Monday, January 9, 2012

Readers Workshop Lab- Conferring

Wow! What a day I had!  As I mentioned before in a previous post, I have been going to visit another first grade room and studying Readers Workshop at a deeper level. Today's topic was on conferring with students individually. This has been my main focus this year (the last goal was on the basic structure and mini-lesson). I'll try to be concise in my thought and not repeat my friend Jaime- you can check out her notes on a similar training day at: What's The Buzz in First?
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.
I am extremely organized when it comes to my conferring notes (I have a terrible memory, so I write down everything I need to remember- even in my personal life).  This year, I created a sheet that is formatted to the structure of the conference (research, compliment, teaching point/skill).  This has become my life-saver!  I use this to re-check goals from last time and even track compliments so I don't get stale or repeat myself.  It will come in handy to back up student grades and progress in development.   I will also be using this when I look at my own growth (professional development check point).  If you are interested, I have it on my TPT store:

Teachers Pay Teachers

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.
           Jaime and Kate (our district trainer) created some for book series.  It can be
           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.
Phrases that caught my attention:
  • "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).
I know this was long (and I'm still processing it!).... thanks for sticking it out for the whole post.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on these things!


  1. I love reading conferences! I do them everyday. My kids are always so excited to read with me.

  2. Well said! I love teacher lab!!!!!!!!! When I post about RW it seems as if I always hear crickets after...but when i post about snowmen art, the whole world chimes in...hmmmmmmmm??????

  3. I'm all about conferring this year! I know it's not pretty and doen't look good in the hall, but this is real teaching to me. Don't get me wrong- I check out ALL the crafts, but we have limited time to make an impact. I am getting VERY choosey about my "fun" or thematic stuff. Everything has got to be on purpose, evry day. I'm so glad I've found like-minded people! ((HUGS))