In the decade since its first publication, The CAFE Book has changed the way teachers assess, teach, and track student information, positively impacting the way students learn, practice, and talk about reading. In this Teacher's Corner episode, Gail Boushey and Allison Behne, authors of The CAFE Book, Expanded Second Edition, reflect on the insights they've gained from working with hundreds of teachers and students across the nation and how those insights have informed this exciting new edition.
Teacher's Corner is now available on Apple Podcasts.
Gail Boushey: We wrote the second edition because it just seemed time. And I think the reason it seemed time is we've been in classrooms, we've listened to teachers. We had some more things to answer.
Allison Behne: We did. I was just talking with a teacher today who said the first edition was so good, why change it? And I said we didn't really change. That same foundation is still there only we had so many questions that kept coming up. And so we said, "It's time to answer those questions. We've got more story to tell. We've got to take it deeper." And so that's really what the second edition was. It was about taking that foundation, that great foundation that was there, and just diving deeper with it.
Gail Boushey: Some of those same things are still there, the Cafe menu, but we've added a few strategies to that because what do you do when you try and go deeper with something? You go back to research.
Allison Behne: Well, really that Cafe menu, that whole idea of how that came about, changed so much in my classroom. I mean, I didn't think about making things visible like that, the learning visible. And I love how when you came up with that, I mean, how you took from having all strategies just kind of posted and then you found a way to organize them.
Gail Boushey: It really is kind of amazing.
Allison Behne: It really is.
Gail Boushey: Because it's how I think now, and I think it's kind of how other teachers think too, "Okay, shouldn't there be a Cafe menu for math? Shouldn't there be a Cafe menu for writing?" But that organizational tool helps me as the teacher, other teachers too, and also kids were much more able to remember those strategies. And it really has taken on a pivotal place in our classrooms.
Allison Behne: Absolutely. You start to see your students... Like I think about my kindergarten students who would access that menu all the time when they'd be reading. And I thought to myself, "How do they know these... " I mean, these strategies weren't strategies as a kindergarten student I was using for sure. And now they're looking at that menu, and they're knowing their comprehension strategies and their accuracy and their vocabulary. It's made such a change in the way my students think and learn.
Gail Boushey: Well, and that is one of the things we've learned over the years too, is the power of keeping those strategies in the same language, not changing them to the kindergarten language, whatever that means. But how we've learned, if you keep that same language, it just accelerates learning over the years that the kids are in the same school or same system.
Allison Behne: Absolutely. That always makes me think of that my kindergarten student, Carson. I had him in kindergarten, and I was teaching infer and support with evidence. We had went through the strategies. And then I looped with many of my students to first grade. And in first grade I was getting ready to read a story, and it was Alexander Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday. And I held that book up and I said, "Here's the story I'm going to read." And Carson's hand went straight up in the air, and he said, "Mrs. Behne, I would like to infer and support with evidence."
Gail Boushey: Who was that teacher before? Is that what you thought?
Allison Behne: It was one of those big pride moments. I was like, "Yeah!" I said, "Okay, Carson, tell me more." And Carson said, "Well, I'd like to infer the Alexander's mom is a teacher." And I said, "Okay, tell me more." And he said, "Because my mom says that at the beginning of the month we have a lot of money, but by the end of the month we have no money." And the story was Alexander Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday, and so I'm laughing. But at that time, another little boy who hadn't been in my room the year before, he raised his hand and he said, "So is that the iguana or the penguin?" And you know where I'm going, don't you?
Gail Boushey: I know, yes.
Allison Behne: And I said, "Okay, tell me more." And he said, "Well, my teacher, we had... " And he said, "Inferring," and, "We had the inferring a iguana, and we had a penguin who was picturing penguin," and I don't know if he's picturing in his mind or if he's inferring. And it was just one of those... I mean, we had a conversation around it and it was fine, but it made me think, Carson, in kindergarten, he learned the strategy, infer and support with evidence, and he carried it through with him to first grade. And he knew how to use it and he used it appropriately. And Damon, he had that same strategy, but he learned it in a different language, and we don't have to make it something different.
Gail Boushey: No. And what we're learning is then he has to start over.
Allison Behne: Right.
Gail Boushey: Even though he knows the strategy, he doesn't know the name of it. So we're starting all over. So that's one of the things we've learned over the years, the power of accelerating students' learning if you use those same terms of the strategies that we're teaching, so kindergarten language.
Allison Behne: That consistent language.
Gail Boushey: Right, right. I'm also thinking about how many different people we've run into who are using the Cafe, and I have to go back to Madison, who I had as a first grader, who is now a teacher. I know, I'm not that old.
