Does conferring during reading workshop scare you? Have you ever felt like you're not sure what to say or teach or check for when you pull up next to a reader? I used to have those moments all the time, and I would catch myself avoiding conferring - because it didn't feel meaningful. I would pull a small group instead since I had a lesson plan for teaching that. Or, I would even, "gasp," sit down at my computer, check my email and rest my tired feet for a few minutes (and pray that my principal wouldn't walk in at that exact moment). Know the feeling?
Every. Single. Time. Right?
I do allow myself the necessary time to catch up on conferring paperwork on Fridays during reading workshop (I use this conferring binder set to keep all my conferring notes organized). But during the rest of the week, I'm now able to confer with 3-5 readers every day because I've discovered the key to meaningful conferring and it is actually so easy!!!
What's the Secret?Why am I no longer scared? How do I magically know what to talk about and teach during conferences? Here it is: One, single, solitary, focused, specific learning target is the secret. That is all!
Before I discovered the secret, staying focused on one skill during reading workshop was tough. It's so easy to veer off, get distracted, tell a story, seize a teachable moment, etc. etc. Before I knew it, no one remembered the point of the lesson or knew what specific skill to practice during independent reading, and I wasn't sure what to talk about (besides my favorite books) during conferences.
Should I talk about book choice? reading logs? engagement? stamina? the new J.K. Rowling movie? I've walked away from MANY reading conferences thinking, "I'm not sure if I taught that reader anything, but we had a great conversations about books."
But now that I force myself to stay focused on ONE learning target during our mini-lesson, shared reading time, independent reading and reading conferences, it makes our reading workshop so powerful and my life so much easier!!
How do I do it?First, I post our daily learning target on the board (see photo above.) I also make a journal response prompt with the same learning target for each day. I display this journal response prompt on the document camera at the start of our mini-lesson at the carpet and refer back to it several times.
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After the mini-lesson, we head back to our seats and practice responding to this prompt together with a shared reading text.
Finally, students respond to the prompt independently during independent reading time.
And Best of All......My reading conferences focus on the prompt and students share their responses to the learning target at the conclusion of workshop time. Everything is focused on one, single target. Now that I've discovered this simple secret, I always know what to say when I pull up next to a reader to confer.
A typical conference sounds something like this:
Me - I'm noticing (something good about the reader that relates to the learning target - compliment). Tell me more about that.
S - responds
Me - Now let's look at how you're doing with today's learning target. Tell me about your journal response.
S - shows me response and explains thinking process
Me- I take notes and compliment, reinforce or intervene/teach as needed. I record notes on an Avery label to adhere later to the student's page in my conferring notebook. Lastly, I give the student a sticky note bookmark with a goal to work on relating to the learning target and I ask the student to talk to me about how they will achieve the goal.
S - responds
Me - I thank the reader for their work, remind them that I will check in on them and their progress toward their goal in a few days. I schedule them a time in my conferring binder calendar and I move on the next student on the schedule.
And that's it, this secret has transformed our reading workshop and allowed me powerful teaching time with each reader in my classroom. It's taken hours away from the planning process and it has simply made my life easier. Which is every teacher's deepest darkest wish, right?
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