Kathleen Tolen had this to share: You need to prepare ahead of time, not just conferencing on the
What do you do in a conference if you don’t know the kid’s books? Try to read as many books in your classroom as you can. If you have a series and you read one you will have an idea about the others. In the beginning of the year have the books out in your libraries that you know. Also, at certain levels there is a way the story goes basically. We are holding kids too accountable for comprehending everything. Do you comprehend every single thing you read in a book or every single part of a movie? Sometimes when you are just enjoying something you don’t comprehend everything. It’s ok. Also, don’t hold a child to the accountability level of comprehension that you have. An 8 year old will comprehend something differently than an adult. Tour their post its in their book of stop and jots. Pick a portion and have them read it to you. You need to hear your kids read aloud to you at times you aren’t assessing. If a child is reading a non-fiction text then you can look at questions they may have and say: I see you have a lot of questions about alligators. You can take these question post its and put them on the cover of your next alligator book and see if you find the answers to your questions there. USE post its. Their work will be better.
The important thing to do at the end of a conference is to leave a LINK. Just like you do in a mini lesson. What will the student do when you leave them on their own. In a mini lesson you end with a link and that is how they go into work session. In a teacher/student conference you end your conversation with what they should do or where they should go next with their reading. (Not necessarily an “assignment”, but more like a habit or action) You should see evidence that the student is interpreting their reading. Noticing, comparing and all reading strategies get them there but their goal is to interpret their reading.
One thing that is important for us is to have reflection time about what we need to get better at when conferring. Breaking habits is hard so you have to put it in the forefront of your mind. You need to “hear” what you are saying after it is over. Audio record your next conference with the student. This is easy to do with a smarthphone! Continue doing it until you are doing what you want. Kathleen did this for weeks and realized she was doing too much of the talking and not enough of the listening. At first she put a sticky note on her clipboard that said “Shut Up” until a student saw it and asked her why she had that written down. So she ended up telling the class was she working hard on being a better listener than talker. They all decided to have a code sign for Ms. Tolan is talking too much which was rubbing their nose with one finger. It really helped her. Finally one day after a conference a student said, “Good job!” and she said, “Oh, good, I taught you something?” and she said, “No, good job not talking too much!” LOL
A reflecting conference shows how your work is improving or maybe they are in a place they need to reflect and see why things are growing and improving. The kids need to be involved in the learning. Let them reflect and SEE what their next step forward will be.
fly. Keep notes and follow up on something they were struggling with, look at artifacts (post its) in what they are currently reading ahead of time, study data on this child, have the child tour you through the work they are doing with their reading. Find a way to lift their thinking a level. There are lots of ways a mini lesson is a lot like a conference.
Alexis Czeterko, staff developer for TCRWP, had us reading chapter books and jotting our thoughts throughout so that she could model conferring with us.
Can I just say this freaked me out?!? What would she think when she read my thinking as a reader? Was what I was writing "enough"? Where should I stop and write? Wow, I wonder if this is how my students feel? Well, the answer to that was probably no. My students probably didn't worry about what I thought because I didn't spend much time reading their stop and jots or hold them accountable to deepening their thinking. Hmmm.... I'm going to remember that.
Architecture of a Conference
Research the reader
what will you compliment?
what will you teach?
how will you teach it?
Give a compliment
Teach the reader something and have them try it
Rearticulate what you’ve taught and encourage the student to do this often as she or she reads (LINK)
Alexis says to look through the stop and jots of their independent book before your conference. If you notice the jottings on post its are not connected in any way that can be ok but try to get the student to connect their thoughts. Get a theory about the story or character and continue to see where your thinking changes. Help them make that connection the first time if they are struggling with it.
Documentation is important. She logs a date under the students page in her data binder and writes her compliments on left of 2 sided paper and right she rights the teaching point. Sometimes she will pull out the current read aloud or a mentor text to demonstrate what she is trying to teach the student to do in their book. Go to the student where they are reading, don’t call them back to your space. Meet them where they are and if other students are nearby hearing what you say it’s ok. They are actually learning too. When the student is done reading they need to do something with their post its. They may take a few to a new text to build on their thinking. They may use some to tape in their reading notebook and write about their thinking. They definintely shouldn’t throw them away, staple them in the reading notebook and grow more thinking!
What are your best tips or tricks for conferring?
Cross posted on Once Upon a Teacher