CAFE in the Classroom

CAFE stands for Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expanding Vocabulary. Under each category, there are reading strategies essential to developing a successful reader. As I implement the different strategies in my classroom, I will post supporting lesson ideas, websites, picture books, and videos.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Checking for Understanding

One of the first strategies I teach in my second grade classroom is Check for Understanding. Check for Understanding fits under Comprehension on the CAFÉ menu. I find this strategy to be very valuable in the primary grades because the main focus for students always seems to be getting the words right. By starting my year off with a comprehension strategy, it reminds both me and the students the main purpose of reading… to make meaning!

Explaining the Strategy:
“When I read a story, I need to think of who the story is about and what just happened.”
“Who did you just read about? What just happened?
“Think about who the story was about and what just happened.”
"Real reading includes both the text and thinking."

Ideas for Teaching:
  • Use a wooden checkmark to help students remember to check for understanding while reading. On one side of the checkmark, write “Check for Understanding.” On the back side of the checkmark, write who and what.
  • While reading with a partner, have the partner that is listening respond with, “I just heard you read…”
  • Model this strategy during your interactive read-alouds. Explain to students that reading is not just about the words, but we must also think about the information. Teach students to use Post-Its to track their thinking while they read.
  • Explain that just like a salad with a mixture of lettuce and tomatoes, a reading salad is a mixture of text and thinking. Label two small bowls text and thinking. Label a large bowl real reading. Place red cards in the text bowl and green cards in the thinking bowl. As you read a story, point to the text when you are reading from the text and point to your head when you are thinking aloud. Have a student add a tomato (text card) to the real reading salad when you point to the text and lettuce (thinking card) when you point to your head. This helps students visualize that real reading must be a mixture of text and thinking.
  • Create a poster-size thought bubble. As one child sits and reads aloud, stand next to the child and hold the thought bubble. Explain your thinking while the student reads. This helps students understand what goes on inside a reader’s head.

Helpful Websites:
This website explains how to conduct a Think-aloud. Think-alouds are a great way to reveal to students how readers think about the text. Use a think-aloud before or during reading.

This is another website that lists resources for conducting a think-aloud.

Supporting Picture Books:
dePaola, T. (1989). The art lesson. New York, NY: Penguin Young Readers Group.
  • This book helps initiate thinking about the text because most students can easily relate to the boy in the story.

Danneberg, J. (2000) First day jitters. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc.
  • Because I usually teach this strategy at the beginning of the school year, I like to pull in books about school. I also like this book because it has a surprise ending. Students realize that thinking may change while reading. 

Fox, M. (1988). Koala Lou. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, Inc.
  • This book also is helps initiate students’ thinking. Because they can usually relate, they are quick to share their thinking during the story.

Professional Resources:

Boushey, G., & Moser, J. (2009). The cafe book. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Boushey, G., & Moser, J. (2006). The daily 5. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Harvey, S., & Goudvis, A. (2008). The primary comprehension toolkit. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. (Strategy Book 1)
McGregor, T. (2007). Comprehension connections. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


  1. Thank you for sharing Allison!

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