Thursday, May 7, 2015

Reading Conferences

Independent reading is my favorite time of the day because it gives me the chance to listen and talk with my students about books. It is the fastest way to establish a relationship and show kids I care. Plus, it helps me keep them accountable for books read at home and at school. To me, conferencing is much more than a conversation or assessment, it was all about the relationship between the teacher, student,and book. This is differentiation at it's finest! EMS-ISD is embracing Reading Workshop next year, so this post is dedicated to Reading Conferences. Enjoy!

Establish Independent Reading Time

Reading conferences happen while students are independently reading books of their choice. Have one block of time set aside for kids to spend engrossed in books. This is the time when you pull up a chair next to them or slide beside them on the carpet to talk about what they are choosing to read. This routine takes several weeks to establish. It's important to have this routine mastered in order for conferences to go smoothly. Take the time to help students select just-right books and build reading stamina before jumping into conferring.

This document (Reading Conference Framework) is adapted from Regie Routman's Reading Essentials and describes the way a conference can go. 

Make it Comfy

Reading conferences should not be forced. This is not a time for you to quiz your students on plot, setting and character. This is the time where you see how they feel about the book and their reading, give them strategies for reading, or help them take more risks with their reading choices. Reading conferences should be cozy, comfy, and conversational. 

Be a Noticing Teacher

Take time to notice your students. What are they doing well? What types of books are they choosing? Are they engaged with their reading? What does their reading sound like? Before you can support their reading, you have to start paying attention to what they are doing well as readers. I start every conference off by simply listening to a reader or observing them reading to a friend. This helps me hone in on my teaching point.

Complement your Readers

Before worrying about what to teach, start by complementing what they do well. Noticing one thing they do well as a reader sets the tone for a positive conference. In the first few weeks of establishing routines, I only worried about noticing the strengths of my readers. This gave me time to get to know them, build a relationship, and show them I care. It also allowed me to focus on their strengths instead of their weaknesses. Jennifer Serravallo & Gravity Goldberg use the following chart for their conferences. This simple chart makes it easy to focus on the positive while following up with a teaching point. 

Compliments I Could Give the Reader
What I Could Teach the Reader

Have a Teaching Point

If nothing else, a complement conference is a great way to start. Eventually, you have to move into teaching your readers during this time. That means finding a teaching point that your individual reader needs to find more success.Some areas of reading to consider for your teaching point include: comprehension strategies, monitoring & adjusting reading, or fluency. You can also confer with students about their book choices or genre choices based on their reading log. Reading conferences are about adding to a child's reading repertoire. Your whole-class mini-lessons also add to their reading repertoire so reinforcing a lesson previously taught is another type of teaching point. The child should be aware of your teaching point so remind them of the different goals they have set and accomplished to help them see how much they have grown as a reader!

This document (Child Friendly Reading Goals) is adapted from Regie Routman's Reading Essentials and describes different goals to set with students. 

Use Assessment to Drive Instruction

Running records and miscue analysis are the perfect assessment tools to guide your instruction with students. You can use these to find trends and patterns of reading behaviors to help you know what to teach. I do not suggest using a running record during every conference but it is important to incorporate these into your time with the readers.

Be Organized 

Conferencing takes a lot of organization. You want to see what goals you have set in previous conferences and with 20+ students in your class, don't let your brain be responsible for remembering. A notebook, post it notes, or labels work great for those of you who like paper and pencil. Below is an example of a teacher's note taking system for conferencing. She took a 3 subject spiral notebook and divided it for each class she teaches. Then, she informally writes notes for each kid she meets with. Each page is a different student's name.


Other teachers choose to print formatted sheets to put in a binder. Here are some great ones on TPT: 

Reading Conferencing Sheet
Conferencing Rubric 
Reading Goals
Note Taking
Reading Conference Form
Form with SMART Goals
Conference Form
Reading Conference Form

With BYOD you may want to consider these digital apps that also allow for note taking during conferencing: 

One Note (FREE)
Ever Note (FREE)

Conferencing with all 20+ students in your room can seem overwhelming at first. You may be tempted to schedule them all out in order to get them in. For me, this wasn't successful because a student didn't always need me on that particular day. I tried to get to my students based on when they needed the support. Also, I frequently turned a single conference into a small group lesson when I noticed patterns between readers. This allowed me to reach even more students and connect them with others working on similar strategies. Reading conferences are at the heart of reading workshop. This is the time for you to truly know and understand your students. Once you have independent reading time established, start listening into your students' reading and having conversations around their book. Don't let conferences stress you out--this time can be so rewarding and enjoyable for the teacher and students!  

Here are some resources you may enjoy: