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?   

17 comments:

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. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2012/09/the_daily_5_an_interview_with_the_two_sisters.html?qs=daily+five

Tim Shanahan said...

Peter-
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.

tim

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.
Peter

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 grade...my 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
Crystal

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