Allison Behne: And you were using this?
Gail Boushey: I was like 10 then.
Allison Behne: Of course.
Gail Boushey: I was 10. But yes, we were just starting this and now to then see her coming to me and say, "Could I come to your conferences to learn more about it?" Because she experienced it as a student, and how it felt so amazing as a student. And then she really wanted to be able to put that into her own classroom.
Allison Behne: So think of that advantage that she has because so often we go into teaching knowing what we know as learners. She was able to experience Cafe firsthand, so now she's going to take that and probably just expand on it even more. I mean, and yeah, [inaudible 00:06:14].
Gail Boushey: Right. We have to stay ahead of that.
Allison Behne: We do. It's like that's where we're going.
Gail Boushey: Yes, it is. Another thing that we learn so much from teachers and being in classrooms and having them ask questions of us. It's like, "Okay, well, what are you thinking about?" One of the things we realized that we weren't addressing is the idea of how deep to go with each strategy because people have come to us over the years and said, "Oh, Cafe really is not for me. I teach kindergarten. Those strategies are way, way, way too hard."
Allison Behne: Or the fifth, sixth grade teachers who say, "Oh, no, it's too simple."
Gail Boushey: Yeah, kind of that same. And we're like, "Did you guys talk to each other? Seriously, what is this about?" But we're so thankful to have those conversations because they help us to reflect and go, "Oh, I guess we were not clear about what that looks like." So one of the things we've added is the idea of the cognitive processes.
Allison Behne: Yeah. So we really have taken it... So we have teachers really take out those standards. What do students need to accomplish? Where do they need to go with that strategy? And so we look at their curriculum and their standards and we say, "Where do they need to go and where are they now? And so how deep do we take them from here?" So if it's one step further, we take them one step further. But if they're back at the remember level, and we need to go three steps, we have a progression to make with that. And that really helps us in our goal setting. It helps us in planning our instruction. And yeah, that's been a big difference.
Gail Boushey: It has. And so I think with the second edition, it's just a time for us to truly reflect on all we've learned. And we're teachers. So teachers, we're constantly reflecting and saying, "How could I do that better? What did I miss? What could we add so that people would understand it more?" And I think that's really what we've done. There were so many of those things, we had to write them down and put it in the book.
Allison Behne: Right, right. And when you talk about kindergarten teachers saying, "This is too hard," there's an adjustment to that in the second edition where we added that reading readiness checklist. Where after the first edition was printed, you added an emergent menu.
Gail Boushey: We did, yeah.
Allison Behne: So that those beginning readers would have a menu to go from. But what we noticed was it was mostly concepts of print and those basic skills. And the goal of the menu is, or one the goals of the menu, is for students to be able to use it as a visual aid when they're reading. And if they're reading and meaning breaks down or they can't get through a word, they can use that menu to find a strategy to help them. Well, the strategies on the emergent menu were not strategies that are going to help you get through text.
Gail Boushey: That was a huge aha for us, wasn't it? Because we weren't posting them because how do you post-
Allison Behne: I know my letters, I know my sounds. Well, if you're reading and you come to a word you don't know, you're not going to look at the menu and say, "Oh, if I knew my letters then I'd be able to read this word.
Gail Boushey: You would be able to read the strategies on the menu.
Allison Behne: Right, right. So instead, we took that and we made it the checklist that it really is. We start with the Cafe menu. We start as early as preschool and kindergarten.
Gail Boushey: Absolutely, yeah.
Allison Behne: But we start those strategies with them as listeners. We check for understanding, we model that for them, and they check for understanding as a listener. And we continue that with other strategies until students are ready to engage in those books as readers independently, and then they take over using those strategies.
Allison Behne: So you know, one thing that we've noticed quite a bit of are teachers that are trying to work with basals or maybe their school has finally moved away from a basal and they're looking at like, okay, now I can teach. I can teach those students in front of me, but how? What am I teaching and how do I teach it? And I feel like in the first edition you had the coaching towards a target. You had that instruction protocol. And we've taken that same foundation of that instruction protocol, but went deeper with it, and we've added an extra step.
Gail Boushey: We spent a lot of time thinking about that, working with that. Because as with any kind of teaching, we're just constantly trying to refine, not throw out, but refine to the point where it's even better. And with that instruction protocol, what we added is not something we've really added to our teaching. We've just labeled it and named it.
Allison Behne: Yes, we did.
Gail Boushey: And the name, which we're pretty excited about, which really, I think, reflects what's happening is called an instructional pivot.
