Changing with the CAFE Literacy Program

First of all an apology for missing an entire term of blogging here.  It was an insane term and this blog unfortunately took the back burner, but HERE I am and with a post I have been planning for quite sometime.


I first heard of Daily 5 and CAFE from Uni friends, but when I saw Kathleen Morris and Kelly Jordan from 4KM and 4KJ using it, I knew it had to be a good thing! I spoke with both of them and followed Kelly’s blog posts.  So when on the first day of term I saw the CAFE book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser sitting on my principal’s desk, I snatched it and immediately knew it was the literacy program I thought my grade 3/4 students needed.  I knew it would take a lot of tweaking as our school operates differently to a lot, but I was up for the tweaking challenge.

Things we had to consider when adapting CAFE program:

– Team teaching 

– Open Space classrooms

– Timetable and specialists

– How much freedom I was willing to give students

– How to build routines and trust

– I work .8 and how would I continue on my day off

– Student Feedback

I jumped straight in in Term 1 and muddled my way through as I ordered the Daily 5 book.  I started a Pensieve (a individual conferencing journal that is pivotal to the success of this program) and tried my best. I was slightly blinded by enthusiasm at first and really had to stop and take stock of my consideration list.  And when I was truly honest with my teaching, I realised that my considerations were a thorn in the side of the CAFE.  It was hard to do Daily 5 in my grade and not the other grade 3/4. I felt I was trying to take “my” students to do things, when our school operates more on the collective responsibility of students.  It was jarring with our ethos. I also found that the timetable and specialists were only allowing me one or two days at the CAFE over a full week, and one of those days falling on my day off.  Here is a look at my first attempt to run CAFE… It was MESSY!

I didn’t give up! I went to my fantastic team and asked for their help to make some CHANGES. Change is hard, and especially hard for us teachers who run by routine… I am beginning to realise just how important being open to change is to teaching though! So from little things, big things GROW… My team teaching partner came on board and the whole school helped to coordinate timetable changes to allow our grades 2hrs uninterrupted in the mornings 4 days a week! We changed specialists, we changed our spelling morning from Thursday to Friday to accommodate my day out of the classroom to not fall on a CAFE day. With some unexpected staffing changes, we also gained a third teacher to assist us during CAFE times! Bonus! We all sat down every week and changed, modified, adapted, tweaked and considered all of the above.  We also listened to the students, checked in with them, noticed when they were working well and what we needed to do to facilitate that.

All in all, CHANGE is GOOD and we now have a CAFE that operates like this…

 As I have stated before we are a TRIBES school and begin everyday with community circle, which we adapted into the CAFE program.  Then the two grades split for blogging and reading strategies and then swap.  These run for 10-15 each depending on how much time we think students need on writing that particular day.  Students meet to discuss goals and tasks for day and move off independently into DAILY 5 activities. We gather again for writing at end of session. We moved the independent reading portion to the 15 minutes after lunch.

Change is hard! It is easy to go into school and re-hash what was done the previous year and the year before that.  It is easy to take a prescribed formula from any book, teacher, or Department initiative.  But do those formulas meet your students needs? Do those formulas support your core beliefs as a teacher?  Do they match the school’s ethos?  What needs to CHANGE to consider these important factors?

This IS a post to promote the Daily 5 and CAFE, as I wholeheartedly believe their program is an easy to follow, manage, maintain, and most importantly their program is positively benefiting our students.  This is ALSO a post to honestly look at the journey it took me and a team of teachers to CHANGE the formula to suit our students.  And we hope we never stop changing…

I promise, in my next post I will go into the nitty gritty details on how the DAILY 5 and CAFE operates in the classroom.

How have you adapated programs in your classroom?

How does change affect your teaching?



3 thoughts on “Changing with the CAFE Literacy Program

  1. I am now ending the 3rd year of implementing The Daily 5 and CAFE. Like you, I’ve also had to tweak it to fit in with timetabling, students being pulled, teacher aide times and school mandated programs etc. One of the things I adapted was Work on Writing – I changed it to Write About Reading (reading response) and do a separate writing block. I also can’t fit 5 of the activities in each day. I’m looking forward to reading more about your journey with The Daily 5 and CAFE.

    • Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

      It is so great to touch base with other teachers who are modifying the Daily 5 and CAFE. If only there was enough time in a school day to complete it to the sisters protocol, but I just can’t seem to steal the time. I am sure that what time we do give to it, which is 2hours a day has absolutely made a huge difference in our students.

      Interesting to hear how you use Work on Writing. We have a class blog
      and use that time for students to comment and respond to any new posts or comments that have come onto the blog. It has worked to keep our blog alive and give them a chance to enjoy purposeful conversations in their writing.

      I will try to post this week on how we modify the Daily 5 as it would be great to hear from you and other schools as well.
      Thanks again,

  2. Pingback: HOW OUR CAFE and DAILY 5 WORK | Guiding Digital Nomads

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