Monday, November 12, 2012

Daily Five and Common Core?

Recently, I received a question about the appropriateness of the Daily Five to the Common Core. Interesting question….

I think the purpose of the Daily Five is to provide teachers with a curriculum framework that guides them to spend time on a certain set of activities. Many teachers embrace it because it gives them a way to make sure a variety of things take place in their classrooms each day. Teaching is a complex job and frameworks that help simplify choices can be very useful.

Although the Daily Five plan bears a superficial resemblance to what I used in the Chicago Public Schools, it differs from my approach in at least one big way: it focuses on teaching activities rather than on learning outcomes. “Reading to someone” or “listening to someone read” are fine activities, so I don’t oppose them, and yet, there are enough pressures on teachers to submerge themselves in the activities at the expense of the outcomes.

The Daily Five ensures that certain activities are included, but this can be a real distraction from making choices that support student learning. I’d much rather have a teacher, wanting to expand students’ vocabularies, who decides to read a book to them to facilitate this learning, than one who is going to read to the kids and can either seek a purpose for it or not.

There are lots of ways to a goal, and I deeply respect the teacher who has a clear conception of what she is trying to accomplish and the choices that entails. Starting with the activity instead of the outcome, however, allows someone to look like a teacher without having to be one.

That’s a big difference, and I think the common core separates itself from the Daily Five even more. The common core state standards emphasize goals –not activities, and they provide a specific delineation of the specific levels of demand or complexity or quality that has to be evident in performances of these standards. Nothing like that in the Daily Five.

Obviously one could combine the Daily Five and CCSS. “I’ll use the Daily Five to guide my lesson planning and I’ll aim those lessons at the goals specified by the Common Core.” Lessons are always a bit of dance between goals and activities—and, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter where you start out as long as the two are closely and effectively connected in the implementation.

The Daily Five establishes a very low standard for teaching by emphasizing activities over outcomes, and by not specifying quality or difficulty levels for student performances. Teachers can successfully fulfill the Daily Five specifications without necessarily reaching, or even addressing, the standards.  

Perhaps, teachers could animate the Daily Five framework with goals and proficiency standards from the common core. I think any of the activities could be stretched or shaped to somehow address the core standards. And, yet, I wonder if it’s worth the extra time this represents. What does it add?   


Peter DeWitt said...

“Although the Daily Five plan bears a superficial resemblance to what I used in the Chicago Public Schools, it differs from my approach in at least one big way: it focuses on teaching activities rather than on learning outcomes. “Reading to someone” or “listening to someone read” are fine activities, so I don’t oppose them, and yet, there are enough pressures on teachers to submerge themselves in the activities at the expense of the outcomes.”

My teachers have been using the Daily Five for many years now and I have had concerns in the past as to the relevance of what students are learning. Fortunately, those conversations I have had with teachers have led them to making sure that what they offer in the Daily Five is relevant. I’m certainly not taking credit for this, but just stating that the professional conversations have helped.

I guess what I’m wondering from reading your blog is why is it such a bad things to have some learning activities included in Daily Five rotations? After all, the Daily Five is used with students from kindergarten through fifth grade and I wonder why there would be harm in finding a balance between having students engaged in activities (which may offer a brain break) and having them engaged in rotations that would offer learning outcomes as well. Perhaps those activities would bring back some creativity in the classroom.

Thanks for your time.

An interview I did with the two sisters.

Tim Shanahan said...

You are absolutely correct that a teacher can make this scheme work well for kids, and that there are many good things in it. But fundamentally there is nothing in the DNA of this plan that ensures anything of the kind.

I'm very much a fan of time-based frameworks and have used one of my own for a couple of decades. One problem in this case is that the 5 divisions do not all address issues of equal importance (we've got a mix of those things proven to improve literacy and those things that might). And there is nothing in the basic scheme that focuses teachers on the learning outcomes themselves (though, of course, there is nothing here that would prevent a teacher from imposing her own overlay on this plan--in fact, I'd encourage that).

As a teacher I read to children every day, and would still do so if I were teaching in the primary grades. But the value of this in terms of student reading development is far from proven (though it is absolutely clear that being read to in the preschool years gives a boost to language development). In this case, 20% of the language arts time is spent on that. The word work seems fine to me and very much in line with the research. That seems pretty unequal.