Allison Behne: Yeah. So now, after we've taught and students have had a chance to practice, we've, like you said, labeled it to say, "Okay, we're going to stop and we're going to think. Did our instruction work? If it did, here's the path we're going to take. If it didn't, here are some of the adjustments, the pivots that we're going to make in our instruction." And I think that's so important for teachers to realize it's not just one prescribed lesson plan that you follow because we teach humans. We don't know how that lesson is going to go.
Gail Boushey: And I think we all as teachers intuitively know that. We know we have our lesson plan. We know that we are going to teach, and then we know that we're going to readjust, but this is a little a different yet. It's truly giving us a space to take that breath to really sit there for a moment, which feels like an hour, but a moment and really ask ourselves, "Did that work? Did they get it? Did my teaching work? What's my evidence that I really noticed that the kids got it?" And if they did, then we'll wrap that lesson up, review, encourage, and have them go out and start practicing and transferring that information. And if it didn't-
Allison Behne: If it didn't, but then we have somewhere to go if it didn't work. Okay, we're going to look at the materials that we're using to teach. We're going to look at the setting that we're teaching. We're going to look at the instructional practices we're using. Or the cognitive processes, how deep are we going with that lesson? So we have those instructional pivots that we can make instead of saying, "Oh, this didn't work. Now what?" We have a now what?
Gail Boushey: Right. And it's not like we're having to make this up either. I think that's what we're trying to do. It's not, I'm trying to figure out exactly what it is, but it feels more like a recipe. So you're teaching the students and you're trying to make the best cookies you can. Chocolate chip would be my favorite. But what happens with the weather that day or the humidity? You might have to make some adjustments, and how do you know? You have to watch and see and think. That's the same with our... But you don't throw the whole lesson, you don't throw the whole recipe out. You're keeping that and you're saying, "What do I know in the realm of cooking that I'm going to adjust?"
Gail Boushey: So we have our new instruction protocol that is that recipe that we can tweak. We're not throwing the whole thing out. The ingredients are the same. But how we go about it might be different based on what we're noticing from the students.
Allison Behne: Okay. One of the pieces of Cafe that made such a huge shift in my instruction was the conferring notebook. It finally gave me a way to organize that information I was getting from students, and then be able to call upon that information every time I meet with students. So I didn't have to waste all this time talking with students saying, "Okay, so what book were you reading? What did we talk about?" Because I felt like that's what it was before I used the notebook.
Gail Boushey: Well, it came about because we were trying to figure out and take anecdotal notes. So it's evolved a lot. And I think when we first started it was we want to write some things down, but we didn't know. But where we are now with that conferring notebook, it is truly so specific on what we're writing down. So much so that even in our instruction protocol, we help teachers now say, "Here's just a scaffold of write this down. Write the title of the book. Write what page they're on. Write what strategy you taught, how you taught it." Not paragraphs and paragraphs, but enough that it can help inform your instruction for next time.
Gail Boushey: So it truly becomes a tool to help document what we've taught, but then also document the student learning and with what did they do? And then also that little bit of a touchpoint, which we barely talked about. Did we even talk about that in our first edition?
Allison Behne: I don't know if it was in the first edition, I don't think so. But that touchpoint is really that every time we meet with students, we're giving them a one, two, three or four. Were they below standard, approaching, meeting, or exceeding? Just so that way we know when we sit down with them the next time, okay, where were they last time? Where are they this time? And we can keep track of that, which monitors their learning and it monitors our teaching.
Gail Boushey: I mean, and that's what we know so much more about now too is what is the impact of our teaching? We're doing this, but did it make a difference? And so in the moment then when we're with a student, we really say, "Okay, we just met with them. How did they do? Did they get it? Did they not?" And that's where that touchpoint comes in, so that we can look back and say at a glance, "Okay, that was a one, two, three or four. If I want to go deeper, I can look at what happened, how I taught." But that helps us figure out now we know, do we layer on a new strategy? Do we go back and reteach? So those touchpoints are really pivotal for us.
Allison Behne: Yes. And then when they're in that conferring notebook, so then you have... It's like that notebook holds everything. I mean, it has your touchpoints so you know where your students are. It has what they've been working on and what your next steps are. And then that calendar that we have at the beginning of that conferring notebook really, I mean, when students go out to work independently, and we either are meeting with a small group or one-on-one with students, we can just open that up and we know right where to go, who we're meeting with, and we can get started.
