Layer Upon Layer

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Trish Prentice

January 26, 2012

January 27, 2012

CAFE strategies...I love them! They are essential tools used to develop competent, independent readers. In my classroom, the CAFE board is the focal point of our meeting place. We use it everyday!

How often should you introduce new strategies? I understand that it's tempting to add a new strategy every few days. There are so many things the children need to know! But it is possible to go too fast. For a child to "own" a strategy, they need countless opportunities to see it used. They must try it with guidance and then apply it independently. Too many strategies, introduced too quickly, will result in a big jumble.

Layering is a technique you can use to help introduce strategies. It consists of three parts.

  1. One strategy is the major focus for a week or two. As you read text, refer to it in multiple ways as you teach it. Keep the strategy card in your hand as you talk about it. While conferring, encourage students to demonstrate their knowledge of the strategy. Once you see the children are using it, time to staple it to your board. It's fun for everyone to give a round of applause as you ceremoniously add the card.
  2. Just because you have a strategy focus doesn't mean you can't be using others simultaneously. I like to demonstrate a new strategy before it officially becomes our major focus. For example, we have been using our prior knowledge to connect with text since the first day of school. Yet it was only recently that I put a label on this strategy, "Connect with the story." Because we have already used it many times, the name of the strategy will stick tight quickly.
  3. In addition, make it a habit to refer to at least one previously learned strategy every day or two as you read to your students. Remember to point to the strategy on your board as you talk about it. Also, when you confer with students, be sure and point out when you notice a child using a strategy. Use it or loose it.

The bottom line is, the introduction of strategies follows the needs of your students. As you confer with your children you will see what strategies have been internalized, which need a refresh lesson or when it's time to add something new.

Think of your strategies as a layer cake. One layer is the major strategy you are teaching currently. Another layer contains the strategies you'll be teaching soon. And the last layer is filled with the strategies you've already taught. Put it all together and you'll have one yummy cake on your menu! Bon Appétit!

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