CAFE with Common Core


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The CAFE menu (Boushey & Moser, 2009) consists of literacy skills and strategies that students use to read and comprehend text. The strategies listed on the menu fall under the five pillars of reading instruction: comprehension, phonics and phonemic awareness (accuracy), fluency, and vocabulary. The original menu created in 2002 by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, the 2 Sisters, was based off of the Washington State Standards. The success of the menu in local classrooms quickly led to shared use that expanded far beyond the borders of Washington State. Since the original menu was created, it has been updated and tweaked to produce an optimal instructional tool for educators all over the world and an easy to use learning tool and visual aid for students.

In 2008, the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), along with the National Governors Association, started to look at the need for rigorous educational standards in the United States ("About the Standards", 2011). In 2010, the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy were completed to provide a means of commonality among all states and to help ensure that all students are college and career ready in literacy upon completion of high school. These standards, along with individual state standards, provide the foundation of what our students are to learn.

While looking through the Common Core, you will notice the terminology may be different from The CAFE Menu, but the ideas are the same. Not all strategies are targeted for each grade level, but that doesn't mean your students won't benefit from learning them. In addition, not all Common Core standards are addressed in the CAFE menu and need to be incorporated through various focus lessons in the reading and writing curriculum. As educators, it is our job to look through our grade level standards and teach what is required at a rigorous level. It is also our job to provide our students with the strategies they need to be successful at their reading level, which may include adding strategies that aren't specifically targeted in the Common Core.

As I worked to align the CAFE menu with the Common Core standards for each grade level, I learned a lot about the Common Core standards and what is expected at each level for students to be successful. I saw gaps in the Common Core that I thought were filled nicely by the strategies in the CAFE menu, and I saw standards in the Common Core that are not addressed in the CAFE menu. My original thinking was that the CAFE menu should be adapted to include all standards in the Common Core. This way we would know we were addressing everything in the menu. Then, when I thought about what that would look like, I realized it would not only be hard to do, it would change the purpose of the CAFE menu and the reason we use it in teaching our students.

The purpose of the CAFE menu is to help students understand and master different strategies used by successful readers (Boushey & Moser, 2012). The purpose of the Common Core was to provide a clear framework for all teachers and parents in order to prepare K-12 students for college and careers (NGA Center and CCSSO, 2011). Although both are in line to enhance student performance, they are not one and the same. The Common Core language arts standards include ALL standards that must be taught for each grade level, K-12. The CAFE menu focuses specifically on reading strategies, not writing and speaking. It provides a resource for students to use in tackling challenges that interrupt their reading and comprehension. Therefore, even though the menu has been aligned with Common Core, it is not all encompassing and teachers must still visit the Common Core standards to ensure they are teaching everything required to produce successful students.

Here are a few concepts not included in the CAFE menu that stood out at many grade levels:

Taking compare and contrast a step further:

  • Explain major differences between fiction and non-fiction, drawing on a wide reading of a range of text types
  • Basic features of print
  • How words and phrases (e.g., regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song
  • Differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text
  • Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.
  • Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.
  • Compare and contrast stories in the same genre (e.g., mysteries and adventure stories) on their approaches to similar themes and topics.
  • Use of figurative language such as metaphors and similes
  • Analyze how a particular sentence, paragraph, chapter, or section fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the ideas
  • Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue In addition to the ideas mentioned here, the Common Core has a set of writing and a set of speaking & listening standards for each grade level.

References: Boushey, G., & Moser, J. (2012). CAFE . Retrieved March 22, 2012, from The Daily CAFE:

NGA Center and CCSSO. (2011). About the Standards. Retrieved March 22, 2012, from Common Core State Standards Initiative:

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