That the students spend 20% of the time reading is very good, except that this could be reading on their own (which has been found to have anything like the learning impact of reading a text with the teacher)... Devil's in the details.

I received an email from a teacher about this plan lauding it because it gives the teacher guidance in what kind of productive work to engage kids in, which frees her up to confer with individual students who may be having problems. I sure like the individual teaching time, but if she is serious that the kids spend most of their activity time on their own, then my concerns are even greater given the research findings indicating the importance of explicit teaching in student learning. She did indicate that she was in an upper income district--all of her students read on grade level or higher--so I'm not very worried about those kids... in many schools the challenges are greater and it is essential to have a more specific emphasis on student learning (rather than student activity) and on explicit instruction rather than students just having an itinerary to work through on their own.


Peter DeWitt said...

Hi Tim,

Thank you. It definitely depends on the make-up of the students as well as the expectations and expected outcomes. Your explanation was really helpful.

Anonymous said...

I have many concerns with Daily Five. There are so many independent literacy tasks that cover 2 hours. This amount of time would squeeze out quality interactive read alouds, writing instruction, shared writing, reading instruction, shared reading, science instruction. Students need more direct instruction from their teacher. Do teachers need to provide 4-5 minute mini lessons every day? Please advise school districts who are adopting this without talking to the experts.

Tim Shanahan said...

There is no research on mini-lessons so the idea that you have to provide them or that you have to provide them every day is silly. Keep your focus on learning rather than on activities--make the activities come from the learning goals (not the other way around). The cart here is definitely pulling the horse.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen any journal articles on the problems with Daily 5? I would love to see an article by a reading expert on the subject. How much time do you think should be spend on independent literacy tasks after proper and thorough reading and writing instruction is provided? It seems there is only 30-45 minutes left in a day. Would you say that Read to Self is the most important task? One used for many years by highly skilled reading teachers.

Tim Shanahan said...

Research has not been especially kind to sponsored independent reading. It is certainly important that children practice their reading, and the better readers certainly read more than the other kids do, but setting aside minutes for such reading in a classroom, does not usually have a positive impact on achievement (while reading and discussing with the teacher, reading nd writing assignments, etc. do).

Reading to self is important, but it is not as effective as reading communally with a teacher and classmates. Schools should teach reading and encourage and enable students to engage in reading beyond school.

MomInReverse said...

I have to agree with the opinions of Dr. Shanahan. I am a parent of a now 2nd grader who did okay/well in kindergarten (PALS score 95/grades were pretty good) but struggled with reading in 1st grade. She was still grasping to learn some basic phonics and language arts principles. Her experienced (16 years) teacher, I believe, was forced to pilot at Daily 5/Cafe 5 program. I volunteered in the classroom during the entire 2.5 reading/LA period once a week. In my opinion & based on my observations with this approach, I believe that it fails miserably when used with students who are just beginning to read in the first grade. The students who struggled with reading --those who were in Title I, PALS tutored, and were like my daughter--doing a little better than these groups but not quite up to par, did not progress and did not benefit from the new 'approach.' There wasn't a whole lot of explicit instruction going on in the classroom. They were expected to be independent learners and simply read and write on their own without any interaction from their teacher (except for one 20 min. period where she met with small groups of 4-5 students). Making choices and being independent sounds great, but young minds that are 6-7 years-old need to be taught, guided, and read WITH in the classroom--not alone or to another child. My child's writing did not improve by more than 10%--no one was paying attention to it! There were about 12 children who began reading at a much higher than first grade level when the year started. These children did seem to improve somewhat--but even these students, I feel, could have excelled further if they were not forced to use the Daily 5 program. I had to get tutoring for my daughter over the summer, and we are struggling now to get her more help. I feel as though she lost an entire year, but she's not underperforming enough to get placed in Title I Reading. She is supposed to get PALS tutoring soon, but that will be with a non-professional whom the school will hire who is not an educator. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to share them. - Karen in Virginia

MomInReverse said...

ps: In that classroom, all 4 of the children who were at or near my daughter's reading level, did not perform well and continue to struggle--as she does. Our school district is not in a low performing or low income/urban district. The teacher was an excellent teacher. We do not fault her abilities as an educator.

