26 June 2014

The CAFE Book - Chapters 2 and 3

Chapter 2 - The CAFE Notebook and Record-Keeping Forms

Keeping records about children's progress is something I've not done particularly well to date, especially anecdotal records, so I found this chapter really helpful. It starts with the story of how the authors found a system and format that worked for them, and gives me lots of ideas and resources and freed to find what will work for me and my students. Initially it talks about where to store all these great notes, and then it gets on to what is inside.

The first section of the notebook is really big picture stuff. It includes things like a calendar (to schedule student conferences & small group meetings), a form for tracking those conferences by student (to make sure everyone gets the help they need and no-one gets missed out), and a form for tracking groups of students working on the same goals/strategies. The bonus is that pdfs of all the forms are provided on the accompanying CD.

The second section has dividers for each individual child with their personalised copy of the CAFE menu and Reading and Writing Conference Forms. Looks like I'm going to be looking for some kinds of binder that will become my "notebook".

Chapter 3 - CAFE Step-by-Step: The First Days of School

This chapter does just what the title says. It provides a step-by-step guide to introducing the CAFE to students, especially in the early days of school.

The first item introduced is "C" for comprehension, along with the definition "I understand what I read". The first strategy introduced is "Check for Understanding" and the authors suggest using picture books for these lessons.

After a break, maybe a time of building stamina, another strategy from a different section of the menu is introduced, using another picture book. The example give is "A" for accuracy, using the Cross-Checking Strategy.

Depending on the classroom schedule, another heading and strategy might be introduced later in the day, such as "Tune In To Interesting Words" under the "E" for expanding vocabulary section.

Each time a strategy is introduced it is named explicitly for the students and posted on the CAFE Display board. Each time a strategy is reviewed, the display is referred to.

Over the first few days, the authors recommend four core strategies be taught and reviewed several times, with repeated modelling and anchoring to the CAFE menu. Using the Daily 5 structure, students will have lots of opportunities to practise the strategies as they build stamina for working independently.

The next part of the CAFE program is moving to Individual Conferences, and using assessment to inform instruction. A seven step process is provided to guide the reader through this. An example of what each step might look like is provided. Finally, some encouragement for those of us who are a bit apprehensive of trying new things - you don't have to get it perfect the first time. It won't hurt students to practise a strategy they are already good at, and you can always give them something new at the next conference. It's OK for the teacher to learn along the way too! :)

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.

17 June 2014

Exploring the Daily 5 - Chapter 9

Returning to our Core Beliefs

The final chapter of The Daily 5 addresses specific groups or individuals within the classroom and how these are dealt with, from a foundation of community, accountability, trust, and respect.

Barometer Children
This term is applied lovingly to those children who have a major impact on classroom climate. These children will usually require additional support to build stamina, but not necessarily every round or even every day. Four levels of support are suggested. Some children will only ever need level 1 support, while others will need level 3 or 4 support regularly. Foundational is the belief that, with appropriate support, every child can be successful.
Level 1: Reflection
I really appreciated this section. It reminded me of the need to look first at my own behaviour, and that things that I control, to ensure I am doing all I can to help these students be successful. It's about me taking time to reflect, as well as to check on a few things such as "Good Fit Books". Sometimes I might even need my own goal sheet to ensure my tone with students is positive and that I'm giving appropriate, timely, positive feedback.
Level 2: Extra Support
This level provides a respectful opportunity for children to get some extra practice at building stamina. While it does involve recess time, it's only a few minutes, since these children are often those who need recess the most. This level of support will help identify if further support is really needed.
Level 3: In-Class Modifications
This section provides details of ways to help specific children develop their stamina, acknowledging that it may take them longer to build stamina than some of the other children. It also allows for their shorter stamina without breaking the stamina of those who can work independently for longer periods. Tools such as sand timers, stop watches, kinaesthetic materials, and alternative reading materials are used, as well as individual stamina charts. Eventually the additional tools will not be needed, but there should always be the opportunity for students to return to the tools if necessary.
Level 4: Gradual Release of In-Class Modifications
This level is about providing additional "check-ins" with specific children during a round. This works well when the teacher moves from group to individual or individual to individual, rather than having students move to the teacher. Essential to this working is believing the best of our students even when their behaviour isn't perfect.

