The Cafe Book Informs Our Use of Assessments in the Classroom June 29 2010

Assessment has become a huge part of our teaching lives, and often seems to happen inside a vacuum. Whatever information gathered from the overabundance of assessment that is required sits on graphs and charts as data that informs others but doesn't always help us with structuring lesson plans.

Now, however, assessment can become part of everyday teaching and learning while students develop independence in literacy. The Cafe Book: Engaging All Students in Daily Literacy Assessment and Instruction by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser provides structure for goal-setting with individual students, small groups and the whole class. These goals are then posted and inform small-group and whole-group instruction, with students tracking along with you how goals are met.

The Cafe Book is focused on differentiated instructed and is based on research into the habits of proficient readers. CAFE is an acronym that outlines these habits:

  • C - Comprehension (understanding what is read)
  • A - Accuracy (figuring out new words)
  • F - Fluency (reading phrases and sentences fluidly)
  • E - Expand (building vocabulary)

The Cafe Book is not just pages about theory, but practical strategies to immediately implement in your classroom. The Introduction contains both author's points of view regarding creating this structure and their experiences while doing the required research. The book also includes step-by-step instructions on keeping a notebook of individual  conferences with children in the classroom, how to assess students and organize information during the first days of school, how to confer with students during conference time, planning and running whole-class literacy blocks, structuring and managing small groups, and examples of tracking sheets and reference forms to have on-hand.

The Cafe Book is easy to read and implement, requiring no formal training. There will be time required to set up and run the structures with your students, but you may be already using many of the suggested strategies. This teaching resource brings cohesiveness to best practices in developing literacy while helping your kids cultivate a love of reading.

For further reading, there is an extensive bibliography. Photographs of teachers working with kids and using the suggested materials are included throughout the book, as well as a wealth of practical examples. And as usual with "The Sisters," there are no reading worksheets and plenty of management tips and suggestions.

If you liked and used The Daily Five, then The Cafe Book is a worthy complement and addition to your library of teaching resources. This book directs teachers to provide structure with the main goal of fostering student independence in literacy and letting assessment be a part of everyday teaching and learning.