Beginners Guide to The CAFE Wall- Resources and How To (3 of 5)

Yesterday I posted a blog by Simply Skilled in Second by a 2nd grade teacher named Anna. Her 3 Easy Steps to Streamline Your Guided Reading Instruction had me thinking. (This is a 5 part blog that will help teachers implement the Answers to the following questions. A, sort of, step-by-step guide on creating a student-centered […]

via Why Create a Student-Centered Classroom That Gets Results (1of 5) — mrssteinbrink6

The CAFE wall seems to be one of the most difficult tasks to take on for a classroom teacher.  It is a juggling act; strategy collection, student differentiation, student autonomy, flexible group guided reading, and goal setting all in one. These ideas are difficult by themselves, but when a teacher is asked to put them all together it can seem daunting.  It is SO worth it because it gives your guided reading purpose, focus, differentiation, and allows every student to become goal-oriented and mindful reader.  Without this, it may feel like you are turning your wheels, working harder than the students, and working mindlessly.

craft2 cafe-pic

Decide if you want a CAFE or CRAFT wall. 

Take a second and think about who is in your classroom.

Are you a  k-3 grade teacher or a special education teacher ? If so, then go with the tried and true CAFE Menu. To become a proficient reader, student must be able to Comprehend the text, read the words accurately, read fluently, and understand the strategies to understand new vocabulary.

Are you a  4-6 grade teacher or a gifted- talented teacher? If so, add the ‘R’ to your menu board to create CRAFT.  It is important that these students practice strategies to ‘Respond to Reading’.  This is a higher level ability that is required of them later in their schooling careers.

 Find a resource that will help guide your Strategy Menu board.

Here are a few author’s/books that I have used that have helped me create a board that fits my style, my students, and my knowledge of reading. * Choose 1 textth

Boushey and Moser ‘The Sisters’- The CAFE Book– This IS the book to start with.  The Appendix gives you the Launching Sequence Day by Day for the CAFE.  It brilliantly lays out how to Conference with students, set goals with them, USE the Menu as a goal setting wall and NOT just wall paper, and helps the teacher Coach her way through a conference with a student. If you are new to this idea- THIS is where to start!!!

  • If the CAFE menu is an established classroom habit, here are a lists of books that can help your students become successful autonomous learners, provide assistance with strategy transfer, and target YOUR instruction even further.

Jennifer Serravallo- The Reading Strategies book.  If you do not own this book- Stop right now and order it on Amazon.  I will tell you, this is the ONLY book you will ever need.  The th3dyelrzcstructure of the book fits right in with the Two Sisters’ CAFE menu.  She has great anchor charts, great questions, and teaching lessons that fit into the format of the CAFE wall.

Linda Hoyt- Interactive Read Alouds– If you prefer to take a little bit more time with the frontload and strategy instruction, this is the book for you.  Linda does an amazing job introducing students to picture books while using the authentic, high interest reading as the background of her strategy instruction.  There are great graphic organizers and genres of every kind.  This was one of the books that started my career.

Lori Jamison Rog- Struggling Readers– This is book focuses on teaching and texts that thkaqf72grtarget the needs of struggling readers.  It has four or five strategies of Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, Expanding Vocabulary, and Writing that are quick and easy to follow.  The book’s Appendix is filled with resources that any student can use.

Stephanie Harvey & Anne Goudvis- Strategies that Work– This is one of those books that MUST be in your book repertoire.  The book thbadjexbwfocuses on the Metacognitive thinking of students while using authentic picture books of all genres as the teaching text.  * As a new teacher, this was difficult for me to weed through to gain ‘bang for my buck’.  I did not find the value in this book until after my teaching philosophy was established.

How To…

‘The Sisters’ encourage The Daily Five and The Café Menu to be used congruently.  I have seen teachers use these ideas separately, and I have seen it work brilliantly.  If you are wanted a student-centered classroom with autonomous learners, these must be brought together.  The CAFE book teaches you how to integrate the two by showing you a ‘Typical’ schedule in the Appendix.  Unfortunately, I never had the luxury of more than a 90 minute Literacy block, so I had to play with the schedule a little bit.

