Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The decision to go school-wide with Daily 5

Last year I had a second grade teacher come to me at the start of the year to ask my permission to change her literacy block to implement The Daily Five that she had read about over the summer. I had never heard about The Daily Five, but asked her to tell me how it would be good for kids. She was so excited to explain to me about The Daily Five provides a structure for the literacy block in which students have choices in what they are doing each day: Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Work on Writing, and Word Work. Of course she had a lot more to tell me, but the short end of the story is that I said "go for it." By the end of the year, the rest of the second grade teachers began to implement The Daily Five after seeing the results she was having with her students.

Fast forward to the start of this school year when I was blown away when I reviewed each grade level's reading scores at the beginning of the year. Our third graders started out the year with higher reading levels than previous groups had in third grade. I wondered if it had anything to do with The Daily Five. I began spending a great deal of time in classrooms during literacy blocks.

In classrooms that had whole class reading instruction (in upper grades) or reading centers/guided reading (in the lower grades) I found: teachers put a LOT of work/time into creating centers each week and explaining them to students, teachers spent a lot of time REexplaining centers, students were often off-task, and on average students were only reading for about 7 minutes during a 60 minute literacy block!

In classrooms that followed the Daily 5 structure (some using the Cafe Menu of literacy strategies) I saw kids reading, talking about reading and writing. When the class "checked in" students were activley engaged in a mini-lesson and then decided what their focus and goal was for the next session. I couldn't believe it the first time I heard 23 students individually state where they were going and why, all within 2 minutes. And then, they did it! The entire time I was in Daily 5 classrooms, students were engaged in literacy. Outside of the classrooms, I saw students choosing to read in the lunch room or in the bus line--inlcuding kids that have previously not enjoyed reading. I think the biggest shock for me was when I was reading through the gratitude slips that students submitted to the office and "Skip" wrote that he's grateful for his teacher because they get to read all the time. I knew we only had one "Skip" in our school, but I still stopped and asked my secretary if we had another one, because surely the "Skip" I knew from previous years wouldn't enjoy reading!

So, what do I do with this information that I've gained? I started a voluntary Daily 5 book study in the fall. We had a combination of teachers that already read and had implemented Daily 5 and teachers that knew nothing about it and wanted to learn more. Many of us also attended our local reading council's evening meeting that had a nearby district presenting how they implemented Daily 5. After I decided that we are going to implement this in every classroom next year, I registered 10 teachers to attend the Wisconsin State Reading Association Convention to see The Sisters (although that one got canceled due to the blizzard--boo!). We have purchased DVDs and books for the rest of the teachers that weren't in the book study. We are planning to have a summer training for teachers. I have been encouraging teachers to observe other classrooms that are using Daily 5 and I've been getting substitute coverage for teachers currently using Daily 5/Cafe to check it out in other districts.

Revised on 7/25/12 to add: If you're curious in finding out how our progress has gone since this was originally posted, you can read more about Daily 5 School-Wide and Daily 5 School-Wide Part 2.  Cybraryman also has a page full of resources HERE.


  1. Now I want to read all about the Daily Five. Why is this working in your school? I'm sure that The Daily Five is powerful, but what's just as powerful is that you listened to teachers, you let them go with their research, passion, and you supported it. You also looked at the data and found it supported what you and the teachers were doing. I'm sharing this blog with my reading specialist. Thanks.

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  3. PrincipalJ, on behalf of your teachers whom I don't even know, thank you for listening to and trusting their expertise.

    I discovered Daily 5 about four years ago with only three weeks left of the school year in my grade three classroom. I read it voraciously and dabbled with its structure in an experimental way given our short time left together as a class. The effect was profound . . . pedagogically life-changing, in fact. I started touting its magic to anyone who would listen. My enthusiasm was contagious to a few key teachers. They picked up the torch and ran with it . . . much further than I was able since I moved to a system level position the following school year. There's now a groundswell of teachers using it throughout our district.

