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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cafe: Chapter 1- Introduction

I'm following along with the Cafe book study over at We Read, We Blog, We Teach.
Stephanie blogged about her thoughts from Chapter 1 here and I thought I would share mine.

One of the first things that The Sisters talk about in the chapter is the fact that their basal that they had to teach from wasn't meeting the needs of their students. Do you have a basal? We use Storytown by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. We've had it for a few years now but we did realize that it was fine for those average readers but our kids who were above or below grade level needed more.

At our school we do two reading blocks. One is "flex reading" where kids are put into groups by ability level. The other is a homeroom block where we have a heterogeneous group. We originally used this homeroom block for our basal and then supplemented materials for our shorter "flex" groups. After a few years of this, the first and second grade teachers got together because we knew there had to be a better way. I had been using some of the Daily 5 and Cafe strategies in my flex group because I was working on a project for my Master's Degree. We looked further into The Sisters' plans and decided that this is what kids needed, but it would mean a fundamental shift in the way we had been doing things. 

The first and second grade teachers proposed that we begin teaching basal in our flex groups so that we could use it for the main curriculum in the grade level groups but that we could also tailor it to meet the needs of our above and below grade level readers. We formulated a plan and brought it to our principal. I'm so glad she made us really work out how we were going to use our reading time because we all were on board and took ownership of how we were going to teach reading from now on.

Now we teach our basal in flex groups. The higher readers read the story maybe once or twice in the week and then use the skills and strategies that are taught in the basal in other literature. The below grade level groups read the story with guidance and work on the skills and strategies in texts at their levels. We aligned the Cafe strategies to correlate with our basal strategies and use those to teach our whole group Daily 5 lessons before the kiddos break into their choices. We work with small groups in our homerooms to focus on those strategies and others. We know our kids inside and out. They are getting their needs met in any class they are in. We feel better about what we are doing and why we are doing it. 

Phew! That's a long story but I'm so glad that we changed what we were doing. We really feel we are putting kids first now, instead of the scripted one-size-fits-all basal. 

Tomorrow Chapter 2 is due! Here is the calendar from We Read, We Blog, We Teach if you'd like to read along, too!

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