A Powerful Voice for Choice in the Classroom


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Are you among the countless teachers who struggle with providing choice during Daily 5? Are you fearful that chaos might erupt if students are allowed to choose what, where, and when to read? Such fear hinders many teachers from fully implementing Daily 5. Mike Anderson’s work might help you make the leap to providing choice, not only during Daily 5, but also in other parts of your students’ learning day. In Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn: The Key to Student Motivation & Achievement (2016), Anderson outlines why choice is such an effective teaching component, how you can provide simple choices and build to more complex ones, and how to make decisions about choice that are developmentally appropriate for all ages.

Asserting that choice is a learning strategy, Anderson says that “teachers need to help students think about choices before they make them and teach the skill set involved in making appropriate choices” (p. 10). That is exactly how choice is implemented in Daily 5. When you launch each of the components of Daily 5, you use the 10 Steps to Independence, letting students know exactly what is expected of them. They practice what Read to Self looks and sounds like, as well as what it doesn’t. Students are gradually empowered to choose where to sit and what to read, but they don’t have free license to misbehave or be off task.

Anderson discusses the benefits of choice, arguing that it helps overcome the common challenges of differentiation and apathy. Who doesn’t want to be able to differentiate for each of their students and thus avoid the apathy that children often display when confronted with a task or assignment? With the choices built into Daily 5, students are engaged in meaningful, purposeful, appropriate literacy experiences because they’re excited about them, not because the teacher has instructed them to do so. That is the power of structured choice.

Anderson also suggests putting the decisions that teachers typically make about how kids learn best into students’ own hands, arguing that “Learners must understand how their minds work in order to use them effectively for learning” (p. 62). Anderson discusses how to build the skills of metacognition, self-reflection, and self-assessment, which also aligns perfectly with Daily 5. Students are encouraged to reflect on their thinking and the choices they’ve made when they gather together after a rotation of Daily 5 or when they’re conferring with their teacher. Each time children help set their own goal or decide on a strategy to employ, they’re using these skills.

Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn has affirmed for me that using choice during Daily 5 is incredibly powerful. If you are reluctant or just need more motivation, talk with colleagues who are providing choice, and take a look at the amazing resources on TheDailyCafe.com. If you want to truly implement Daily 5, you must offer choice.


Anderson, M. (2016). Learning to choose, choosing to learn: The key to student motivation and Achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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