The most important points…

  1. A strong, productive classroom management system must be in place BEFORE starting the CAFE menu.
  2. Practice, practice, practice – allowing students to make their Daily 5 choices without interruption. NO student-teacher conferences or guided reading should occur until students are well versed in making their own choices.
  3. The whole group strategy lesson should not take longer than 15 minutes.  *This is very important.  You are just frontloading students with the idea of the strategy through a guided practice NOT teaching every student EVERY CAFE strategy!!!
  4. Start the One on One Assessments with students (some may call this progress monitoring) within the first five days of launching the CAFE/Daily 5.  This will allow you to begin your flexible groupings and conferences with informed information.
  5. Review whole group strategies Over and Over again.  Review, repeat, and add on.
  6. It is important to figure out what strategies you truly believe every student needs to have to be a proficient reader.  I am a firm believer in the Close Reading Strategy: preview, read (stop and think), and summarize strategy.
  7. Allow students to Choose their books– try not to get bogged down on student Lexile or reading level.  If a student is interested in dinosaurs or WWII or the Dystopian genre, let them use these books to practice their strategies.

The greatest thing about The CAFE menu is that it is Student-Centered.  Teachers become facilitators and coaches through this approach, mindful instructors, and set all students on the path toward proficient reading (on their terms).

Want to work Smarter and NOT harder? This is how.


The Most Difficult Post I Have to Write- a Teacher’s Confession

I have always been a futuristic, strategic thinker.  I blame this on my coaches and my mother, and I know this is a good thing (a strength). Unfortunately, it has also been something I have struggled with as a parent and a teacher.  It is difficult for me to stay in the moment with my kids.  My sons are only five and three, but everything I do with them has a purpose for their future; discipline, education, structure, etc… As a teacher, being a systematic, strategic planner was what came natural to me.  But, being so calculated has created some of my most difficult setbacks, challenges, and FAILURES in my career.

After three years of trying to affect my students’ futures, impact the classroom by making calculated decisions for the test  and trying to move students through the curriculum- I finally had the hit on the head I needed to wake me up- the HIT that made me slow down!   I was going to lose my job if I wasn’t willing to change. I also realized that those last three years, I missed the opportunity to know some great kids.

It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I had to admit to myself that thinking about the future was hurting my relationship with my students and, in turn, hurting my results.  So, instead of hiding under a rock (like I desperately wanted to) this failure became the chance for me to reexamine myself, my teaching philosophy, and my mindset about teaching.

I had to STOP worrying about their future.

I had to STOP worrying about the scores.

I had to STOP believing that I could impact students’ lives without ‘knowing’ them.

I had to STOP thinking it was Me vs. them.

I had to START listening.

I had to START talking with them.

I had to START looking at my students as the drivers and me as a facilitator.

I had to START being in the moment.

I had to START looking at my classroom as my family, my team.

I had to START becoming mindful in my teaching.

It was during that year of reinvention that I discovered the value in student autonomy, student-involved data conferences and student collaboration and feedback. It wasn’t about what I did today to affect their lives tomorrow. It was about being in the moment with them; checking in with them.  When I stopped looking at the future, I was able to build relationships with my students that made a much bigger impact than any one thing I had done before.

My first step was to talk with my students even after the initial ‘good morning’ at the door.  I wanted to hear about their personal connections to characters, to conflicts, and solutions in our stories.

My second step was to create a student-centered classroom.  This meant the students’ knowledge and understanding determined the how long I taught on a certain objective.  They began to choose their independent practice based on their personal goals and areas of weakness.  Guided reading become the center of my classroom instruction.  I had students begging for the attention they were given during my small group guided reading sessions.  Fourth, fifth and sixth graders were asking to meet with me instead of working with partners or independently.

Final Stepmindfulness, every decision that I made was based on what that day brought.  I had to become mindful of my students’ feelings, attitudes, and personalities.  I had to KNOW whether or not, on that particular day, if the students would be able to handle what I had planned or if they were wanting MORE.  I had to become mindful. I had to become a mind reader; someone who was able to read the room. It wasn’t about ME anymore- it became about them.

-and with this-

My students became my ‘kids’.  I wanted them to succeed in each of their goals because of who they were, NOT for the results on the test or for me. I gained more than increased test results.  I was able to treat every day as a significant part of their life.

Teaching became a significant part of my life as well.


10 Tips on Getting The Daily 5 Student-Centered (2 of 5)

If you are following this series, you are looking for a classroom structure that will allow students to become autonomous learners with the opportunity for differentiated instruction to help increase overall reading performance.  Thank you for following along.

