In writing workshop, I utilize conferences to set goals with students, give compliments, and offer feedback about something that the student can immediately act on. I’ve been thinking about how I can implement reading conferences during readers workshop. That task sounds a little daunting because of the time required to meet with each student as well as doing guided reading. Here are some questions that I had before researching:
- Where am I going to confer in the midst of reader’s workshop?
- How will I confer with students in a way that moves them forward?
- How will I confer with students often enough for the practice to be effective?
I sought answers to my questions in the book Conferring with Readers: Supporting Each Student’s Growth and Independence by Jennifer Serravallo and Gravity Goldberg. This book is a great resource for anyone wanting to begin or improve upon reading conferences. Many of the conferring techniques can be translated to writing conferences as well.
(click the picture for more information on the book)
This book promotes individual reading conferences as the primary way to meet with students. The author uses conferencing first and then uses small groups to address students who might be struggling or groups of students who need work on a similar strategy. I have a slightly different view, especially as a teacher of beginning readers. I think that guided reading is beneficial for all students. The gradual release of responsibility towards reading independence is very important. Guided reading is the last point of support before independence. However, If we are engaging in next generation guided reading, as described in the book Who’s Doing The Work: How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More, then we will not need to meet with guided reading groups as often. Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, authors of Who’s Doing the Work, describe explain that “though guided reading is critical, it has traditionally received more than its share of instructional time. By contrast, next generation guided reading-which can be used less often than conventional guided reading because it is thoughtfully coupled with intentional shared reading and read-aloud- can accomplish more in less time.” I highly recommend reading Who’s Doing the Work for a full description of conventional guided reading versus next generation guided reading. You can also refer to my post about guided reading for more information. I have been working on a way to implement reading conferencing alongside guided reading.
Where am I going to confer in the midst of reader’s workshop?
In the first chapter of Conferring with Readers, the author describes her reading workshop routine. She begins with a mini-lesson and then releases the students to independent reading. During independent reading, she engages in individual conferences, partner conferences, and group conferences. I’ve been thinking about how conferences would fit in my reader’s workshop routine alongside guided reading. Given that next generation guided reading requires less time than the conventional guided reading that I’ve been using, I will not have to meet with each group every day. In the past I’ve been spending 45 minutes a day in guided reading groups. Now, some time will be freed up for reading conferences. After many rewrites and sticky notes, I’ve decided on a schedule readers workshop. I will do reading conferences during independent reading time and guided reading during independent workshop.
All of my summer reading and research has helped me to incorporate all aspects of the gradual release of responsibility, conferencing, and guided reading. Shared reading and word study will be taught at a separate time of the day. I’m excited to give my new schedule a try!
How will I confer with students in a way that moves them forward?
In her book, Jennifer Serravallo describes how she researches her students during independent reading, observing reading behaviors, fluency, and comprehension. She takes notes on a recording sheet that includes compliments that she can give the reader and what she can teach the reader. Then, she sits beside the student and begins conferring. She gives compliments that reinforce strategies . Next, she gives the teaching point that will give the student something that they can act upon. The teaching point could be a strategy for decoding, comprehension, or fluency. She makes note of what was discussed during the conference so that she can check back in.
I think that her methods of conferring builds students up, reinforces learning, and gives students feedback that they can act on to move forward. Conferring gives the teacher more opportunity to know the reading behaviors of each student even more. It is sometimes difficult to get a really clear picture of a students reading toolbox until I meet with them one on one. Guided reading offers a chance to observe these behaviors, but time is usually limited and there are multiple students in the group that I need to observe. I think that conferring will give me more information on each student. The information can be used to group students for guided reading, create reading partnerships, and plan for mini-lessons. The knowledge gained in conferences will allow for purposeful planning of all of the components of reading workshop.
Here is a sneak peak of the recording sheets for conferences that I have created. You can get a copy of them here.
How will I confer with students often enough for the practice to be effective?
I plan to be very strategic about which students are receiving guided reading and which students I am conferring with each day. For example, if I meet with a group on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I want to make sure that I confer with them on either Tuesday or Thursday. I plan to confer with each student at least once per week. In order to keep track of which students I have met with, I will keep a conference log.
Here is a sneak peak of the conference log that I have created. Click the link for your free copy!
Another way of ensuring that I’m conferring with students weekly is a 3-2-1 method. I learned about this at a training on writing conferences this summer. The goal is to meet with three students in a group, two students in a partnership, and one student individually each day. This means that you will be able to confer with 6 kids a day! I created a planning sheet for 3-2-1 conferences. It will allow you to write down who you plan to meet with each day. You can get it here!
I am very excited to give reading conferences a try this year! I have seen how beneficial it is in writers workshop and I am confident that it will move my students forward in reading as well. I highly recommend Conferring with Readers if you are looking to start conferencing this year. Join me in trying it out!
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather to serve one another humbly in love.” – Galatians 5:13 NIV