Allison Behne: It's such a time saver because every minute we have with students is precious. And with that calendar and with our conferring notes, we can say, "Okay, I'm meeting with Sarah, and I can go sit down and get started, and I know exactly where I'm at and what I've been doing." That conferring notebook also comes in handy when it's like parent teacher conferences or when we have meetings about students.
Gail Boushey: Yes. And when we think back on where we started with the conferring notebook, it was all paper/pencil because that's what we had.
Allison Behne: Right.
Gail Boushey: And that was before we even knew more about what Richard Allington, Peter Afflerbach, and Peter Johnson talk about in their research study about curricular coherence that whoever's working with a student, we need to be working on the same skills and strategies. Well, we weren't. But over the years, since the first Cafe menu came out, first Cafe book came out, we now put that into place. And that means when we assess a student, figure out their goal and strategy, we teach that goal and strategy, small group and one-on-one. And we share that information with any other teacher who's working with that student, and they work on the same thing too. Let's just let that just kind of-
Allison Behne: I know, mind blowing.
Gail Boushey: Mind blowing for a moment.
Allison Behne: And we've done that with the paper/pencil notebook, but it's a lot harder with that.
Gail Boushey: It is, yeah.
Allison Behne: And how nice that your daughters happened to go to school for what, informatics?
Gail Boushey: Yes, to learn how to do the coding. So yeah, so just over time we said, "Oh, yeah, would you write this program for us?"
Allison Behne: No problem, right?
Gail Boushey: No problem, no problem. But it's changed our lives in that we now can share a notebook, and the teachers can share their information in real time so that they can then have that curricular coherence. Because what we used to do is I would run off my conferring notes and make copies of them for whoever else was working with a student. Or you remember when you had any itinerate come in or pull out and you'd have to write lesson plans for them.
Allison Behne: And at one time I even did two notebooks. I had an A through M and then an N through Z because I wanted to make sure that teachers that were working with students had that information in front of him. But now we have the option to have that electronic conferring notebook that allows teachers to just keep track of it in the cloud. And they can pull it up wherever and whenever they're meeting with students. So that's very handy.
Gail Boushey: Which also created kind of a disequilibrium for us and offered us an opportunity to write more about what we write in those notebooks. Because when it's just you writing in your own notebook, it's like, okay, I can write whatever I want, because you know the coding system, or you know whatever you decide to write, you pick that up and you can read your little scratching.
Allison Behne: It's very true.
Gail Boushey: But you now want to share your notes with someone else either in paper, pencil, or in the cloud. It's like what is the most meaningful things to write down? And so on our instruction protocol, we added a scaffolded column to say, "Okay, if you get to the section of teach, here's what you might write down." So if you're really trying to be consistent or be able to read what the other person wrote or make sense of it or come up with the quickest way to get the information down that someone else can use, I think that those extra notes on the instruction protocol are really going to be helpful.
Allison Behne: Yeah. And then we've also added, in the second edition, we've made that conferring form just go a little bit deeper, and we've added the cognitive processes and the instructional practices so we can keep track of how did we teach this time? That's very helpful when we're going through, and we're looking at those conferring notes. If a child has the touchpoint of two and maybe they have a two, a two, and a two. The last couple of times we've met with him and they're twos, and we're like, okay, something needs to change.
Gail Boushey: Kind of approaching standard. They're not there yet.
Allison Behne: Yes, they're approaching standard, and we look and we say, how have we taught this lesson? And maybe every time we have done an explicit explanation, but we haven't done a think aloud or we haven't modeled it for them or whatever strategy. We can look at how we've taught it and we can say, "Is that something we need to change to help this child in acquiring the strategy?"
Gail Boushey: As I reflect back, I think that's a huge thing that's changed for us and even in education over time, is it used to be saying, "What's wrong with the student? Why didn't they get it?"
Allison Behne: Absolutely.
Gail Boushey: To be now more of, "How did I teach that? How can I change the teaching so that they do get it?" And that's reflected in our conferring notebook now, keeping track of that. Yeah, we're keeping track of what the student did, but we're also keeping track of how we taught it because that is going to inform as we reflect back on if they got it or not and how we can move forward.
Allison Behne: When I think about the instruction protocol and keeping our lessons short, I'm reminded of when I first started this because my small group lessons were not short. They were 20 minutes or 25 minutes. And my students were out being independent with daily five, and then I had this time and I could sit and work with my small group. And when you have three or four students working with you, now we do two or three students, when we're meeting with two or three students, you can really keep them engaged for what appears to be a long time when you're working in those small groups.