Before you can create a student-centered classroom, structure must be in place.  The Daily 5 classroom format lays out one of the BEST structures.  The Sisters create a launching protocol that allows new and veteran teachers jump on the Daily 5 bandwagon. Their website allows you to watch videos, read blog posts and articles that lay this all out beautifully.

Here are some Tips that have helped me launch the Daily 5 (or Daily 3) in my classroom.

Tip #1 – Make sure you take the time to complete the I-Chart.

These charts give everyone the opportunity to understand the expectations of the student and the teacher during the Daily Five time.  This provided student buy-in for procedures that held them accountable for their behavior.  It felt almost like a contract that we created together. Have a collaborative conversation with your students about what should be expected for their success- What does it look like? What does it NOT look like? (role play).

Tip #2- Practice, practice, practice

It is important to set the structure, the standards, the expectations and practice them.  Do have students go through the transitions multiple times before pulling a small group that will pull your attention away from the masses. This is the opportunity for students to become familiar and routine with the ‘contract’.  When students are routined, you are able to sit back and watch students become the productive members in the classroom.  They are the ones going home tired- NOT you.

Tip #3- Start with 1 Daily activity at a time and ONLY add on when you KNOW students are ready.

When first starting this process, I made the mistake of jumping in with both feet.  We had 3 of the Daily’s going; read to someone, read to self, and word work all going at once.  It was chaos, and the students were never in a routine enough to know exactly how to reach the ‘contracted’ expectations. We had to back up and come up with a game plan.  I never did that again.

Tip #4- If you are a 4-6 grade teacher, try adding Respond to Reading as an extra Daily station Creating CRAFT.

Students in grades 4-6 are expected to prove and justify their thinking. This is one of those new waves that has allowed students to reach the College and Readiness standards that are creating inferential, high level thinkers.  This thinking allows you to really see their level of thinking and problem solving. I highly recommend adding this to the Daily expectations.

Tip #5- Try Weekly 5 instead of Daily 5

It is difficult to get through an entire Daily 5 when your teaching block is only 90 or 130 minutes long.  Try incorporating the Daily 5 but modifying it so students are expected to get through all 5 by the end of the week.

Tip #6- Have something that will hold students accountable for work or progress

The Sisters have great ideas on making sure each student complete the Daily 5 every day, and if you Pinterest Daily Five, I guarantee you will find something that will work for you.  This is important for students in grades 4-6 because they tend to want to read to self most of the time.  Which, as a reader, I don’t blame them.

I have also found that setting goals with students helps to motivate them to complete the Daily five ( more on this on post 5).

Tip #7- Teach students what a Good Fit Book is for them

There are so many conversations happening right now with the focus on the Joy of Reading and bringing that back into the classroom.  If we ONLY base student text on their reading level and NOT their interests or their ability levels, we have missed the point.  You will have a classroom filled with students who feel like reading is a HAVE to and not  WANT to.  It is our job, as educators, to encourage and excite students about learning- light the fire don’t dull it.

Tip #8- Allow students to choose their Daily from the beginning

After you have introduced and practiced at least three of the Daily 5 options, allow students to choose the Daily 3 they want to go to.  This will help your classroom become student-centered quickly.  They will learn responsibility, problem solving and accountability quickly- if you believe they can do it- they will be able to do it.

Tip #9- Revisit expectations (I-Charts) as often as you see fit

There is nothing wrong with having a class meeting on the expectations at the end of the semester or the six weeks.  And, there is nothing wrong with practicing each Daily 5 as a class every Monday until they are routined.



Why Create a Student-Centered Classroom That Gets Results (1of 5)

Yesterday I posted a blog by Simply Skilled in Second by a 2nd grade teacher named Anna.  Her 3 Easy Steps to Streamline Your Guided Reading Instruction had me thinking.

