Monday, 2 November 2015

The CAFE - goals and strategies for reading instruction

Have you ever felt a bit overwhelmed by the task of sharing goals with students?  What do you predict your students will say when you ask them, "What are you working on in reading?" or "What are you learning how to do?"
If this is something that concerns you as a teacher, you may well find The CAFE Book an interesting read.
The Literacy CAFE is a handy acronym for the goals in reading instruction.  The CAFE Book provides a structure for keeping students involved in their learning and helping them to work with an awareness of literacy goals.  It is also an instructional guide for teachers in how to organise for daily literacy assessment and instruction in order to meet the needs of individuals.
The four literacy goals are: Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expand Vocabulary.
Authors, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, have developed a menu of goals under these headings and given detailed guidance in setting up for teaching and assessment - with record keeping being a major challenge for any teacher to deal with when setting out to personalise instruction to meet individual needs.
One big positive about the CAFE in terms of the New Zealand curriculum is that it's a flexible system.  The strategies as laid out in the book are a useful starting point but others can be substituted or added as required.  For example, this year I discovered The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo and have begun to add some of these strategies to my repertoire.
The big change involved in this approach is a shift in focus from the particular book for instructional reading to the reader.
Just as in Reading Recovery, teachers are encouraged to observe what the child is actually doing as a reader and to tailor the teaching accordingly.  Rather than teaching a guided lesson about the content of a specific book, the lessons focus on strategies that will help the reader to be more effective when reading that book and other books.  We're teaching skills and strategies with a view to transfer - applying the strategies today and every day from now on.
We share these strategies with the reader, so that, as time goes on, our students will begin to talk confidently about their reading goals and strategies and answer those questions, "What are you working on?" and "What are you learning how to do?"

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Why choose the Daily 5?

I've been searching for the words to begin this post that will encapsulate what the Daily 5 is all about and, more importantly, why I chose to leap into action and use it as a starting point for change in my teaching practice.
As I said in my last post, training as a Reading Recovery teacher, and learning to be really thoughtful and observant in my interactions with one child led me to search for ways to replicate this in my classroom.
These words from The Daily 5, 2nd Edition (Boushey and Moser, 2014, pp7-8), might provide some insight into what grabbed my attention. They describe a class in the middle of a Daily 5 round.
Looking about the room, you may have to hunt a bit to find us. When you do, you will discover us deeply engaged with a small group of two or three students as we practice a comprehension strategy together, or immersed in modeling a new accuracy strategy in an individual conference. The days of leaving our small group or conference to manage children are behind us. We actually have our backs to the rest of the class - we're not even looking at them! Yet the rest of the students in the class are working by themselves, completely independent.
That was what I wanted - to be able to focus on teaching, freed up from behaviour management and other interruptions, while at the same time being confident that children were on task and engaged in worthwhile work.

What the Daily 5 offers is a step by step guide in how to make this work in your classroom, focusing on 5 literacy activities:

  • Read to Self
  • Work on Writing
  • Read to Someone
  • Listen to Reading
  • Word Work
The Daily 5 itself doesn't provide the content for teaching. It provides the structure and the method for teaching student independence.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Why change?

Reading Recovery was the catalyst that set me on a path to find some new solutions for effective literacy teaching.
I trained as a Reading Recovery teacher in 2011 and discovered the magic of learning to observe and notice what a child was able to do in reading and writing.
This led me to look at the teaching I was doing in the classroom.  I wondered if I might be able to replicate the quality of interaction that I had learned to love in Reading Recovery lessons.  I felt I needed to improve my focus when I was teaching, whether working with one child, or working with a group.
I kept my eyes and ears open and before too long, someone posted a reference to the Daily 5 on Twitter.  I'm not sure what it was that made me think this was worth following up, but follow it up I did, and that's what led to change in my teaching practice.