Anonymous said...

I teach first concern is that Daily 5 / CAFE seems to totally be missing the mark by having students spend a majority of their ELA/Reading time doing work or reading at their independent level. Mini lessons and the minimal amount of time they spend working with the teacher does not seem to meet the needs for young learners (especially struggling learners) to work at the instructional level. Isn't the instructional level where the most learning takes place? Many districts seem to be trading curriculum in for this model, when it is not actually curriculum, but as stated above it is a list of basically self-directed activities.

It also seems to me that much of the 'word work' for beginning readers is just busy work. Students can do much of the word work and still not be able to read the word correctly.

I also can't figure out where the students are supposed to learn the ELA part. A mini-lesson and independent practice is not enough to actually teach students grammar, parts of speech, etc. Am I off-base here? I am not saying this does not have benefits if used in with high quality curriculum...I'm just not sure this is all it's cracked up to be.

Tim Shanahan said...

Research has repeatedly shown that young children make the greatest learning progress in literacy when they are taught skills like phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies explicitly and thoroughly through systematic lessons. The instruction that you describe is not a good thing for kids.

Anonymous said...

Although your comments contain some valid concerns, there is one major factor missing... proper implementation of Daily 5. I have used Daily 5 in my classroom for six years and have seen amazing results. Daily 5 is a structure and does not contain content. It is designed for the teacher to provide many explicit focus lessons, broken up by "rounds" of Daily 5 where the teacher is meeting with small groups and conferencing with students one on one. This allows children to get instruction based on their individual needs versus lengthy whole group lessons that aim instruction at a majority and hope all get something. Children are working independently on goals specific to their needs during each round of Daily 5.

Unfortunately, many teachers that implement Daily 5 leave out vital components and as a result the students suffer. Some teachers remove choice from the equation, others do one lesson at the beginning and then have children "rotate" through the 5 options, and some do not use the time to meet with students and provide individualized instruction. In these examples, I completely agree that Daily 5 would not be effective. However... if these are the scenarios... it is not Daily 5.

There is not one reading basal that works to meet the needs of all children. If there was, it would be used in every classroom. It is our job as teachers to work to meet the needs of our students, engage them in their learning, and motivate them to do their best. Teachers effectively using Daily 5 and CAFE create classrooms where students are independent, focused, and goal oriented. My students know their strengths as a reader, can tell you what they are working on, and they definitely use their time wisely as they are held accountable for what they are working on. Daily 5 has had a HUGE impact on student achievement in not only my classroom but in many classrooms throughout my district.

Tim Shanahan said...

Testimonials are great... but they don't constitute convincing evidence (if they did we'd be treating cancer with apricot pits).

I do consider public reading achievement scores to be a kind of evidence, however. What school district is this and what year did it begin implementation of Daily Five? With that information we can look at the district reading data from your state for the year before implementation and we can see what has happened as a result. There is no control group, of course, but this isn't a research study. Public data in such a case can be useful.

(My experience in the Chicago Public Schools tells me that many teachers and principals rave about the effectiveness of what they are doing, but when you look at the children's actual reading performance, things don't look so good. In such cases, the teacher/principal is presumably more interested in maintaining the status quo than in helping children to learn as much as possible.)

Tim Shanahan said...

Testimonials are great... but they don't constitute convincing evidence (if they did we'd be treating cancer with apricot pits).

I do consider public reading achievement scores to be a kind of evidence, however. What school district is this and what year did it begin implementation of Daily Five? With that information we can look at the district reading data from your state for the year before implementation and we can see what has happened as a result. There is no control group, of course, but this isn't a research study. Public data in such a case can be useful.

(My experience in the Chicago Public Schools tells me that many teachers and principals rave about the effectiveness of what they are doing, but when you look at the children's actual reading performance, things don't look so good. In such cases, the teacher/principal is presumably more interested in maintaining the status quo than in helping children to learn as much as possible.)

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your response and do agree that public data is useful. As I stated earlier, Daily 5 had a huge impact in my classroom and many others throughout my district, however not all classrooms use it. So, looking at my district data will not provide the evidence needed. I truly believe a research study on the impact of the correct use of Daily 5 would be extremely beneficial in providing the research backing that is needed.