(This is a 5 part blog that will help teachers implement the Answers to the following questions.  A, sort of, step-by-step guide on creating a student-centered classroom)


  • Why aren’t more teachers providing guided reading intervention to their students?
  • How do teachers differentiate without this practice?
  • Time, time and time.  How do teachers work smarter and NOT harder?
    •  Teachers are bombarded with responsibilities, more and more accountabilities, and expectations.  But, the school length stays the same. My good friend, Valinda Kimmel, writes about this in her blog post titled, Best New Year’s Resolution for Teachers in 2017: Do Less @


  • Daily Guided Reading Time
  • Daily 5 Literacy Framework
  • CAFE System
  • Student Involved Data Meetings

Daily Guided Reading Time Benefits

What is Guided Reading?  (small group instruction with like leveled readers that provides students with guided support in Comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and word work)

  • provides differentiation to students through leveled text, comprehension strategies, and vocabulary focus
  • Teacher is able to model for the small group so all students are focused on the skill
  • Provides guidance in a safe environment that encourages all students to try.
  • The small group gives the teacher the ability to monitor and hold all students accountable for their strengths and weaknesses
  • Gives each child the opportunity to share out, have engaging conversations with the teacher, and builds strong relationships.

Daily 5 Benefits

What is Daily 5? (A literacy framework that allows students the opportunity to choose from 5 Balanced Literacy Tasks to achieve their personal reading goals)

  • students develop independence, stamina, and accountability;
  • less time consumed by classroom management leaves more for instruction;
  • the framework adapts flawlessly to district-adopted curriculums and state mandates;
  • improves schoolwide literacy achievement; and
  • behaviors of independence transfer to other content areas

CAFE System Benefits

What is CAFE? (The CAFE System to assess, instruct, and monitor student progress. It provides tools for constructing group and individual lessons that provide just-in-time instruction, ensuring that all students reach their potential.)

  • establish and track the strengths and goals of each child by providing a structure for conferring;
  • organize assessment data and use it to inform instruction;
  • maximize time with students in whole-group, small-group, and one-on-one settings;
  • create flexible small groups focused on specific reading needs;
  • engage students, fostering ownership and accountability to reach goals; and
  • develop a common language to talk about reading development and proficiency.


Student Involved Data Meeting Benefits

What is Student Involved Data Meetings? (Student-Teacher discussion with the purpose of setting overall reading goals by instructing students on strategies and a focus.)

  • Student autonomy
  • Student accountability
  • developed problem solving skills
  • Improved overall reading abilities
  • working smarter, NOT harder

In my next post, I will focus on the Daily 5 Literacy Framework; how to get it started and how I have used it and have seen it used to increase student overall reading scores and classroom productivity.



Beginners Guide: Flexible Seating in the Classroom

As you’ve skimmed through Pinterest for teacher ideas, I am sure you’ve noticed a lot of new posts on ‘flexible seating’. Which have peaked your  interested or, at the very least, you are now intrigued.

Am I right?

Well, let me provide you with a few tips on Why? and How? to get this started in your classroom.


The Two Sisters introduced me to student choice many years ago in their books The Daily 5/CAFE.  Through this idea of Centers or Stations, I was able to implement ‘flexible seating’ before it really even had a name.  As an Instructional Coach, I am seeing more and more teachers jump on this new student-centered idea.  Giving students the opportunity to earn or choose their seating benefits the classroom for many reasons…

  • student-buy in
  • more focused and attentive students
  • develop learner autonomy
  • initiate problem solving
  • foster responsibility

The students are apart of the decision making when it comes to ‘flexible seating’.  They get to make the choices, reflect on the decisions that they made, and because of that become productive members of the classroom learning environment.  One of my favorite TPT and blog posts on flexible seating is by Tammy Danley, she explains how she jumped ‘feet first’ into this idea because of the student feedback.

She has some wonderful advice on how to get the students to develop autonomy, problem solve and become responsible.  Because I will warn you!!!

You will want to throw in the towel because it is such a drastic change from what students are so used to – sitting in a hard, uncomfortable chair all day. BUT it is well worth the time and skills you are helping students develop.


First– Decide what seating you will want, offered, and house in the classroom.  This is a great time to give students a list of options and allow them to express what they want.  Here are some ideas..

  • bean bags
  • exercise balls
  • rolling chairs
  • floor pillows
  • cushioned crates
  • benches
  • wobble stools
  • stools
  • cushioned buckets
  • chair cushions
  • folding chairs
  • sit spots

Second- Troll the Dollar Tree or Dollar General for good deals and comb through Pinterest for ideas only your most out of the box thinker can imagine.

ThirdCreate Rules and a student/class Contract that will help hold everyone accountable.

