Scholar’s Cafe is a model for capturing student thinking that involves movement, multiple prompts, and students reading each others’ writing. The product will be several “posters” (which could be butcher paper, construction paper, or even a digital poster).
I used this all the time with my students and cannot believe it’s taken me 12 years to write about it. See a specific example here.
Set Up Centers
Scholars’ Cafe starts with several centers or stations around the room. Use counter space, hard floors, desks pushed together, whatever. Each of these stations will have a large piece of paper on it along with some markers.
You’ll be writing a prompt in the middle of each of these posters. Students will rotate to each station and respond to the prompt directly on the poster.
So, your paper should be big enough to handle your entire class’ thoughts. Butcher paper rules!
Write Out A Prompt
Your planning is simply to write out an interesting prompt for each station. Don’t be boring! If your prompt is “Who was the first US President. Explain why?” Or “What was the character’s main trait? How do you know?” prepare for an awful time!
You do not want to see 36 of the same answer. These prompts should provoke divergent thinking. It should be fun to read the answers.
Once you have all of the prompts written for each station, you’ll run your Scholar’s Cafe like so. Oh, my mentor would brew hot chocolate for her students during the “cafe” which is optional but amazing.
- Group your class so that each station has an equal-ish number of students. Group 1 goes here, Group 2 starts there, etc,
- Explain that each student will be responding to the prompt on their poster individually and silently. They’ll write using the markers. There’s no “up” on the paper, so write in whatever direction is comfortable.
- Set a timer. 90 seconds may be fine or you may need more. Feel free to adjust. You’re in charge.
- At the end of the time, you will need to model how to rotate or kids will crash into each other. Make everyone point to the next station they’re going to. Then give them ten seconds or whatever. Then start the next timer.
- Keep repeating until they have rotated to each station.
- Then, set a timer and let them wander for five minutes or so and read the various responses.
- Bring them back to their seats. Ask which responses popped out? Which were surprising/made them laugh/seemed amazing/etc.
Now you have a bunch of big posters packed with student thinking. Hang ‘em up!
And that’s a Scholar’s Cafe.