The Daily 5 Literacy Framework: A Guide to Best Practices

Nov 17, 2023
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It’s no secret that building strong literacy skills from an early age pays huge dividends for students. However, implementing an effective literacy program in the classroom—one which meets the widely varying needs of all your students while building a genuine love of reading—is a significant challenge. One of the most popular and successful frameworks that has emerged to help educators meet this challenge is the Daily 5™, first introduced by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser in their 2006 book, The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades. This method offers students the following five choices of activities to work independently toward personal literacy goals:

  • Read to Self
  • Work on Writing
  • Read to Someone
  • Listen to Reading
  • Word Work

Ready to try this rewarding, student-centered instructional method in your classroom? Or, maybe you’ve been using the Daily 5 for years and are simply looking to refine your approach. No matter where you are on your Daily 5 journey, we’ve assembled this guide with useful tips to help you fully understand the framework and put best practices to work. We’ll start by taking a high-level look at what the framework is and isn’t, and then move on to actionable tips to implement each of the five choices in your classroom:

The Daily 5: 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.

…And What The Daily 5 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.

The Daily 5: Best Practice Tips

Choice #1: Read to Self

The “Read to Self” component is just what it sounds like: during this time your students are each equipped with books, seated alone, and reading independently. While this may seem pretty straightforward, creating a classroom full of independent readers with extended stamina requires slow and thoughtful execution. Three key strategies are outlined here:

  • Teach Students the 3 Ways to Read a Book

Boushey and Moser suggest teaching three different ways to read that encourage fluid practice from the very beginning. By reading the pictures, even the earliest learners begin to understand the elements of a story; by reading the words, the most conventional definition of reading is explored; and by retelling the story, students learn the importance of comprehending what they read.

Through introducing this strategy, you begin to create a classroom environment where all students feel that they can be successful. This is particularly helpful for younger students or English language learners, who may not yet be reading.

  • Encourage the “I-PICK” Good-Fit Books Method

Before students can start reading independently, they need to be equipped with the right books to suit their needs. Think about those students who spend all their time “choosing” a book in your classroom library only to find the right one just as you call time, and you’ll quickly see the merit of this approach.

As a strategy developed by Boushey and Moser, “I-PICK” teaches students to consider purpose, interest, comprehension, and word knowledge when making their book selections. Model, think aloud, and confer with small groups regularly to help instill this practice with your young learners.

  • Provide Quality Reading Materials

If the Daily 5 is carried our correctly (and actually on a daily basis) the depth and breadth of your classroom reading materials may come into question. By adding educational technology programs, you can provide an engaging, Web-based reading option for your students.

In these online solutions, students can browse fiction and nonfiction titles in a virtual library to select their good-fit book. Stories may also include a short comprehension quiz, encouraging readers to apply their knowledge about all three ways they read a book.

Choice #2: Work on Writing

During this rotation, students should have extended time to practice and the freedom to explore different writing topics. “Work on Writing” can be used to continue the writing style or process that is being taught in a separate writing workshop outside of the Daily 5, but this should not always be the case. Sustained writing of any form a student chooses should remain the focus of this rotation. A few key strategies for success are detailed below:

  • Choose What to Write About

For many students, thinking of a topic can be the hardest aspect of writing. Without creating specific expectations around this practice, you may see your students’ focus quickly shift from writing to building a tower out of the writing center supplies. To avoid losing their concentration, encourage your students to create a repository of writing ideas—collected and organized into anchor charts and student writing notebooks for quick and easy access.

  • Underline Words That You Don’t Know How to Spell, and Move On

Critical to success in “Work on Writing,” this strategy is specifically meant to help your students maintain their writing flow without losing track of their thoughts or causing extended periods of frustration. It’s a terrible moment as a teacher when you scan through writing samples from your class to see that your 1st graders were stumped after two lines because they struggled to spell “rollercoaster” or “chameleon.”

Keep this from happening by teaching your students to not be afraid of using rich and explicit words that are above their spelling level. Model the writing process, thinking aloud in front of your students as you stumble upon a difficult word yourself. By underlining the word and quickly moving on, you show them that it’s okay if some words aren’t spelled perfectly in their nonpublished writing.