Fourth– The day the new seating changes DON’T try them all at once.  Sneak them in slowly or the students will become very overwhelmed, as will you 😉  DO allow students to play around with the seating for about 5-10 minutes.  Let them get this out of the way because you know they are going to do it no matter what you say, so you might as well let them get their ‘play’ in before applying the strict expectations.

This student-centered idea allows students to feel as if the class was made for them.  When taking the time to find out what they want from their classroom, students will feel appreciated, cared for, and, most of all, important.  This will give you the opportunity to help them become successful.



Data Talk the Right Way

Picture this scenario…

As you sit in your hard school chair, you can hear your heart pounding against your chest, and your hands are sweating from the nerves that are racing from the anxiety your teacher’s heels are creating on the floor as she passes out yesterday’s assessment.  She calls your name at the same moment she lays the test face down onto your desk.  With a nervous heart, you place your trembling hands on the test.  You peek through your fingers to notice the long list of questions you missed.  Your heart sinks deep into your stomach as you swallow hard.  This is not good.  You tried so hard, and still was not successful!?!?

Unfortunately, this is the moment most students believe defines them.  This is the moment that most students stop trying and allow this one test to claim them for the rest of the year.

As teachers, it is our job to use these short cycle assessments, benchmark assessments and district tests in a different way- The Right Way, the meaningful way.  Here are Six steps to make these tests about what students and TEACHERS did right and how we can fix what went wrong without allowing these tests to define the2016-10-19-14-11-02m.

  1. Notice what questions you/students answered correctly.  I heard a teacher just today announce, “Celebrate what questions you answered right because that is just as important as what we did not answer correctly.”



2. Use the assessment to collect data on many different areas BUT most importantly

Vocabulary – This is one of the highest areas of struggle for students in all content areas, in all grade levels, and in all backgrounds.  2016-10-19-14-12-15

Question Stems – This is where most students struggle.  The test questions are different than the objective, and the tests are asking the students the same kind of question multiple different ways.



3. Allow students to measure their own effort and their strategy use.  Ask them how much effort they put forth on this test.  Without a growth mindset and the belief that staying focused and attentive during a test, students will not be successful. This is a very difficult thing for teachers to teach.  Teachers need the buy in from our students on the importance of effort, there is very little we can do about the actual data. Ask them what strategies they used on the test.  Have them show you evidence of those strategies.  Allow them to express what strategies you have taught that helped them, and what strategies need to be practiced or implemented to support their success.



4.  Notice the trends with your class, rotations, campus, and district.  What questions did most students struggle with, what questions did most students do well on, and what objectives did we improve on?  The school I am currently working on uses a lot of consensograms to collect this type of data.  The visual allows students to be reflective and goal oriented. If rotations differ, figure out why?  If teachers’ data is different, ask why? In this reflection, teachers can find opportunities to grow from each other and learn new ideas.

5.  Set goals and change classroom instruction based on this assessment. If teachers don’t use the data to drive instruction forward, there is absolutely no point in taking the assessment.  Our (RX) prescriptions for change give students so much control in the classroom.  This collaborative opportunity allows each student to express his/her concerns and ideas to the teacher.  When a teacher actually listens and makes the tweaks during this reflection/prescriptions, the students are more apt to be engaged in the learning process.  Give students the chance to sit with you, one on one, to discuss the data.  During this conference set goals with the students; specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, timed goals. SMART goals.


6.  Learn from your mistakes BUT celebrate the successes!!!!  If it is always about what went wrong, the test will define the student.  If the teacher can see the light and express her/his pride for the student effort, mindset or successes, the test will be just a piece of the learning process.  Next assessment, set a goal and find some kind of incentive (extra recess, a pie in the face, a game of knock out, dance party etc…) to intrigue all your students to do their best, to show what they know.


Help students understand that this is a jumping off point. This assessment is being used to collect data and information on what we (teachers) need to be providing for them to be able to be independent learners.  Students can be helped all day with differentiations in place to help them be successful.  But what do students need to be successful on a test that measures all students on the same objectives? What strategies can we implement to help students become good test takers?  Until we can find another way to hold everyone accountable, tests are the reality, and they are not going away any time soon.  Let’s make the best of it, and make tests work in our advantage.