As an elementary educator, I feel there is a lot of value in testimonials as teaching is a collaborative profession and much of what is shared is shared through testimonial. (This blog and others are great examples of teacher testimonial and sharing.)

Your original post was about Daily 5 and Common Core. Please keep in mind, Daily 5 is a structure and does not hold content. It simply provides the structure, using research based literacy tasks (time to read good fit books, write, manipulate words, listen to reading and read aloud), for teachers to organize their literacy block. If a teacher using Daily 5 says it does not mesh with Common Core, that would fall back on them as it is the teacher's responsibility to make sure the lessons being taught and strategies being practiced, fall in line with their grade level curriculum.

If you observe a Daily 5 classroom that encourages activities over outcomes, then unfortunately you are in a classroom where the teacher does not understand the Daily 5 structure and is implementing it incorrectly. Daily 5 and CAFE, in fact, establish a very high standard for teaching because they require a teacher to analyze student data, set student goals based on individual need, teach explicit and purposeful lessons, and truly know each student as a reader.

You mention "research has repeatedly shown that young children make the greatest learning progress in literacy when they are taught skills like phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies explicitly and thoroughly through systematic lessons." This is what CAFE is all about.

I encourage your readers to read both Daily 5 and CAFE and see them in action before making any decisions as to whether or not it is best for students.

Tim Shanahan said...

Your point that it is just a structure is a good one. That is why we are getting such mixed comments here: it is possible within that structure to provide the kinds of instruction that actually make a big difference in kids' learning, but it isn't necessary to. In some cases, Daily 5 supports systematic explicit teaching, but all too often it does not.

Crystal Pelletier said...

I feel as if the critical component of the Daily 5 has been left out here... The CAFE. This is the assessment piece that drives instruction. The instruction can be whole group, small flexible groups and are based on strategy instead of ability. When both the Daily 5 and CAFE are used together as laid out by Boushey & Moser, it is a highly successful system. Where I differ from your article is I disagree, Daily 5 and CAFE are not a curriculum, but a framework or methodology. If someone is using CCSS or their own regional curriculum outcomes, those are the main focus. The Daily 5 merely builds student independence to free the teacher to meet with small groups or give individualized instruction/intervention.
Thank you

Boushey, G. & Moser, J. (2006). The daily 5. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Boushey, G. & Moser, J. (2009). The CAFE. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.

Anonymous said...

I tried the daily 5 and cafe with my fifth grade classroom and didn't see growth in student reading. The Cafe activities "mini-lessons" seemed like fluff. The teacher/student interactions we had using the comprehension toolkit was much more effective.

Anonymous said...

PHONICS, PHONICS, PHONICS!!!!! Daily 5 misses this concept. ^-( year olds can't focus for long periods of time. They need guidance.

Anonymous said...

Daily five is an acceptable structure to meet the needs of students if it is used in a thoughtful manner. This needs to include: 1) practice tasks linked to previos explicit instruction to help students to build fluency to assimilate instruction introduced through mini lessons or small group instruction; 2) include goals that are measurable to show students their efforts are effective in producing improvement in their skills; 3) keep individual needs in mind, whether it be need for guidance and re teaching, level of proximal development, or social interaction. I see limited ability in a child as young as 1st grade being able to be productively self-direct and practice skills that are introduced unless an extensive amount of guided practice is provided to shape accuracy. Most children this age still need extensive support and redirection. The use of guided stations provides increased support to help develop these habits at this early age until the foundational academic skills are adequately established for application in later years when maturity is sufficient to have these high expectations.

Tim Shanahan said...

What research shows is that children would be better served by a regimen of explicit teaching of phonological awareness and phonics, oral reading fluency, vocabulary and language, reading comprehension, and writing. There are a variety of methods that can be used to teach each of these things, but the activities or methods aren't the point, the outcomes are. One can adhere to Daily 5 exactly as it is promoted without doing what is best for kids.

Melony Dunlap said...