  • Keep Writing Exciting

For many struggling learners, writing is hardly their favorite pastime. Reinvigorate the writing rotation by offering students the opportunity to use online technology to explore the writing process.

Choice #3: Read to Someone

Often a Daily 5 favorite, “Read to Someone” offers children the opportunity to pair up and share a book of their choosing. This rotation is sometimes referred to as partner reading, buddy reading, or read with a friend. No matter what you choose to call it, “Read to Someone” provides a meaningful time for developing readers to increase their comprehension, fluency, and accuracy. Explore a few ways to set up this round successfully:

  • Become a good reading partner

Setting expectations for good reading partners in your classroom involves defining what it sounds and looks like. Because volume control can often feel like an uphill battle, we’ll start there. Research shows that the loudest voice in the room is the one that often regulates the noise level. Keep your voice down when conferring with students to set the appropriate tone and expectations in your room.

Hand in hand with voice level, our primary learners often need direction as to what “Read to Someone” should look like. With “EEKK” (elbow to elbow, knee to knee), a model subscribed to by the Daily 5 creators (Gail Boushey and Joan Moser), students are taught to sit side by side to easily share their text and read aloud together.

  • Check for understanding

It’s not enough to practice fluent reading during “Read to Someone;” your students also should be concentrating on comprehending text. To check for understanding, set a standard practice for readers to restate aloud the “what” and “who” of what they just read or heard. Additional comprehension questions can be added for older students. Check out a few examples of how this strategy can be brought to life on our Pinterest board.

Choice #4: Listen to Reading

“Listen to Reading” can take many different forms, including online audiobooks and Web-based solutions. For emerging readers, time spent listening to fluent reading models is invaluable to building reading pronunciation and expression. Struggling readers also find this rotation beneficial, as it allows them to access texts that meet their listening comprehension level, even if that exceeds their reading level. Keep these strategies in mind when incorporating this rotation:

  • Ensure smooth technology rollout

If you find yourself among one of those lucky few with a set of state-of-the-art devices for class, adding “Listen to Reading” to your daily rotation should be fairly straightforward. If a set of four to five “cross your fingers and hope they work today” computers is more in line with the current state of your classroom technology, rest assured that there’s no reason to lose hope! Between audiobooks from your campus or city library and your school’s computer lab, you can still give your students the opportunity to experience this rotation regularly.

Additionally, make the most of time spent at this station by ensuring that your students have the technology skills to log in quickly and treat equipment appropriately. Early on, it’s also a good idea to appoint a student to be your “tech-support helper,” so that you aren’t pulled away from working with students to assist with technology issues.

  • Determine appropriate activities based on reading ability

Listening to reading is often so engaging for children, that most have no problem building stamina. You can keep this rotation exciting by providing your students with a wide variety of books to enjoy. 

Choice #5: Word Work

The “Word Work” component of the Daily 5 focuses on spelling and vocabulary by creating a print-rich environment and offering learning manipulatives for students to experiment and develop an interest in language. Students are able to select from a variety of materials to play with words, word patterns, word families, and so on to hone their knowledge and increase their writing skills. Consider several suggestions below to make your “Word Work” area a success:

  • Define procedures for materials

With such things as sand, playdough, markers, and glitter glue, the variety of materials involved in “Word Work” is often tailored to meet the needs of your kinesthetic learners. The activities in this rotation also involve a fair bit of rule following and sometimes even a watchful eye to keep them running smoothly.

Gauging the maturity of your learners is a good place to start, followed closely by rolling out new materials one at a time. Model how each is used in the context of “Word Work,” and ask students to help demonstrate proper application to build letters, words, and sentences. Making it clear that each new manipulative is a privilege in your classroom can help keep even your most active learners in line during this rotation.

  • Motivate learning with focused, yet fun, activities

“Word Work” can provide excellent practice of manipulating words and developing language skills, but when involving enticing materials, it can also quickly descend into anarchy. Incorporate a variety of “Word Work” activities that motivate students to stay on task.

Looking to refresh the way you implement the Daily 5 in your classroom? Consider these ideas and tips.

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