3 Must Haves to a Perfect Class Closure

I was honored to observe a new teacher at our school and our district today.  Her closure was a Process of Beauty.  I had to share.  In this closure she included three  essential parts that make a Closure reflective and comprehensible.  Walking out of her class today, made me feel a sense of pride for her and for her students. They are very lucky to have such a new teacher truly understand what the Learning Cycle is all about.

Before the video, this is the conversation that led to the step I was able to capture on video.

*Names were changed

Mrs. N – “Who wants to share what strategy they used today to help solve their independent work?”
Bobby- ” I used CRAZY HEAD MATH!” (I am assuming this is math done in your head).
Mrs. N- ” Okay, great! Raise your hand if you also used Bobby’s strategy today during independent time?”
(most of the hands go up)
Mrs. N- ” Who used a different strategy?”
Michelle- “I multiplied the tens by the decimal, the ones by the decimal, added them and then moved the decimal.”
Mrs. N- “Wow! Raise your hand if this was your strategy.”
(the rest of the hands go up)
Mrs. N- “Okay, let’s get our Plickers cards out and see who took away the learning objective today.”

This simple but affective check in with the students allowed Mrs. N to see what strategy students used today. This adds to their toolkit, gives the students choice, and allows them to experience a little control in their learning.

Please observe the following video.

As you observe, simply notice the three steps she takes to help her students grow and have a growth mindset.

In the video, Mrs. N uses a technology tool to assess her students in her learning. This tool is Plickers.  As a classroom teacher, this was one of my favorite formative assessment tools.  It did not require a lot of time to set up, not any other device than your phone or Ipad, and it gives automatic feedback.  Plus- if you heard the cheering- it is a lot of fun for the students.

Her final step was to ask a student to explain how she got the answer.  This is a Number Talk.  If a student can explain how she/he got the answer, then they will most likely learn in faster, help another student understand the process, and by talking it out- the teacher gets to clarify misunderstandings and vocabulary.

To sum up…

A Must have Closure  must include…

  1. reflective check in with the students.
    1. strategies that they used during the independent practice, How do you feel about the learning today? or What was your take away?
  2. Formative Assessment of some kind
    1. Exit ticket, Plickers question, assignment question reviewed from independent work
  3. A chance for students to  Explain their thought process.
    1. Number Talk, Turn and Talk, share out, written response, journal writing


Norms vs Rules


Creating norms in the classroom is the first step to establishing a collaborative student-led classroom.

Above is a video created by a staff member on my campus that articulates the Norms of the art room.

It is important for all students to have a voice and to understand what types of ‘normal’ classroom behaviors will need to occur to be successful.  The first question you ask students is …

“What do you need from your peers to be successful this school year?”

These answers create your NORMS.  These are behavior expectations that will need to occur every single day to make sure ALL students are successful.

The most important thing to remember when establishing norms is that THEY ARE NOT FOLLOWED UP WITH CONSEQUENCES! If a student does not reach these norms, they are not given a consequence.  This is the time to sit with a student and remind them about NORMS and how they are just expected behaviors that the students in the class decided would help all students succeed.


These are the nonnegotiable expectations set forth by the teacher, campus or district.  These are posted in the classroom before students even show up on the first day.

The most important difference is that Rules = consequences. 



4 Steps to Continuous Improvement in the Classroom

I am excited to share with you this Cooperate idea that has swept the school nation!  Continuous Improvement is a systematic approach to reflection and getting know what strategies help our students learn best.  023

Plan– What is the plan for the unit?  What do students need to know how to do? When will they be tested over this information?  What will the test look like?  How do students know they are successful on the assessment?

The unit starts with these questions being answered.  As an adult, if I knew I was going to take a test ; drivers test, GRE, ACT or certification tests of any kind, I would want to know the answers to these questions.  I am also given the opportunity to know what is coming, so why not give our students the same courtesy?

img_0068Do–  These are the Strategies that are being used throughout the unit to help our students reach our PLAN.  These should include both Engagement and Instructional strategies.  Our goal, as a teacher, is to give students the tools in which they can pull from when struggling in math, reading, science etc…

The instructional strategies are those tools that give our students the opportunity to become advocates for their own learning and independence in their learning.  The engagement strategies allow the teacher to make sure that their time is being used efficiently and productively.  In previous blogs, I have written about Rich Allen, Marcia Tate and Marzano.  These innovators have given teachers wonderful tools to use to check for understanding in an engaging way and keep their attention during the learning cycle.

