Taking notes during conferences:
We had a great discussion on the the importance of taking detailed notes during our conferences with students. A lot of teachers have methods that work great for them, but others may not attach to it as well.
- One teacher uses mailing labels with each child's name pre-printed on it. After she write on all of the (she has gone through the whole class), she starts a new one. These stay on a clipboard until another rotation of conferring has passed (in order to refer to it in the next conference). Then, once she starts the 3rd round, the 1st round of labels go into a binder that has a separate page for each student. She will use that big page with the small labels in order to evaluate reading growth for report cards and such.
- Another teacher uses a grid pattern to show the whole class at one time. I used this at one time, too, but needed more space to write my observations and teaching point.
- Many teachers kept a binder with a page for each child, along with a calendar that had certain students schedules for specific days.
- If you want to track specific aspects of reading (fluency, decoding, etc.) for the report card, a check-chart could be used. This is fast and easy, but doesn't give you any details to base later teaching on for the student.
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What to teach during the conference:
This was the meat of our discussion.... and a great exchange of ideas! We are from a few different school districts, so resources, support and books vary with the area. However, one thing was the same- we all get our basic curriculum (lessons & pacing guide) from our County Intermediate School District.
- I always start my conferences with something like, "So, tell me what you are working on as a reader today." This is just part of our class lexicon and they know to expect this question (it will help them in later grades). Most of the time, they will answer the mini-lesson. However, lately, they have been focus on the concept of meta-cognition and how "real reading" happens. They love big concepts and words! As a result, they are looking for things that they are struggling with or that they do not understand.
- Use mentor texts to refer to when teaching a comprehension or decoding strategy. We were thinking about gathering a handful of books that we all have (leveled) that we can go through next time. Inside of these books, we will put post-it notes with possible teaching points like the characters feeling change, etc. They will be at a few reading levels, so we will always be prepared (carry around during conferring).
- One school (mine) put together a short list of teaching points (new features) for each level of book. These were designed as 2X4 labels. they could either go inside books or in a flip-style binder on index cards. The information came from my go-to book for this year, as I learn to teach at different levels of reading.
found here: What's the Buzz in First? TPT. There is also a sample pack for
free there :) Thanks Jaime and Kate!
- Another important teaching point is a check-in on how previous goals are progressing (look at past conferences to see what student was working on as a reader).
- Above all, make it authentic to their reading lives. If adult readers don't do it, why would we ask a child to practice it? I'm all about reflection and accountability, but that doesn't mean filling in a bubble on a comprehension worksheet to check for understanding. I'd rather have real conversations- like adult readers do.
- "Which organizer are you going to use to help retell?" (refernce tools made by the teacher to support fiction and nonfiction texts).
- "Can I share something with you that will help you out with that?"
- After hearing what they are working on in ther reading and listening to them read a bit, "I'll see if I can help you out with that/ give you a tip."
- Make compliment specific to the reader and true (should be different for each child, helping them develop a reading identidy).