I am an instructional coach at an elementary school. I am currently working my way through classrooms modeling lessons for teachers on how to set up a modified Daily 5. Teachers already have guided reading groups and centers in place for the Language Arts block, but with the addition of RTI last year, teachers are struggling to give an additional 45 minutes of instruction to intervention students and how to keep the rest of the class occupied in an engaging way that will also help them become better readers. My school does not have interventionist and RTI is given by the classroom teachers while the on level or above level students remain in the room. We just don't have the staff to pull intervention groups and they must be provided by the classroom teachers. We do have a program for gifted students that meets two days a week and our school librarian is pulling the top 10% in each grade for enrichment and additional day of the week. The value I see in Daily 5 is building reading stamina and giving students a substantial amount of time to read, practice the skills they are learning during instructional time, and hopefully discover that they enjoy reading. We are focusing on read to self and read to someone (to work on fluency). I have read the article and I know that you do not see much value in Daily 5 but I am not sure what would be a better alternative. As a side note, my district is heavily on the side of reading levels and reading groups. My district requires guided reading groups and "centers". However, as a new coach I am actively trying to push my teachers to challenge their students while adhering to the district guidelines. I want teachers to instruct the students as close to grade level or beyond as they can and give lots of support. That is different from the position of the district to stay comfortably within instructional level. So do you have any advice or a an alternative I can use?

Tim Shanahan said...


I'm a big fan of doing some intervention of this type in the classroom, but what you are describing is essentially that the teacher provides teaching to the neediest kids and the others are left to their own devices. They learn as much as they can from just reading on their own. On top of that your district has a high emphasis on particular teaching approaches (guided reading groups, centers) as opposed to trying to teach kids what they need to know to achieve higher levels of performance.

I would organize my day around what I was teaching, rather than around how. For example, teaching fluency is important, and students make the biggest gains in fluency when they are working with grade level texts rather than reading level texts. How about doing fluency work whole class? Yes, you can focus heavily on paired reading (reading to someone), but this needs to be supervised by you. I would suggest that you set 30-45 minutes for this activity (or 15, 15, 15), and you should be listening and coaching at least about 6-10 of those kids each day. I would set another 30-45 minutes for comprehension work. Sometimes, I, too, would do this as guided reading groups, but there would be other days when I would do this whole class and other times when I might fishbowl it (having one group observed by all). There would be another 30-45 minutes on word learning (phonological awareness, phonics, spelling, vocabulary work--depending on ages/levels), and another devoted to writing instruction. That would give your kids 2-3 hours a day of explicit teaching in key elements that have to be learned. The methods and organization would be aimed at accomplishing particular learning goals, not just on using those activities. Then, if I was doing in class interventions they would take an additional 30-60 minutes (probably the lower time), and what I'd have the others doing during this would depend on their ages and levels. good luck.

jrivera said...

You mention supervision or direct instruction at all times. If I am doing paired reading that means that I will cover one group for fifteen minutes while the rest is doing what? Paired reading by themselves? What about the interventions? If I am meeting or conferring with a group what is the rest of the students doing? I am really interested on this topic because I have tried Daily 5 but it has never worked. I am not too keen of teaching a vocabulary lesson, for example, but have the kids practice a comprehension skill because that is the rotation they have "chosen" to do.

Tim Shanahan said...

In terms of paired reading, I would have the whole class doing that simultaneously--even if there are different books being read by kids from different groups. While they do paired reading, you should be circulating among the children, listening to particular kids reading and bolstering the coaching with your input. You say you do this for 15 minutes, I usually do it for 30 (or two 15 minute periods). In that time, you can typically listen well to 6-10 readers each day, which means you listen to and interact with each individual student 2-3 times per week (and you can listen more to kids who you have concerns about).

When you are meeting with your intervention groups, the other kids need assignments that both keep them engaged and give them some learning (though seatwork rarely does as well as instruction). These assignments should require a lot of reading and writing--for example, having kids reread a text to carry out some kind of analysis (perhaps comparing the last two texts they have read, or comparing a couple of characters in some way).

good luck.

jrivera said...

Your explanation makes more sense to me now. I believe then that a better approach would be to teach a lesson whole group and have the students do meaningful and rigorous work on what was taught. Then pull students for interventions and coach them as needed. This means that direct instruction is always best. Thanks for your response!

Lindsay said...

I've felt this way for a long time now. I am tired of "fluff" and empty activities that simply just keep kids "busy." It almost feels like the new worksheet.