Here are some strategies that engage and check for understanding placed in the learning cycle processes. – You can find this at Jule-Huck TPT account as well.

Process 1

Pre Assessment

Process 2

Partner/group work

Process 3

Post assessment

Graffiti Wall

Place the topic word or phrase on the board. Allow students to draw or write what they know or think of as they enter the room.


Using a sentence frame or a graphic organizer, have students summarize the instruction, expectations for activity or new concept.

Rate it

On their way out, have students rate their understanding of the assignment, new concept.


Ink Think

Place a topic word or phrase on a piece of paper on the students table. Allow students to draw or write what they know or think about the topic.


Divide the reading into sections. Have each student take a section and when they understand the information, teach it to their team.

Corner call

Have corners of the class labeled (A, B, C, D) ask a question and allow students to walk to the corner that answers the question.

Double Entry Journal

Topic/ Think about topic


A note taking strategy for students to use while listening to explicit instruction.


Ask a question, allow students to ‘think’ about their answer, pair up (back to back) and share their answers.

I care Why?

After the instruction and independent work, have students explain why this objective was important to them.

Graphic Organizer


Students are completing a graphic organizer while explicit instruction is occurring.

Inside-Outside Circle

Create two circles, one inside facing out, one outside facing in.   Ask a question and allow students to answer – rotate the outside circle for new partners.

Sketch to Stretch

Students will draw a sketch of the main idea of the day.   Then write a paragraph explaining their drawing and how it connects to the objective.


Draw a line, place the topic in the center of the line and the two opposing ideas on opposite ends of the line. Have students write on a post it not their opinion and why.

Gallery Walk

After group work is complete, allow students to silently walk around the room to view the work and add comments, suggestions, and celebrations to the group assignments.


With a frame, students will answer a question about the objective and explain their reasoning.

I’m the Teacher

After the explicit instruction, allow students to reteach the concept to someone.

4 C’s

With a partner/group, have students write down their Connections, Challenges, Concepts, Changes about the instruction and new concept.


Split the class up into two sides. Like tug-o-war, have students take a side and explain their position.


After the explicit instruction, allow students to reteach the concept while the students mirror their partner.

Whip Around

Students quickly and verbally share 1 thing they learned in class, after the assigned work.

Response Cards/Plickers

Also referred to as an Exit Ticket. Ask a question and allow students to answer- This is not a grade but an informative way of knowing who understood the lesson.

Study– How did the students do?  What were the results of the assessment?

This is, hopefully, when the growth of our students can be visible with a graph of some kind or consensogram of what strategy the students used during the assessment.

The visibility of this is very important for our learners.  They should be able to compare themselves to the average grade in the class, compare rotations to rotations,  compare campus to campus and most of all, compare their previous assessment results with each other.  This data gives our teachers and students strategic feedback that allows us all to explicitly understand whether or not we understood the content of the PLAN.  It allows us to see if we are growing as learners.  It allows us to have a mindset towards growth and reflection.

ACT– In my mind, this IS the most important part of the continuous improvement model.  What strategies helped us learn the content?  What strategies did not help us learn?  How can we change or tweak these strategies to help us in the future?

This is when relationships are built in the classroom.  This reflective questioning gives our students voice in the classroom.  I don’t remember EVER being asked what I liked about the class, and I know that my opinion did not matter to my teachers growing up.  It was a teacher facilitated classroom- that was the way.  We are now giving our students so many opportunities to become advocates for their learning and teaching them to ‘Fish’ for themselves.  This is the part of teaching that I love so very much.

The following is a youtube link to a teacher on my campus that is reflecting with her students on the PDSA Continuous Improvement cycle.  Pay attention to how involved the students are in her reflection, listen to the questions she asks them, and watch how she models positive reinforcement to help encourage all students to give feedback.





9 Personalities You’ll Find in a Classroom and How to Help Them

I have come across a plethora of student personalities and have found that most students fall into at least 1 of the following 9 categories. During my time with these students, I have used a few tricks that have helped my classroom and my relationship with them that has allowed for their personality to help the classroom experience in a positive way.

Accomplished– These are the Advanced Placement students or Gifted students.  Their IQs are possibly above the average classroom student.  You can recognize these students by their ability to excel in your class and understand new tasks quickly. But, They also are the students who tend to give up when effort is required.

