We've been doing things quite differently at my district this year, that I had to almost "start over." I am not half-way (almost) through the year and I am only NOW feeling comfortable and feeling like I am in somewhat of a routine.
One thing that I started doing with my kids was the daily 5. I like it, and I don't. I wasn't able to start it up like the book suggests, being that I did not start the year with the kids that I do have pretty much all day. That could be one reason I am not liking it-----completely. What I do like is how I am running it. I know that seems strange, that I don't like it, but I do. Here's what I did---I do NOT have a chart to tell kids where to go. I read on a blog a looooonnnnnnggggg time ago about creating a bookmark. I can not remember where that blog is right now, but I took that idea and ran with it. I made the posters that are hanging at each part of the room small---and ordered it on bookmarks. I created about 3-4 different versions to be able to make about 20 different/unique rotations. I like how I do not need to remember to "change the chart" or change the names, etc. Because, at the end of the day that is what I usually forgot to do!
Another part that I love about it is the read to someone station. I used to have buddy reading, from Debbie Diller-and had all the fun props and things, but one thing that lacked was their focus. Often times they were playing with the pointers or hats, etc. Now, I have a cutout of a checkmark (not wooden like the book says) and 1 book for the pair. They have done a wonderful job with checking for understanding. Since that is a big thing in first grade, that is the only version we are doing during the daily 5. I make sure to change the books and have a variety of levels in there to stretch their skills, but to also help with their fluency.
Word Word was another station that was causing me stress. I liked the concept. I did not like the "freedom" my kids were taking at this station. Now each student has their own folder with the first 300 words from Fry. I assessed them for the words that they could read and highlighted them yellow. Then I gave the kids the first 100 to spell (not all at once). Those were colored blue. The words that are only yellow, not highlighted or only blue, were the words they are to be focusing on with the letters, wiki sticks, etc. This was pretty good for awhile, but the had become off task... so, I now add 2-3 games that they need to complete in a 2 week time period. I hand out the worksheets that accompany it when I go over the directions. I keep the activities in baby wipes containers that are marked 1, 2 and 3. In each container, I have 3 sets of the activity so that more than 1 person can do it at a time. The students label their worksheets with the number that the game is in when I hand them out in the beginning. They keep these worksheets in their folders with their words. Everything is there-and they see it each day. The games that I have for them usually take 2 sessions to complete.
The time my kids spend at their stations vary, but are usually around 12 minutes.
*A note about my games/stations: I like to have things uniform. My games that I create all have the same "look" to them and generally the same "direction" even if it is a different skill. One thing that I have come to realize through the years is that I wasted so much time with directions. When I keep things looking the same (now, they have different graphics or themes), they become more confident and when I do throw something in that looks completely different, they are not afraid to jump in and try to figure out what to do without asking first. (That is, asking me even after I go over the directions.)