The Daily 5: A Literacy Structure that Works

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 -- Madison Michell

Imagine your elementary classroom buzzing with students on task, happily encouraging each other, holding one another accountable, and moving through all of the areas of learning that make up a balanced literacy program. Now, try to hold yourself back from laughing because I’m not kidding—it may be a long journey to get there, but I’ve seen it; I’ve even experienced it firsthand during my time in the classroom.

So what is this instructional method? Well, it’s actually nothing new. It’s the Daily 5™, developed by veteran educators, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, affectionately known as “The 2 Sisters.” Since the release of their first book, The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades, in 2006, education blogs, magazines, and most recently, Pinterest boards, have been overflowing with helpful tips and resources collected from educators’ personal experiences.

Throughout the next few weeks, I will explore a number of these resources to define what the Daily 5 is, address the misconceptions often associated with this structure, and direct you to additional valuable resources that will help you learn more about integrating this framework into your classroom. As you forge new roads to try this method for the first time or take a hard look at what’s working and what isn’t after years of use, this three-part blog series will uncover best practices to make the Daily 5 more sustainable for you and your students. Let’s start with a high-level look at what the Daily 5 is and isn’t:

What It Is

  • A literacy block routine

The Daily 5 is a literacy framework that guides both student and teacher behaviors to create a classroom of engaged and independent readers and writers. It’s not the “what” you teach but “how” that the Daily 5 aims to solve by creating a structure in which students participate in meaningful activities, while educators work uninterrupted with small groups and individuals.

  • Explicit teaching and practicing of classroom behaviors

Rather than continually putting out fires in your classroom, the Daily 5 offers literacy routines and procedures that are transparent, practiced, and upheld. With a prescribed method for introduction and suggested visual anchors for reinforcement, students gain a firm grasp of acceptable behaviors to guide their classroom decisions within your daily reading block.

  • Stamina building for sustained reading and writing

For students to become truly proficient in literacy, research shows that they need extended periods of authentic reading and writing. This structure is one way to deliver that focused independent practice by guiding educators through the process of helping students build stamina.

  • Independent-learning focused

Creating a structure that nurtures independence requires trust from you, their teacher, to prepare students to accept the challenge of making thoughtful choices in the classroom. This may sound scary, and it certainly takes time, but when that trust and sense of community are established, you stand to gain a more satisfied and self-disciplined group of students.

What It Isn’t

  • A teacher-driven model that relies on busywork and workbooks

Student choice is the ultimate linchpin to the success of the Daily 5. As the year goes on, your students will be thankful for the opportunity to choose their own literacy adventure within the Daily 5 structure. Additionally, it also gives young learners the opportunity to refocus their brains so that they are capable of maintaining attention during periods of direct instruction.

  • A huge financial and time investment

We’ve all been there as educators—brimming with ideas of exciting activities and new centers only to be met with piles of ungraded work and exhaustion a few months later. The Daily 5 supports practice, utilizing reusable resources such as anchor charts, manipulatives, technology, and classroom libraries as the keys to sustaining success.

  • A one-size-fits-all approach

The Daily 5 looks different in every classroom. Period. This framework is meant to support choice and flexibility so that the students in front of you guide your teaching based upon their experience, stamina, needs, and behaviors.

Having defined what the Daily 5 is—and better yet, what it isn’t—you’re now ready to give it a shot for yourself. As the fall semester approaches, consider integrating each component one step at a time, starting in the very first weeks of school. The sooner you establish classroom expectations, the sooner you can begin fostering independence and differentiating instruction for your students.

Check out our Pinterest board of useful resources to kick off the Daily 5 successfully, and learn more about each component of this useful framework over the next couple of weeks as this blog series continues. Interested in learning more about Edmentum's foundational literacy solutions? Explore Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress!