5 Reasons Why Daily 5 Is the Best Reading Structure out There

Jon Konen
District Superintendent

A solid learning structure will stand the test of time, legislation, and even other unfunded mandates. I believe a learning structure such as Daily 5 is more powerful than any scientifically based reading research program. What started during the No Child Left Behind era, and the push for curriculum taught with the Reading First grant, I feel we have paid the repercussions ever since. The dully illustrated data shows there were no gains in reading comprehension (to learn more about this data, read the following Education Week Articles: No Effect on Comprehension Seen From 'Reading First'). Having taught during this time period, I have many reasons why I feel this damaged a generation of readers. More importantly, I will give you five reasons why the Daily 5 solves these problems.

If you did not take part in the Reading First grant, here are reasons why I believe it damaged student learning and the love for reading:

  • Crushed the Love of Reading - Students were all placed in a textbook on the same page; same story by all teachers of that grade level, and you knew where they were going to be in a couple months. Many stories were only portions of the entire novel, especially at the upper grades. Students disliked not having the whole story to read. On many occasions we spent some time back filling the beginning, middle, and end of these stories. Students did not have choice in what they were going to read. It was prescriptive the whole year from day one. I heard and saw kids say, "Ugghhh!"
  • Created Alliterate and Non-Readers - Many students learned how to read with this program, but they hated to read. A generation of alliterate readers that were never given choice in schools on what they wanted to read. The passion for reading was taken out the curriculum through textbook based stories and prescriptive teaching procedures.
  • Made Teaching Nonflexible and Uncreative - Some programs, such as Harcourt which I used, had cards that told teachers exactly what to say and when. It was touted as failsafe; anyone off the street could come in and teach the textbook, use the cards for questioning, and get responses from students. The achievement data didn't increase.
  • Prescriptive without a Diagnosis - The Reading First program left little room to differentiate instruction, change instructional strategies to accommodate the students that were in that teacher's specific classroom, or adjust to any formative data. The next page in the textbook was the next day's lesson for a majority of the students (formative data wasn't used to determine next steps). The research behind this text book program said most kids at this age level needed the stated instructional piece found on so-and-so page without allowing teachers to diagnosis the kids in front of them.
  • Free Reading and Read Aloud Abolished in Most Schools - With such a prescriptive program, many age-old reading components of a strong English Language Arts program were discredited and left out of instruction. Ultimately, free reading, silent reading, and drop everything and read were all discredited because they could not be monitored by data. Administrators mandated teachers stop using them. Likewise, teachers using the read aloud as part of the curriculum could not produce data to determine its effectiveness, thus many schools mandated that it be discontinued from curriculum. To learn more about this read, In Defense of Read Alouds, by Dr. Steven Layne.

Here are five reasons why the Daily 5 learning structure developed by the Two Sisters will stand the test of time and any legislative and administrative mandates. I believe it will produce readers who are independent, love to learn, as well as teachers who can diagnosis and differentiate like no researched-based textbook curriculum will ever be able to do.

1 - Learning Structure Not a Text Book

The Daily 5 is a structure for learning. It has 5 components that can be taught daily: 1) read to self, 2) read to someone, 3) listen to reading, 4) word work, and 5) writing. No text book in publication has ever been able to cover all the required learning standards in each state during the No Child Left Behind era, nor have they been able to cover all the common core standards that are in many states under the Every Student Succeeds Act. In fact, publishers in Texas and California have been the predominant supplier of text books for years. These text books are based on their state's standards, which may or may not be similar to the state in which you live. Knowing this, why do so many school districts put thousands of dollars into curriculum that will need to be replaced in five years? Why not put money into actual books. These books can be used for years and gives student's choice. Strong teachers coupled with best practices and research-based instructional strategies make the Daily 5 the only structure out there that can meet the needs of all students if used correctly.

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2 - Use Research-Based Instructional Strategies

All the major text book companies are publishing curriculum that state they are Common Core compliant and researched-based with best practices. While this may be true, the one major aspect that text book companies are missing is the effectiveness of the teacher. It is stated in research that one bad teacher can affect a student for years and even could affect their earning capability (read about it more here: One Year With a Bad Teacher Costs Each Student $50,000 in Lifetime Earnings). Focusing on research-based instructional strategies that teachers are using makes more sense. With this focus, staff development can cross all curriculum areas, professional development plans for individual teachers, grade levels, and even the whole school can be created. Money can then be devoted to increasing the teacher's tool box of strategies, and not spent on new curriculum every five years. By buying new curriculum all the time, teachers have to learn all the new curriculum every five years instead of learning more instructional strategies that match the students in their classrooms. Forcing the same curriculum on all students will give us the same results we already have…and more of the same is not what the Daily 5 learning structure is built upon. In Daily 5 teacher's diagnosis a reading challenge, and then give each student what they need to meet this challenge.

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3 - Creating Independent Readers

Creating students who love to pick up books, read for fun, and are able to change their purpose for reading is Daily 5. What a text book cannot do is provide choice of reading. Daily 5 incorporates choice into the learning structure. Students are able to find "right fit books" in order to learn how to read. Students learn that reading is fun first; they read for enjoyment. Students learn what it looks like and sounds like to be an independent reader. They can then adjust their reading strategies depending on the purpose of the text. One piece of data we don't talk about enough is how our school and classroom libraries increase the circulation of books.

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4 - Ability to Differentiate Instruction For All Students

In Daily 5 teachers are able to diagnosis the reading struggle a student is having and set goals. Students then practice the strategies the teacher gives them. The learning cycle is created: goal setting using strategies, assessing progress, and realigning the goals once again. Teachers are able to design goals using strategies that work on comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and expanding vocabulary. No text book curriculum can differentiate for every student, but Daily 5 allows you to do this. Teachers can focus on best practice and research-based instructional strategies that support the students in their specific classrooms, as well as designing small group and individual lessons that match students.

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5 - Creating a Sense of Regency

Regency is the ability for a student to understand the urgency in their own learning. They understand specifically the urgency in learning how to read, write, and communicate. When students can take control of their learning, become independent learners with intrinsic motivation, regency has been attained. Another argument that text book companies are missing is the ability to create this sense of regency with students. This comes from the teacher supporting students with the understanding through one-on-one goal setting in Daily 5. Students are required to self-report and demonstrate to the teacher their progress in goal setting conferences. This is powerful for students and it is ranked the number one learning strategy by John Hattie (click here to learn more about John Hattie's work: Visible Learning).

RELATED - Daily 5 and Alternative Seating: 4 Reasons Why They Are a Perfect Fit Together

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Jon Konen