I've never had so many web visitors ask for my opinion on a book as I have with The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades. And as soon as I started reading, I realized why.
"The sisters" are obviously long-lost relatives of mine.
Let's run down the list of similarities here, shall we? Gail Boushey and Joan Moser were classroom teachers when they wrote the book and tell about systems they created with their own students, they don't advocate one `right' way to teach that requires you to throw out everything else you do, and they show you how to teach your students to run the classroom. Check, check, and CHECK. I'm totally on board.
Most of you reading this review are already familiar with the Daily 5 (it's been out since 2006), so I'll make this less of a book summary and more of an opinion piece. I loved how readable the book was. The tone was conversational and easy-to-understand. I loved the ongoing discussion of how their teaching practice has changed and evolved over the years. Not only does this make the sisters seem like real people who didn't start off as master teachers on day one, but it gives permission to the rest of us to grow and let go of ineffective practices we've become attached to. I also love how the book emphasizes the element of choice for children. This truly is a student-centered way to run your literacy block.
But mostly, I love the way the sisters emphasize modeling and practice for routines. This is something I've been droning on about for years, but I've never seen the concept so perfectly explained for the context of literacy routines. Even if you're not using the Daily 5, the procedures the book advocates for teaching children to be independent is applicable to whatever literacy tasks you have them regularly complete...and would work for math routines, too. The explanation of how to model and practice is definitely the crown jewel of The Daily 5.
There were two aspects of teaching routines in The Daily 5 that I had never thought about. The first is doing 3 minute practice periods to build stamina. My practice periods were usually starting at 10 minutes for 3rd graders, but the sisters point out that you must stop before any children have a chance to get off-task: start small so they can be successful and train their `muscle memories' to complete the procedure correctly. The other new concept for me is the premise of not managing with eye control or proximity (my two favorite techniques) when practicing literacy routines. This was a radical idea in my mind: What, no raised eyebrows and the `um-i-don't-think-so-buddy' glare when a kid starts picking at his shoelaces instead of reading? Not during the Daily 5 stamina-building sessions. Instead, you're supposed to stop the whole class and revisit the anchor chart so kids can reflect on their own practices. We're talking student ownership on the next level.
Obviously since I'm obsessed with teaching routines and procedures, I really keyed in on that aspect. As for the Daily 5 elements themselves (Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Work on Writing, and Word Work)...I can get with those, too. The concepts aren't anything revolutionary, nor do the sisters claim they are-they're just best practices that focus on authentic reading rather than teacher-contrived busywork. These elements have been going on in classrooms for a long time under many pseudonyms, and they work. I found yet another commonality with my long-lost sisters in that I, too, started making the switch from assigning reading activities to having kids READ after studying Regie Routman's Reading Essentials. That book changed everything for me, and it heavily influenced the sisters, too.
The only downside of The Daily 5 being such a short and easy read is that it's possibly TOO short-personally, I would like to have read a lot more than 100 pages on this topic. The book left me with a number of unanswered questions. For example, the recommended daily schedule shows whole-group reading instruction being completed solely in four 5-7 minute mini lessons. How could that be possible, especially if you're mandated to use a basal or complete daily test prep practice? Wouldn't longer lessons be needed in the upper elementary grades in which skills are more complex? I headed over to the website to look for support, but was disappointed to find that the online resources are available only for members at the rate of $39 for a 3 month subscription or $69 annually (um, ouch.) So I started a Daily 5 discussion on Facebook and found, as usual, that teachers have all the answers I'm looking for. Not only did they explain that the Daily 5 Structure is highly adaptable and it's the teacher's choice how long the mini-lessons run, they explained just how they use the structure in their own classrooms and gave practical tips.
Wonderful, practical, and free advice from teachers on how they implement The Daily 5 is abundant on the web (especially on the ProTeacher message boards). I've researched their reviews extensively, and the overwhelming response from classroom teachers is that IT WORKS. The Daily 5 has an incredible following of teachers whose students can't wait for the literacy block each day because they've developed such a deep love of reading that's totally independent of adult direction. What more could we want for our students? Go `head, sisters.
[Originally posted on the reviewer's blog.]