Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Cafe Book

Recently, I posted about reading the Daily 5 because I was having trouble reading the Cafe Book. I understood the concepts but it seemed like I was missing the beliefs behind this book. I would recommend reading The Daily 5 first and then The Cafe Book. They springboard one right into the other. I would like to take you through the book and make my comments by chapters since there is a LOT of information inside this book!

The CAFE Book by Gail Boushey & Joan Moser "the sisters"

Chapter 1: Introduction: The Beginnings of the CAFE Menu Assessment System
This chapter basically gives you an overview of the research behind the CAFE, it's assessment tools, and how it is still a work in progress. I do have to say that throughout the book the sisters continually comment about how they continue to see and hear how teachers take this material and make it their own. They are excited to see the pieces played out in the classrooms around the country and they invite you to visit their website to ask questions, and moderate discussions. True lifelong learners never stop learning and growing!

Chapter 2: The CAFE Notebook and Record-Keeping Forms
I found this section very helpful. I have struggled with how to keep all of my conferring notes in order. Also, what do I talk about in a conference with a student? The sisters take their reader through their notebook which is really a binder that holds everything within. I went out and purchased a binder, personalized it to make sure I could always find it, and printed out the forms for each student. I am excited to give it a try and see how beneficial it is for record keeping. "We have gone through many, many different styles and formats for these forms, always trying to reduce what we collect to the information we truly need to assist students and capture how they are changing and growing as readers and writers." Collecting what we truly need is all teachers truly want!

Chapter 3: Step-by-Step: The First Days of School
This chapter gives a very descriptive review of how to get the ball rolling during those first couple of days of school. I didn't find it to be very useful specifically, but it did get me thinking about my own classroom and how I begin getting my classroom ready for Independent Reading. This chapter however was where The Literacy CAFE Menu was introduced. While I didn't think that in the first grade level that we needed to be so formative in the setting of our goals I did like the menu. It allows me as a teacher to look at that menu and confer more precisely with students. This is going to be an awesome tool for me to use during the conferring.

Chapter 4: Conferring with Children: Principles and Examples
Ever thought: "What should I say that will change this child as a reader/writer?" The sisters have developed a chart that deals with this question specifically. It is the, "Seven Elements to Successful Conferences." Wow! Someone make that into a poster so that I can use it every day! Actually, as mentioned before they have come up with a CAFE menu that can be used to help figure out what a kid needs to work on in Reading. What areas do we need to improve upon? Then we can use the menu to teach precisely and quickly during a conference. Within the CD-Rom that comes with the book all of the forms can be printed and used. I like that, because so many times there are forms within the book but they have to be made by me again, and they're never the same!

Chapter 5: Eavesdropping on Some Conferences
This chapter sort of explains itself, it is just some examples of conferences and how they have used the menu to help them with a student.

Chapter 6: Whole Class Instruction
One thing that blew me away in this chapter was a teachers ability to assess students and move through the strategies according to what they need as a class. There is a sequence, but they encourage teachers to move according to what the class needs! They do say, "These professional judgement calls come fairly easy to Joan because of her expertise with assessments and her experience with CAFE. New teachers who are trying to juggle assessment protocols, school standards, faculty expectations, student and family relationships, and a variety of academic lesson plans may feel too overwhelmed to select CAFE strategies based on emerging student needs. It is perfectly appropriate to follow the given sequence, alternating between columns to provide balance during the first months of school."
Then I got to thinking about my student teacher from two years ago. She still asks me for professional books to read. She still is trying to grasp this literacy thing, not because she is not knowledgeable, but because she is still trying to better herself. She is still trying to learn all she can to be the best that she can! This menu would help a new teacher tremendously because it gives them an outline to follow. The seven keys to conferring is perfect for someone who is not confident in their abilities yet!

Chapter 7: Strategy Groups
This chapter stretched me as a teacher of reading. I believe in small group instruction. I struggle, and have been contemplating having strategy groups as opposed to guided reading groups. I am still not sold. I may not be able to relinquish that control... I am a work in progress! However, it makes perfect sense except for in the first grade. I am wondering, "how am I going to teach those print strategies if they are in a small group right there in front of me?" Again, it is about me giving up that control.
I am not sold on the Daily 5, but I do see some very strong elements in the program. One of the things that I feel strongly about is making the learning of reading a very natural progress. I firmly believe that it should not be about setting goals and pressing on to meet them. I just believe that we need to see a skill, and then practice it. At my grade level I am not ready to add more "goal" pressure to them. (Just my opinion!) I do however like many other things about this book! I love the forms, I love the sequence of skills in the menu, I love the units that are in the back of the book. It gives people who are new to this readers workshop thing a very clear and precise path to follow. It would be a great buy for student teachers, or a principal or administrator that is trying to move towards the workshop model.


Marisa said...

I'm trying out the CAFE menu for my conferences this year...Althought I changed it to FACE and called it "The FACE of a Reader" (not my idea, just found it on I'm excited about working the CAFE record system into my Reading Workshop! I love that it makes the students goals and strategies visible for everyone who walks in the door of our classroom. I also changed the "E" to Expand Concepts of Print - which will be my focus for Shared Reading in September. I do plan on keeping a word collector starting in January when my first graders start moving up levels. The Conferring Notebook is AMAZING, mine is beautiful and ready to go. I tried something similar to this last year but didn't stick to it. I think CAFE (FACE) will keep me accountable, as well as the students.

I also loved their methods for building stamina as readers. I plan on keeping a stamina graph as the Sisters talk about. I found the Peony Room on very helpful when I had questions about CAFE.

It's so great when you find something tha treally speaks to you and can enhance your workshop!

Unknown said...

I haven't purchased " The Cafe Book" yet, but it sounds like a very good book. I teach middle school grades 6-8. In the past I have read books about reading instruction, but they were written for elementary school teachers. Needless to say I wasn't able to use much from them. Can I use the ideas in this book for middle school students? If I can, I will go to the bookstore and purchase this book on Friday. Please send me a response!

RJSooner said...

Marisa can you share with me what you have and how you are going to use it for your classroom. I have read both books and am just blown away as to how to incorporate this into the reading workshop. Now, let me say that I am also implementing the reading and writing workshop this year so you see I have taken on alot and possibly too much to do at one time but my back ground is special ed so all the teaching techniques like this , I learn by my own research. I would appreciate anymore explanation that you may provide, you clearly understand it very well. Thank you Robin