Try: Setting parameters for your expectations; rubrics, page limits, and/or time limits.  Teach the Growth Mindset to these students.  Congratulate them when effort is put forth, when the project is done neatly, pair them up with the ‘Motivated’ student to help them try their best.  Encourage them to take their time and NOT be the first ones finished.

Comedian–  This student really likes attention; positive or negative.  And they will get it laughing%20emoticonanyway they possibly can; dancing, singing, telling jokes, answering questions with a sly remark.  These behaviors usually gets these students sent to the office.

Try: First and foremost, Ignore the behavior (if it is not harming themselves or others), setting up a behavior plan with the student that is only known between you and the student (no attention brought to the child), a behavior contract- if the student can refrain from entertaining the class during the productive times in class, then he is allowed to tell 1 joke at the end.

Motivated– Every classroom has at least one of these students and thank goodness for these students.  They are motivated to do well in class, stress out when they don’t reach their idea of success, but they try even when it is difficult.  Some would call this student the ‘Teacher’s Pet”.

Try:  Congratulate these students on their effort, reward and celebrate the small successes during class, use these students as examples of good behavior and effort in your class.

Natural Leader– These students are the ones everyone looks up to. They are typically enthusiastic about school, well liked, and well-rounded.  The natural leader may be a bit demanding during group work or projects, but they will be the presenter during these presentations.

Try: During group work/projects, give this leader a To Do list and make sure the group members have job titles and tasks or the Leader will take complete charge over the project.  Allow these leaders to present first during presentations- their confidence and their unique ability to ‘command’ a classroom will set the standard for the presentations.

american-income-life-roger-smith-ceo-keep-calm-get-organized-blueOrganized– These are far and few between, but thank goodness there are a few of these students.  Most likely, these students are female (can be male), have a clean backpack, organized binder, a color coded pen system during note taking and LOVE to organize your classroom library. Some would call this student the ‘Teacher’s Pet”

Try: Give these students the jobs in the classroom that require an organizer; librarian, absent work collector.  Notice their organizational skills, make comments on them because this small gesture will go a long way.

Sensationalist– This is your drama queen.  I personally know a lot about this one because thk3d2a1hjthis was me in school.  Everything is a big deal!!! They are master manipulators, story tellers, but are also the victim in every situation.

Try: Don’t make classroom redirections a big deal, try not to bring too much attention to this student, but you should use them when reenacting classroom stories or storytelling.  When dealing with behaviors, talk through the situation and scenario with them.  Allow them to tell their entire side of the story first, then show them and express to them how they should’ve reacted.  They need to hear the other side of the story- how their behavior made another person feel.

Unresponsive– Unfortunately, there is one of these in most classes.  This is the student that will sit in class without participating in discussion, class work or even respond to direct questioning.

the14v1hiwTry: Build a relationship with this student outside of class time; have lunch together, watch how they interact with others at recess, P.E. or fine arts classes.  Get to know this student.  Try a participation contract- if they raise their hand and participate in small group discussion at least 5 times in class, then ______________.   Try and get their parents on board to encourage them to participate in class.

Respectful– What a joy it is to have this student in class.  “Yes ma’am”,” no ma’am,” “please”, “thank you”, “Have a nice day”, “you look nice today, Mrs. ___”.

Try: Don’t bring too much attention to this child for their respectful behavior, but do acknowledge with a note home or a call home.  Parents really appreciate hearing that they have  raised a respectful child.  Try pairing this student with the Comedian or the Sensationalist during partner/group work.

Unorganized/Unprepared– This is the student that comes to class without their homework, pencil, or even backpack.  They may even show up to school late on most days.  Their backpacks, lockers and desks are a disaster.

Try: Teaching them a few organizational skills.  Meet with their parents to try and set up a homework reward system and teach them a few organizational skills.  Most of the time, this is a learned behavior.  Do not punish the student if they don’t have a pencil or come to school tardy. Instead, have a special pencil ready for that child and celebrate the fact that they showed up to school – even if it is late.

These are the personalities that I have found in my classrooms every year.  Students can have a mix of these personalities, but one of these is most dominant.  Use their dominant personality to your advantage in the classroom.  Find the personality that gets under your skin the most and build the strongest bond with that student as soon as possible.  I guarantee that will be the student you will never forget, and the personality will no longer be what you see – you will start seeing the student!