Reading Workshop Management- a LONG post, but worth it:)

It has taken me years to figure out what works for me during Reading Workshop. I have read SO many books and tried a lot of different things. When I tried just doing centers, then there was always the problem of kids who get done so quickly and others getting off-track and end up not getting anything done. I also couldn't keep up with changing them out weekly. It made every Monday just too crazy.

Then I read the CAFE and Daily 5 books. I LOVE those books. There is so much I learned and it really made me look at how I teach and set up reading workshop. As much as I love daily 5, I found it wasn't quite what I needed either (by itself at least). I know what you're thinking-I probably wasn't doing it right if it didn't work for me. I'm not saying it didn't work, it's just that I found some of my kiddos getting bored and they MISSED the centers.  It sounds crazy, but they just loved to do those activities.

Soooooo, I've come up with a combination of the two. It sounds complicated, but it's really not once you get going. My kids are on auto-pilot by this point in the year. They are engaged, they are learning, and they are reading and writing like crazy!

You've probably seen my center menus if you've been following me for a while. Each month, students get a new menu, full of literacy centers. This is just a portion of reading workshop. Every day, students do a center from their menu AND daily 5. Having a menu helps the kids to stay organized, have a sense of accomplishment, and track their progress. They are excited to see how many they've completed, and motivated to complete the ones that are left. I've been doing the menus for a while, but incorporating Daily 5 is new for me. This is how I do it:

Reading Workshop

The short version:

  • Whole class mini lesson: 5-15 minutes
  • Rotation 1:   15ish minutes
  • Rotation 2:   15ish minutes
  • Rotation 3:   15ish minutes
  • Sharing: 5 minutes (usually, but not every day)

The long explanation:

I begin each reading workshop with a whole class mini-lesson. This lasts anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes, depending on the day. At this time I:
  • introduce or review a strategy from our CAFE board
  • Introduce, create or review an anchor chart
  • Model strategies
  • Give reminders regarding daily 5/centers (things I've noticed from the previous days that may need reminders or that need reteaching.)
  • On certain days: read aloud (modeling and applying CAFE strategies)
    • Confession: I end up doing a lot of my read alouds during snack time. They are all sitting and quiet and they really get into the story. I am able to have so many teachable moments, but they feel like they're just being read to for fun:)

Rotations: After my mini-lesson, the kids are ready to get started! They check the reading board. 

(I've blobbed out their faces so I could post it, so it looks a little creepy. Sorry!)

It's sort of hard to see, but the little sign under each column say:
  1. Centers
  2. Daily 5
  3. Guided Reading

  • This poster shows you that I have 4 groups (blue, red, orange, purple) and 3 rotations. 
  • Everything on this poster is attached with velcro, so I can easily change it (including their faces)

Notice how 3 out of 4 groups get to do all three activities (centers, daily 5 and guided reading). For time reasons, one group doesn't get to meet with me for guided reading, so they do extra daily 5. I rotate the color square (with the kids' faces) daily, but I usually still try to meet with my struggling reading daily and my more advanced readers just a few times a week.

Some weeks I want to do more one-on-one with kids, so on those days every group has daily 5 and centers (and no guided reading). On those days, I can do assessments, conferences with students, and check on students' centers. I think both guided reading groups AND one-on-one conferencing is important, so I allow myself that flexibility.

To spice things up even more, I switch the groups around based on ability for a while, then maybe I'll switch groups based on a particular skill (like they recommend in the daily 5/cafe books). With the latter option, you may have a variety of levels in one group, but they are all working on the same skill.

The velcro faces on the reading chart are for my hands only. Students also have their own velcro face. This face goes from their book boxes to their daily 5 poster to their center poster. (I know, it sounds crazy, but it works!)