I do find that close reading is a more rigorous approach to teaching reading. I plan on stepping out of daily 5 and "centers" and into more whole group lessons with various break out sessions (independent reading, paired readings and guided reading).

I always feel the need every year to plan activities and create predictable structures so I can just "fill in" content. It has felt like a major disservice to my students. I think now the content will lead and the methods will be dictated by the learning goals.

The only problem is the fact that Daily 5 provided routine. I know that routine is really important. With a more breathable structure (letting the content and rigorous instruction inform what we will be doing), am I getting away from the important aspect of routine? I am concerned about this. How can I create a routine while allowing flexibility to adjust my methods based on content and learning goals?

Hopefully this makes sense. I have been reading a close reading text all day and I am tired. :) Thank you!

Tim Shanahan said...


Routine is very important. I agree that is the one valuable ingredient in Daily 5 (and similar schemes). Try building your routines and schedule around outcomes instead of activity. For example, let's say you schedule writing everyday from 11:00-11:30 (or every other day from 1:00-2:00PM). What goes into that slot would include several different activities, but they would all be aimed at helping your students to write better. Thus, during the writing period kids might be reading each others drafts to provide feedback, or kids might be drafting while you conference with particular kids, or maybe everyone will be trying to rewrite, or perhaps you'd be making a presentation to explain how you want a piece of writing to be addressed. Another period can be devoted to reading comprehension... that would include reading time, guided reading activities like close reading or strategy practice.

You can add even more routine if you have a particular sequence that these will take place (we are reading literature for the next two weeks, and then we'll shift to science text for two weeks) or Mondays the teacher presents and the kids draft, Tuesdays we finish drafts and share them for feedback, Wednesdays we revise, Thursdays the kids get feedback from the teacher, and do final revisions, and Friday is a sharing day... etc.

Lecinda Baker said...

I am just starting a new reading series that our school has adopted. How to implement this has become much clearer after reading all 28 posts. Thank you for this relevant discussion.

Anonymous said...

Daily 5 is a framework. However, Daily 5 is not to be used alone. It is to accompany CAFE (Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expanding Vocabulary) which entails goal setting.

Tim Shanahan said...

So you need two frameworks to actually address what kids need to learn so that you can incorporate the activities that you've already decided that you want to use. I'd focus on what needs to be taught and then fit your methods to those needs.

Sally Bergquist said...

I see the term "explicit" being used quite a bit in these posts. True explicit instruction isn't just teaching a mini-lesson to a small group or explaining something in detail (to a large or small group). Explicit instruction, as outlined by master teacher Anita Archer in her book Explicit Instruction, has 16 of what she calls "instructional behaviors and elements". An explicit lesson is carefully designed and each lesson builds on the one before it. It includes, among other things,breaking down and sequencing skills, skill review in each lesson, careful language choice by the teacher, guided practice, and many other components. A conference or a mini-lesson does not provide the same instruction. Unless your readers are getting some kind of program that is designed explicitly, such as Read Well or Reading Mastery, which have many of those 16 elements built in, it is almost impossible to provide true explicit instruction on your own. You would have to be designing appropriate curriculum, which has already been done. Is Daily 5 an attempt to avoid packaged curriculum? If so, I understand, because a lot of curriculum is poorly designed and not explicit at all. But there are a few masterful ones like I mentioned.
Explicit instruction has independent practice built in, but the main idea is that the teacher provides instruction. Reading programs that are designed to be specifically leveled can be appropriate for everyone.
When I taught first grade and we had Read Well, we had 13 reading groups and did a walk to read for the entire grade level for one hour a day. Besides 3 teachers, we had 4 EAs for the hour (our principal believes in "flooding" a grade level with help during reading). Every child was at their exact right reading level for explicit instruction, including a group that was beyond Read Well and reading short novels, and a group that was pre-Read Well and working on other phonics activities.
The higher groups got 20 minutes of explicit instruction and rotated to 2 other stations including independent reading (a CAFE sort of thing). The lower groups got explicit instruction for the entire hour. They needed an entire hour of solid instruction and practice with a teacher or an EA trained in the curriculum.
My opinion is that true explicit instruction (NOT just explaining or introducing a concept), enough to meet the needs of your struggling readers, is perhaps more than the term implies which is being used in this dialogue.