CAFE Brain Break and Assessment—An Engaging Way to Assess Student Strategy Knowledge


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We observed an engaging activity in Karen Shannon's third-grade classroom that can be used at the beginning of the year to learn which strategies students are already knowledgeable about. She and her students began by talking about the CAFE Menu headings: Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expand Vocabulary. They defined what each of those words meant, and clarified that they are things people do to read proficiently.

After hanging the four CAFE Menu headings in different places in the classroom, Karen read one of the strategies from the menu. Children listened and decided which heading the strategy belonged to and moved to that spot in the classroom. For example, if she read, “Check for understanding,” students went to the Comprehension area. 

This activity can lead to beneficial conversations about the placement and meaning of strategies. It also provides a window into student background knowledge of CAFE strategies, and can be used as an engaging brain and body break. 

Karen makes a few modifications and repeats the activity a few times throughout the year to refresh and reinforce student familiarity with the reading strategies on the CAFE board. One modification to the introductory activity is to turn it into a competitive game where students who chose the wrong heading sit back down in the gathering spot. She continues to read strategies until just one or two winners are left standing.

Further into the year, Karen hands each student a strategy card from the ones she has taught and placed on the CAFE Menu, and students move to the correct heading for their strategy. Peers engage in helpful conversations and checking as they build this human CAFE Menu.  

So whether you are looking to do a quick assessment of your students’ background knowledge of strategies, foster discussions about the CAFE Menu and reading strategies, provide a kinesthetic way to familiarize students with the menu, or merely looking for another type of brain break, this may be something you want to add to your must-try list. 

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