  • When they are doing centers or they are in guided reading groups, their faces just live on their book boxes. 
  • When they are doing daily 5, they put their faces on this chart to show what they are doing:
Once they choose, they stay until the end of the rotation (just like in the Daily 5 books)

They take their book boxes everywhere! In the book boxes are:
  • books
  • writing notebooks
  • pencil
  • center menu

(Sorry for the bad picture!)
 I put their numbers on the front. Beneath their number is the velcro strip for their picture.


Why book boxes?
Since they have their book boxes, they have fewer reasons to wonder around the room. They are expected to clean up a center when they are done, but then they have everything they need in their book box. Since everyone does only one center a day, they don't need to put it back right when they are done. They can clean up, and stay where they are until the the next rotation. They have their book boxes, so they can read or write while they wait for the next rotation. This is the main thing I got from the Daily 5 books. I LOVE using book boxes. It truly helps with the commotion. 


  • They choose which center to do each day. 
    • For some sweeties, this is too much to choose from. For those kids, I choose for them, or I may narrow it down by saying "today you need to do something from the word work section".
  • They get their centers from these folder holders:

  • Folder covers match the pic on the menu. 
(under reading is the rebuild a poem)

  • Folder covers have a label to show which holder it came from
  • They take the folder to a place to work (don't forget-they have their book boxes too)
  • Max: 2 kids per center (but this is a privilege. If they are too noisy the day before, then only 1 person per center and no "buddies"). Many, many days I choose to have no buddies, so only one kid per center.

  • I ring a bell to show that it's time for a new rotation (I give a 3 minute warning too). 
  • We get 2-3 minutes to clean up and switch. 
  • They make sure they've colored in their menus to show which center they completed. If they didn't finish, they color it in half way to remind them to finish it later. 
  • They put unfinished centers in book boxes and turn in all finished centers.

Coming soon...
  • I ntroducing the menu each month (especially at the begiining of the year
  • How to manage guided reading groups with early finishers or slow starters. 
  • How I set up writing notebooks
  • How to grade/keep track of centers
  • Planning for reading workshop
I'd LOVE to hear from you! What do you do? What have you learned through experience? Do you have any tips for me? What do you think?

I know this was a long post, but so overdue. I've had quite a few questions about the center menus so I hope this post was helpful. :)

PS. This was such a long post, but I didn't have time to edit it. I hope there weren't too many spelling/grammatical errors! If there were, I'm sorry. :)

Here are all the menus I've made:

You can find them at my TPT store or TN store (links on the sidebar) 


  1. Wow! Thank you for your in-depth explanation! Hoping to incorporate some of your ideas into my classroom. With the program we are doing at our school, there just doesn't seem like there's enough time.

  2. That's very impressive, Sarah ! I have book boxes, too, which I love. We don't do reading centers or daily five cause I just couldn't stand the noise :). My method is to have everyone do quiet reading, then everyone does buddy reading, then everyone does a literacy type seat activity. I wish the kids had more choice like yours do ... I love guided reading groups though and have been doing those for about 18 years now. But I really need to do the whole class mini lesson first like you. That's where I can never seem to find the time.
    Take care.

    Grade ONEderful

  3. As a sub, I've noticed that one district has switched over to Daily 5/Cafe.

    But from there, I've noticed that each teacher kind of does their own thing. All the teachers do mini-lessons.

    One teacher I know has a few activities for word work that kiddos can choose from like wikkistix, stamping letters, or other stuff. So she kind of does have centers for her Daily 5.

    Journey of a Substitute Teacher

  4. Do you have an April menu yet?

  5. Sarah, I started incorporating your center menus into my Literacy rotation in January since my centers were not going as well in years past. My kids love it!! I see such a change in their engagement. I read the daily 5 as well but felt I needed more. I never heard of the Cafe Book so I will be hitting amazon after I post this :)...During my literacy block I do the following: I have 4 groups(red,blue,green,orange). They complete 2 rotations per day(Tues., Wed.,and Thurs,), I do whole group reading lessons on Mondays/Fridays. These are the rotations: Center menu, smart board/read to self, buddy reading, meet with me, and computers. They go to center menu twice through their rotation. When I am meeting with a group I wear a princess crown so the kids who are not with me know that they have to wait until I take it off to ask their question or ask a friend. I don't know if it helps but I thought I'd share :) My superintendent walked in last week and just watch my kids interacting in centers. He just couldn't get over how engaged they all were with all the things going on. Thanks for all your help this year :)

  6. Thank you all for your comments! I love hearing what everyone does for reading. Michelle, you made my day!!!! Thank you for sharing this. :) :) :) I'm so glad that you are enjoying the centers.

