it was obvious that it just wasn’t working for my group of learners this year. I know lots of amazing teachers who love Daily Five, but I knew my firsties needed something different.

What I loved about Daily Five rotations was the easy preparation, simple routine, and emphasis on reading and writing. I didn’t need to constantly make cutesy games, and I didn’t lose teaching time explaining new directions for activities. So when I went back to the drawing board, I created new center rotations that kept my favorite parts of Daily Five.

At my new centers, I wanted my kiddos to work in pairs. When they were in bigger groups, there was more talking, and certain kids in each group always did the marjority of the work. I settled on 11 centers so everyone who was not at my teacher table had a center. Our intervention block lasts for an hour so I rotate centers every 15 minutes. Throughout the hour, I call different reading groups to work with me.

Here are the centers we love….

Draw and Write

Kiddos complete a simple directed drawing, add details, and write about their pictures. (I love these drawings made by From the Pond.) In my sample, I try to include some new words we are learning. Even if they copy my sentences, they are practicing our new skills.

I hang a directed drawing and work sample. In the center basket, we keep plain paper, pencils, crayons, and clipboards.

Magnetic Letters
Kiddos read and build sight words using magnetic letters. They can also read their sight words in phrases. Some firsties are good at reading sight words, but have trouble spelling them or reading them fluently in text so these activities really help!

I post our new sight words and a ring of sight word phrases. I keep a box filled with magnetic letters beside our giant automotive drip pan.

Window Words

Firsties write words with patterns, such as word family words, on our classroom window by the door. We focus on our newest pattern, but they can also practice writing words from any pattern from our word family wall. (You can check out the posters here.) They love writing words on the window and knowing that people in the hall can see their work!

I hang our newest word family posters. I put dry erase markers and felt squares (erasers) in a magnetic basket inside the window frame. It’s super simple set up and clean up!


Over the years, I got several different magazine subscriptions in my classroom. I saved one of each issue and laminated them if they were just a few pages. Kids read the magazines and record their new learning. Sometimes all of the magazines focus on one topic and sometimes there is an assortment of topics. (This basket focused on frogs.)

I put several magazines in the bin with pencils and recording sheets or a blank pieces of paper. I use small pieces of paper, because there is only so much writing kids can get done in 15 minutes if they are reading first.

Smelly Spelling

I save my fun writing utensils for this center. I always keep Mr. Sketch markers there, but I also put in silly and seasonal pens. Students can choose to write individual word lists or write their words in sentences or a story.

I hang our spelling words for the whole month. In the basket we keep smelly markers, fun pens, and 2 sizes of lined paper (one for word lists and one for sentences.)

Read and Write

Kids pick books from the book rack. Some of the books we read together the previous week and some of them are new books. Atfter reading, students write about the books using a response sheet. The responses may included facts from non-fiction books, story elements, or character thoughts and feelings.

I set out books that are focusd on one topic, author, or character. I hang a work sample that shows a response to a book we read together. In the basket, we keep response sheets, pencils, crayons, and clipboards. (You can grab response sheets for winter, Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day in my store now. Click here for the Martin Luther King responses.)

Read to Someone

There are no surprises here! Kids sit together and read books from their independent book baskets. They love the matching mini chairs from Target or squeezing together to fit in my teacher chair. You can see them reading together and talking about books. I also allow students to “shop” for new levled books for their book bins at this center. 

The only supplies here are chairs or empty floor space. Partner bring their own book bins. 


I am lucky enough to have 6 ipads in my classroom. At any given time, 3 sets of partners can be working on ipads to practice their reading skills. We store all of the ipads together, and I have one student tech assistant who helps make sure everything is put away and charged. 

Big Books

You can always pick out the future teachers at Big Books! Students read big books together and take turns using the teacher’s pointer. They also take turns being the teacher and asking their partner questions. I just rotate the books being displayed. 

When I first realized Daily Five centers were not working, I was reluctant to change. Now I am thrilled that I tried something new that works for ME and for my LEARNERS! 

Center Success

I got so many requests for my center signs that I created signs and rotation board cards for every classroom! Click on the picture to check them out!

Emily Yerty

Emily Yerty

I’m a teacher who believes in creating a classroom kids love and activities that keep them engaged all day!

21 Responses

    1. Thanks Megan! I felt like if I quit Daily 5 that it meant I wasn't doing it right. Now I realize my class this year just had different needs. I hope you found some ideas that will work in your classroom too!

  1. This is so helpful! My first graders (and I!!) am really struggling with Daily 5 also. Can you share how you organize rotations of this? Do they rotate weekly? Is there a chart you use so they know where they're going? Thanks again!

  2. Sometimes you just have to change to do what is best for everyone in your classroom, including you, right Meagen?! I use the blue chart with the picture cards to rotate my groups. Beside each line of pictures I have a card with 2 student names (I didn't want to put their names in my post). I rotate the name cards every day so each day they are at a new set of centers. During the week, they do repeat some of the centers, especially ipads. I am working on making a set of center cards and posters now so look for those soon!
    Thanks for reading my post!

    1. My students are accountable for their behavior at centers every day. If I observe them being silly or off-task, they must redo that center rotation during a later time. The centers are designed to be open-ended so the expectation varies for different students. I might expect some to write three sentences after reading a text while I might expect others just to record a list of key words. After each center, they put their work samples on their desks and I do "center checks" two or three days per week. I reward students who did outstanding work. I also choose work samples to talk about before our next center rotation the following day. I have found that positive reinforcement often pushes them to do more than the minimum! It worked out really well for my group this year!

  3. I’m VERY excited about using these center signs in my classroom in the fall!! But when I click on the picture, I cannot find the resource on your TPT. Help!!

  4. Such a great read! In my first year of teaching I kept 10 centers throughout the whole year. (I teach kindergarten) and this past year I switched halfway to 5 centers only and I just felt I wasn't providing a variety for my students. Glad to see through others that having a lot of centers is okay! I am going back to 10 centers always this year. I had one question about your library nook. I noticed you have a black shelf for some books in the middle of the seats. Where did you get that? 🙂 Thanks

  5. I would like the center "I can" signs too!!! They would be perfect with your other resources. I love the real life photos for my English learners!

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