Allison Behne: And so I'd say, "Okay, I know that this small group is supposed to be five to six minutes long. How do I do that?" And I remember going to my instructional coach and saying, "Can you help me?" And she said, "Sure, no problem." And she was going to model a lesson for me and she got finished and it was 18 minutes. And she was like, "Oh, maybe we both need something here." And it was really pulling out that Cafe instruction protocol and saying, "Okay, we need to use this protocol to get this time down, so that students can learn the important information that they need and then get out and get practicing and get reading rather than just sitting there for that entire time."
Gail Boushey: That protocol, I think has been so helpful because it does focus us in. It also focuses us to teach one or two things rather than 10 or 20, which makes your lesson go so long.
Allison Behne: I was guilty of that.
Gail Boushey: Oh, yeah. We all are.
Allison Behne: For so many years.
Gail Boushey: We all are, and we do our best, and some days are better than others.
Allison Behne: Absolutely.
Gail Boushey: But the other thing that we really spent time looking at are our ready reference guides because they were so helpful in our first edition to truly articulate what the strategy is, the definition, and that secret to success meaning what is it that kids need to do in order for it to be successful? But we then heard from more teachers to say, "What else would be helpful?" And here's what we found and that is it's hard in the moment to figure out what skills and strategies we think the student needs. So we've added some of that to the instruction protocol.
Allison Behne: Yeah. So now when we, on the ready reference guide-
Gail Boushey: On the ready reference guides, yeah.
Allison Behne: On the ready reference guides, now, the second thing on there, it will say when to teach the strategy. So if you're looking at one of the 42 strategies on the Cafe menu and you think, "I think this would be a good strategy for this student," you can look at the ready reference guide and say, "When to teach the strategy. Okay, am I seeing this when I'm meeting with this student? Is this a good strategy, a good place to start?" So we added that to the ready reference guides, and then we also added the instructional pivots.
Gail Boushey: So if you're seeing this, you might also want to add this strategy next.
Allison Behne: Yeah, with the partnering strategies, absolutely. And then the instructional pivot piece is that, okay, so I'm teaching this strategy and I just need something a little more to help the student grasp it. Here's some other suggestions for instruction. So we've taken those ready reference guides, which were already gold in my opinion, and we've added to them just to answer some of those questions that we were seeing from teachers.
Gail Boushey: The other thing I really love about the ready reference guides are it is a guide. It still keeps the professional thought so in the forefront for teachers because we need that. We can't really have a script with teaching. And it isn't a script, but it gives the teachers the background knowledge so that they can then learn that and bring it into the different settings that they have.
Allison Behne: Because teachers, they need to refer to that professional thought. They know their students better than any book, better than any program. And they need to say, "Okay, what do my students need?" And we talk a lot in the book about how it's that professional thought that tells us it's about who we teach, and that who we teach will then drive the what, when, and how, and where. I mean, it's that, what are we teaching? When do they need it? Where do they need it? What setting? Is it whole group, small group, or one-on-one? And what instructional practices do we need to use to help the student move forward? But all of that is driven by who? The student.
Gail Boushey: Since our first Cafe book came out, we've really spent a lot of time thinking about whole group, small group, and one-on-one. And things have shifted for us, meaning we've just been able to see things a little bit differently because we've always spent time thinking, "Okay, I've got three whole group lessons. I've got two small groups, and I'm going to confer with one-on-one." But what we've realized, and I think it's through the touchpoints that have really helped us get the data behind this, because when we started giving kids touchpoints in small groups and one-on-one, we started seeing, oh my gosh, this student, when they were on their own, they were able to understand that strategy and were able to transfer and show that strategy. When they were working in a small group, it wasn't working.
Allison Behne: True, yeah.
Gail Boushey: Which was when we then started to say, "Is it really about the setting or is it more about how do I teach this student? It doesn't matter the setting or which setting is it going to make the biggest difference? So we no longer think, "Okay, all kids have to be in a small group," or, "All kids have to be one-on-one." No, we're going to teach the student, and then we're going to figure out where it is that they're going to be most successful.
Allison Behne: Yeah. So we're not planning around the setting like we used to. I've got three whole groups today. What am I going to teach in those three whole groups? Instead, it's the student. We're going to plan around the student, and the setting is just one piece of that.
Gail Boushey: It is just one piece because we can differentiate that setting based on is the child getting it or not?
Allison Behne: And the instruction protocol works in all settings, yes.
Gail Boushey: That is the key, and that is what helped move us to where we are. The teaching within instructional protocol is the same. So then what are we doing? We're teaching the student, and the setting just happens to be there. So we're going to pull them in small group today or we're going to do it one on one, but we're still teaching them the skill and strategy they need.