Making “the Cafe” Make Sense for Primary Students

I will forever be indebted to Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, the authors of The Daily Five and The Cafe Book for showing me how it was possible to organize a primary classroom to have an individualized reading program. I have, of course, taken their ideas and adjusted them to fit with my students and my curriculum, but the classroom organization basics have come directly from their ideas.

The part of the Cafe that did not seem to be working well for my students was the terminology on the bulletin board.  The students themselves write out the reading strategies as each one is taught, and these strategies are then posted under one of the menu four categories–comprehension, accuracy, fluency and expand vocabulary. If you take the first letter of each category, the letters spell cafe. Thus the title. It’s a great visual reminder, and encompasses the basics of what we teach in reading. These headings make perfect sense for older students, but not for my six and seven year olds, some of whom do not even know what a cafe is.

While I was musing about this, Laura Komos posted on Twitter that she had changed the headings on the bulletin board in her classroom to fit with a theme. I immediately knew that this was the answer. I wanted to change mine to make it more kid-friendly as well.

I wanted a word that made sense to my students, and nothing I could think of made more sense than READ. I also wanted the accuracy aspect to come first on the board, as this is the first focus in my classroom each year.  This is what I came up with. (Click on the picture to go to a larger version if it is too small for you.)

Accuracy has become “right words”. Comprehension is now “explain what you read”. Fluency was changed to “able to read smoothly”. Expanding vocabulary has become “discover new words”.  The first letters of each category now spell “read”.  It still has the four reading components of the cafe menu, but the language used is better suited to younger students.

Feel free to use it if it is useful to you. While I’m pretty confident that this will make more sense to my students than the last bulletin board did, I’m not totally happy with a couple of those headings.  If you have a better idea about how to phrase any of them, change it.   If you do modify it, I’d love to hear how you adapted it.

Thanks for the inspiration Gail and Joan!

9 thoughts on “Making “the Cafe” Make Sense for Primary Students

  1. Hi Kathy.
    Thanks for the shout out and honoring our work. If you remember from the workshop you attended, the CAFE menu board was designed purposefully with the major emphasis always being on comprehension. Without comprehension there is no reading! That said, we use the CAFE board with prek on up. We would encourage you to not underestimate your student’s ability to understand the board, knowing that the teaching of the skills and strategies is a slow and thorough process! There is also amazing power in using the original words so the continuity from grade to grade is present.
    Hope this helps! Keep up the great work for kids!!

    1. Thanks for your comment. I have actually never attended a workshop, but I completely agree with you about the emphasis being on comprehension. It is the underpinning of all I do in reading. Having said that, the strategies that my curriculum asks me to teach in grade one are all accuracy strategies. Our grade two is about comprehension strategies. This is not to say that I never teach comprehension (including strategies) in grade one. I do. But my students cannot comprehend until they are able to decode some words. That is the reason I put accuracy first on the board.
      I also do agree with you that using the same words throughout their schooling is best. I will still teach them the words fluency, comprehension etc, but want to be sure to START with words that they all understand.
      It’s fascinating to me that you are using the menu in preK. Our preK and K are not about teaching reading. Even in kindergarten, teaching the alphabet and sounds is only supposed to be incidental.

  2. thanks for sharing this Kathy. I just sent it to our literacy leader in our division and she will circulate it amongst our teachers. p.s. is amongst a word??

  3. Hello Mrs. Kathy,

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea! I especially like the changes you made to your board. I plan to save this idea for when I have my own classroom. I also might like to introduce my students to the more difficult vocabulary in time. Again, Thanks for the idea and I plan to buy the two books you mentioned. They will come in handy.

    Elizabeth Mims

  4. Hi Ms. Kathy
    I’m Giorgio Lymon, a student in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed finding out how you took some ideas from these two authors to incorporate an organized individual reading program and altered them to suite your students. I think your change to the Literacy Café Menu was well needed because now your students can understand and achieve their reading goals successfully. This was a great idea that I am going to share with members of my family that are teachers.

    Thanks, Giorgio Lymon
    EDM 310

  5. I like the READ acronym. I am looking to implement using the cafe menu next year (maybe with a little trial run at the end of this year). I like to use acronyms that tie with the concept they are supposed to help remember. I’m thinking maybe Remember and understand, Expression, Accuracy, and Discover new words. That helps keep comprehension front and center…

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