    The strengths as I see it (in no particular order):

    - time: teachers have more time to teach & students have more time to learn (hard to believe that's possible, but it's true!)
    - students become stronger readers & writers through authentic reading & writing (not via myriad teacher-created centres)
    - it's a structure, of sorts, not a program... meaning it's not a matter of either Daily 5 OR your district's mandated initiatives. They live harmoniously together in your classroom. Teachers' common-sense is affirmed while they happily absorb the expected high-yield strategies of balanced literacy into the D5 structure.
    - our teachers were well-versed in the components of balanced literacy, but begged for the 'how to' piece of pulling it all together --- D5 and CAFE addressed the 'how' with flying colours!
    - students articulate their thinking at an unprecedented level
    - teachers can differentiate with laser accuracy
    - greater time spent 1:1 and in small groups with students
    - stamina-building process yields remarkable independence
    - student choice yields incredibly high level of student motivation
    - CAFE helps teachers embed current literacy research into the D5 structure

    Honestly, I don't work for the publisher and I don't know The Sisters, but as far as I'm concerned:
    Daily 5 = Daily Thrive!

    I may be heading back to the classroom in September. Without a doubt, The Daily 5, CAFE, and a variety of Web 2.0 tools will underpin all the collaborative projects we embark upon in all subject areas.

    Your teachers are fortunate to have you, PrincipalJ!

  4. Sandra, you had me at "teachers have more time to teach..."

    Principal J, paragraph 3 hits home for me. After teaching for two years, I have learned the hard way that trying to do centers in a traditional fashion is too time consuming and frustrating for both the teacher and students. I am committing RIGHT NOW to finally make the Daily 5 work in my classroom. I have been doing "Read To Self" for 2 years, but never made the dive into the rest of the components. Why? I don't know! Thanks for the push Sandra & PrincipalJ!

  5. SERIOUSLY! paragraph 3! I literally scribbled the web address for this page down in my notes as I'm researching Daily 5, because I want to show it to my principal and every other teacher I work with! Paragraph 3 is the EXACT reason WHY I am looking for a new and better way to do centers/guided reading! I was a first year teacher last year, and getting hired the first week of school threw me for a loop! I learned a TON of valuable information and strategies from the amazing and talented teachers I work with. Maybe going big by attempting this, which is VERY different from the way the other 8 kinder teachers at my school do things, is too ambitious for someone who is still very much learning as I go. However, I got into teaching to help change the world one fireball kiddo at a time. I feel like not jumping into something, even a little scary at first since I don't have tons of experience, would be doing a disservice to the kids and to myself.

    Thank you for listening to your teachers, and for giving them creative leniency in how they structure their classrooms!

    And THANK YOU for writing this, and giving a view of things from your perspective.

  6. I have just started implementing the Daily5 & CAFE this year (after 21 years of teaching). I can't believe the difference in my classroom, students and me! The culture in the classroom has changed from previous years to one of truly student centered learning.

    Students love the structure and predictability that the Daily5 and CAFE provide. I love that students are reading DAILY for 20 + minutes! I am hoping that my students successes will reflect their hard work as I truly believe this structure will work. Since it is my first year there is some trial and error and the kids are helping me through it.

    I am telling every colleague about it who will listen to me. I love your book group idea and may suggest it for the summer. Reading some of the comments here makes me think that it is not too late for others to start using this structure. I was worried I wouldn't be able to incorporate our districts new reading program. It has not been a problem at all - I have found ways to use the materials during the Daily5.

    Your school and district are so lucky to have such a visionary as you! Its amazing to think of all the children who will love reading through your initiative! Congrats.

    Thanks for sharing.

  7. I would love to see an update on how the D5 is rolling through your school. The thing I love best about the Daily5 is the flexibility it presents. I've had to re-engineer my D5 process for my first graders this year, as what I had done the last two years didn't work for them. My kids get so excited when I tell them it's almost time for D5. I've never seen such student buy-in.

  8. Thank you for being an open-minded principal, focused on instruction and methods that are good for kids!

  9. Some of us "teacher bloggers" did a Book Study on the Daily 5 book this summer:
    I can't wait to start this fall!

    Sally from Elementary Matters

  10. Please, please listen to the reading experts regarding Daily Five. Please ask Schmoker, Allington, Taberski what they think of Daily Five. This is the latest fad that is not evidence based. It does not account for the needed time to teach reading or writing thoroughly.


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