Posted on February 9, 2012 by Elizabeth Peterson in Literacy.
Over the past few weeks, I have been conducting reading conferences with my students. It is quickly becoming a great teaching practice: one where I can derive so much important information about my students, and one that my students look forward to.
I first got the jolt to reinvest time in this practice during a professional development day focused on reading and literacy. The presenter emphasized the importance of student-choice independent reading and reading conferences. The next day, I increased the amount of independent reading I allow for in my classroom, reminding students of the importance for their own learning and experience. The reading conferences came a few days later, but then I jumped right in.
During a Studio Day I conducted with my class, I decided to get my materials in order so that I would be ready to take adequate and practical notes during the reading conferences. While my students worked on their project for the day, I created my Reading Conferences flip chart. It sparked the students’ interest as they watched me carefully measure out the placement of each big index card and slowly write their names on each one. When I was done constructing it, I decided to make a title card. On it, I wrote “Reading Conferences” as well as the strategy our presenter explained to us on how to conduct a successful conference:
Research ~ Decide ~ Teach
At the time of our professional development, we watched some videos that showed example conferences and our attention was drawn to how in a good conference the teacher did his/her Research by asking an open ended question such as, “What are you reading and what are you thinking as you read?” and then listening to the student. While the student spoke about his/her reading and thinking, the teacher Decided on what concept to touch upon in their 5 minutes together and then Teach it.
This way of organizing a conference has been very beneficial to me. I go over to a student, ask them the question, listen and from there decide on what I want to emphasize. For one girl who was reading a coming of age book, it was on text to self connections. One boy was reading a Sports Illustration which led to a brief discussion on finding articles that interest us and reading for content. Another boy, who happened to be reading the illustrated classic, Moby Dick on Big Universe spoke with me about the illustrations in the ebook and how it helped him visualize the story. Each conference is greatly different from the next. It is truly individualized teaching.
When our conference is over, I jot down the date and a few notes as well as a tally mark indicating which students have met with me. My students have been excitedly waiting for their own 5 minutes with me and I look forward to learning more about them as we have our own private chat about reading. It’s a win win.
It’s really nice when new life is breathed into an old concept and this is what happened for me. Of course, I’m curious as to how you conduct reading conferences in your classrooms. Please comment and let us know!