25 June 2014

The CAFE Book - Chapter 1

The Beginnings of the CAFE Menu Assessment System

I just love the honesty of the two sisters in writing both of these books. The first chapter of this, their second book, highlights something I've struggled with since I began classroom teaching. How do I fully use reading assessments to inform my teaching, and especially to differentiate so my teaching supports the individual needs of my students. It's really encouraging to know that I'm not alone in that struggle. CAFE is an acronym for Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expanding Vocabulary. These headings cover a huge variety of reading strategies, and are used to develop a menu of choices for students to use. The idea of a menu of choices also fits perfectly with the Daily 5 structure, which gives students choices about when they complete various activities.

Having just completed the Developmental Continuums for reading and writing required by my school, I'm painfully aware of a major deficit in my teaching and record keeping, especially when it comes to reading strategies. How can students tell me what strategies they are using if I don't name and teach specific strategies? I'm already hopeful that the CAFE system will help me do a better job of both tasks, and also help me to better meet the needs of my diverse students.

There are four core parts to the CAFE system. The first is the teacher's notebook. Next come individual conferences, followed closely by small group instruction in flexible groups. Finally we have whole group instruction, focussing on skills whole class/group need.

Also in this chapter, the authors give a brief overview of some of the research that has informed their development and implementation of the CAFE system. This included both reading other people's research and their own practical day-to-day action research. It was encouraging to notice some names that appear in my textbooks for the coming semester.

The chapter ends with comments which highlight the freedom to adapt the system to meet the needs of each individual setting which it is used in. It also reminds the reader that, as with most teaching strategies, it is a work in progress, and that's OK. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the book and discovering how I can better meet the needs of my students and challenge them to become better readers and writers.

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