Guest Teachers
This section provides a sample lesson plan that can be quickly adapted for any planned or unplanned absence. It provides enough detail for any teacher to follow and allows students to support the teacher through well-established routines.

New Students to the Class
This section provides valuable tips on what to do when a new student joins a class part way through the year. Buddies are a key strategy, and new students also provide an ideal opportunity to review the Daily 5 I-charts with the whole class. When new students have lower stamina, this gives the teacher an ideal chance to do assessments with the new student, and to teach core lessons like how to choose Good-Fit books.

This section is about communicating the Daily 5 with parents. It includes a sample letter to parents to introduce them to The Daily 5.

Trusting Our Students and Our Teaching
This section reminded me that I don't have to get it all right first time, and that's OK. It highlights that I may not see evidence of learning in the same way as I have in the past, but I will see it in new, exciting, and authentic ways. I love the following comment from the authors:
"Our children help us learn to trust our teaching and prove that they deserve to be trusted to be independent. Our students rise to our high expectations, they meet high standards, and they willingly accept the responsibility to do so." (p.157)

So now you will have to wait until August 2014 when I get the chance to have a go at introducing The Daily 5 into my classroom here in Phnom Penh. Meanwhile, my next project is to thoroughly investigate The Cafe Book and see how I can use that alongside The Daily 5 in my classroom, using the resources I need to as part of our school wide curriculum.

For more of my reflections on "The Daily 5", check out these posts
Chapter 1: That Was Then, This is Now: How the Daily 5 Evolved.
Chapter 2: Our Core Beliefs: The Foundations of the Daily 5
Chapter 3: The 10 Steps to Teaching and Learning Independence
Chapter 4: What do you need to begin?
Chapter 5: Launching Read to Self - The First Daily 5
Chapter 6: Foundation Lessons

Chapter 7: When to Launch the Next Daily 5
Chapter 8: The Math Daily 3

Exploring the Daily 5 - Chapter 8

The Math Daily 3

"The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated but to make complicated things simple." Stanley Gudder (p.121)

Having seen the success of the Daily 5 in literacy, the authors began using the 10 Steps to Teaching and Learning Independence in other curriculum areas. The next step was to apply the same principles of providing appropriate independent practise for students and opportunities for the teacher to work with individuals and small groups needing extra support, to mathematics. There was also a desire to provide students with activities that would lead to deeper understanding and problem solving. After refining the framework over time, what is presented in this chapter is the Math Daily 3:

  • Math by Myself
  • Math Writing
  • Math with Someone.

The activities for Math by Myself and Math with Someone provide practice on both current and recently completed units. Math Writing allows students to express their thinking and understanding through problem solving and problem writing.

Math Daily 3 Structure
As you would expect, Math Daily 3 uses a similar structure to the Daily 5, with short 7-10 minute focus lessons broken up by independent work time. The whole group lessons come from the school's math program, so Math Daily 3 can work whatever the program. With three focus lessons, the suggestion is the first lesson teaches the concept (I show), the next lesson is guided practice (we do), and the third lesson is problem solving related to the concept.

Math Daily 3 Overview
This section provides a sample lesson plan using the Daily 3. It helps me understand how I could break my lessons down into brain-friendly chunks for my students. It will definitely work with Go Maths.

What Do You Need to Begin Math Daily 3
While it is suggested that the Math gatherings take place in a different location to Literacy, that's not going to happen in my classroom. I simply don't have enough space. Another challenge is going to be wall space, but that can be overcome. One of the things I noted was that Math Daily 3 requires lots of materials such as manipulatives, dice, game boards, small whiteboards, etc. I'm sure I'll get creative as I find and organise these things. Specific suggestions for organising the various materials are provided, but it's really a matter of exploring options and finding out what works for me and my students.