  7. Sarah,
    I stopped by your site because I love your Fairy Tales unit and low and behold, stumbled upon how you set up your Literacy Centers. You may have just helped me with a light bulb moment! I've been doing Daily 5/Cafe this year and as much as I loved it at the beginning of the year, am struggling to keep everyone engaged. The kids and I also seem to need a little more accountability.

    Thank you so much for sharing how you incorporate Daily 5 with Center work. I think some of the kids do miss the center time as do I. I will also be creating your Daily 5 board this spring break to test out at the end of the year.

    I can't wait to hear more about your reading program. Share, share!

    Kristi Leland
    (1st Grade teacher in Seattle)

  8. Sarah,

    Thanks again for explaining how you incorporate the Daily 5 and reading workshop. I just couldn't seem to figure it out so that everyone was doing what they were supposed to do WHEN they were supposed to do it. I also use book boxes that hold their "just right" books, writing folder, and poetry/reading log-reading response folder. It seems logical that they keep the book box with them the entire time, so if they finish with word work early, they can use the in-between time to write or read (maybe add a couple "high interest" books for that specific purpose.

    You are enlightening me today... Just what I need right before the start of a new school year!

    :) Camille
    1st grade teacher

  9. Hi Sarah -

    I love your post and just read the Daily 5 this summer. I'm going to try to start it this year, but am feeling overwhelmed about the changes in my routine.

    For your menus for each month, and for all your center activities, how did you decide how to organize into those categories, like reading, writing, etc... did that all come from a book?

    I have tons of file folder center activities but don't know how to organize them.

    Thanks for sharing!!

  10. Sarah: I just came across this post today. In our building, we are moving from guided reading groups to D5/CAFE and most of our teachers are feeling tramped in a whirlwind. Your scenarios make for such a nice transition. Our kiddos are very mobile (upwards of 1/3 will move this year making consistency hard and likewise, we will get 1/3 new throughout the year) so using something like Guided Reading to establish routines when we are also trying something new seems so simple! Im going to share your post with our teams! Thanks for making it seem so easy. Hoping that it will work out! GREAT POST!

  11. Awesome post! You seem super organized, obviously the key to success in the classroom. I am teaching first grade this year as this is my first year and I have used your literacy menus from December & January...they were a big hit and very cute. I am planning to use other ones that you have for March, etc...because there were some key skills. I love how you do a mix of daily 5 and centers from the menu. I, too, am doing somewhat of a similar center rotation. Thanks for you ideas!!!! :)

  12. I'm a little confused and it might be because I haven't read the daily 5 books, but I see you have word work and writing on your literacy center menus, but you also have it in Daily 5. So what do they do for word work and writing during Daily 5? How is it different? I'm trying to figure out how to fit your ideas into my schedule because I love your ideas! Would it be OK to take word work and writing out of daily 5 and just use the monthly menu? I would really appreciate your feedback on this. Thank you!

  13. I have been trying to decide which one I should do - Daily 5 or Readers Workshop. Thanks for showing me a way to make it work for my kids. Only problem with this is there isn't a print friendly button somewhere :)

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  15. I feel the way you do. You are just a step ahead if me. Can I get copies of your menus. This is mh second year teaching. My first year was 5th grade, and now I get to teach second grade. I love, love, love your ideas.

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  17. Hi! Do you have a blog post on all of the bullet points you put under "coming soon" at the end of this post :)?

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