You’ve assessed your students. Now what? Did your assessments go into folders for use at conferences with parents? Did you enter the data into an online database? Or did you take those assessments and use them to inform your instruction? Formative assessment is an important goal but it can be daunting to implement if you don’t have a system in place.
In 2009, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser were classroom teachers who—like many of their colleagues—were struggling to find a way to bridge the gap between assessment and instruction. So, they created a way. They published a professional resource called The CAFE Book—a companion resource to their first book, The Daily 5, which established a literacy framework of authentic tasks where students are engaged and independent in their learning. The CAFE Book provides teachers an organized, easily accessible, step-by-step process of taking the information gained from their observations and assessments, and uses that information to inform instruction.
Now, The CAFE Book, Expanded Second Edition updated by Boushey and Allison Behne (coming fall 2019) takes it a step further to include an instruction protocol that puts the emphasis on the individual student based on their needs.
Here’s how the CAFE Literacy System works.
What does CAFE stand for?
CAFE is an acronym for Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expand Vocabulary—Assessments illuminate student strengths and areas of need in each of the key areas, and lead to goals and strategies that truly meet individuals right where they are. The CAFE system was designed as a way for teachers to integrate a simple assessment into daily classroom routines to make it easier for them to identify areas for instruction. Here’s how it works.
The Core Elements of CAFE
The CAFE Literacy System is simple, with these core elements:
- The teacher keeps a notebook with a few key record-keeping forms, including a calendar, individual student conference forms, and strategy group planners.
- Students meet with the teacher during literacy workshop conferences to be assessed, to receive focused, explicit instruction, to set goals, and then to follow up on progress. The teacher keeps track of progress on the goal sheet in the notebook and schedules the next conference on the calendar, and the student posts his or her goal on the CAFE chart.
- The teacher plans small-group instruction based on clusters of students with similar strategy needs. These groups are flexible, based on needs rather than reading levels. Often the teacher meets with groups of students who are reading different books at different levels but working on the same goal, such as fluency or expanding vocabulary.
- The teacher plans whole-group instruction based on the needs that emerge for many students, often using read-aloud texts of other shared materials.
The Best Part
The CAFE Literacy System does not require expensive materials, complicated training, or complete changes to your current classroom literacy approaches. It provides a structure for conferring, a language for talking about reading development, and a system for tracking growth. The CAFE Book gives you everything you need to get started. It’s easy to read and easily integrated into literacy workshop. Pair it with The Daily 5, and you can learn how to incorporate the routines and authentic tasks that work seamlessly with these formative assessments.
The expanded second edition of The CAFE Book keeps the core elements of the 2009 edition while incorporating new thinking from 10 subsequent years of classroom research. To learn more about the new, expanded edition, read this recent blog post by Gail and Allison, The CAFE Book—What’s Different?
“It is important we keep records that document how we are assisting each child with exactly the skills and instruction he or she needs. When a strategy is taught and then posted on the board in the classroom, students understand what it means and how it fits into their lives as readers.” –The Daily CAFE