Teaching the Foundation Lessons of Math Daily 3
This is a reminder of the Foundation Lessons from the Daily 5. One very important lesson, especially for Math with Someone and Math by Myself, is setting up and cleaning up materials.

Launching Math by Myself
Each Math by Myself activity will need to be taught as a focus lesson. This section gives a step-by-step demonstration of the 10 Steps as they apply to mathematics.

Teaching the Foundation Lessons: Math Writing
Math Writing is going to require some planning for me to implement. It is about students expressing their thinking and understanding using words, numbers and pictures. I need to clarify my thinking on this part of the program before I launch it.

Launching Math Writing
Again, the launch process involves creating an I-chart and this section provides details on the core behaviours and timing as well as introducing choice.

Launching Math With Someone
The foundation lesson, "How to Choose a Partner" is essential for Math with Someone. Each activity will also need to be taught. I already have a great source of activities for this options with the Go Maths Book of Facts and Fundamentals books. Once stamina is guilt, along with a variety of activities, choice can be extended to include Math With Someone.

The concluding paragraph highlights how students have experienced increased success in mathematics through tailored instruction and independent practice.

Some personal reflection
I'm thinking that I won't try to implement Math Daily 5 straight away, and maybe not even this year, until I get my head around using the Daily 5 and how I can make that work in my classroom. This isn't because I don't think it will work, I think it will, but rather because I know my limits when it comes to change. Introducing Daily 5 is going to make some pretty substantial changes in my classroom next year, and I need to be realistic about how much change I can cope with without overloading myself.

For more of my reflections on "The Daily 5", check out these posts
Chapter 1: That Was Then, This is Now: How the Daily 5 Evolved.
Chapter 2: Our Core Beliefs: The Foundations of the Daily 5
Chapter 3: The 10 Steps to Teaching and Learning Independence
Chapter 4: What do you need to begin?
Chapter 5: Launching Read to Self - The First Daily 5
Chapter 6: Foundation Lessons

Chapter 7: When to Launch the Next Daily 5

05 June 2014

Six days to go

Life at this end of the school year is hectic. I'll be honest and say I'm ready for the "summer" break, but it also won't be all just sitting around and relaxing. So what have I been up to, and what will I be doing in the next 8 days.

Things that are finished:

  • Writing Report cards
  • End of year concert

Things that still have to happen:

  • Saturday 7th June - end of year staff lunch
  • Tuesday 10th June - take class to see the Grade 6 Science Fair
  • Wednesday 11th June - end of year field trip to Kids City
  • Wednesday 11th June - stationery requests for next year due to me
  • Wednesday 11th June - teacher resources from leaving teachers due to me
  • Wednesday 11th June - teacher resource check-lists from returning teachers due to me
  • Wednesday 11th June - remember to send home report cards
  • Friday 13th June - review stationery requests and consult with principal over any unusual requests
  • Friday 13th June - Reading and Writing Continuums and Math Summary sheets to be completed for every student, along with a writing sample and running records.
  • Friday 13th June - last day of school

Once school is out, then I've got another "To Do" list including things like:

  • Dental check-up
  • Stationery Supply Purchasing
  • Create pictorial Math Manipulatives Catalogue
  • Check student workbooks for next year
  • Check teacher resources from leaving teachers and organise any replacement items that are needed
  • Buy fabric and make chair bags for my classroom
  • Lots of piano practice
  • Read lots of books
  • Start studying towards my Graduate Certificate in Education (Inclusive Education) which I hope will eventually lead to my Masters of Education
  • Prep my classroom for next year including setting up for The Daily 5
  • Review Science & Social Studies Units and think about how I can improve on them for next year
  • Write Unit plans for Language Arts Units
  • Read some more books
  • Catch up with friends
  • Watch a movie or two
  • Set up my plan book for the first half of next year
  • Take a trip to Bangkok for some Rest and Relaxation
  • and I'm sure I'll think of other things to do.
So that's what my life looks like for the next couple of months. I wonder how much I will actually achieve. Now you know why I need a long summer break. Believe me it won't all be "holidays"!