This Is Why


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Have you ever had to defend why you use the Daily 5 structure and the CAFE system? If this hasn’t happened to you yet, it probably will. An administrator, teaching partner, or parent will wonder why you aren’t meeting with leveled groups, why you object to using a one-size-fits-all program with fidelity, or why you let students choose where they want to sit when they read books they picked themselves. We need to be ready with an answer that is respectful and knowledgeable. Here are some of the reasons I am passionate about this method of instruction that help me articulate such a response.

Daily 5

  • This simple but amazing structure helps students develop a love of literacy and daily habits of reading, writing, and working independently that will lead to a lifetime of learning and literacy independence.
  • Students build behaviors of independence and stamina by participating in as many as five authentic reading and writing choices each day or week: Read to Self, Work on Writing, Read to Someone, Word Work, and Listen to Reading. These choices are not “activities” or “centers,” but tasks designed to equip students with practical, useful, lifelong skills that will be relevant and applicable to their lives both inside and outside the classroom.
  • Because students are highly engaged in authentic literacy work and practice, I am not wasting time on classroom management but am using every moment to meet the needs of students, either individually or in small groups.
  • The method of providing short bursts of focused, highly intentional instruction aligns beautifully with current brain research on how children learn.
  • Because the structure holds no content, I am free to use any and all resources to meet school, district, state, and even national standards, but more importantly, meet the needs of the students in front of me.
  • The extended, independent reading and writing practice results in measurable student progress, which is even more accelerated when layered with CAFE instruction.


  • CAFE is an acronym for Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expanding Vocabulary. A menu of strategies lies beneath each heading. Students build a repertoire of strategies used by highly effective readers to become proficient and reach individual goals.
  • It is also a system for assessing students, determining goals, and transferring data into a conferring notebook.
  • Finally, CAFE is a guide for delivering differentiated instruction and monitoring progress, leading us to our desired outcomes.

I feel confident using a system and structure that was developed, practiced, and refined on the shoulders of some of the foremost researchers in the education fields.

  • Richard Allington (2009, 2012)
  • Nancy Atwell (1987)
  • Lucy Calkins (2012)
  • Kathy Collins and Matt Glover (2015)
  • Kelly Gallagher (2009, 2011)
  • Linda Gambrell (2011)
  • Stephanie Harvey (2017)
  • Shelley Harwayne (1992, 2001)
  • John Hattie (2011)
  • Steven Krashen (2004)
  • Debbie Miller (2008, 2012, 2013)
  • Donalyn Miller (2010, 2013)
  • Margaret Mooney (1990)
  • Michael Pressley (2001)
  • Regie Routman (2003, 2010, 2018)
  • Jennifer Serravallo (2015, 2017)
  • Franki Sibberson and Karen Szymusiak (2003, 2008)
  • Dr. Ken Wesson (2003, 2010)
  • Katie Wood Ray (2004, 2010)

The intentional, focused, assessment-driven instruction of CAFE, when combined with extended reading and writing practice during Daily 5, is why I love and devote myself to this way of teaching and learning.

But as they used to say on Reading Rainbow, “You don’t have to take my word for it.” Check out the white paper by Dr. Jill Buchan, which delves deeply into the research on the teaching practices that most successfully and consistently lead to reading achievement and independent learning skills.

Now if anyone asks why you use Daily 5 and CAFE, you’ll be ready to say, “This is why.”

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